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Mr. HOYER. I thank the distinguished chairman of the Armed Services Committee, one of the great leaders with whom I have had the opportunity to serve over these last three decades, a man of great character, extraordinary intellect, and unbridled commitment to the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces.
I think all of us who have had the opportunity of serving with Ike Skelton of Missouri have been impressed by his commitment, awed by his depth of knowledge, and encouraged for the security of our country by his leadership. So I rise to pay tribute. This bill is named in his honor. This will be the last bill that he will shepherd as chairman.
Two of the Members of the minority side have spoken and lamented the process that we are following today. I shared that lamentation. And I say to my friends, the reason we are in this pickle is because members of your party in the United States Senate would not allow us to proceed under regular order even though regular order had a majority of votes in the United States Senate. So it is nice to complain and wring our hands, but if obstructionism is the objective in the other body, then regular order has been denied us.
We have an option. We can say they denied us regular order and, therefore, we failed; or, we can do what we did last night--take something that's not perfect but is better than inaction.
Ike Skelton, Carl Levin, and John McCain worked very hard. And, as I understand it, the door was open to an invitation as well on your side.
I rise in strong support of this bill, not because I believe it is a perfect bill, but I believe it is a necessary bill. This defense authorization bill is about securing our Nation in stronger and smarter ways. It builds on our strong record of putting new and better weapons into the battlefield, increasing support for human intelligence collection, cybersecurity, and security for our skies and our ports and our borders, and looking out for our troops, our veterans, and, importantly, their families as well.
This bill authorizes crucial national security programs for fiscal year 2011; much better than a CR, short-term or long-term. It promotes efforts to disrupt and destroy terrorist networks and strengthens the ability of our Special Forces to act directly against terrorist organizations. It increases our international cooperation against terrorists, especially against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Because of the changing threats in the post-Cold War world, this bill, as well, invests in ballistic missile defense and nuclear counterproliferation, including the President's efforts to secure all of the world's known vulnerable nuclear material in the next 4 years.
The defense authorization bill also supports the well-being of our troops and the strength of our Armed Forces. It keeps TRICARE strong and ensures that military families can keep their children on TRICARE until they are 26.
It also reduces strain on our forces by providing 7,000 more personnel for the Army and 5,000 for the Air Force, while helping all of the services rebuild their worn-down equipment and weapons systems.
This bill is an important bill for us to pass. It will pass on a bipartisan basis, and I appreciate that, and I want to thank Mr. McKeon for his efforts to make sure that we pass it on a bipartisan basis. He recognizes, as I do, as Mr. Skelton recognizes, this is not the best process. We could have done and should have done better. Frankly, we did better.
Seven months ago, we passed a bill that has been referred to as the work product of a bipartisan effort to keep our country strong and to make sure that our men and women in uniform were well thought of, well cared for, well equipped, and we made them as safe as possible.
That was not to happen. Our responsibility is therefore to do the best we can. This appears to be the best we can.
I am not surprised that Ike Skelton never wavered for a minute in trying to make sure that we passed a bill that was worthy of the men and women who risk their lives and are ready to be deployed at a moment's notice to defend our freedom and our country.
Ike Skelton, we are proud to be your colleague. You have served your country well, you have served this institution well, and you have been as good a friend as our men and women in the Armed Forces have ever had. America is indeed blessed by God and by the service of men and women of the character, intellect and commitment of people like you.
Thank you, Ike Skelton.
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