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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. I appreciate the gentleman for yielding and would associate myself with his comments.

I do appreciate the gentleman's concern. The money spent in Afghanistan ought to be spent carefully and efficiently and we ought to have an investment made for those expenditures. But I harken back to the last debate we had when we did abandon this country in 1989, and as a result, that region of the world gave us the Taliban and al Qaeda. I don't want to take that type of chance. And simply because we have failed ourselves in this country by a failure to invest in our infrastructure, I do not believe this is the time to fail the Afghan people. I do associate myself with the gentleman's remarks and am opposed to the amendment.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the gentleman for yielding and simply would take a bit of a different tack.

I do appreciate the gentleman's outrage over any act of corruption, whether it is in the country of Afghanistan or whether it is in the United States of America. We do have a responsibility to make sure these moneys are spent for the intended purposes.

But there is an insinuation that all expenditures in Afghanistan today are subject to corruption. I doubt there is a congressional district in this country that has not had, at some point in time, a public official sent to Federal prison for public corruption.

We then find people in our individual districts who are honest, law-abiding and who make the necessary investments. I am certain that the overwhelming number of people in Afghanistan and their government, as with the United States, are of that ilk. Those are the people we ought to assiduously make sure get this money, and for that reason would be opposed to the amendment.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, this is another in a line of amendments that we have debated here this evening; and I hate to be repetitive, but I am going to be. We and the international community have failed the country of Afghanistan in the last century. Today, in terms of the loss of life, in terms of injury, and in terms of our national treasure, we are paying the price. For over a decade, we have now had a commitment to this country, and we ought to meet that commitment at the end just as we did at the beginning.

The gentleman wants to prohibit essentially any new projects from commencing. I think it is important for our colleagues to understand that there are a number of very important projects that do need to be undertaken and completed. All of them involve, basically, power systems.

I don't think there's anybody in this Chamber who has not at one time or another lost power to their home or their business. It's something we all take for granted as American citizens. If any of you have read the Caro biography on Lyndon Johnson, in the first volume I was most struck by his chapter describing the day in the life of a woman in Texas with no energy and how hot that house was and how hard it was to bring that water to that house and how difficult it was to make sure clothes were cleaned and food was prepared and how exhausted and bent and broken these women were in the State of Texas before rural electrification took place.

I think there are a lot of people in the country of Afghanistan today, because they lack power, that they are bent and broken, and potentially are subject to being persuaded that there are other avenues to take in life for a better one, as opposed to the principles that our country espouses. I think particularly for those women who are bent and broken because they have no power in the country of Afghanistan, we ought to give them a fighting chance at the end.

We've been fighting in that country for 12 years, let's give them a fighting chance at the end. Let us undertake some new construction to give them that chance. Simply because we have failed in some instances in this country is not, again as I have said before, is a reason that we should fail others.

I see the gentleman from California rise, and I am happy to yield to him.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I would begin by pointing out that the Department of Defense is the single largest consumer of energy in the United States of America, and I certainly do believe that we need to move from a carbon-based economy, particularly given some of the countries in the world where we procure carbon products such as petroleum. Many people talk about it as an economic problem, and it is. Many people characterize it as an environmental problem, and it is. We're talking about the national defense today, and I certainly agree with former Senator Richard Lugar from the State of Indiana who has always characterized our dependency on foreign petroleum as a national security issue.

This is the perfect bill to have the largest consumer of energy begin to reduce our dependence on these very countries that have cost us so much of our treasure and so many of our lives.

This amendment would defund section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act. The fact is the argument is made that this hurts our readiness and that's not the case. In July the Department of Defense stated very clearly:

The provision has not hindered the Department from purchasing the fuel we need today worldwide to support military missions, but it also sets an important baseline in developing the fuels we need for the future.

