Ms. HIRONO. Mr. Chair, I support passage of H.R. 5856, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2013, which supports our servicemembers and makes important investments in our national security and in the health, well-being, and readiness of our Armed Forces.
Our country owes a debt of gratitude to our military and their families for their service and selfless sacrifices. We in Hawaii are proud of the men and women in our military that have served and are currently serving in Afghanistan. Above all, we must also never forget those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Supporting our servicemembers and their families, whether it's during deployment or as they transition back into civilian life, is a solemn commitment we must keep.
Many of our men and women in uniform are suffering from serious wounds from their service, both visible and invisible. That's why I'm pleased to see increases in traumatic brain injury and psychological health funding as well as suicide prevention and outreach. The bill also boosts resources for peer-reviewed research on Gulf War Illness, Lou Gehrig's disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, vision and spinal cord conditions, and many other medical research initiatives.
This legislation will further protect access to health coverage for Hawaii's military retirees, who have dedicated their careers in service to our country. Through the adoption of an amendment offered by Representative Stearns, no funds could be used to implement a fee to enroll in TRICARE for Life.
Hawaii has a strong military presence and is home to thousands of military families. As a strong advocate for Impact Aid, I welcome the increased amount of this funding, which helps ensure the federal government does its part to support our nation's local school districts and military families and educate military-connected children.
By providing support for the operation, maintenance and procurement for our military's installations in Hawaii, including Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Schofield Barracks, and Kaneohe Marine Corps Base, H.R. 5856 protects jobs and advances President Obama's strategic refocusing on the Asia-Pacific region. The measure also affirms the critical role of our citizen soldiers and airmen in the defense of our nation in providing for critical Army equipment needs and rejecting force structure reductions and aircraft retirements proposals that would have negatively affected Air Guard and Reserve units across the country.
With turmoil continuing in the Middle East, now more than ever we must stand strong with our friend and ally Israel. This measure includes additional funding for joint U.S.-Israeli defense cooperation, and continued support for Iron Dome system, which has protected and saved lives from the daily threat of rockets aimed at towns and cities in a country surrounded by hostility and instability.
While H.R. 5856 supports our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines in Hawaii and around the world, this defense appropriations bill contains provisions that raise serious concerns. For example, this bill slows down the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan; it is over the President's budget request and over the Budget Control Act passed last year. H.R. 5856 excludes funds requested by the President for the production of domestic biofuel for our military, an important initiative our military leadership supports. Furthermore, the bill places a significant amount of our nation's resources in certain weapons systems the Defense Department neither requested nor needed.
It is my hope that Senate will address these serious issues and that we can pass a final bill that is fiscally responsible, reaffirms the American people's commitment to our servicemembers and protects our national security.