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Rep. Andrews Backs Plan to Strengthen Military, Support Our Troops


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Our Troops Will Get the Pay Raise, Bonuses and Other Critical Benefits They Deserve

This week I joined an overwhelming bipartisan majority and backed a plan to strengthen our military, support our troops and improve military readiness. The Defense Authorization Bill was approved by the House and is expected to be passed by the Senate as soon as it returns next week. The Administration has said that the President will sign the bill.

The Defense Authorization Bill had been originally passed by the House of Representatives by an overwhelming vote of 370 to 49 on December 12 and by the Senate by an overwhelming vote of 90 to 3 on December 14.

However, the President vetoed this bill on December 28 - over the potential impact on the Iraqi government of a provision concerning Americans who sue state sponsors of terrorist acts against them. The Administration felt this could jeopardize resources of the Iraqi government and harm reconstruction efforts in that country. The President had abruptly issued this veto despite the fact that he had not told the Congress this provision could draw a veto. The veto was unnecessary because Congressional Leaders had made clear that the President's concerns could be dealt with easily on separate legislation when Congress returned in January.

The bill passed this week includes a revised provision - developed on a bicameral and bipartisan basis - which addresses the belated concerns raised by the Administration. The legislation also includes provisions ensuring that the military pay raise, as well as special pays and bonuses for the troops, are retroactive to January 1.

I am pleased that our brave men and women in uniform will now be getting the pay raise of 3.5 percent, as well as other critically needed benefits, that are included in this legislation. We worked to make sure that, under the bill, the pay raise and the special pays and bonuses for the troops were made retroactive to January 1.

The American military is the greatest in the world, and I was proud to back legislation that will make our armed forces stronger and our nation more secure. This bill protects our troops and their families and helps ensure that our fighting men and women have all the resources they need and deserve.

The Defense Authorization bill authorizes new resources for additional Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAPs,) up-armored Humvees and body armor. The legislation also includes resources for efforts to stop Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) that have proven to be a threat to American troops in Iraq.

The legislation also includes critical support for troops and their families by providing a pay raise for troops that goes above the President's request and blocking fee increases in the military health care program (TRICARE). Additionally, the bill includes the Wounded Warrior Act, which responds to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal by improving the care of injured soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The men and women in our military risk their lives for our nation. They deserve the best equipment on the ground and the best medical care when they come home.

The Defense Authorization bill takes steps to remedy the Army readiness crisis in America. Army readiness has dropped to unprecedented levels, and Army National Guard units have, on average, only 40 percent of their required equipment. Furthermore, many stateside units are not fully equipped and would not be considered ready if called upon to respond during an emergency.

The measure helps restore our nation's military readiness by creating a Strategic Readiness Fund to address equipment shortfalls, fully funding the Army's and Marine Corps' equipment reset requirements, and authorizing new resources to provide the National Guard and Reserve critically needed equipment.

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