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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Madam Chair, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I would like to begin by expressing my appreciation to Chairman Young, and to congratulate him on the bipartisan and transparent manner in which he has crafted the fiscal year 2014 Defense bill.

I also want to express my gratitude to Chairman Rogers, Ranking Member Lowey, and all of the members of the Defense Subcommittee for their efforts. We would not be here today but for their outstanding effort.

I would also note that this will be the last Defense appropriations bill we bring to the floor with the membership of Mr. Bonner from Alabama. With his leaving this institution, we are losing a very serious and thoughtful Member who has worked assiduously every day to leave the world better, and I certainly want to recognize his individual contribution.

The bill also could not have been written without the dedication, hard work, and sound judgment of the staff that Mr. Young has already referenced. I do want to thank Tom McLemore, Sherry Young, Tim Prince, Jennifer Miller, Walter Hearne, Paul Terry, BG Wright, Brooke Boyer, Ann Reese, Adrienne Ramsey, Megan Rosenbusch, Maureen Holohan, Paul Juola, Rebecca Leggieri, Kent Clark, Michael Rigney, and Joe DeVooght.

The bill at hand is fundamentally aimed at restoring readiness and training for the services to areas that have suffered greatly in the budgetary upset of the current year.

While Chairman Young has noted that the bill's $212 billion in funding is approximately $28 billion more than the fiscal year 2013 post-sequestration level, it does contain a number of significant reductions. The bill cuts $617.8 million from the Joint Strike Fighter program to address unjustified cost growth and unjustified concurrency estimates for the program. It cuts another $112 million due to an overstatement of Army travel requirements. The bill rescinds $443 million for C-27-J aircraft.

The bill and report contain a significant amount of language and robust funding for initiatives to respond to sexual assault in the armed services. Sexual assault in any circumstance is unacceptable and maddening. The fact that it is prevalent within the military is even more so because of the standard to which our men and women in uniform hold themselves. These are individuals who are committed to give their ``last full measure of devotion'' to our Nation, who, in order to be effective, need to unconditionally trust each other. Sexual assault undermines all of this.

Though I strongly support the efforts contained in this bill, they are aimed mainly at offender accountability and caring for victims. Even though the comprehensive solution to this issue lies outside the services, it is imperative that the proper attitudes and training start during the recruitment process for the officers and enlisted and continue throughout each servicemembers' career.

I would also note that the bill includes $20 million above the request for suicide prevention and outreach, consistent with the funding level of the past 2 years. Suicides are another disheartening problem within the services, especially given the emphasis that the Department and Congress have placed on the issue over the past few years. But money is not the only solution. We need to spend the appropriated dollars as wisely and as effectively as possible.

I was taken aback in a hearing earlier this year to learn that the Navy has a collection of 123 programs aimed at addressing suicide and resiliency. While I am sure that each one of these programs is well-intentioned, the sheer number spreads resources too thin and creates confusion. To their credit, the Navy is in the process of implementing task force recommendations to dedicate more resources to the programs that truly work.

Additionally, I would like to express my support for a solution that benefits all future users of the Integrated Electronic Health Record program. I am proud of the efforts of our subcommittee and of the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Subcommittee to effectuate this long-awaited improvement to medical care for our still-serving military members and our veterans. Additionally, the cooperation between our subcommittees and with our corresponding authorization committees demonstrates the importance Congress places on the issue.

I am pleased that the bill report contains provisions that enhance oversight at the Department. The Office of the Inspector General is funded at $347 million, which is nearly $35 million above the administration's request. This office plays a vital role in moving the Department towards auditable financial statements, which are long overdue and which I attach great importance to.

Also, while the committee increased funding relative to the budget request for environmental cleanup at Formerly Used Defense Sites, this increase is accompanied by additional reporting requirements. In the same vein as my prior comments, the money in this program must be spent more effectively going forward to ensure that we complete cleanup projects, not just continue them.

Regarding missile defense, the bill increases advance procurement funding for additional Ground-Based Interceptors. This funding is accompanied by a requirement to document the adequacy of the testing plan for the Ground-Based Interceptors.

In light of the program's recent test failure, I continue to be very concerned about the concurrency of this program. I believe it is essential to maintain rigorous standards to ensure that the weapons we pursue are fully developed before we begin fielding them, and once fielded, that these weapons effectively perform their missions.

