PROVIDING FOR CONSIDERATION OF H.R. 1591, U.S. TROOP READINESS, VETERANS' HEALTH, AND IRAQ ACCOUNTABILITY ACT, 2007
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding and rise in opposition to the bill.
I want to say this: We have had a lot of good, sincere debates in the Defense Subcommittee of Appropriations, but one of the things that, in our honest disagreement about, that we have not talked about as much is the effects that the surge has already had. I wanted to bring up some statistics.
The 4 weeks prior to the surge which began on February 15, we had 1,440 civilian deaths; since that time, 265. That is a reduction of about 500 percent.
In terms of bombings, prior to the surge, we had 163. Then from February to March, it is down to 102.
Similar with car bombings, down 35 percent from 56 to 36.
The surge is already showing a significant impact. Two-thirds of the Iraqis polled by a British polling firm, 5,000 people which were sampled, the largest poll in the history of Iraq, two-thirds of the people say they are better off now than they were under Saddam Hussein. Seventy-three percent say they are not in a civil war. Al-Maliki, the Prime Minister's approval rating has gone from 29 percent in September to 49 percent now.
We are making progress. We are not defending the status quo. We are changing the course, and the Petraeus plan needs to be given time to work, and that is very, very important.
The second point that I want to make is there are so many extracurricular things in the $23 billion in spending that have nothing to do with the war in Iraq. Now, I serve on the Ag Committee, and I want to mention some of those.
There is a $100 million increase in the PL-480 program, but there is not a single word of it in the report as to why this is justified, why this is considered an emergency, $100 million.
Secondly, we have $25 million in there for spinach recall. The USDA did what they were supposed to do, but I want you to know you are setting a precedent for recall. We are not in the product compensation business on recalls.
Finally, we have $5 million in the bill because of a Canadian fish import issue.
All of these things are good, debatable topics, but they do not belong in an emergency appropriation bill. I think they should come back through the committee process on regular order where we can have a good debate and look at them on a separate piece of legislation.
While some of the provisions I support, such as the peanut storage and handling provision and some type of agriculture disaster assistance, this bill is not the appropriate place for them to be considered.
Title II-P.L. 480 Grants--The bill contains $100,000,000 above the President's request for Title II-P.L. 480 Grants.
There is not a single word of explanation in the report as to what or where the additional funds are to be used for.
The President's request included $350,000,000 of which approximately $150,000,000 would go to Sudan and for populations in Chad affected by the violence in Darfur; $30,000,000 for Afghanistan; $95,000,000 for Southern Africa; and $75,000,000 for the Horn of Africa.
Just last month the Congress included $1,215 billion for this program in the Joint Resolution to fund this program for the remainder of fiscal year 2007.
The bill provides $140,000,000 in additional relief for loses related to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita of which $25,000,000 would go to provide additional compensation to livestock producers and $100,000,000 would go to provide additional compensation for citrus producers--it appears that these additional funds are included in the bill only for the reason of doubling the $80,000 payment that livestock and citrus producers have already received, taking their payments up to $160,000.
The need for agriculture disaster assistance has been debated for the last several months.
While disaster assistance is clearly needed in some areas of the country, this bill provides $25 million for spinach producers who had losses due to a nationwide spinach recall last fall.
The FDA did what is was supposed to do, and initiated the recall to protect consumers.
This assistance is unprecedented, and there will be pressure put on this Committee to compensate producers whenever other food products are recalled.
Can you imagine the cost if we get in the business of compensating producers for losses that they incur because of food recalls? The latest list of some of the food recalls from FDA and USDA include: bread; peanut butter; corn chips; olives; oysters; milk; fresh cut fruit; summer sausage; ground beef; and the list goes on.
The reason foods were recalled is because they presented a health risk to the public, and the FDA or the USDA did what they were supposed to do.
The bill includes $5,000,000 for compensation to aquaculture operations who may have incurred a loss due to a restriction on imports from certain fish from Canada.
The emergency order, put on by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, on these fish from Canada was due to outbreaks or potential outbreaks of a destructive pathogen responsible for several large-scale fish deaths in the Great Lakes region--the reason APHIS put the order in place was to protect aquaculture in the Great Lakes states, and somehow $5,000,000 makes it into this bill to compensate for possible losses without any justification. Where did this number come from?
Finally, there are no funds for USDA to administer any of the disaster assistance provisions in the bill that total nearly $4,500,000,000. Members are already reacting to proposed FSA office closures that are occurring all over the country. This will only exacerbate the problem.
