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Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Iraq and Afghanistan Security and Reconstruction Act, 2004-Continued

Location: Washington, DC



(Purpose: To ensure that members of the Ready Reserve of the Armed Forces are treated equitably in the provision of health care benefits under TRICARE and otherwise under the Defense Health Program)

Mr. GRAHAM of South Carolina. Mr. President, I will try to be brief.

We have a great team defending America right now. That team is made up of active-duty members who have made a decision to serve 4 years or maybe have a career in the military. But that team is supplemented by the Guard and Reserves.
There are 224,000 Guard and Reserve members called up to active duty and, working together, they are doing a great job defending our freedom. It is time to look anew at the role the Guard and Reserves play.

I say to Senator Daschle, I want to publicly thank him for making this possible because he has been great to work with, and Senator DEWINE. I think we have been a pretty good team here on the floor. We disagree on a lot, and there will be a lot of fussing and fighting before this bill is over with, but that is the American way. It is OK to express our differences. It is great to be able to tell people you disagree. There are a lot of countries where there are not many ways to express your disagreements. But one of the things we have done tonight, and I think in the spirit of the country, is to come together to
support our men and women who serve.

So why do we need this? One-fourth of the Guard and Reserves are on active duty now, with more to come. We need to acknowledge the obvious. They will be asked to do more, not less, over the coming months and years. Why? The cold war model of having tanks in the Fulda Gap and a large nuclear deterrent force standing up against the former Soviet Union, that war, thank goodness, is in the history books for the most part.

The new war, the war on terrorism, has a totally different dynamic. The Guard and Reserves, which were tangential, to be honest with you, in the cold war are in the forefront of this war on terrorism. Most of your military police are guards and reservists. Seventy-five percent of the aircrews flying C-130s—and I know our Presiding Officer knows this because we took nine trips in the theater of Afghanistan and Iraq. Eight of the crews are Guard crews, one is a Reserve crew. Seventy-five percent of the people flying C-130s are Guard and Reserves. Fifty-five percent of the people flying airlift to get the supplies and resources into the region to protect our troops and help them survive are reservists. Almost 90 percent of the intelligence service for the Army is in the Reserves, 90 percent is civil affairs Reserves. It is growing by leaps and bounds.

What we are trying to do tonight is provide a better benefit package than they have had before because we are going to ask so much of the Guard and Reserves.

Senator Stevens made this possible. We have passed two bills by 80-plus votes, but there is no money behind it. For all those who follow the Senate, they know who is in charge of the money. Senator Stevens made this possible because we are putting money behind the bill.

What does that mean? It is no longer talk. Twenty percent—2 out of 10 people—who are Guard and Reserves are without health care. This bill immediately will allow them to have health care year round. They will pay a premium like a retiree would pay, but they will have health care by being a member of the Guard or Reserves.

We need to do more, and we will. The problem of a Guard or Reserve family goes like this: If you are called up to active duty for a year, you go into the military health care system called TRICARE. If you have health care in the private sector, most times—almost all the time—your physician network is replaced. You go from the private health care sector to the military health care sector. And when you get deactivated, you change, and there is no continuity of health care. Thirty percent of the people called to active duty were unable to be deployed because of health care problems.

We are not done yet. There is more to do. It is my goal, my hope, my dream, for the Guard and Reserve forces that if you will join, and you will participate, and you will help defend America as a guard or reservist, we will offer you full-time health care. You pay a premium, but you and your family will be taken care of in the health care area. I think it is the least we could do. I think it is what we should do. And tonight is a huge step forward.

I thank all of the Senators who made it possible. The fussing, the fighting yet to come on this bill is part of America. But let it be said at about 8:50 at night, Republicans and Democrats came together to help Guard and Reserve members. When you are in a war, they do not ask you if you are a Republican or a Democrat. They are asking you to do your job. So I am honored to be part of this effort.

I ask unanimous consent that Senator Hagel and Senator Allen be added as cosponsors.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. GRAHAM of South Carolina. I thank the Chair.

With that, I yield the floor.


Mr. GRAHAM of South Carolina. I want to add one thing. There was an article in USA Today yesterday: "Army Reserve Fears Troop Exodus." The Army National Guard is 15,000 below its recruiting goal. "Soldiers are 'stressed' on yearlong deployments." I really honestly believe that this benefit made available will help retention and recruitment because the problems with these deployments are coming down the road. The further we can get ahead of this by beefing up the benefit package, the better America will be.

I ask unanimous consent to print the article to which I referred in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

(By Dave Moniz)

If the United States is unable to recruit significantly more international troops or quell the violence in Iraq in the next few months, it could trigger an exodus of active and reserve forces, the head of the U.S. Army Reserve said Monday.

Lt. Gen. James Helmly, chief of the 205,000-member Army Reserve, said he and other Pentagon leaders will be monitoring
retention rates closely next year, when problems could begin to become apparent for full-time and part-time soldiers coming off long tours of duty in Iraq.

"Retention is what I am most worried about. It is my No. 1 concern," Helmly told USA TODAY's editorial board. "This is the first extended-duration war the country has fought with an all-volunteer force."

Helmly described the war on terrorism as an unprecedented test of the 30-year-old all-volunteer military. Historically, he said, the National Guard and Reserve were designed to mobilize for big wars and then bring soldiers home quickly.

Today, he said, they have "entered a brave new world" where large numbers of troops will have to be deployed for long periods.

Counting training time and yearlong tours in Iraq, some Army Reserve soldiers could be mobilized for 15 months or more. Helmly described the situation facing soldiers in Iraq as "stressed" but said he could not characterize it as at a "breaking point."

The stresses facing the nation's reservists were demonstrated again this week when the National Guard announced it had alerted a combat brigade from Washington state that it could be sent to Iraq next year if a third block of international troops cannot be recruited to join the British and Polish-led divisions now in Iraq.

Guard officials said Monday that the 5,000-member 81st Army National Guard brigade from Washington state has been notified that it could be called to active duty.

Helmly said a huge factor in Iraq will be the Pentagon's ability to train an Iraqi army and security force.

The Defense Department recently announced plans to accelerate the development of an Iraqi army, pushing the goal from 12,000 troops to 40,000 troops in the next year.

The Army National Guard and Army Reserve have about one-fourth of their troops—nearly 129,000 soldiers—on active duty.

The active-duty Army and the Army Reserve both met their recruiting goals for the fiscal year that ends today. The Army National Guard, however, is expected to fall about 15% short of its recruiting goal of 62,000 soldiers.

Although the Guard and Reserve say their retention rates have not suffered this year, the figures could be misleading. Under an order known as "stop loss," soldiers on active duty are prohibited from leaving the service until their tours end.

Active-duty and Reserve commanders fear that when U.S. soldiers on yearlong rotations come home next year, many will choose to leave the service.

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