The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 648 and rule XVIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the consideration of the bill, H.R. 4200.
IN THE COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Accordingly, the House resolved itself into the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the consideration of the bill (H.R. 4200) to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2005 for military activities of the Department of Defense, to prescribe military personnel strengths for fiscal year 2005, and for other purposes, with Mr. Hastings of Washington in the chair.
The Clerk read the title of the bill.
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Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Chairman, throughout the last year there have been numerous reports, some issued by government agencies, others emanating from news organizations, that have detailed critical shortages of equipment needed to protect our young men and women serving in Iraq.
I visited Iraq last year and spoke with our troops serving there about the shortages of armored Humvees and body armor. I know that many of my colleagues who have visited Iraq have raised similar concerns. I have pressed this issue during consideration of the Iraq supplemental and on numerous other occasions. Many of our troops who have been killed in Iraq in the past months were riding in unarmored Humvees that were hit by small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades, or improvised explosive devices. Doubtless, some were lost because they were not protected.
I was deeply disappointed by the length of time that it has taken to provide our soldiers with this life-saving equipment, and I am pleased that Chairman Hunter and Ranking Member Skelton wisely increased funding for these programs by several orders of magnitude. Because of these increases, I will add my voice of support for the bill.
I am also pleased that the Committee has increased the end strength of the Army and Marine Corps over the next three years. Our active duty forces, our Reserves, and our Guard have been overstretched by operations in the War on Terrorism and the war in Iraq. I have been strongly supportive of increasing the size of the military, and by authorizing additional forces, we will enable our troops to get the training and time for rest and re-fit that they need and deserve.
I am less pleased by the provisions relating to the rush to deploy a National Missile Defense system that I believe is not ready for deployment. I support additional research and testing of ballistic missile defense systems, but the imminent deployment of the first interceptors is premature and diverts taxpayer money that is more immediately needed to provide basic security for our troops.
I am most concerned by the ill-conceived decision to authorize more than $36 million for research into the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, as well as a new generation of advanced nuclear weapons. At a time when we are asking other nations to forswear the development of nuclear weapons, when we invaded Iraq because we thought that Saddam was developing nuclear weapons, when Osama bin-Laden has exhorted his followers to use nuclear weapons against the United States, and when our own State Department has compiled a Top Secret list of sites around the world that contain unsecured fissile material, we should be focusing on non-proliferation, counter-proliferation, and cleanout activities. Funding for a new generation of nuclear weapons enhances neither our security, nor our credibility.
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