The gentleman would indicate that there is nearly a 20-fold difference in the price of renewables and the price of petroleum at the pump today. The price of $3-some cents a gallon, unfortunately some jurisdictions $4 a gallon, can be purchased very close to this building. Many of these fuels have to be transported to places like Afghanistan. There's an additional cost that is worked into that 20-fold increase.

Additionally, I do not think we need to complicate the Department's efforts to provide better energy options. We want to give our warfighters as many options as possible when they are in the field to take advantage of.

This section also does not prevent the sale of petroleum products, nor does it prevent Federal agencies from buying these fuels if they need them. Instead, it simply prevents the Federal Government from propping up the makers of these types of fuels with long-term contracts when we're trying to wean ourselves from them.

So I do think that the amendment should be opposed, and I do so.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I appreciate that, Mr. Chair.

I note that the gentleman's amendment says that none of the funds made available by this act may be used to propose, plan, or execute an additional Base Realignment and Closure round.

If the gentleman had simply said today we should not execute that national additional Base Realignment and Closure round, I would not have stood on my feet. But the fact is, he said we shouldn't propose or plan either.

He also indicated that because we are today paying, I believe, some hundreds of millions of dollars for the current base closure, we should not consider paying for another one.

But the question I would ask, rhetorically, not necessarily of my colleagues, is, don't we have to sometimes make an investment for the future?

That is, there are cleanup costs, there are close-up costs, there are demolition costs, and those are short-term costs. But potentially, those are investments year in and year out for decades where this Nation's taxpayers can save money.

And where the gentleman says we shouldn't consider another closure and, at this point I'm not aware that there's a proposal pending, what if we could save money by doing that?

Should we simply say no?

Should we just say no to everything?

Is it wrong to consider how we might look at every last base and military facility in this country to save taxpayers money?

Essentially, the gentleman's amendment says it's wrong to look at them. It would be wrong to propose to the Congress, that has the authority under article I of the Constitution, to decide whether, then, we execute that proposal.

Is it wrong for an administration to look nationwide where we're spending almost $600 billion for a more expensive Department of Defense, but not a larger one, that says we have a plan, and they send it to the Congress?

But we can't even do that, so we can't have a discussion. We can't have an open and free debate. We can't even, would not be allowed, under the gentleman's amendment, to say, you know what, you've got a plan, but we can make it better. We could make it more efficient. We could amend it, but we're prohibited from doing that.

I think the time for simply saying no, no, no, no, no is gone, and I think the gentleman's amendment is wrong.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate that the gentleman, on any number of occasions during his discussion, talked about the uncertainty that we face in this country because of sequestration, and I couldn't agree with him more and would point out that the gentleman voted for the Budget Control Act that created sequestration that has now created the uncertainty that we face, which I find very regrettable.

The gentleman, also, in his concluding remarks, indicated that we need to look to save money. I couldn't agree with him more.

He also indicated, and I would accept it for the sake of our discussion here on the House floor, that some of these processes take 13 years. I think the gentleman makes my argument. If it takes 13 years, we ought to start today, so that that child who is born later this week has the benefit of these savings we both want before they get to high school.

Why wait to save the American taxpayers money by potentially not considering a plan?

I think we ought to be thoughtful here, and I oppose the gentleman's amendment.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I won't prolong the debate because this is either the third or fourth installment, if you would, of this debate, but my response to the current iteration is the same as I have expressed throughout the night. We do have an energy problem in the United States of America, and I agree with former Senator Richard Lugar that it is, first and foremost, a national security interest, given where we get petroleum products.

We've been at war in the Middle East. We've been at war in Afghanistan. We have other problems internationally, much of it precipitated because of our dependence on that fuel. This is not the time, I believe, that we ought to in any way, shape, or form retard the largest consumer of energy in this country from examining and helping to create a vibrant market for alternatives to reduce that.

So, for those reasons and the reasons discussed earlier in this evening's debate, I would be opposed to the gentleman's amendment, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the gentleman's concern and the fact that he is focused on working capital that is essentially funded through customer reimbursement, but as I mentioned in an earlier debate, I am opposed to the gentleman's amendment.

