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Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. CICILLINE. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in opposition to the continued appropriation of hundreds of millions of dollars to the Afghanistan infrastructure fund while our national infrastructure is crumbling here in America.

President Obama has laid out a broad vision for completing our work in Afghanistan, turning security responsibilities over to the Afghan people, and bringing our troops home. Now is the time to focus our resources here in the United States, on our own roads, bridges, schools, and infrastructure.

We have already spent billions of dollars toward rebuilding the infrastructure of Afghanistan. As we begin drawing down combat operations in Afghanistan, it's the responsibility of the Afghan people to build, operate, and maintain their own civilian and military institutions, and their own infrastructure.

My amendment, which I offer along with the gentleman from California (Mr. Honda), the gentlelady from California (Ms. Loretta Sanchez), and the gentleman from Vermont (Mr. Welch), would strike the funding of the Afghanistan infrastructure fund and apply the savings to the spending reduction account.

Established by Congress in the fiscal year 2011 National Defense Authorization, in its first year, the Afghanistan infrastructure fund received an appropriation of $400 million. These funds have been dedicated to projects that are jointly approved by the Department of State and the Department of Defense, and the projects include power generation and transmission, roads, and construction of other large infrastructure projects.

According to the April 2012 report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, from fiscal year 2002 to the end of March, fiscal year 2012, the United States appropriated approximately $89.4 billion for relief and reconstruction in Afghanistan. Approximately $800 million has been provided thus far for the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund.

As the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service indicates from 2012 to 2010, the U.S. Agency for International Development allocated more than $2 billion towards road construction and more than $1.2 billion towards electric power in Afghanistan. While we've spent billions of dollars on infrastructure in Afghanistan, we have also seen reports from the Government Accountability Office and others that have highlighted the challenges in accounting for how reconstruction funds are spent and the overall impact that these are having on the society there.

Yet according to a 2011 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the cost of our crumbling infrastructure right here in America is real. By the year 2020, our Nation's crumbling surface transportation infrastructure is slated to cost the United States economy more than 876,000 jobs and suppress the country's growth of gross domestic product by $897 billion.

These costs are only going to increase more and more if we don't take the action to make the much-needed and long-deferred investments in our own transportation systems and our own infrastructure. When we look at the bigger picture, including water and wastewater, energy, schools, ports and more, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimated that over the next 5 years we would need an investment of $2.2 trillion just to bring our Nation's infrastructure to a condition they describe as ``good.''

Every year that we wait to take meaningful steps to do this, the cost to taxpayers and to our economy keeps growing and growing and growing. Over the past 18 months, constituents have expressed to me tremendous frustration that we're devoting so many of our resources and so much of our energy to rebuilding the infrastructure in Afghanistan.

They ask why we are dedicating so much to nation-building halfway around the world when there are so many families right here in our own country who are struggling to find work and make ends meet.

We need to do nation-building right here at home in America. This amendment is a strong step in support of reinvesting in our own economy and our own infrastructure right here at home.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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