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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 933, Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. BISHOP of Utah. As is customary for this conference report, this is a closed rule which provides for the consideration of the conference report to accompany H.R. 4310, the Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, and provides 1 hour of general debate, with 30 minutes equally divided and controlled by the chair and the ranking minority member of the House Armed Services Committee.

I'm actually pleased to stand before the House today in support of the rule as well as the underlying legislation, which was H.R. 4310, and the conference report that accompanies the Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013.

I also have to, at the beginning, thank the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Mr. McKeon, for his hard work and his steady leadership on this bill, as well as the ranking member, Mr. Smith of Washington, for continuing the time-honored tradition of close cooperation and bipartisanship when it comes to defense and producing this conference report. I also thank the professional staff, which has worked closely together on literally hundreds of very difficult and often very technical issues and has done so cooperatively in an extremely responsible manner.

I'm very proud that the Armed Services Committee produced a bill in a very bipartisan manner. I'm proud of the floor of the House who voted and passed, in a bipartisan way, this bill back in May. The Senate has finally decided to pass the bill in December. That the Senate has passed a bill is commendable. It is unusual, but it is also commendable. The fact that they have done this here gives us an opportunity of passing one of the few bills that must be done in every session of Congress. The Senate's procrastination on this effort is one of the things that is worrisome. I only hope that in the years to come, the Senate majority leadership will return to acting expeditiously, deliberately, and in a more timely manner in something that is this important.

It is actually a testament to the competency and professionalism of the House Armed Services Committee staff, the House leadership staff, and the Rules Committee staff that this enormous and complex conference agreement could be rescued at the end of what is becoming an otherwise contentious lame-duck session.

Mr. Speaker, in our Rules Committee meeting the other day, we had the opportunity of having Mr. Hastings and others refer to the Constitution. It is very significant that in the beginning of the Constitution, the Preamble, that we talked about creating a more perfect Union. A more perfect Union is not a grammatical flaw that was introduced by the Founding Fathers. It had a specific historical context. It also talked about preserving or promoting domestic tranquility, which had, also, a specific historical context which had nothing to do with America being sedate or tranquil. It had something to do with the specific concept of private property. It also talked about promoting general welfare, even though they had a uniquely different idea of the word ``general'' than we have today.

But in providing in the intermediary with all these provisions is also the word that we are supposed to provide for the common defense. It was not unusual that that word was in there, put in by Gouverneur Morris and the rest of them.

When the Founding Fathers met to write our Constitution, they were looking at the historical milieu of the day and the concepts that were going on at that time. They responded in a way to try to make sure that they solved the problems of the day in a way that would never come up again. The concept of providing for the common defense became one of the core constitutional responsibilities that was extremely significant.

We had won the Revolutionary War, but we had also--several of the States--violated the treaty with Britain. The inability of some States to protect Tory property had given the British the reason to continue to have armed British soldiers on American soil or British forts on American soil. We could not, under the Articles of Confederation, control our borders. The British were arming subgroups coming in here to do more than just destroy our domestic tranquility, but also to take down and harm the lives of Americans. It seems some things never change.

But the Articles of Confederation and Congress could not respond to this. They had an Army of only 700 people. There was no Navy to control the shipping or protect our shipping rights. The Articles of Confederation and Congress realized what we should also realize that if we do not have an adequate and strong defense, not only can we not militarily defend this country, but we don't have the ability of diplomatically trying to reach solutions to problems without resorting to military efforts. They realized that this was one of the flaws of America when they wrote the Constitution.

So it is not unusual for them to specifically put in here that one of the responsibilities that this House has is to provide for the common defense. It is not unusual that in article I, section 8, there are 17 clauses. Seven of those 17 clauses, as well as the introduction, talk about the necessity of military defense and military preparedness for this country. They recognized how significant that was, not just for defending militarily, but also for the future and the diplomatic abilities of the future United States.

This bill deals with one of the few core constitutional responsibilities that we had. Fortunately, over the past 51 years, Congress has been able to come together in an amazingly bipartisan way to come up with a Defense authorization bill that provides our Defense agencies the ability to function, to train, to equip our forces, and to provide for our military personnel and their families.

We are betting if we do not do this, that the large-scale threats to our national security will be so far in the future we can just sort of tread water. I hope sometimes that they are right, but that treading would not be what the Founding Fathers would look at as providing for the common defense.