I voted against the Budget Control Act. I think sequestration is an abhorrent way to run the government. I was disappointed last year when we made every Federal agency in this Nation, including the Department of Defense, wait 7 months until we told them how much money we were going to give them. And then, we told most of the agencies that we're going to give you what we gave you last year.

Now we're suffering because of furloughs. And the concern I have here, again, is making distinctions between one Federal employee and another. They're all very important. I don't know what going to work every day as a guard in a maximum security Federal prison must be like, but I don't know that we carve out an exception for them. I don't know what it is like to be a Federal law enforcement official working undercover, putting your life at risk, getting reimbursed, but not being carved out for furlough.

We have people at NIH, the National Institutes of Health, doing groundbreaking research as far as people's health and safety; and perhaps they not themselves are risking their lives, but tomorrow, if they were at work, could make a discovery that could improve or prolong someone's life. And I think it's a very difficult proposition to begin to make those distinctions between various Federal employees.

I absolutely share the gentleman's concern as to what is happening with the Federal workforce. I have mentioned in committee and on this floor more than once today that I'm appalled that for 4 years we hold Federal employees in so little regard. We have not given any of them a raise in 4 years. But we scurried to the floor because people were going to be inconvenienced at airports because of potential slowdowns at the FAA. Well, Federal employees actually do things for our safety like make sure, when we leave the ground in an airplane, we're safe.

So, again, I'm very concerned here. The fact is I do think allowing exceptions for one agency is unfair to others. Allowing exceptions that pit one agency against another wrongly determines the value of the work performed by some government employees vis-a-vis others. We ought to value all of their work collectively, together, and should not be looking for temporary fixes of one dislocation, as great as it is, caused by sequestration. What we ought to be about--and I know the gentleman is about--is to end this madness, if you would, and get back to the business of governing this country.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I appreciate the gentleman for yielding, and I appreciate the gentlewoman's approach. I have on more than one occasion in talking about the Department of Defense, my constituency indicated, as the gentleman noted, no one should be immune to cuts; and if you can't find 1 cent out of every dollar at the Department of Defense to save, there is something wrong with the leadership at the Department of Defense.

But I rise in reluctant opposition for two reasons:

One is I have an inherent objection to across-the-board cuts because I think we ought to make sure we are very targeted as far as our financial decisions.

Secondly, given the across-the-board cut that has been referenced of more than $30 billion in the current fiscal year because of sequestration under a bill I voted against, we are talking in this instance about filling a significant arbitrary hole.

So again, I would reluctantly be opposed to the gentlewoman's amendment.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I rise in strong support of his amendment.

Mr. Chairman, as I quoted in my opening remarks, rather than getting larger and more expensive over the past decade, the military has simply grown to be more expensive. Our world has fundamentally changed since the days of the Cold War, and certain aspects of our military's national security strategies have evolved. However, I do not believe that our nuclear weapons have had a corresponding change relative to our consideration as to their deployment in numbers.

I do think that Congress has a very important role to play in helping the administration make rational decisions as to the size and composition of the stockpile and of the complex that supports it. In talking about that complex as a member of the Energy and Water Subcommittee, I will point out that there are significant costs over and above those in this particular bill given the civilian control over the warheads at that particular Department.

I also do not have a concern that, in any way, shape, or form, the gentleman is proposing that we unilaterally disarm this Nation. I believe that we certainly have adequate protection, and I support his amendment.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I appreciate the gentleman's concern, and would point out that I do think it is long past time that we should be reconsidering the underlying authority--the Authorized Use of Military Force that was approved by the Congress and signed by the President of the United States in 2001. But I do believe, absent the reconsideration of that legislation--which I do think this body should be about--I believe it does provide the underlying authority for the Strategic Partnership Agreement that the President has initiated. It has been in force for over a year, serving as a guide for the relationship between the United States and Afghanistan. And in May of last year, the President and the Afghan President signed the agreement.

