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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. JACKSON LEE. Madam Chair, I rise to speak in favor of adoption of the Defense Appropriations Act of 2014.

I thank Chairman C.W. BILL YOUNG and Ranking Member PETE VISCLOSKY, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Appropriations' Subcommittee on Defense for their work to provide for our nation's national defense.

I also want to extend thanks and appreciation to the men and women in and out of uniform to defend our nation. You serve your nation with honor and distinction. In each generation our nation must remember that the freedoms that we enjoy come at a price, which you have paid without hesitation or complaint.

Each year the Congress takes on the tasks of providing appropriations for the nation's defense. The Appropriations subcommittee that focuses exclusively on the work of the Department of Defense is the subject matter experts who manage the long process that resulted in the bill before us for consideration. As members of the House of Representatives we are each subject matter experts on the committees that we serve, but we are also experts on the constituencies we seek to represent.

My work in the 18th Congressional District has allowed me the privilege of working with men and women in the military, the workers in aeronautics and space industries that contribute to our nation's defense as well as those in the Department of Defense who work in and around our nation's capitol.

Through my work as a member of Congress I know those who have served and returned home to a tough economy, struggles with physical disabilities and life changing injuries associated with their service to our nation. I do not know the military as a mass of statistics, but individuals with names and faces--real people who depend on each of us to pursue their best interest.

I know you know that none of our offices received calls from lobbyist on behalf of the men and women who serve in defense of our nation in and out of uniform. That is why we must rely upon our own experience and that of the Appropriations' Subcommittee on Defense to reach the best result in a very long and arduous legislative process.

Military families make sacrifices with long separations of parents from spouses and children that last for over a year. Many miss some of the important moments in their children's lives when they are deployed when they have young children. The Defense Appropriations bill includes $580 million for a military pay raise consistent with the raise included in the House Armed Services bill for a 1.8 percent increase.

I am pleased to say that this Defense Appropriations bill does a great deal more for the men and women serving in the military and places more focus on the needs of their families. This bill maintains the objective of previous Congresses to assure that our nation's military is the best trained, best prepared, best equipped, and best cared for fighting force in the history of the world. That is the least we can do for those who willingly risk their lives to keep us safe.

The bill also recognizes that the military is changing due to the expanded roles for women who pursue careers in the armed services. I strongly believe that this choice should not mean a diminution of rights or opportunities from what they would enjoy these women had pursued a different career path.

For this reason, I sought and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense provided $150 million for a Peer-Reviewed Breast Cancer Research Program. The program fills a unique niche among private and public funding sources for cancer research and presents an opportunity to forging new ideas and scientific breakthroughs in the nation's fight against breast cancer.

My work to expand the Department of Defense ability to provide assistance and support for medical research related to breast cancer included Jackson Lee Amendment #1 which provided $500,000 in increased funding for breast cancer research, which was adopted by the Full House. This additional funding raised the amount in the bill to $130 million and will be made available for Triple Negative Breast Cancer research. Triple Negative Breast Cancer is one of the most deadly forms of the disease that is extremely difficult to detect, and has an extremely high mortality rate.

The threat of sexual assault of both women and men serving in the armed services is a real threat to unit cohesion and professional conduct among the ranks. The troubling aspects of the stories we have heard is the lack of comprehension of the traumatic nature of this crime among superior officers in a position to help. The Defense Department Appropriations bill offers an additional $25 million for a new Sexual Assault Special Victims Program in addition to fully funding request of $156.5 million for a Defense-Wide and the Military Service Program which I strongly support.

I sought and the Appropriations Committee provided $80 million in funding for a Prostate cancer program to be included in the final bill at 100 percent of the requested amount. The most prevalent type cancer in men, and second most diagnosed cancer in the nation, kills over thirty thousand people per year.

Veterans, especially those exposed to defoliants have been identified as being more prone to this disease. Research on prostate cancer will lead to better early diagnostic tools as well as better treatments and improvements to quality of life for prostate cancer survivors.

The unique nature of combat can produce illnesses that threaten health and life expectancy. This is why I requested $25 million and the Committee provided $20 million or 80 percent of my request to fund a Gulf War Illness Research Program, GWIRP. The bill provides $20 million in funding to support the identification of treatments and diagnostic markers for Gulf War Illness, a chronic multi-symptom illness with no effective treatment affecting 250,000 Gulf War veterans. Treatments will benefit military personnel at risk of similar neurotoxic exposures. The FY14 program funded by this bill will fund studies of promising treatments and larger clinical trials of treatments previously shown to be effective.

Jackson Lee Amendment #2 that was adopted by the full House under debate of the bill offered additional funds from $10 million provided by a transfer to an account that could be used to support work to assist military persons suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorders, PTSD. As we look to PTSD, some of a soldier's wounds are invisible to the naked eye, for these are wounds that should be properly treated. One of the best ways to increase access to treatment is to increase the number of medical facilities and mental health professionals who are available to serve the needs of men and women currently serving and those who have become veterans.

Post traumatic stress disorder, one of the most prevalent and devastating psychological wounds suffered by the brave men and women fighting in far off lands to defend the values and freedom we hold dear. A suicide bomber, an IED, or an insurgent can obliterate their close friend instantaneously and right in front of their face.

Yet, as American soldiers, they are trained to suppress the agonizing grief associated with those horrible experiences and are expected to continue on with the mission. And carry on they do, with courage and with patriotism.

The bill also provides $125 million in funding to for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and Psychological Health research, and $4 million for alcohol and substance abuse research. In addition, $20 million is provided for suicide prevention and outreach.

My focus is also the military of the future and the overwhelming need for people who have strong science, technology, engineering and mathematics, STEM, educations to fill the positions required for the successful defense of our nation's cyber networks.

I sought $30 million for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions, HBCU/MI. The Funding requested was approved by the Appropriations committee at the level at over $35 million or a 116 percent over the amount I requested. The funds appropriated will reinvigorate the relationship between the Department of Defense and the HBCU/MIs and to ensure that minorities are represented in the long-term development of the STEM workforce pipeline. The funding will support undergraduate and graduate STEM programs to increase the participation and success of minority students through engaged mentoring, enriching research experiences, and opportunities to publish, present, and network. Consistent with the report of the National Academy of Sciences ``Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads,'' the funding is intended to enhance the Department's efforts to emphasize STEM education improvement within the Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Institutions program. The Committee should encourage the Secretary of Defense to consider these factors when awarding competitive funding under this program, as well as ensuring that selected programs have a sufficiently large cohort of students to allow for effective peer-to-peer mentoring.

I offered language to create a report that the Secretary of Defense must present to Congress on the topic of hazing in the military, harassment and mistreatment of service members across the Armed Forces. The Committee directs the Secretary of Defense to provide a report to the congressional defense committees not later than 180 days after enactment of this act on the prevalence and consequences of hazing, harassment and mistreatment of service members and the policies in place to address cultural sensitivity and hazing and harassment prevention and intervention. Further, the report shall include recommendations for the services to accurately record and prevent incidences of hazing, harassment and mistreatment of service members and to adopt a more intentional diversity and inclusion effort. Finally, the report shall propose a plan to implement and monitor these recommendations.

On balance this Department of Defense Appropriations bill overall is a good thing for the men and women of the armed services especially with the additional of an amendment to prohibit the use of funds to deny Department of Defense civilian employees security clearance because of financial difficulties caused by ``furloughs'' due to sequestration.

I urge my colleagues to support the bill.

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