In a real world, there would be what I would consider to be a more significant and effective bill, but we're not dealing with the real world. We are dealing, though, with real-world issues. Part of the issue is that we are looking at a world that is extremely dangerous for us--we do not know what the future enemy will be--and we are also dealing with a world in which we are continually trying to diminish our military presence.

Our Navy is smaller than it has been since 1917. Our Army will be smaller than it was at the beginning of World War II. Our Air Force is the smallest it has ever been in the history of this country, with the oldest planes that we've ever had. Those issues are issues that are significant, they are important, and they must be addressed. And those are going to be ongoing, long-term issues.

This particular bill does not do as much to address that particular problem and give us the security of the future as I wish it could do. That's only because we are not dealing in a perfect world where we can establish the setting that we wish to do. We have to deal with the setting in which we find ourselves.

Having said that, there are a lot of things in this particular conference report and in the House-passed bill which are very, very positive, and they do move us forward. As we continue the discussion of this rule as well as the debate of the conference report on the floor, we will talk about some of those things that are positive and that do move us forward.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the continuing discussion about talking about what is, indeed, in this particular bill.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

In the cacophonous list of things that this bill does not do, one can even look at some other areas. I mean, there are other areas in which we have problems in the defense of this country and future challenges that are before us, even in the modernization of our weapons system.

Even as Russia has fielded new and modernized nuclear ICBMs, the U.S. land-based nuclear deterrence is in need of future modernization; and yet this administration has cut resources to begin planning for the upgrading and modernization of our ICBMs and related nuclear-based systems that have largely been ignored. This trend simply cannot continue.

But having recognized those problems that are there, it is also time to realize what this bill actually does that moves us, as a Nation, forward:

It will provide $552 billion, which is $2 billion more than the President requested, and that is a plus;

It increases the pay for our all-voluntary forces by 1.7 percent and provides critical bonuses for those who are now working in harm's way;

It keeps the faith with the military retirees and our veterans in regard to TRICARE, and rejects the administration's proposal to increase fees and copayments on them;

It deals with the issue of troop reduction in a responsible way by putting caps on the number of troop reductions that can be placed in a single year;

It has a conscience clause for servicemen and for chaplains;

It implements the Hyde amendment;

It addresses sexual assault with bipartisan, specific new regulations and procedures for combating and prosecuting sexual assaults within the military;

It has a total new program to provide and help with suicide prevention for dealing with those people who have volunteered to represent this country in the military;

It opens up new bipartisan reforms for competition and innovation in the way the Department deals with small businesses and spurs on innovation;

It deals with strategic forces like the NNSA reforms, our nuclear oversight, our missile defense system, the Iron Dome;

Its provisions dealing with Guantanamo Bay, which prohibit the transfer of detainees to the United States, are the exact right thing that should be done;

It also looks at retaining our vital systems like our naval cruisers, our airlift capacities, Global Hawk, the anti-armor, and investing in new future capabilities that we need like airborne electronic warfare. The aircraft that we need, the submarines, the destroyers that happen to be there; and, indeed, it has a section in there dealing with the sanctions on Iran.

All of those are specific and important to us.

We have a responsibility to make sure that this core constitutional responsibility of ours is done efficiently. I want it to be known that those who are in the military uniform must respond to the higher-ups which they are dealing with. The Secretary of Defense must deal with walking a line of talking about what they have to do and what they wish they could do. In no way does anyone in uniform say that things that are put in this budget is something that they do not need or do not want.

We have cut the military in this country when we were cutting nothing else. While we were running up stimulus bills, we were still cutting the military. We cut them in the last 2 years of the Bush administration. Under Secretary Gates, it was a $400 billion cut. All told, the cuts that this Congress has put on the fence when it has not cut other areas is between $800 billion and $1 trillion, and that doesn't even count what could happen within sequestration.

We seem to forget, as we're looking, and we take some of the things we have here for granted. The United States has had air superiority since the Korean War, which means our men on the ground, when they hear something overhead, don't have to worry about whose insignia will be on that plane; they know it is ours. But if, indeed, we do not upgrade and innovate and improve our air capacity, we don't have that in the future.

And what we do now is not just simply what we can do today; what we are authorizing in this bill is what we can do 20 years from now. If we don't start the research and development today, we will not have that capacity.

I reject those who say, Look, the F-35 is too expensive; let's just build more F-16s--even though Third World countries have planes that have the same capacity technologically as our F-16s and our F-15s. What we need is a new generation, so if our men are put into a fight, it will not be a fair one.