The agreement does, I believe, infer the role of Congress to fund training of the Afghan Security Forces. The agreement indicates that the administration associate such funding annually, and obviously there is a congressional role.

This agreement provides the necessary long-term framework for the relationship between the two countries after the drawdown that will have taken effect by the end of 2014.

I do believe that the amendment offered makes no allowance for what agreement might serve to guide our relationship with Afghanistan in the future. And given it's important in managing our drawdown and in transitioning the Afghan security forces themselves, I believe it is essential for the U.S. to continue to honor this agreement.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I would point out that the amendment, as the gentleman suggests, seeks to exempt the Department of Defense from paying any fines related to infractions which seem to be environmental in nature from the California Air Resources Board.

I would point out to my colleagues that, as they know, there are a large number of military bases in California, and I believe it is imperative to maintain good working relationships with the communities who host the bases, as well as the various State agencies who ensure good living conditions for all Californians.

Accepting this amendment could create the perception that the Federal military installations in California are above the law when dealing with environmental issues.

I would certainly urge a ``no'' vote on this particular amendment, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I would notice that the gentleman suggests that his amendment is very narrow in scope, and I appreciate that fact. I appreciate the fact that, for example, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management was not cited, the Department of Environmental Management in the State of Illinois was not cited, nor for the other 47 States in this country relative to the enforcement of environmental statutes.

I would further propose to my colleagues that the gentleman is seeking a solution for a problem that does not exist. I do not know the specifics of the fines that were purportedly imposed at Camp Pendleton. However, the gentleman did allude to a northern California Air Force base and did suggest that fines were imposed by the California Air Resources Board.

I would suggest that that is not necessarily the case. In fact, it was the Feather River Air Quality Management District, it was not the California Air Resources Board, that found that this Air Force base had 526 days of multiple violations of local air district rules. The district came to a settlement agreement with the Air Force base to properly permit its equipment and bring it back into compliance on a certain timeline. The settlement states that if the Air Force base did not hold up its end of the bargain, it could face a fine.

The gentleman provided a second example for a southern California naval installation. In fact, it was not the California Air Resources Board that was involved. It was the San Diego Air Quality District that took enforcement action when this naval base demolished a building without doing proper asbestos removal and remediation that is a danger for those who are engaged in that activity. The San Diego Air Quality District, not the California Air Resources Board, was enforcing a Federal asbestos law in this case, and in the end the Air Quality District fined the Navy--that is true--$40,000, not $917,000. So I would suggest the amendment is a solution that is looking for a problem.

I strongly oppose the gentleman's amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, the amendment is directed at the administration's plan to consider further reductions below the levels established in the New START Treaty. As the gentleman indicated, it would prohibit funds from being used to conduct a study of the environmental impact on intercontinental ballistic missiles and their facilities.

The President in his June 2013 guidance on nuclear employment affirms that the United States will maintain a credible deterrent, capable of convincing any potential adversary that our abilities and the adverse consequences of attacking the United States or an ally far outweigh any potential benefit they may seek through such an attack.

I believe that the United States' national security resources ought to also be considering other possibilities as to our national security beyond the remote possibility of a direct nuclear exchange. Events of the past several years demonstrate that the U.S. faces a very complex set of national security threats:

The possibility of attacks such as those preceding 9/11, including the USS Cole bombing and the U.S. Embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya;

Regional instability and strategic challenges arising from the Arab Spring in Egypt, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere;

The continuing challenge of Iran, including its support of terrorist organizations with regional and global aims;

Refocusing U.S. national security priorities to the Asia-Pacific region with a focus on China and North Korea; and,

The nearly constant threat of cyberattack.

As I said in an earlier argument, I also do not think we ought to arbitrarily, throughout this evening and tomorrow, continue to say ``no'' about proposals and studies and plans. We ought to be having a full and complete conversation and debate about those possibilities.

