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Congressional Budget for the US Government for Fiscal Year 2004

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I thank the chairman very much for yielding time.

To the Senator from Louisiana, let me say, I do not think there is anybody in this body who disagrees with you with respect to our need to look at some sort of modernization package—that is the way I refer to it—for our Guard and Reserve.

I think when the Guard and Reserve were created decades ago, nobody ever anticipated they would be called to active duty as many times as they have been called over the last 10 years. We do need a modernization package.

Now, the Senator from Louisiana has this amendment which applies to increasing hardware purchases for our Guard and Reserve. That is great. We need that, certainly. But there are some additional things I think we need to do immediately.

We are not going to send anybody into harm's way—Active-Duty, Guard, or Reserve—who is not properly equipped. But we have families of those guardsmen and reservists who are at home now who need to be taken care of.
For the Senator's information, I will tell you, we have a series of bills, some of which I think will reach the floor at the end of this week, in which we are going to be dealing with benefits, both from the standpoint of pay and additional benefits, such as commissary use, and any number of other benefits for the families of those individuals.

Over the next several weeks, we are going to have, through the normal process, an additional benefits package, that is a modernization package, where we look at health care benefits, and where we look at long-term retirement benefits for our Guard and Reserve. Because, in my home State, we now have the 116th Guard Wing, the Air Control Wings at Robbins Air Force Base, where the Guard has been blended into the active force.

Our Guard folks, today, as we sit here and speak, are flying the Joint Stars Airplane weapon system in Iraq. It is critically important that we continue to look after our Guard and Reserve. And I think there is an ongoing series of packages that are going to be coming forward that are more necessary at the present time than what the Senator from Louisiana is asking for here.

But I look forward to working with the Senator to try to do that long term.

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