Further, should the review to determine the cause of the latest test failure reveal significant problems, and if we understand that this program needs to be changed, we should reevaluate our position in conference.

While I support the bill, there are a few provisions that I have concerns with, in particular, the three general provisions regarding detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

I believe that the continued operation of Guantanamo Bay reduces our Nation's credibility and weakens our national security by providing terrorist organizations with recruitment material. I do regret that this bill and other relevant appropriations bills continue to thwart any attempts to close Guantanamo by prohibiting viable alternatives.

Further, I am concerned that the bill essentially prohibits a pay raise for civilian employees at the Department of Defense. We rely on the Department of Defense civilians working side by side with our military personnel to provide medical care for our troops, to perform vital logistics, maintenance and acquisition services, and to provide many other essential services within the Department. Even a modest raise that maintains pay equity between civilian and military personnel sends a critical message of support to these employees.

Looking ahead, I am concerned that if the shadows of the future remain unaltered, we will experience serious problems ensuring the continued defense of our Nation.

As Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments has noted:

Rather than getting larger and more expensive over the past decade, the military just grew more expensive.

This reality makes our future choices even more difficult, and it is imperative that Congress join with the Department in working through these decisions at arm's length and also as a partner.

The Department of Defense did recommend some very difficult reductions in the budget submitted to us earlier this year, as they have done in previous years. We, as legislators, can no longer afford to reflexively reject those recommendations because they affect a specific company, a specific region of the country, or are simply not the most politic of choices to be made.

Our military is at a familiar crossroad, one they have been at before as the end of combat operations nears. The additions and subtractions to Defense funding made today must be carried out with an eye to the future, with a sense of the strategic impact on America's future ability to muster a force of successfully defending and protecting our country.

In closing, I again want to reiterate my appreciation to Chairman Young for his cooperation and assistance in addressing the interests we have expressed. He and his staff have ensured that the subcommittee continues its long tradition of operating collaboratively and effectively and transparently. I am pleased that we are finally considering this bill on the floor and look forward to the debate.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I would note to the gentleman from California that, with the recent concerns regarding security clearance processes for the Department of Defense and intelligence communities, I appreciate his bringing to our attention that the Department can increase the timeliness and quality of investigations and reinvestigations by using the Defense Personnel Security Research Center tools.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I appreciate the gentleman yielding.

I do not rise to oppose the gentleman's amendment, but to cast a caution over the expenditure of the proposed funds. The bill contains $4 million, and this is a phenomenal program. I am not in any way suggesting otherwise.

But the gentleman's amendment is quadrupling funding in 1 year for this project from $4 million to $20 million. So I would hope that the people that are running this program understand that in a time of great fiscal constraint, they better very carefully, effectively, and wisely spend this additional money that I'm not objecting to, but I am very concerned about quadrupling $4 million that is already in a bill for a very good program.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. My understanding as well during subcommittee consideration is that the new START proposed--and this is a new START proposed for 2014--provide very little explanation or rationale, and that's from the Department of Defense. The committee recommendation was for a reduction because of the poor justification by the Department itself. I think I am correct in my understanding.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I appreciate the gentleman's remarks, and I also appreciate having the time to associate myself with the remarks you have made on behalf of the gentleman's amendment.

Secondly, I note, as you point out, the subcommittee itself has done significant work and recognizes the problems that we face in the commitment we need to make to the individuals that the gentleman is trying to help with his amendment. So again, I very much appreciate the gentleman's remarks, as well as support for the issue in this particular amendment.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I appreciate the gentleman yielding.

Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the amendment and would want to make a couple of things clear to all of my colleagues.

The fact is the administration did ask for money. For the ballistic missile defense midcourse section in the bill they asked for $1.033 billion this year, fiscal year 2014. This is not absent an administration request.

Secondly, the gentleman from Arizona said that the bad test and the problems that they indicate are not unresolvable. I would absolutely agree with the gentleman, but this is a procurement account. Let us resolve these problems before we procure something that last month has not worked so we don't have to pull them out of silos, we don't have to invest additional taxpayers' money, and we don't have to waste that hard-earned money.

There are threats, and we ought to make sure the systems we deploy to protect our Nation work before we procure and deploy them.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I certainly appreciate what my colleague from Wisconsin is trying to do with his amendment. As a former chairman and ranking member on the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, I certainly attach great importance to battery research. Mr. Frelinghuysen is on the floor as well, who chairs Energy and Water.