For those reasons, I do oppose the gentleman's amendment, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I agree with the proponent of this amendment on one very important detail. I have noted throughout the evening that a number of my colleagues voted for the Budget Control Act that led to sequestration, that led to some of these problems. And I would like to note that the gentleman voted against that bill, and I think very knowingly anticipated that there could have been very serious unintended consequences.

So I do respect the persistence and consistency of his views. But having said that, again, as I have on a number of these amendments this evening, I have a great concern about differentiating between certain civilian employees in one department and those in another.

There's no question that the civilian employees throughout the Department of Defense do critical work. It could be serving in a hospital. It could be doing security analysis. It could be serving the troops in any number of capacities. No question about it. But I don't think we should make a distinction between that type of work and those who work for OSHA, who make sure that workplaces are also safe for American citizens every day when they go to work. We shouldn't make that distinction between those civilian employees and FBI agents who risk their lives every day. We shouldn't make that distinction between those employees and U.S. marshals who risk their lives every day.

Correctional officers in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Capitol Police Officers, U.S. Custom and Border Protection officers, those who serve within the Coast Guard as civilian employees, those who are forestry aides and fight fires out west--all are obviously risking their lives--Federal protective service law enforcement specialists.

Again, the point I would make is we do have a very bad law. We ought not to be making temporary fixes for dislocations that have been caused by it. That only defers decisions that need to be made of a more permanent basis.

Again, I appreciate the fact that the gentleman, I believe, was correct in the first instance, as far as not wanting to see us reach this point. I understand his impulse in trying to begin to correct some of these problems. I personally think we need a more holistic approach, and for that reason would respectfully oppose his opinion and ask for a ``no'' vote.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, this amendment is trying to undue longstanding rules about when salaries can be paid to people who receive recess appointments under the President's constitutional powers. The amendment is injecting unnecessary and unrelated controversy into this bill. Its enactment could further worsen the paralysis and gridlock that is already affecting our ability to govern.

The Constitution clearly gives the President of the United States the power to make temporary appointments during the recess of the Senate to positions normally requiring Senate confirmation. This is a power that has been routinely exercised by Presidents since the beginnings of our government.

It is true that an issue has recently arisen about the scope of that power. Two Federal courts have recently ruled that the language is being interpreted too broadly and that recess appointments can only be made during a recess between sessions after sine die adjournment. Those rulings are contrary to previous rulings by other courts and to longstanding practice by Presidents of both parties. The new interpretations, of course, would invalidate of course not only certain appointments by President Obama, but also many dozens of appointments made by his predecessors, including Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and George W. Bush.

The issue is now before the Supreme Court, which has accepted these cases for decision during its next term. If the Court does rule that Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan, and their predecessors were misreading the appointments clause of the Constitution, then the whole landscape for these appointments will have changed and the proposed language of this amendment will be largely irrelevant. But if, as many believe likely, the Court upholds the more traditional interpretation, the tight restrictions proposed by this amendment may themselves be contrary to the Constitution.

The proposed amendment would alter rules that have been in place for more than 70 years and which say that recess appointees cannot receive salaries under certain, fairly narrow circumstances. The amendment would greatly expand that prohibition. The current rule strikes a reasonable balance, which the amendment would completely upset.

We already have enough gridlock. I do not want to make it worse, and I certainly do not believe this bill is the place for this particular amendment or this debate and would strongly oppose the gentleman's amendment.

Understanding he has rescinded his time, I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I appreciate the gentleman raising the issue about the Air Force's total force plan that was contained in the fiscal year 2013 budget. The subcommittee would agree that, looking back, it was poorly conceived and was made even worse by the lack of communication between the services, the reserve, and Congress. And I supported and the subcommittee supported and the Armed Services Committee supported a requirement that the Air Force go back and reevaluate its force restructuring.

