Speeches and Floor Statements
Van Hollen Statement on H.R. 5856, the FY13 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill
Mr. Speaker, I rise in reluctant opposition to H.R. 5856, the FY2013 Department of Defense Appropriations Act.
Last summer, Congress and the President enacted the bipartisan Budget Control Act (BCA), a difficult compromise by both Democrats and Republicans. As a result, caps on both discretionary and defense spending were significantly tightened for Fiscal Year 2013 appropriations. Because this bill fails the test of balance and funds billions of dollars of unnecessary programs within the Defense Department, while disregarding the caps set forth by the BCA, I cannot support it in its current form. I hope to support this bill when it returns from the Senate.
I would refer my colleagues to the Budget Control Act and to Section 302, enforcement of budget goals. It's right there in plain English what the defense appropriation number will be. That was the Budget Control Act that was supported and voted on by the Chairman of the Budget Committee, the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee and the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.
In fact, the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Mr. Rogers, said last year when we passed it, and I quote: “Tough choices will have to be made, particularly when it comes to defense and national security priorities, but shared sacrifice will bring shared results.”
He went on to say, “The Appropriations Committee has already started making tough decisions on spending and will continue under the spending limits and guidelines provided in this bill,” meaning the Budget Control Act. That was August 1st of last year.
The Chairman of the full Committee was right last year but the bill that's before us violates that bipartisan agreement. As a result of that violation, the Defense Appropriation Bill exceeds significantly what was requested by the Defense Department. The reality is the other bills that are coming through the Appropriations Committee are taking much deeper cuts – cuts to education, cuts to affordable health care, cuts to public safety – because of the funding increases in this defense bill. In other words, our investment in jobs, and the economy, and our kids future is being slashed as a direct result of the fact this defense bill exceeds the spending level set in the Budget Control Act agreement
Mr. Chairman, I would refer our colleagues to the statements made by Admiral Mullen, who served as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Admiral Mullen pointed out that our military strength depends on our economic strength and our economic strength depends on our long-term fiscal health. Admiral Mullen said, “Our national debt is our biggest national security threat.” He went on to say, “with the increasing defense budget, which is almost double, it hasn’t forced us to make the hard trades. It hasn’t forced us to prioritize. It hasn’t forced us to do the analysis.” We can no longer go along with business as usual if we are going to get our fiscal house in order.
That is why this House agreed to the Budget Control Act last summer, and it's unfortunate that this bill comes to the floor in violation of the agreement, in violation of an understanding that in order to get our fiscal house in order, we had to make tough decisions on defense and non-defense alike. And by violating the agreement in this regard, what the Committee is saying is they are not willing to make really tough decisions. In fact, they’re making irresponsible decisions with respect to the nondefense domestic spending.
I agree with Admiral Mullen who said we all need to share in this responsibility. I agree with what my Republican Colleagues said last year when we passed the Budget Control Act. Let's stick to an agreement and let the American people know that when this body comes to an understanding after a hard fought compromise, we stick with it for the public good.
The Defense Appropriations bill provides $606 billion in defense spending in FY13. It includes $518.1 billion in funding for non-war related expenses. It also provides an additional $13.7 billion for Military Personnel Programs and $63.5 billion for Operation and Maintenance Programs. I am also pleased that the bill provides a requested pay raise for military personnel and supports critical funding for the DoD Peer-Reviewed Prostate Cancer Research Program and the DoD Breast Cancer Research Program.
However, the bill provides billions of dollars in funding that the Department of Defense says it neither requested nor needs. For example, it continues to fund unnecessary aircraft programs that the Defense Department did not allot for in its budget this year, and spends $138 million to resurrect C-27J contracts that the Air Force decided not to renew. Many other wasteful items that are unnecessary to our national defense are included at the expense of national funding priorities that directly impact our country’s future economic growth, including investments in education, seniors, and research and infrastructure.
During this difficult fiscal period we have to be much smarter and more efficient about how we shape our defense budget. Throughout this debate, I have made clear that we must take a balanced approach to cutting the budget including eliminating unnecessary spending. There is no doubt that Congress has a responsibility to pass a Defense Appropriations bill which reflects a commitment to the millions of dedicated men and women and their families who sacrifice to keep our country safe. However, as testimony before the Budget Committee and House Armed Services Committee has made clear, we can reduce defense spending even as we continue to provide for our men and women in uniform, for our veterans and for their families, without compromising national security.
Unfortunately, the FY13 Defense Appropriations bill upends the balance painstakingly designed by the BCA and appropriates funds unnecessarily to some programs at the expense of other high-priority programs. The unrequested funding provided in this legislation will result in direct cuts to such national priorities as education, health care, research and development, and vital job training. I am also concerned that this bill deprives deserving employees of the Department of Defense of a modest cost-of-living adjustment by not providing for a civilian pay raise of .5 percent, as proposed by the Administration.
Mr. Speaker, there is no higher priority than providing for the security of our country. However, during these difficult economic times, we have to be smarter and more efficient in how we shape our defense budget. In the end, the strength of our military depends on the strength of our economy. If we don’t reduce our long-term deficit and get our fiscal house in order, we will weaken our capacity to fund a strong military. At the end of the day, this bill falls short of accomplishing that objective.