The concern I do have is to make sure that we are organized as the Federal Government on this research and that we are looking at the appropriate expenditure in the appropriate places for the funds.

One example I simply would give is that, in this 2014 fiscal year's Energy and Water appropriations bill, $24 million was provided to the Joint Center for Energy Research, a DOE energy innovative hub. This hub, which team includes five of the national laboratories and several major research universities, is seeking new technologies to move in the direction that my colleague supports.

So I do appreciate his long-term goal. Obviously, we have to reduce our dependency on carbon fossil fuel from a national security perspective, but, again, I want to make sure that we are cautious as far as where and how much of this money we can effectively spend in the coming fiscal year.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I rise in opposition because of where the funds for the gentleman's amendment are coming from.

The amendment would use funds from a committee priority, the Defense Rapid Innovation program. This program emphasizes technology development issues done primarily through small businesses.

Certainly, in my short time as ranking member on this subcommittee, I have been impressed by the lack of a true small business program at the Department of Defense, despite their protestations. DOD's track record of support for small businesses must be improved for many reasons, not the least of which is what small businesses provide to solve major issues for the Department. In the 2 years of program execution so far, fiscal years 2011 and 2012, the Department of Defense has received over 3,000 proposals for funding. This includes 2,200 proposals from small businesses across America for fiscal year 2012 funding for completion and execution this year.

Again, my concern is where the money is coming from in this amendment, and I strongly oppose the gentleman's amendment.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the gentlewoman yielding and would point out to my colleagues that on this particular issue she has been dogged.

I do believe that this is one of a number of items within the bill where reasonable people can have a disagreement. Certainly the position that my colleague has from New Mexico is that she believes she has the most cost-effective approach that the United States Air Force should take. The problem that we face on the subcommittee, given the financial and fiscal constraints we have, is that the Air Force did not ask for funding for this program for fiscal year 2013 or fiscal year 2014. So we deferred.

I appreciate her concern, and I appreciate her raising it to the body without making any representations as to what the future holds, but again would commend her for her work on this program and again her doggedness on behalf of it.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I appreciate the gentleman yielding, and I simply would reiterate that in my opening statements, I indicated that I do believe the language in the bill and the limitations are a mistake. Guantanamo Bay ought to be closed. It is not constructive. I do not believe at this point in time it is constitutional, and so I do support the gentleman's amendment.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, given the time limitation, I would address the issue of furloughs that the gentleman makes.

Furloughs are a result of the Budget Control Act that was passed in 2011. It's the result of sequestration that occurred because of the adoption of that law. The gentleman who has offered the amendment voted for that act that has caused sequestration to occur and now is causing furloughs to take place.

I would point out that I think it is patently wrong to carve out any class of Federal civilian employees to the detriment of others. I mentioned in my opening statement that I thought it was wrong that for the 4th year in a row we are not providing a pay raise for any Federal civilian employee at the Department of Defense, which essentially represents a revenue loss to those employees working for the people of this country of $437 million.

So it is not a lack of sympathy for those who are losing a portion of that paycheck over and above that pay increase for the last 4 years that is the cause of my concern, but I would point out to all of my colleagues that other government agencies have also decided to use furloughs. And as the gentleman rightly pointed out, he doesn't solve all of those problems. They include the Department of Labor, the Internal Revenue Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Justice, the Office of Management and Budget.

While this bill under consideration doesn't fund these agencies, where is the outcry, where is the concern for those Federal employees, and who is speaking for them now?

Three fiscal year 2014 appropriation bills have passed the House. While the Department of Veterans Affairs was exempted entirely from sequestration under the Budget Control Act that the gentleman voted for, no furlough exemptions were granted within the other two bills. There was no hedging of funds to avert furloughs for them for bills that have already been considered by this body and passed by this House without this type of exemption.

Allowing exemptions for one agency is unfair to others--allowing exemptions that pit one agency against another agency and wrongfully determines the value of work performed by one Federal employee vis-a-vis another depending on what department they work in. If we value the work of our government employees, we should seek to block all scheduled furloughs, not a select few. We should end sequestration. And I did not vote for the Budget Control Act.

Until we fix this problem, the work of the government will not be done as efficiently and as effectively as possible. Maybe parts will not be bought; maybe maintenance will be deferred; maybe somebody is going to lose their job because a contract is not let; maybe someone is furloughed; but we should not temporarily fix one dislocation caused by sequestration that only defers decisions of significance that need to be made today, going forward.

Again, I would strongly oppose the gentleman's amendment, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I yield myself the balance of my time.

As the U.S. draws down forces--and I appreciate the chairman's remarks--for the post-2014 security environment, we should prepare to leave Afghanistan on positive terms. We should help repair a nation torn by years of war with the means to develop itself and to move beyond the past conflict. And so I am opposed to the means to finance the gentleman's amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, the gentleman suggests that we need a new relationship with Pakistan. The gentleman claims--and I'm sorry that the easel just disappeared, but I believe it was about 64 percent of the Pakistan people consider us the enemy. I don't know the origin of that report, but I would take it at face value given the representation of my colleague.

My colleague also suggests there's another poll that says 81 percent of the U.S. people do not have a favorable opinion about Pakistan.

He did say that we need a new relationship, and I would agree with him. I think relationships are built on communication, and not polls. I think if we governed all of our actions in this Congress based on polls, we would get nothing done. Sometimes we have to suck it up and do things that maybe at first are not politic to do. Sometimes people fight in their families, unfortunately. And hopefully they sit down and communicate and resolve their differences. Sometimes different groups of people have problems and maybe even don't like each other sometimes. But if they talk to each other and they get to know each other, maybe they can resolve their differences.

The relationship with Pakistan, I would not deny, has been difficult, but maintaining that relationship is essential. This relationship has helped the U.S. make progress against terrorism. And Pakistan has allocated a significant part of their forces within their own borders to the counterterrorism mission.

The world, I would remind my colleagues, is a very great place. In June of 2012, Pakistan demonstrated its commitment to a stable and secure Afghanistan by reopening the ground lines of communication. I regret, with the gentleman, that they were closed for a period of time. This has eased tensions with the U.S. and improved logistical support for our troops.

Withdrawal of U.S. assistance would likely polarize Pakistan and exacerbate significant pro- and anti-American rifts within their military and their government generally--rifts and difficulties we should be looking to heal, not exacerbate today. Aggravating this divide is very, very counterproductive to the objectives in this region.

I would add one further comment. In addition to counterterrorism activity, the fact is Pakistan's nuclear weapons capability provides ample reason for the U.S. to continue positive engagement.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I would, first of all, not make any representations as to what will happen ultimately in conference; that is unpredictable. But I do compliment the woman for pointing out the valuable role that the Guard serves both as far as our military as well as disaster relief.

The fact is that additional resources are needed as far as saving lives and ensuring people's safety. In particular, again, a dual use, if you would, a twofer. The fact is, despite the large amount of money set aside in this bill, there are fiscal constraints. Some of that pressure is evidenced by the lack of funding for the program that you so ardently are addressing. So again, I would think, speaking for myself, I certainly hear your voice.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I have used the infrastructure fund in Afghanistan on any number of occasions in my district and in the committee and on this floor as an example of the failure of our country to invest in the infrastructure of the United States of America, and have indicated that we are spending money to invest in the infrastructure of Afghanistan and failing in the United States.

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that in the coming years we have about $3.6 trillion of economic infrastructure investment we need to make, and a shortfall as far as funding is about $1.6 trillion.

But I would note that the gentleman's amendment does not rectify that domestic problem we face because the cut he proposes that I do oppose redirects those funds to the Spending Reduction Account.

The fact is as far as a legacy in giving the people of Afghan a chance in the future, I do believe we have to continue with this program. It was requested by the Secretaries of Defense and State in November of 2010 for the fiscal year 2011 appropriations act. At that time, Secretary of Defense Gates and Secretary of State Clinton said it is needed to support critical infrastructure projects, such as an initiative under way to bring electricity, simple electricity, to Kandahar City, which directly supports counterinsurgency strategy.

I would point out to the House that in 1989, the international community--and I think we would have to include our country in that--abandoned Afghanistan to years of civil war. As a result, this region of the world gave us the Taliban and al Qaeda in the wake of the withdrawal after Soviet incursion of the 1980s. I do not think we should make that mistake again, and we should make an investment.

As I mentioned in an earlier debate, as the U.S. draws down forces for the post-2014 security environment, we should prepare to leave Afghanistan on positive terms. As we depart, the U.S. should help to repair a nation torn by years of war with the means to develop itself to move beyond the past conflict.

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