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Public Statements

Providing for Consideration of H.R. 2219, Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, H.R. 2219, the Defense Department Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2012, represents $530 billion in regular discretionary spending, $8.9 billion below the President's request, but $17 billion above the fiscal year 2011 enacted level.

Before going further into my remarks, I would like to thank my friend and fellow Floridian for yielding time to me, and I extend a personal thanks to him and his family, and particularly his three sons that are serving in the Army. I don't have three sons, but I had three uncles who served in the Army in another era, in the Second World War. And as I was proud of them, I am also proud of Mr. Nugent's sons and the many families and servicemen and -women in our military.

From pay raises for military operations, this legislation offers a basically reasonable and comprehensive approach to our Nation's defense activities.

Yet I'm deeply concerned by really the staggering amounts of money this country continues to devote to the military. At a time of fiscal austerity when the majority is slashing tens of billions of dollars from essential social programs, it's, in my view, absurd that we continue to exempt the Department of Defense from the same scrutiny that we apply to our domestic programs. For all of the rhetoric that I have heard through the years from my colleagues on the other side of the aisle about runaway spending, the fact of the matter is that Republicans actually increased spending in this bill. While they insist that more families must go hungry, fewer students need to go to college, fewer firefighters and teachers need to work in our cities, and fewer jobs need to be created, the Republican majority believes that $649 billion still isn't quite enough.

The United States accounts for 43 percent of all military spending on Earth. We already outspend Russia and China, the next biggest spenders, by a factor of six. We tell teachers they can't get classroom supplies, but we don't tell admirals that they can't have more submarines. We tell mayors that they can't have more cops, but we don't tell generals that they can't have more ballistic missiles. And we tell Americans that they can't get their roads fixed or their levies strengthened, but here we are funding a next generation of nuclear weapons, not to mention that we already have enough nuclear weapons to kill everybody on Earth 25 times over.

Mr. Speaker, we need to recognize that our priorities are askew and our spending on defense is unsustainable. Let me give you an example:

The Republican majority recently cut one-third, or proposed cutting one-third of the budget--almost $500 million--from the Food for Peace program. Over the course of almost 50 years, this program has delivered lifesaving food supplies to over 3 billion people. As John F. Kennedy correctly noted when he was running for President, ``food is peace.'' Yet these cuts mean that millions of people in vulnerable and underdeveloped regions of the world will not receive food aid from the United States.

The Arab Spring uprisings that arose in Tunisia were largely because of the concerns for food, and that is true elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa. And this particular year should be a reminder that conflict erupts when people go without their most basic needs, including food.

At the same time when people see that the food they receive is coming from the United States--and I've had the good fortune of visiting around the world, having served over a period of time, 8 years over a period of 10 years on the Intelligence Committee here in Congress and having served previous to that on the Foreign Affairs Committee and now serving on the Committee for Security and Cooperation in Europe, I have had an opportunity to see firsthand in Germany countless amounts of food stamped with ``USA'' on them, and I've seen them in camps, and I suffer with the people now in southern Sudan. My colleague, Donald Payne, and a former colleague, Harry Johnston from West Palm Beach, were together at a refugee camp in Nemili and previous to that in Mombasa, Kenya. I've seen our food aid around the world reduce the kind of anti-American extremism that often festers in these regions and manifests itself into conflicts that we wind up having to go and fight about.

So the reality, Mr. Speaker, is that food aid is actually critical to our national security. And the spending that we do to preempt or prevent conflicts means the less money that we have to spend later fighting them.

We're doing a disservice to our servicemen and -women by cutting programs that reduce the risk of war while adding billions to programs that create ever-more powerful methods to wage war. At the same time, we need to recognize that the increasing amounts we spend on the military means the less money we have here at home to address our pressing domestic concerns.

All of us heard the President of the United States last night speak to this issue, that while it may appear and might readily be perceived as nation building that we are doing in some countries, it is time for us, as the President said, to begin domestic building.

When I went to Iraq a few years ago, they showed us the remains of a water treatment plant. We spent 14 million U.S. dollars building that plant, and just as soon as it was finished, somebody came and blew it up. Mr. Speaker, I see us building water treatment plants in Basra and in Baghdad, in Kandahar and Kabul. But I don't see us building much-needed water treatment plants in the cities of the Glades that I represent--Belle Glade, Pahokee, and Clewiston--as well as others, Deerfield Beach, and Miramar, my hometown, I've had requests for water treatment matters, as well as Riviera Beach. Every year cities and counties in the congressional district that I'm privileged to serve come begging and asking for money to support infrastructure projects that no one is likely to blow up, and yet we don't fund them.