But I ran for Congress and I'm a Member of the House of Representatives, and we're elected to make decisions. I'm not a member of a commission. I don't support commissions, and I'm disappointed that at the insistence of the other body, the Armed Services authorized another commission. I find it interesting that often we say we need a commission, we need a select committee, each time there is a difficult decision to be made. We ought to make them. That's what we get paid money for. We ought to make those decisions and not give it to a commission.

And what happens when we give it to a commission? Well, that's a bad idea. We don't support the commission's decision, and then that report sits on a desk.

The gentleman mentions that the time is short. We have but a few short months before the Commission's report is due back to the United States Congress. The report is due on February 1, 2014. That means that we have the short month of August, the short month of September, the short month of October, the short month of November, the short month of December, and the short month of January before the Commission reports back to the Congress, before the Congress can begin to act now two years after a botched report by, I would admit, the United States Air Force in the first instance.

The gentleman mentions that budgets are tight. I absolutely agree with him. All the more reason why if the Air Force now has a plan to wait more than another half year to look at a report to decide what we're going to do, we ought to see what the Air Force has to say. If it makes sense, to do it. If not, to make them have it changed. But not wait for the Commission. I'm a Member of the House of Representatives, not a Commission.
I yield to the gentleman from New Jersey.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I would, first of all, want to suggest that I appreciate the gentleman from Mississippi raising the issue relative to the Guard, as well as my colleague from the State of Florida, the Guard that protects us internationally as far as our military and international threats, as well as takes care of us at home.

The gentleman mentioned, given their portion of the country, that it is hurricane season. It is tornado season in the Midwest. It is flood season in the Midwest. It is earthquake season every day in the State of California, and we have wildfires out west. The Guard does terrific work.

I am very proud of the fact that, although Indiana has continued to decline relative to other States, and is now only the 16th largest State by population in this great Republic, the Indiana National Guard is the fourth largest Guard unit in the United States of America. And it's not just numerical; it is the quality of the men and women who serve, just as in the States of Mississippi, Florida, and throughout our country.

But I would, again, reference back to the observations I've made on all of the furlough amendments that have been made tonight. Everyone who does civilian work, whether it be at the Department of Defense or any other agency of this government, does important work; and we ought not to make that distinction.

The gentlemen who have spoken in favor of this did vote for the Budget Control Act that did create sequestration, that did create this problem.

I would suggest that what we ought to do is comprehensively begin to solve this problem and not move chairs around on this particular deck.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. I rise to claim time in opposition to the amendment and would state my opposition to it.

We have a handful of amendments that have been made in order on the bill regarding our Nation's nuclear weapons stockpile. This is one that urges maintaining the status quo, and others have pushed for a reduction in the number of nuclear weapons.

I firmly believe that a further reduction in the number of nuclear weapons in our inventory will not negatively impact our deterrence goal. Even under the recently ratified New START Treaty, both the United States and Russia will have more than 1,500 deployed warheads each.

Additionally, the treaty contains no limits on nonstrategic nuclear weapons or nondeployed nuclear warheads.

With regard to the amendment, I don't think it's responsible to prohibit the United States from carrying out the reductions prescribed by the New START Treaty. That bilateral strategic arms reduction treaty was passedby a wide margin in the United States Senate, according to the Constitution, and it remains in force.

I think it is very bad policy to go back on an international treaty obligation that would, in fact, reduce the number of nuclear weapons in this world and would, again, reference back a quote that I read in my opening statement because, again, the gentleman is essentially saying let us maintain the status quo.

Over the last 12 years, it has gotten us a more expensive military that has grown more expensive, but has not gotten any larger. The reality that we face today gives us very difficult choices that we are going to have to make looking forward.