And we have the technology, the new generation of technology to make sure that we are in the forefront and to make sure that we maintain that air dominance into the future. It is something that we have had for so long and we have had so many people work so hard to maintain that we here, today, seem to sometimes take it for granted. And we ought not. This is our future. This bill is about our future, and we cannot--we cannot--simply go back because we wish to change the milieu of what is happening here. This is a good bill.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I always hate to try and say we ought to learn lessons of history; but the Founding Fathers, when they made that our core constitutional responsibility, clearly understood that if you do not have a military capacity, you do not have not only the ability to defend the country, but you do not have the ability to make diplomatic efforts in any of those areas.

It is interesting that our allies in NATO are spending far more of their GDP on military defense than we are. But obviously, and ironically, those who are are almost always those countries which experienced firsthand what it was like to live under the domination of the Soviet Union. They understand the significance of this particular proposal and these particular kinds of bills.

Mr. Speaker, I would like at this time to recognize the soon-to-be-retired chairman of the Rules Committee who has done so much in his tenure here in the Capitol. I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from California (Mr. Dreier).

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Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the remainder of my time.

There are several things I wish to address that have been brought up in the last speech. The first one is, I was just informed that by all means we probably will be here tomorrow and voting, which really hurts my feelings. In one respect, I don't have an upgrade on tomorrow's flight, so maybe it's a good thing that we will be, but there are other times that we will be dealing with these issues.

People have talked about the amount of money that's going here. I hope Members of the House realize that 50 percent of all the cuts that have been made by this administration have been made on the backs of the military, even though the military defense represents less than 20 percent of the Federal budget. Military has, over the past years, been cut and cut and cut again.

This increase over what the President's budget request was is only 0.3 percent higher than the President's budget, and it is less than last year's authorization. I say that only as a fact, not something I think is good because I think we need to be spending more on what these people have to do.

To say that the people in uniform don't want or don't need the programs that are in here is unfair to them. They have to say a specific line in the positions they are in. But the idea that you wouldn't take the cruisers that are going to be expended in here and continue to keep those even though they were scheduled to be mothballed decades before their life span is over, or that you are using these funds to restructure the force structure of the Air Force, which is critical to this country so that we maintain the air superiority we have had since the Korean conflict, that is a ridiculous concept.

This bill is about people. The gentleman from Massachusetts has an air base, Hanscom, in his State--probably not in his district, but his State. I have air complexes. I have people who are working on these issues. We have not modernized our equipment, which means we have to have people working on our air complexes to try to take our antiquated equipment and restore it so it can be useful, so that those who are put in harm's way defending this country at least have the vehicles and the resources available to defend themselves and present the possible outcome. These are the people that are going to be helped. These are the jobs that are going to be helped by the passage of this particular bill. These are the people who get TRICARE, which was given to them either as a bonus to sign or given to them in lieu of salary increases. And it is unfair for the President to say they should have an increase in their copay.

These people who are working at these bases, they're not making $50,000 a year in a pension--they'd be lucky if they make that much money as part of their salary. Those are the people that we need to look after. It is the people who make sure that we have a military that functions, not just those on the front line, not just those in uniform, but also those who provide their services and provide the material that they need to maintain this stuff. This bill moves that forward.

I hope that we do not have as a body a myopic approach to the need for the securing of this country, and we understand how significant this is. This is one of the few responsibilities Congress has to do this year and every year.

I want to just say one thing about the potential previous question. It's not an issue of when we get a chance to vote on it. We have voted on the previous question that the Democrats would like to put in place of this. On August 1, we did have a vote, the Levin of Michigan amendment. It was defeated in this House in a bipartisan manner, with 19 Democrats voting "no'' on the amendment. Another vote on this at this time is a redundancy; it's been done. Now let us move on to do what this bill is supposed to do, the conference report that solves the problems and puts us moving forward in our defense authorization so that we actually do come up with the programs we need, not just for today but also for the future. It's a good conference report. It's a good underlying bill. We need to move forward.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would urge Members to support this rule, which is--I misspoke earlier, it is a standard rule for all conference reports. I urge them to support the underlying provisions of this conference report and of our bill because it is essential for our Nation's defense. It is our core constitutional responsibility, and we should not in any way, shape, or form shirk that.

The material previously referred to by Mr. McGovern is as follows:

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