JOHN WARNER NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2007 -- (House of Representatives - September 29, 2006)
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Mr. Speaker, let me start out by saying this is a tough job for a lot of our members of the committee and the subcommittees that make up the Armed Services Committee. It involves a lot of travel to the warfighting theaters. Almost every member on our committee has gone multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan. It involves a lot of time away from families and a lot of tough work in committees. It involves a lot of analyses to try to figure out how to manage the logistical problems of all of the problems that attend the war fight in two theaters, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the war against terror around the world, and at the same time look over that horizon and try to exercise some vision as to what the next conflict may be and what we have to do to prepare for the future.
Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, I could have no better partner in that endeavor than the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Skelton).
Mr. Skelton is a tremendous, tremendous guy. And he has got kind of a corporate memory in terms of military history. He has got a recommended reading list for all of us. He analyzes the present situation through the prism of history. We all appreciate that. And today we actually dressed in uniform. That is amazing. And without design, I might say. We simply came in with the same outfits because this is the military and you have got to be in uniform.
Mr. Speaker, this is an immense bill, $532-plus billion. We did something very unusual in this bill and I think unprecedented, and that is that we added to the bill that includes lots of money for force protection, for body armor, for up-armored Humvees, for surveillance capability to fight the IED war in Afghanistan and Iraq, lots of things to support the troops, and, of course, all of the quality-of-life issues for the troops.
This pay raise this year means that over the last 80 years, we will have increased pay by a little more than 40 percent for our men and women in uniform. The base readiness of our forces and military construction and all the things that combine to make America's defense apparatus the strongest in the world, we did all of that, but this year we did something extra. We asked the Army and the Marine Corps to come in and testify to our committee, largely in classified session, as to what shortages they had that they needed to be funded so that they could take the tanks, the trucks, the fixed-wing aircraft, and the helicopters and all the other platforms and pieces of equipment for the Marines and the Army and reset them, that is, repair them as they come off the battlefield so that they can be ready to go again.
A massive analysis. And they came forth and they gave us that analysis. And when we got finished, we funded, we authorized on top of the defense budget $20-plus billion to make up the total reset cost, every dime, that was submitted to us by the United States Marine Corps and the United States Army. And the appropriations committees, God bless them, did the same thing and followed the authorizing committees on that. And that is a tribute, I think, to all of our Members, all of our colleagues who worked on and voted on that very important piece of funding.
So, Mr. Speaker, this is a great bill. I want to mention that we have wonderful members on both sides of the aisle that make up this committee.
And JOEL HEFLEY is leaving after many, many years, a great personal friend and a guy who is kind of architect of privatization of housing so that American military families, many of whom were living in homes that were built 40, 50, 60, and 70 years ago and were under some sort of disrepair, now live in new homes that afford a great quality of life. And many of the developments now that they have come in and built on military bases have community centers. I have been in a number of them, where families can come in and enjoy swimming pools and recreation and moms can come in and work out and have their toddlers in a little room right off the exercise room and keep watch on their kids while they are having a little relaxation and a little rest and where families can get together for social activities.
This new military construction that is springing up all over the United States at our bases is largely a function of Mr. Hefley's foresight and vision, and he is leaving us after those many years. I have often said JOEL HEFLEY was the best cowboy in Congress. He used to rodeo with the great Casey Tibbs and a number of other rodeo greats. He is a wonderful guy whose word was his bond and still is, and we wish him the very best.
And along with him now leaving us and running for Governor in Nevada is Mr. JIM GIBBONS. JIM GIBBONS also brought a great deal of background and expertise to our committee. As a fighter pilot who worked the Desert Storm I operation and who understands tactical aircraft as well or better than any member of the Armed Services Committee or the full House, JIM GIBBONS brought a special insight to our committee. He also brought a great love for the National Guard and has been a great and powerful advocate for them. I know he is going to continue to do that in his new role. But JIM GIBBONS, like JOEL HEFLEY, is one of those quality guys that you just enjoy working with and you know when he comes to the job every day, he cares about the service, he cares about the people that wear the uniform.
There is a real joy in working on this committee, Mr. Speaker, and those gentlemen are people that every one in this House likes to work with and understands the value added that they bring every time they walk into this Chamber or into the committee room. So our many, many thanks to them.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to listen to my great colleague, who had a great taste in coats today because we came with exactly the same outfits here. Mr. Skelton, the fine gentleman from Missouri, has done a wonderful job working on this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
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Mr. HUNTER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding.
You know, we went into this thing. I thank her for all of the great work that she did and lots of other Members who really worked this hard. I know Mr. Davis brought some important elements to this package.
We wanted to have a package that would make the sergeant majors who saw their kids going out and paying massive loan fees trying to pay off their loan, they could not pay it off, having the loan rolled over, and then seeing higher and higher fees stacked on top of that. In fact, I think it was Mr. Davis' provision that barred the roll-overs.
We want to see those sergeant majors see a bill come out of our committee and out of conference that, as I said, would make them throw their hats in the air and shout: Hooray, Congress has done what it took for our kids.
And we kept them apprised, as we moved this conference report along, as the gentlewoman knows in working on the team, to protect our people. And when we showed them the product, they threw their hats in the air, and they yelled hooray, and they felt like it was a good product.
You know, the other thing we have got to do is we have got to get these credit unions that are in the base, the guys in the institutions we allow to be inside the perimeter of that base, to reach out and establish short-term loans for our servicemembers so servicemembers go there instead of feeling they have got to go a to a loan shark to get that loan.
I thank the gentlewoman for her leadership and her great work on this.