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Public Statements

Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. FLAKE. I thank the chairman. I just want to say a few words about the process here.

It is refreshing to so many of us to come to the House with an open rule. There are some Members who have been part of this body for 4 years now and have not been allowed the opportunity to offer one amendment on the floor because of the absence of open rules. So we are going to have a number of amendments offered here, and this is just a great process.

I also want to commend the Appropriations Committee for the hard work that it took to get the level of savings that we are in the legislation and what a positive step, as was mentioned, it was to cut out the earmarks. There are no earmarks in this bill. That is a wonderful thing. We can actually talk more about the substance and less about just pet projects on the side.

This amendment would reduce by $18.57 million the operations and maintenance defense-wide account. It would send the money to the spending reduction account. We are often told that when we offer amendments like this on the floor, it is not going to save any money. This one does. The money that is saved here will go to the spending reduction account.

Last August, Secretary Gates ordered a review of all outside boards and commissions that provide advice and studies to the Defense Department with an eye toward eliminating unnecessary entities and cutting funding for the studies that they produce by 25 percent.

According to CRS, the Department of Defense funds 65 boards and commissions at a cost of about $75 million. This amendment would achieve the approximate savings that Secretary Gates sought for FY 2011 that would equal $18.75 million. That is 25 percent of the $75 million over time. I certainly don't have any problems with the various panels from which the Defense Department seeks counsel, but I am sure there is some waste there. That is why Secretary Gates has targeted a 25 percent reduction.

I realize the amount of savings in this amendment is relatively small compared to the overall defense budget, but I think the point has to be made here that the defense budget is not sacrosanct. We can't say if it is defense, it is all good; that there is no waste here, we can't cut any. So it is important to look for ways we can actually save.

In fiscal year 2010, more than $1 trillion was spent on discretionary spending. The Department of Defense received more than $508 billion of that. Certainly in a Federal agency that requires the largest budget, this is the Federal agency that has the largest budget, there is going to be some waste and inefficiencies.

This is a great place to start. This is a proposal that came from the Defense Secretary himself, one that wasn't included in the underlying bill, and one that will be addressed in the FY 2012 budget, according the documents released yesterday. In fact, according to the Defense Department, it intends to achieve a savings of more than a billion dollars in FY 2012 simply by eliminating internally produced reports and reducing funding for the types of studies that I'm talking about here.

I applaud the Department's willingness to talk about cuts in its own budget. I urge my colleagues to adopt the same willingness here. If the Defense Department is willing to find savings, we ought to be able to do that here as well. We need to reduce this account which funds boards and commissions and the studies they produce by $18.75 million.

Again, passing this amendment will reduce funding that will not impact the warfighter. It won't impact the war in Afghanistan or the war still going on in Iraq. This would simply signal that this body is willing to cut where we can cut without affecting the necessary protections that we have in the Department of Defense.

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Mr. FLAKE. I won't take the 5 minutes. I just want to rise in strong support of this amendment. The gentleman is right; this was not asked for by the Department of Defense. And if we could save a half billion dollars, money that will not affect the war or the warfighter--but we see these kind of programs all the time. And it's more a way to generate economic activity than actually respond to any need. It assumes that the private sector out there, and small businesses aren't innovating on their own unless we ask them to do it.

Unless we specifically direct them or provide money for them to do it, they won't do it at all. That's just a false assumption.

So I commend the gentleman for bringing the amendment to the floor.

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Mr. FLAKE. Reclaiming my time, I just want to say, in closing, the gentleman is exactly right. Any dollar that we provide in this program has to be taken from a small business or an individual through taxes. That is money that they can't use to innovate on their own. And to actually go out and to respond to an RFP or to respond to needs of the Defense Department or to contract with them, they can do that without us having the specific program for them. So I urge support for the amendment.

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