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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, over the past several years, this committee has taken a very hard look at all of our military information operations programs--a very hard look. While the committee reduced or eliminated funding for those we judged not to be appropriate Defense Department activities, this was not one of them.

This is a fully acknowledged program, with each Web site sponsored by a geographic combatant commander. These Web sites provide important news and information about events in their regions and about U.S. activities being conducted in those regions. These Web sites are an important opportunity for the United States Government to inform foreign audiences about U.S. military activities in their regions, including joint military training exercises or, very importantly, about humanitarian assistance.

Too often, we find ourselves frustrated that foreign populations fail to appreciate the support they receive from the United States, particularly from the United States military, or to understand the U.S. position on issues impacting their parts of the world. This is often because people are unaware of our efforts. These Web sites offer the combatant commanders the ability to get the word out, and I believe and we, the committee, believe that that's important. Therefore, I urge the rejection of the amendment.

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Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. Chairman, if this Strategic Partnership Agreement involves the protection of our American troops and our allies, then there's good reason to oppose this amendment.

This is an agreement between two sovereign nations. Understandably, the two proponents of this amendment are against our involvement and would like us to leave tomorrow--and indeed we may. But in the process, I would hope that we wouldn't be putting ourselves and our soldiers at risk by an amendment of this type and nature. For those reasons, I oppose it.

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Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, I rise to oppose the gentleman's amendment.

Budgeting for contingency operations, especially 1 1/2 years in advance, is very difficult. Goodness knows, the war on terror in Afghanistan and what we did in Iraq, we never knew how long we would be there and how expensive it was.

For example, despite having a higher overseas contingency allocation for fiscal year 2013 of $87 billion, budget execution during fiscal year 2013 has proven that that request was understated by as much as $10 billion. As a result of the extent possible, funds for OCO are being cash-flowed from baseline funds which have already been squeezed due to the sequester, resulting in profound readiness implications. Ships are not sailing, planes are not flying, and civilians are being furloughed. We've heard a lot about that on the floor today.

Additionally, I think all of us know that we are exiting out of Afghanistan. The timetable may be a year or two, or maybe the Commander in Chief will decide to expedite our departure. Transportation costs are spiked as men and equipment are moved and deployed, and God only knows things can happen on the travel route. We've heard a lot about that on the floor, too. Things can happen in Pakistan that might require additional expenses, billions of dollars more if we have to move men and materiel by aircraft. Contractor costs spike for many functions such as dismantling forward operating bases. Some of that's occurring now in disposing of excess materiel or turned over to the private sector to complete. Of course, the reset of equipment carries a very high price tag. There are a lot of reasons that this money is needed.

I strongly oppose this amendment and reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Before I close, let me just say for the Record, the $5 billion extra was in the National Defense Reauthorization Act which the House passed I believe in June, and just for the record, funding for the overseas contingency fund in our bill matches the amount recommended by the House Budget Committee, which membership is well known and is present on the floor this evening. So it has a pretty good endorsement, and for this reason I strongly oppose the amendment.

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Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. I thank the gentleman, Mr. Visclosky, for yielding to me. I reluctantly rise to oppose the amendment. It seems as though this amendment attempts to reopen issues that were resolved in the 2013 bill, and would prohibit the Air Force from conducting authorized re-basing actions until April 2014.

This amendment appears to be not so great for the National Guard. The National Guard is depending on re-basing actions or remission or backfilling units that otherwise would lose aircraft. I think that needs to happen, and I don't think it necessarily needs to happen after the receipt of this report, which is due some time in the future.

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Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

I rise to oppose the gentleman's amendment but understand, because we're good friends, his passion and his very, very strong feelings which he expresses on any number of occasions and has done so eloquently tonight.

Some would argue this isn't true, but I believe Pakistan does remain a key U.S. counterterrorism partner. Their cooperation is essential. As we did during the war in Afghanistan, we're going to have to use air routes over Pakistan. We're going to have to use their maritime capabilities. We're going to have to use the land routes to get our troops and material out; otherwise, we're going to depend on Kyrgyzstan and Russia. It's going to be expensive. It will probably be $20 billion worth of expense to withdraw from Afghanistan if we don't have the cooperation of the Pakistanis.

The other issue is Pakistan is a nuclear power. I think we need to have a close working relationship with them to make sure that those weapons in the future never fall into the wrong hands.

So I appreciate the gentleman's remarks. I associate myself with them. I strongly oppose this amendment but obviously respect the sponsor for his strong views as well.

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Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Let me associate myself with Mr. Visclosky's remarks. I think there's some benefit for us to have a joint military exercise. They may learn something about us; we may learn something about them.

I can assure you the committee isn't in a state of denial. We know the Chinese are very aggressive, setting out a strategy for a blue navy. I think these joint exercises may be extremely beneficial to us in terms of their naval strategy, and to be part of an overall Pacific rim program gives us a pretty good opportunity to take a look at their capabilities.

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Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, I rise reluctantly to oppose the amendment.

The Army has made it clear to our committee that it does not want to retain C-23s, the Sherpas, the workhorses, that have been doing some remarkable work for over 30 years, or acquire any replacement platform. In fact, the Army is already taking steps to put the aircraft out of operation while stopping short of full retirement.

At the beginning of fiscal year 2013, the Army National Guard was operating 34 of these Sherpas. As of July, 14 of those had been turned into Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where they are being maintained in semi-flyable storage. That tells you something. The remaining aircraft are scheduled to be turned into Fort Sill by the end of October of this year.

Because this amendment only applies to fiscal year 2014, the aircraft likely will be out of operation before this amendment would take effect. Unfortunately, because the C-23s will already be in storage by the time this amendment takes effect, it is unlikely it will accomplish its intent.

We do not believe that taking funds from other critical readiness programs to apply to the C-23 operations is the best use of the Army's increasingly limited resources. Thus, reluctantly, I oppose this amendment, and reserve the balance of my time.

Ms. BONAMICI. Mr. Chairman, I do appreciate the comments of the chair. However, if we are talking about limited resources, it makes so much more sense to use planes that are less expensive. Give the men and the women of the National Guard the flexibility and the aircraft that they need.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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