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Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Unknown


Mr. McKEON. I thank the chairman of the Appropriations Committee for yielding, and thank him for the great work that he has done on getting this bill to the floor; likewise, the chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. They have done yeoman's work to help provide for our national defense.

Mr. Speaker, I agree with much of what my good friend, the gentlelady from New York, said: Sequestration is bad. And if we don't pass the CR, we will feel worse than the effects of the sequestration. We will shut down the whole government. Nobody wants to see that, and so I commend her for what she said.

This is not perfect, but it keeps a lot of people working. I think it is very, very important that we get it done.

As chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, I am happy to see us voting to include a full-year defense appropriations bill as well as a full-year Military Construction-Veterans Affairs bill. This is very important. At least we have one committee that can do regular order still, and I think that is very important.

Enacting a full-year DOD appropriations bill is the first step toward restoring funding for our military, which has been whipsawed by the dual combination of the sequester and the CR that we are operating under. None of our currently serving service Chiefs--the Chief of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, including the Chief of all of the services--in their time have ever operated under a real budget. Most of the Members of Congress haven't served under regular order in seeing how we have really done. So this is a step forward to get us back to regular order.

A full year appropriation will allow the service chiefs to cancel programs that we've already canceled in the Defense Authorization Act. It allows them to restore critical shortfalls in their operation and maintenance accounts and add back a certain amount of training and flying hours.

This legislation does not by any means solve sequestration, but it gives our commanders some much needed flexibility and gives us time to work on a House budget that restores funding for our military.

Let me give you just a couple of quick examples of why we need to pass this package and encourage the other body to return to regular order: a straight CR stovepipes funding in certain accounts.

General Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army, is looking at having to curtail 37,000 hours of flying for helicopter pilots at Fort Rucker in Alabama, where all of our helicopter pilots go to be trained. That's about 500 to 750 pilots who will not be trained. Units preparing now to deploy to Afghanistan are not receiving the same training as those who are there now fighting. That is shameful. We need to restore those accounts. This puts those who are preparing to go at greater risk once they arrive in theater. Under a full year DOD appropriation, which we'll be voting on today, General Odierno will have the authority to restore a lot of those flying hours and critical training for those who are preparing to deploy.

I have just another little example. Admiral Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, has said that if he had the funding that would come from the appropriations bill that we're voting on, he would have the flexibility to move money between accounts, and the Navy would be able to keep a carrier strike group and an amphibious ready group in the Middle East and the Pacific through next year. That is crucial to our national security.

I would encourage all of our colleagues to support this bill. It's not perfect, but it takes us a long step toward helping to secure our national security.

I thank the chairman and the chairman of the subcommittee for their great work.


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