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Mr. ROGERS of Kentucky. I rise in support of this essential bill.
It provides more than $519 billion in critical resources for a strong national defense, supporting our warfighters and protecting the American people. This is an increase of $1.1 billion over last year and more than $3 billion more than what the President asked of us. It is also more than $8 billion over what the Senate Democrats would like to provide.
This Nation, with all the opportunities it provides and the rights it grants, would not be the bastion of freedom without the greatest defense system in the world. Freedom is not free. As we continue to face threats to our safety and way of life, we must deal with the costs of war, keep our military at the ready, and stay constantly vigilant.
This bill supports and takes care of our troops at the highest level possible, providing a 1.7 percent pay raise. We have also increased the critical health and benefits program that our troops deserve, providing $35.1 billion for health and family programs, including funding for traumatic brain injury research and suicide prevention outreach programs.
This legislation keeps America at the forefront of defense technologies by continuing research and development efforts. We boost key training and readiness programs to prepare our troops for combat and peacetime missions with an increase of $12.1 billion for operations and maintenance. We also enhance our military arsenal with $102.5 billion for equipment and upgrades, and we continue fighting the global war on terror by including $88.5 billion for overseas contingency operations.
But, in this environment of fiscal austerity, the committee recognized that even the Pentagon should not have carte blanche when it comes to discretionary spending. We increased oversight and took a balanced approach to budgeting. Commonsense decisions were made to save tax dollars wherever possible, including rescinding unused, prior-year funds and terminating unnecessary programs like the Medium Extended Air Defense System; but we can guarantee that none of these cuts will affect the safety or success of our troops and missions.
The bill also prohibits funding for the transfers of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. or its territories, prohibits funding to modify any facility in the U.S. to house detainees, and places strict conditions on the release of detainees--all provisions that were authorized under the National Defense Authorization Act.
I want to take a moment, Mr. Chairman, to recognize the Appropriations Committee's ranking member, Mr. Dicks, who also serves as ranking member of the Defense Subcommittee. He has been a formidable servant of the American people and a dedicated usher of appropriations dollars for some 36 years, and we appreciate his service. As he moves to another phase of his life, we wish him well and Godspeed. He has been a great member of this committee and subcommittee and of this Congress.
Also, I want to say a word of thanks to Jerry Lewis of California, who has been a member and chairman of the Defense Subcommittee and the full committee, for his many years of service to the appropriations process and to this Congress.
We will be sorry to lose the expertise, the leadership, talent, and friendship of these two gentlemen when they retire at the end of this year, but we wish them well in their next pursuits in life. The Appropriations Committee has been made stronger, more responsive, responsible, and respectful thanks to these two outstanding and upstanding legislators and appropriators.
I also want to say a word of congratulations and thanks to our chairman, Bill Young, and to this great staff that Norm Dicks has referred to as the greatest on the Hill, and I can't dispute that. They worked long and hard on a very, very tough bill, under austere circumstances, in order to put together a bill that is necessary for our Nation's defense. These many hours and capable hands that have had a touch on this bill, I think, have crafted a successful bipartisan bill that all of us can be proud to support.
So congratulations, Chairman Young, for another great job. You bring such expertise and experience to this chore, which is so much appreciated by this body.
Mr. Chairman, this is a must-pass piece of legislation that is vital to the security of our homeland and to the safety and health of our troops and veterans. I urge my colleagues to support this great Nation and to approve this necessary bill.
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