NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2005 -- (House of Representatives - May 19, 2004)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 648 and rule XVIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the consideration of the bill, H.R. 4200.
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Mr. TERRY. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of H.R. 4200, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005.
This legislation supports our troops with $422 billion for national defense and an additional $25 billion for operations in Iraq. Funding for national missile defense and combat capability would increase. Special emphasis on protective equipment such as body armor and heavily-armored Humvees would also help our soldiers return safely to their families.
We must care for our soldiers' families here at home. I am proud to support the well-earned 3.5 percent pay raise and boost in hardship pay from $300 to $750. As a co-chair of the House Impact Aid Coalition, I also commend Chairman Hunter for including $50 million for the education of military children. This would send an additional $20 million to school districts across the country that serve military families. I thank the Chairman for his hard work and strong support of this critical funding.
While I appreciate the emphasis the Air Force has placed on quality of life improvements, I am deeply concerned that mission readiness be funded at adequate levels to support our troops. For example, Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska has a mission critical runway repair requiring urgent attention. The safety of airmen flying in and out of Offutt depends upon the condition of this runway, which the Air Force has labeled a critical safety hazard.
Although the repair is the top priority of the Air Combat Command that oversees 38 major installations, the Pentagon has given funding priority to dormitories and fitness centers. I thank Chairman Hunter for at least funding design of the needed runway, and urge him to reexamine the Air Force's priorities in conference. We must ensure mission critical repairs are completed for the safety of our airmen. Military bases that consistently and efficiently perform should also be rewarded for their success.
The War on Terror has been costly in both blood and treasure. More than 750 American soldiers have given the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. Our troops who patrol the streets of Iraq, scour the towns and mountains of Afghanistan, and root out terrorist cells worldwide, know the price of freedom. Their service to protect our nation honors their fallen comrades and dignifies the United States, and should not be demeaned by the cowardly actions of soldiers in the Abu Ghraib prison.
Mr. Chairman, I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting H.R. 4200 to aid our valiant troops.