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Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2005

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. THORNBERRY. Mr. Chairman, I thank my chairman of the Committee on the Budget for yielding me this time.
Mr. Chairman, the first priority of the Federal Government is to defend the country, and there is no greater priority in this budget than protecting America. I think all of us realize that the world in which we live and the world in which our children will live is, in many ways, a more dangerous place than the world of our parents and our grandparents. It is certainly more difficult to predict. It certainly changes more rapidly. And the number and diversity of threats to our citizens has never been higher. Yet the fundamental fact remains that our freedom and our individual safety depends upon our strength.

This budget allocates the resources needed to fight the global war on terrorism; secondly, to prepare for future security challenges; and, third, to protect our homeland. In national defense, this budget provides $419.6 billion. As the chairman noted, over the past few years, we have had to address both a defense deficit and a homeland security deficit. After the Cold War, defense spending declined, eventually reaching the lowest percentage of GDP since World War II. Infrastructure was deteriorating. We were not taking good care of our people. We had what some people described as a hollow force, as we had to cannibalize airplanes and other systems just to keep others operating.

But we have provided significant increases in defense over the last few years. Personnel funding is up 59 percent, operations and maintenance is up 55 percent, procurement is up 43 percent, and R&D is up 76 percent. This budget provides an additional 7 percent increase for fiscal year 2005 to meet the security challenges of our time and to be better prepared for the security challenges that the future may hold. And may I clarify, Mr. Chairman, that this budget funds dollar for dollar exactly what the President requested for the Department of Defense. Any change in the defense function is for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and some others that are under that old 5-0 function, but it fully funds the Department of Defense.

The other thing, I think, that needs to be clarified in response partly to the distinguished gentleman from Missouri is that a budget cannot do all of the things that he advertises that it can do. That is up to the committee he and I serve on, the Committee on Armed Services, as well as up to the Committee on Appropriations to determine how much we are going to fund individual personnel programs or how much we are going to fund housing and other vital needs for our military.

What the budget can do is set an overall target for Federal spending. And this budget does a good job of fully meeting what the President has told us and what most of our Members believe our security needs are.

But the chairman's mark also stands for the proposition that no part of the Federal budget, even those agencies assigned to the first priority, is beyond scrutiny, to ensure that each dollar that the Federal Government takes out of some taxpayer's pocket is used as efficiently and productively as possible.

The military has made some tough decisions recently. It canceled a major weapons system, it is restructuring the Army, and it has more tough decisions ahead even with this increase. But we want to be clear in this budget that we will do whatever it takes to defend America. Our Nation will not just sit back and let the terrorists hit us again.

We have taken the fight to them in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in this budget we allocated $50 billion for those ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. We assume that they are going to continue, and we put money in there to make sure that they will be provided for.

We are also committed to defending America here at home. Earlier this month we marked the 1 year anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security, the result of the biggest reorganization of the Federal Government in more than 50 years.

Now, we have heard arguments and I am sure we will hear other arguments about whether the glass is half full or half empty with regard to homeland security. And both can be true at the same time. There are those who think we are spending too much, others who think we are not spending enough; and I suspect both are right, and we will find out exactly where the next time that there is an attack. But, again, if you look at where we have been over the last 3 years, you see tremendous increases for homeland security, appropriately so.

This budget allocates $34 billion for homeland security, which is up from last year's $29.5 billion. The President has suggested significantly more funding for biological surveillance programs, as well as continuing to push ahead on things like port security, infrastructure protection, emergency preparedness and response.

Mr. Chairman, I am convinced that we could spend the whole Federal budget on things that have the label of homeland security and still we would not be perfectly safe. So the challenge before us in the Committee on the Budget, as well as the other committees, is to move ahead in a common-sense way that makes the country safer. That is what this budget tries to do, and I think it does a good job.

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