Tuesday, June 16, 2009

House Armed Services Committee: Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton: Full Committee Mark-Up of H.R. 2647, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010

House Armed Services Committee: Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton: Full Committee Mark-Up of H.R. 2647, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010
House Armed Services Committee
June 16, 2009

Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton: Full Committee Mark-Up of H.R. 2647, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to today’s mark-up of H.R. 2647, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010. This product is the work of many hands—every member here has contributed to the quality of the product and I thank you for that.

“There are some members who require special recognition today. First and foremost, our departing Ranking Member, John McHugh. His contributions to this bill are vast although he has left us before we made it to the finish line in committee. Though I am saddened that he has taken leave from this committee, I am delighted that he will continue to serve the nation as Secretary of the Army. I believe he is an excellent choice to lead the Army through a time of tremendous transition.

“Next, I must recognize my dear friend and long time colleague Ellen Tauscher. She has been a stalwart champion of the troops and for the issues of strategic weapons and missile defense on which she will continue to lead. Ellen, you will be truly and sorely missed. The tribute in your honor at your subcommittee mark-up could not have been more deserved.

“With these departures also come some great additions. I want to congratulate Congressman Buck McKeon on his election as the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee. Buck has represented California’s 25th District since 1992, and has been a valuable member of the House Armed Services Committee since 1995. He also happens to be one of the most decent people I know.

“Buck has been a tireless advocate for the men and women of our military, particularly those that serve at the many major military installations in his district, including—Fort Irwin, home of the National Training Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Naval Air Weapons Stations China Lake, Air Force Plant 42, the Marine Mountain Warfare Training Center, Air Force Research Lab Propulsion Directorate, and finally the Marine Corps Logistics Base- Barstow. I am thrilled for Buck and his wife Patricia and very much look forward to working more closely with him. I hope you will all join me in congratulating him on his election to Ranking Member.

“I also want to welcome Congressman Todd Platts to the committee. Congressman Platts has represented Pennsylvania’s 19th District since 2001. In addition to Armed Services, Congressman Platts also serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure and Education and Labor Committees. Todd’s Pennsylvania district includes numerous military installations, including the United States Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, the U.S. Government Naval Supply Systems Command in Mechanicsburg, and the New Cumberland Army Depot. We’re thrilled to have you with us Todd.

“After a little bit of a wait, the President sent us a budget for the Department of Defense built by what Admiral Mike Mullen described as the most open and transparent budget process he’d ever seen; where military commanders were given the most opportunity to provide input in the final decision making process that they’ve ever had.

“Most importantly, this budget takes care of the troops. There were major decisions made on weapon systems, some of which we’ll discuss today, but what hasn’t been sufficiently acknowledged is that this budget has its priorities straight, and that is what a budget is for.

“H.R. 2647 authorizes $550.4 billion in budget authority for the Department of Defense (DoD) and the national security programs of the Department of Energy (DoE). The bill also authorizes $130 billion to support ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan during fiscal year 2010.

“This bill reflects this committee’s deep commitment to supporting U.S. service members and to providing the necessary resources to keep Americans safe. That is our first priority.

“The provisions of this year’s defense bill promote our main policy objectives: taking care of our troops and their families; restoring military readiness; focusing on our strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and on redeployment from Iraq; eliminating waste and recovering savings through acquisition reform; and maintaining robust oversight of the Department of Defense.

“The mark provides our military personnel a 3.4% pay raise, an increase of 0.5% above the President’s request. The mark also includes a number of initiatives to support military families. In the Year of the Military Family, we provide funds to establish a Center for Care for Military Members and their families; we also increase the weight allowance for senior non-commissioned officers, and authorize the transportation of a second vehicle for members who are changing stations from or to a non-foreign area outside the United States.

“To address the growing mental health issues within the military, we provide funds to enhance the Health Professions Scholarship program for mental health providers to increase the number of military providers to support the troops and their families.

“The mark fully funds the President’s budget request for military training, equipment maintenance, and facilities upkeep. By doing so, the committee continues its efforts to address readiness shortfalls that have developed over the past eight years as a result of continuous combat operations. While the men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are the most trained and ready fighting force this nation has ever witnessed, overall readiness remains tenuous, and we must continue to work this issue.

“To address some of these concerns, in this mark we have added $1.6 billion to the operation and maintenance accounts. These increases include $395 million for Navy aviation and ship depot to eliminate the unfunded requirements identified by the Chief of Naval Operations. The committee has included an additional $762 million to achieve 100% of the requirement for sustainment of facilities, including DOD schools. Furthermore, the committee has added $450 million to improve the quality of Army training barracks.

“The war in Afghanistan is a critical mission that is finally gaining the attention it demands. The President’s new Afghanistan strategy, which calls for an increase in military and civilian resources and also recognizes the vital importance of Pakistan efforts in the region, is a welcome development.

“To ensure our strategy in both countries is effective and achieves the intended goals within well-defined timelines, the bill requires the President to assess U.S. efforts and regularly report on progress. It also authorizes the new Pakistan Counter-Insurgency Fund to allow our commanders to help Pakistan quickly and more effectively go after terrorist safe havens.

“The President has kept true to two promises that he made as a candidate, to begin the responsible redeployment of our forces from Iraq and to do so while following the best advice of our military commanders on maintaining the safety of U.S. forces and preserving our strategic objectives in Iraq. The committee supports the President’s policy while also upholding the Congress’s responsibility to provide oversight to the process of drawing down the mountain of material purchased, transported, and built up in Iraq at tremendous expense to the taxpayer.

“Efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction and to reduce the risk that these weapons could fall into terrorists’ hands are also critical to our national security. In the area of nonproliferation, the bill increases funding and creates new authorities to strengthen the Department of Defense’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program. The bill also fully supports the Department of Energy’s nonproliferation programs, and adds substantial funding in support of the President’s plan to secure and remove all known vulnerable nuclear materials that can be used for weapons.

“The bill takes additional steps on acquisition reform beyond what we did in the bill on weapons acquisition enacted last month. And it also ensures that the Quadrennial Defense Review currently being undertaken by the Department of Defense both complies with the law and gives Congress the insights it needs to make judgments about force structure and programmatic changes.

“In part, the bill does this by creating a Congressionally-appointed National Defense Panel to conduct an independent review of the QDR’s effectiveness and issue recommendations on how to improve the decision making process for determining national security objectives.

“Ladies and Gentlemen of the committee, I believe you will be presented today with seven excellent marks for your consideration and potential improvement. I have this confidence largely because all of you contributed so heavily in writing these marks. I look forward to working with all of you to move H.R. 2647 through the committee and on the road to the President’s desk and enactment into law.

“Let me make a couple announcements before I turn to our new ranking member. First, this committee has no more important job than passing this legislation. We have a perfect record of getting authorization bills enacted. We do this in part by protecting this bill from being tied up in another committee or subjected to points of order on the floor. So let me announce up front that I will be ruling out of order any amendment that does not have an appropriate offset or that would subject the bill to being sequentially referred to another committee. I hope you all will agree that this legislation is too precious to gamble with.

“Second, after we receive the report of the Strategic Forces subcommittee, we will recess subject to the call of the Chair to deal with the two resolutions of inquiry pending before the committee. Immediately after we deal with these resolutions, we will continue with consideration of the defense authorization bill. Finally, we will break for lunch and dinner at appropriate points in the mark and food will be provided for members.

“I now recognize the gentleman from California for his opening statement.”


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