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Public Statements

Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WEBSTER. My amendment is simple. It requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to follow existing law and to insist on having an experienced Director of Construction and Facilities Management. All it requires is that the holder of this position have a degree in architecture or engineering and have professional experience in construction project management.

Not many people have heard of this position, but it carries enormous responsibility, not only for the stewardship of our tax dollars, but also for ensuring that our veterans have the facilities necessary for the health care and medical treatment we promised them and they earned. The VA manages over 5,000 buildings nationwide. According to the GAO, it has nearly 70 ongoing major construction projects around the country, 33 of which are major medical facilities. Of these 33, many have experienced considerable cost overruns and schedule delays.

Four of the largest projects under construction are full service hospitals designed to provide health care to the hundreds of thousands of American veterans. The VA will spend an estimated $3 billion on these four facilities. One of these sites is in Orlando. The construction of the Orlando VAMC has been a classic example of government waste and inefficiency. The VA broke ground on the site in 2008 with a scheduled completion date of 2010. The estimated completion date now has been pushed back well into 2013.

Several GAO reports and House Veterans Affairs' Committee hearings have sought to determine the root cause of these problems. However, it is increasingly clear that the lack of expertise on the part of the Department of Construction and Facilities Management within the VA bears responsibility. The VA has violated public law by ignoring the required qualifications to occupy a position that oversees these projects. The result is a cost to the taxpayers of an additional $1.1 billion on the four largest projects alone and multiple-year delays in health care services to our veterans.

The qualifications are shockingly simple for a position that oversees the construction of veterans' health care facilities that cost billions of dollars. An individual who holds the position of Director of Construction and Facilities Management, under current law, must meet two qualifications: (1) hold an undergraduate or a master's degree in architectural design or engineering; (2) have professional experience in the area of construction and project management.

My amendment simply requires that the funds used to hire this person meet that criteria. The Director of Construction and Facilities Management will potentially oversee as much as $15 billion in construction and repairs over the next 5 years. We owe it to our Nation's heroes to have qualified, experienced people behind these critical projects.

I urge my colleagues to vote ``yes'' on this Webster amendment to ensure that not only valuable taxpayer dollars are appropriately managed but that our veterans have access to the high-quality health care facilities that they deserve.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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