IRAQI GOVERNMENT PROGRESS
According to the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, over the last 30 days they have seen important developments in the history of Iraq. The Iraqi government has taken steps to improve security, governance, economic development and economic opportunities.
Iraq's Prime Minister is actively leading the latest plan in Baghdad.
Prime Minister Maliki created six committees to oversee the non-security pieces of the Baghdad plan, with oversight of economic development, essential services, communications, community outreach and related functions.
Prime Minister Maliki's first trip to Anbar Province was a clear gesture and attempt to involve Sunni tribal sheiks into the government.
Anbar's tribal sheiks are switching allegiances away from the insurgents and towards the government of Iraq.
The tribal sheikhs have started providing police and army recruits to support stability in the region.
At the end of February, the Iraqi parliament's Council of Ministers passed a hydrocarbon law that outlines the equitable sharing of Iraq's oil wealth.
The Iraqi government hosted the Neighbors' Conference, the first international conference in Baghdad since 1990. The conference ended with regional and international partners pledging to fight terrorism and to enhance security in support of the goal of peace and security for the people of Iraq.
Iran and Syria along with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Turkey and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council attended the conference.
SecDef stated (Mar 21) the deployment of Iraqi troops into Baghdad is right on schedule--10 brigades total.
Operational strength of the Iraqi Brigades in Baghdad has vastly improved.
First Brigade reported at 61 percent; Second came in at 65 percent; and the third came in at 85 percent. Other brigades on their way are reporting in the high 90s to more than 100 percent strength.
The problem was not related to fighting, but rather an issue with getting pay to families. Iraq does not have a financial system that provides for electronic transfer of monies--it is a cash transaction society. The Iraqi Government found that troops were trying to take money to their families and that is the reason they were absent.
They fixed the problem by paying deploying forces a bonus upfront so they could leave money with their families and not have to worry about them.
Overall, violence directed against Iraqi Civilians is down about one-third and murders/assassinations are down 50 percent.
Civilian deaths down more than 500 percent: mid-Feb to mid-March, 265; previous four weeks, 1,440.
Bombings down nearly 40 percent: mid-Feb to mid-March, 102; previous 4 weeks, 163.
Car bombs down nearly 35 percent: mid-Feb to mid-March, 36; previous 4 weeks, 56.
NOTES FROM SECDEF'S TALK AT ARMY CAUCUS--MAR 22
Active Army has met every retention and recruiting goal since 9/11
Need to grow Army and we're doing so by 7,000 a year
Vital to meet Active Army's goal of 1 year deployed and 2 years home; Guard/Reserve goal is 1 year deployed and 5 years home
Need to include Guard and Reserve in all of our plans
Modernization and putting them in Joint billets
We have programmed $46.4B for reset in FY 07/08
Modernization is also required--started $56B short
Need the FY07 Sup by April or we will have to take Draconian measures and begin to reprogram money, impacting all facets of the Army
Need $2B for BRAC this year and stated that we need to expedite the construction of the medical facility on Ft Belvoir and make Bethesda the premier medical facility
COMMONLY ASKED QUESTION IRAQ
Q: What is your view of the timetables and provisions that have been attached to the FY07 Supplemental?
A: It's important to elevate the level of debate. ..... question is how we incentiveize the Iraqi government. But, specific dates and strict conditionally would make it impossible for commanders to complete the mission.
Q: Do you think the operations in Iraq will be over on October 1?
A: Decisions need to be based by conditions on the ground. Setting a date tells your adversary all he has to do is wait. I think debate on the hill has been helpful; there is no military solution, it has to be a political solution and we are providing them the time they need.
Q: How is the deployment of Iraqi troops going? We have heard they are reporting at low strength rates?
A: In Afghanistan, there are about 12 financial centers that enable movement of money. Iraq has no such system yet, so troops have to take cash home to their families. First Brigades came in around 60 percent but other brigades are reporting in the high 90s to more than 100 percent strength. The problem was not related to fighting, but rather an issue with getting pay to families--troops were trying to take money to their families and that is the reason they were absent. They fixed the problem by paying deploying forces a bonus upfront so they could leave money with their families and not have to worry about them.
Q: Are we neglecting Afghanistan?
A: After I visited Afghanistan, I made the decision to extend the deployment of one Brigade and move the other Brigade in. We will be adding 3,400 trainers and overall about 6-7,000 soldiers. Britain and Australia are also providing more troops as we prepare for a Taliban offensive this spring. We think they may make a run at Khandahar and we want to hit them hard.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT