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Hearing of the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Committee on Armed Services: Fiscal Year 2009 National Defense Authorization Budget Request on Overview of Recruiting, Retention and Compensation


Location: Washington, DC


REP. JOHN KLINE (R-MN): Thank you, Madame Chair.

And I apologize, gentlemen, for my absence. As you know very well as veterans of many hearings here that we come and go, shuttling between hearings and sometimes floor activity, although this morning I don't think there is any floor activity. But we've had multiple hearings.

A couple of questions: One, General Coleman, how are recruiters in Berkeley doing these days? (Laughter.)

GEN. COLEMAN: Thank you for that question, sir. They're doing well. The morale is extremely high and we had -- out of a bad situation, the Marine Corps has done well. And they upheld themselves to the high standards that you and other Marines would love to see them uphold themselves to, sir.

REP. KLINE: I knew they were. Thanks, General. I think it's appalling what's happened from the city council in Berkeley but I never doubted for a minute that the Marines would hold up well.

Dr. Chu, we talked briefly before the hearing about the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program. As you know, it's been -- a program that's been very near and dear to my heart. We've worked on it very hard. I'm very proud of the work that Major-General Shellito, the TAG in Minnesota, and all the fine folks out there have done and, frankly, members of the Guard particularly, but the reserve component in general in states across the country.

And we've put language in the bill, in the NDAA, which you and I talked about, that puts your office, as the executive agent, as the office in charge. So a couple of questions I want to get here for the record.

One, there's a letter from Lieutenant-General Blum, which was to you, talking about the implementation of that program. And in it, he estimates the annual cost of the program to be approximately $73 million, of which $23 million will fund a national network of transition support workers. And I think the other $50 million, he doesn't specify it in this letter, is essentially to pay for the active -- drill pay, if you will, of the members of the National Guard when they're called back for this training.

Does that $73 million sound right to you? Are you familiar with that?

MR. CHU: I'm familiar with his letter, sir. Preliminary estimates are that it will cost somewhat more than that. I don't want to commit to a figure at this juncture, but I do want to emphasize that we are committed to implementing the statute in the spirit in which it was passed.

I do think we can use, as the statute allows us to do, some of our existing programs -- bring them together in a cohesive way but also create new structures so we do reach out to our service personnel, especially our reserve component personnel -- Guard and Reserve in a better way than we've been able to do in the past. And so we are on track, in my judgment, to stand up in office, as the act directs, to secure resources, which we will be taking out of the second half of the global war on terrorism funding vehicle. We've discussed that with the comptroller who has given us her pledge on that --


MR. CHU: -- up front, in order to get this going in a timely and effective way.

REP. KLINE: Okay. I appreciate that very much. I just think it's such an important program and it really needs to work. And while I'm not familiar with your plans to combine programs, I think you had some family services activities and so forth. And certainly there needs to be some latitude in moving funds. I'm very, very intent that we not water down in any way -- and I don't believe that's the case -- but we need to be wary of that, that as you combine programs, you may inadvertently water down one or the other.

And I'm particularly concerned about this one, because as we've looked at these men and women in the reserve component when they've come back and they haven't had the facilities, the infrastructure of the active component, it's become very clear that we need to make an extraordinary effort to take care of them. And you and I have differed on whether that should be mandatory or not. We've now made it statute. I think that's the right thing to do and I very much appreciate your willingness to step up in your role as executive agent, your office, to make sure this happens. And we'll, of course, continue to work with you on that.

Thank you, Madame Chair. I yield back.


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