I don't say that we shouldn't help the Iraqi or the Afghan people develop their country, but I do say that we ought to be mindful that in our own country we have bridges collapsing, dams breaking, levies failing, roads crumbling, and water utilities leaking away. We simply cannot justify to the American people our willingness to spend tens of billions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan while neglecting those same efforts here at home.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, this measure contains several billion dollars in aid to Pakistan. As I have said before, you can't readily say the word ``Afghanistan'' without also saying the word ``Pakistan.'' To the extent that we are involved in Afghanistan, we also are involved in Pakistan. But we send billions of dollars to Pakistan only to see large sums of that money being used against American interests, funding the very same extremist groups that we are trying to eliminate.

A recent article in the New Yorker magazine noted that the Pakistani military submits expense claims every month to the United States Embassy in Islamabad. No receipts are provided and none are even requested. We're sending money out the door into one of the most conflict-ridden regions of the world without so much as an understanding of where that money is going, what exactly it is being used for, who in Pakistan is giving it to whom, and why someone is receiving it. We know that the Pakistani military and intelligence community support some of the extremist groups that are engaged against United States interests and which have committed acts of terrorism against civilians.

So again, Mr. Speaker, I come around to the point that we spend absolutely too much money on military and defense matters that we do not give half the same attention to debating as we do about cutting nutrition support, as is proposed for women, infants and children or financial aid to college students.

When Belle Glade, Florida, in the congressional district that I serve, comes looking for less than $1 million to fix their infrastructure and provide jobs for their local residents, the Republican majority has a whole long list of reasons of why we can't afford it. And yet, before us today, I see $5 billion for two submarines, $2 billion for one destroyer, and $6 billion for 32 fighter jets.

I maintain, Mr. Speaker, that our level of defense spending is on an unsustainable course. And at a time when we are demanding that the American people do more with much, much less, we also have to make choices and set priorities when it comes to our Nation's military spending.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Thank you, Mr. Nugent. Again, I appreciate your complimentary remarks regarding mine, and I compliment you with regard to yours. I don't think we have a single bit of daylight between us when it comes to the support of the men and women that are in the military.

I do quarrel with, across the 14th Street bridge, the amount of money that we spend at the Pentagon. I have personally seen generals serving generals. And somewhere along the line, that just does not add up to frugality.

Mr. Speaker, the legislation before us provides a comprehensive accounting of our Nation's military activities and includes much deserved pay raises for our troops, critical funding for health programs, and disease research.

Let's make it very clear. The only thing that we could afford was a less than 2 percent raise for our troops. And I personally, and I believe Chairman Young of the subcommittee and the distinguished Floridian who has served on this committee for a protracted period of time and has no peer when it comes to support of the military--he did have one peer that I know extremely well, and he does as well, and that's Ike Skelton, who was not reelected.

We miss Ike and the extraordinary service that he put forward on behalf of this country, first as a soldier and then as a Congressperson.

We can come up with the necessary expenditures to keep our military well-equipped, well-trained, and superior to any other force, but at the same time we need to devote greater attention to the use of these precious resources. I wish that the Republican majority would have devoted as much concern for the non-defense portion of our budget as they do to the vast level of spending contained in this measure. We need to appreciate that spending money on conflict prevention, as my friend Mr. Lewis pointed out, is far, far cheaper in the long run than spending money on conflict engagement.

We cut social services programs here at home and around the world at our own peril. For when people lack food, lack resources, lack dignity, lack a future and lack hope, their nations will much more easily succumb to the kind of extremism, violence, and instability that we are spending billions fighting.

I have no quarrel with providing the necessary funding to support our servicemen and -women or to carry out their missions. Our Nation needs a lean and powerful and effective military. And we owe a debt of gratitude--as has been expressed and likely will be continuously throughout this appropriations process--to the members of the military and their families for the sacrifices they make and the devotion to duty they demonstrate. When they are sent on difficult missions overseas, it's our duty to see that they have our full and complete support.

But we also have great needs in this country, and we cannot continue to slash funding for essential programs here at home in favor of ever-increasing funding for wars abroad. We cannot continue spending money overseas that will go to waste when water treatment plants get blown up. We can't continue funding dubious efforts in regions where our money trickles down to the very extremists it is supposed to be defeating. And we cannot keep increasing our military budget year after year while devastating essential programs are left by the wayside here at home.

I do have one concern about this rule, and that is the new section that was added to this rule at the last minute that set forth restrictions on the amendment process.

At this time, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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