Our military is at a familiar crossroads, one they have been at before at the end of combat operations. The additions and subtractions to funding that we make today must be carried out with an eye to the future. The status quo will no longer get the job done, one, as far as our national security, the security of this world, or a responsible budget that does truly, looking forward, provide us with an affordable defense. And for those reasons, I do object to the gentleman's amendment and oppose it.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Section 9114 of the bill specifies the certification required of the Secretary of Defense in order to execute the coalition support funds reimbursement to Pakistan. The Secretary of Defense must certify that Pakistan is cooperating with U.S. counterterrorism operations, not supporting terrorist activities against the U.S. or Afghanistan, taking measures to curb the export of IED materials, and preventing the proliferation of nuclear materials.

As mentioned earlier this evening, the relationship with Pakistan has always been difficult. It is a gray world. But maintaining that relationship is essential. It has helped the United States make progress against terrorism. And Pakistan has allocated a significant part of their forces within their own borders to the counterterrorism mission.

In June of 2012, Pakistan demonstrated its commitment to a stable and secure Afghanistan by reopening the ground lines of communications. I certainly regret that previously they had been closed. But this has eased tensions with the U.S. and improved logistical support for our troops.

I do think withdrawal of assistance at this time is likely to polarize Pakistan and exacerbate significant pro- and anti-American rifts within their military and their government, generally, and I don't think we need to aggravate a very sensitive relationship that can, in the future, be more productive to the United States.

I yield to the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Frelinghuysen).

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the gentleman's remarks. As he mentioned, I do appreciate the passion that the author of this amendment has brought to this. Obviously, there have been problems, and it is incumbent upon this country to make sure that this is an arm's-length and adult relationship that is, in the end, beneficial to our Nation.

So I certainly appreciate his objective but am opposed to his amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, the gentleman's amendment seeks to block funds for our military to participate in any exercise in which China participates as well. The Chinese President confirmed last month in meetings with President Obama his navy's attendance to participate in the rim of the Pacific, known as RIMPAC, in 2014. An invitation to participate had been extended to China during then-Secretary of Defense Panetta's visit to that country in September of 2012.

RIMPAC is the world's largest international maritime exercise, where 28 countries and more than 40 ships and submarines work together. In 2012, not all participants were our traditional allies. Russia and India, for example, were participants.

I believe the amendment is shortsighted and attempts to place an unneeded stumbling block in the path of a relationship that is tenuous. I would suggest that the Secretary would not have extended the invitation if the Department and the United States Navy did not feel that there would be a benefit to be gained by these exercises with Chinese participation. I refuse to believe, as a Member of the United States Congress, that the Department would take such a position.

The United States gains maritime knowledge and renewed relationships with other navies of the world and considers participation in this exercise as crucial to their mission. RIMPAC participation has gained an ever-greater meaning with the Defense Department's rebalance to the Asia Pacific, and I do think that this amendment should not be adopted by the House.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the gentleman's remarks and would agree with his assertion that we do have civilian command of the Department of Defense and the United States Navy; and, God bless the United States Navy, they follow orders. But also having dealt with the Navy for some number of years as a member of this subcommittee, I would suggest to my colleagues, if the Navy had reservations or had some concerns, we would have had a whiff of that objection and concern wafting from the Potomac to this particular building, and I have not sensed that myself.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. We have had a number of amendments in this vein this evening. Again, I would allude back to some of my earlier comments that we have proposals and discussions and consideration taking place, and I don't think it's our duty to stop all of that from happening.

The fact is, none of these weapons have ever been used in the United States or elsewhere on the planet Earth. I would hope, as an institution, we would take this much time to consider the asymmetrical threats that have occurred against this country and its citizens and our allies across the country, such as the attack on the USS Cole, the U.S. embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya, and the events of 2001.

I think about the instability and the strategic challenges we face now in Egypt, in Syria, in Libya, in North Africa; the continuing challenge of Iran, which supports terrorist organizations with regional and global aims; the effort that we are going to have to put into the prioritization of an Asia-Pacific region focus, with a particular emphasis on China and North Korea; and the instantaneous and continual attack by cyber against our Nation and our assets.

Again, as far as deliberation and consideration, I don't think we should simply be here all evening saying no, no, no. The President obviously, if there is any further reduction according to a treaty, would have to have that ratified through the United States Senate.

So I do oppose the gentleman's amendment and would reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the fact that this is the first instance that my friend and colleague from Indiana and I are participating in a debate on an amendment on the House floor, which is why I respectfully and regretfully have to oppose her amendment, as well-intentioned as it is.

I do not believe that we should impose on ourselves the legal and moral problems arising from the prospect of indefinite detentions at Guantanamo. Working through civil courts since 9/11, hundreds of individuals have been convicted of terrorism or terrorism-related offenses and are now serving long sentences in Federal prison. Not one has ever escaped custody.

But we're told we cannot bring these detainees to the United States for trial or custody. And we are told in three other instances in the bill that we cannot close Guantanamo. But I think the rationale for establishing Guantanamo in the first instance was a misplaced idea that the facility could be beyond the law--a proposition rejected by the Supreme Court. As a result, continued operation of this facility creates the impression in the eyes of our allies and enemies alike that the United States selectively observes the rule of law. With this amendment, now we would have a fourth restriction within this bill, and I think that is not the best policy for this country to pursue.

For that reason, respectfully, I do oppose the gentlewoman's amendment, and would reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I would begin my remarks by suggesting that I deeply appreciate the gentlewoman's concern and her commitment to make sure everyone who has taken that oath of office and put on the uniform of the United States of America receives the health care benefits they deserve and that they have earned.

But I would point out, as I have on a number of occasions this evening, that we have got to start looking ahead and begin to make some very difficult decisions.

I would quote again from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments that has noted that over the last decade, rather than getting larger and more expensive, the military has just grown more expensive. This reality makes our future choices even more difficult, and it is imperative that Congress joins with the Department in working through these decisions in an arm's length relationship, but also as a partner.

The Department has made recommendations, one of which we are debating at this moment, that are very difficult decisions to have to make. On the other hand, we have to begin to not reflectively reject these recommendations out of hand.

I understand what the gentlewoman is trying to do with her amendment, but she does rightfully describe it as saying that no funds shall be used to implement an enrollment fee. Is that enrollment fee 25 cents? Is that enrollment fee $1? Is that enrollment fee $2? Is that enrollment fee $250 for an individual and $500 for a family? We are going to have to consider the pressure that the budget is under.

The gentlewoman has indicated that the Department has reprogrammed money, and that means that, in fact, costs have not gone up. The fact is I do believe that the Department has, if you would, underexecuted and overrequested moneys in past years.

The subcommittee mark in the bill we are debating tonight cut $400 million from the request of $15.8 billion based on the execution history. We would not have done that if we thought we had endangered anyone's health. And in fact, these costs are going up.

The cost of military medical care has risen almost by triple in the past 12 years, rising from $19- to $56 billion. If the increase continues at this rate for another decade, coupled with sequestration, military health care could consume close to 20 percent of all defense spending.

According to a report published by the Congressional Budget Office entitled ``Long-Term Implications of the 2013 Future Years Defense Program,'' the annual cost to the Department's health care program could grow from $51 billion in fiscal year '13 to $65 billion in 2017 and $90 billion by 2030.

If we continue to block enrollment fees for TRICARE For Life, defense funding for this program will place other programs at risk. The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments estimates that pay and benefits for each Active Duty servicemember grew by 57 percent in real terms between 2001 and 2012, or 4.2 percent annually.

I am not suggesting our servicemembers do not deserve adequate compensation for the risks they take in the defense of this country, but we have to understand what the growth of those costs means for the overall budget and the future implications. Operation and maintenance costs per Active Duty employee grew by 34 percent.

I oppose the amendment respectfully because I am worried that if we don't address the rising cost of health care now there will be even a smaller pool of resources to make our military ready in the future.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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