Floor Statements

Washington, D.C.—U.S. Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), the Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, today delivered the following remarks on the House floor during consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011:

“As legislators, we meet once again to address the wide range of important national security activities undertaken by the Departments of Defense and Energy.  We all take our legislative responsibilities very seriously.  This is especially true during a time of war, and it is always true of my good friend and colleague, Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton.

“As a result of Chairman Skelton’s tireless efforts to put forward this bill, our committee reported out the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 last Wednesday.  The vote was unanimous—59 to 0.  Consistent with the long standing, bipartisan practice of the Armed Services Committee, this bill reflects our committee’s continued strong support for the brave men and women of the United States armed forces. 

“The defense authorization bill authorizes $567 billion in budget authority for the Fiscal Year 2011 base budget of the Department of Defense and national security programs of the Department of Energy and authorizes $193 billion in funding to support operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Global War on Terrorism.

“This bill does an admirable job dealing with some of our greatest national security challenges. Addressing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, H.R. 5136 authorizes the FY 2011 Overseas Contingency Operations.

“With respect to Afghanistan, this bill updates reporting requirements, including asking for the conditions and criteria that will be used to measure progress, instead of allowing the ticking Washington political clock to determine our end state.  I am very pleased that the Chairman and our colleagues on the committee joined us in ensuring that life-saving combat enablers—such as force protection, Medical Evacuation, and Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities—are deployed in time to fully support the 30,000 additional troops scheduled to arrive in Afghanistan by this summer. 

“Building on the acquisition reform act this body passed in April, this legislation takes a number of important steps on major weapons programs. We strongly believe that a $110 billion, non-competitive, sole-source, 25 year contract should not be permitted. Therefore, we strongly support the inclusion of funding to complete development of the F136 competitive engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. 

“As a nation, we owe more than our gratitude to the brave men and women in uniform and their families, past and present, for the sacrifices they make to protect our freedom.  We are pleased that this legislation includes a pay rise, which is half a percentage point above the President’s request.

“A major disappointment is that once again the committee and House leadership were unable to find the mandatory spending offsets needed to eliminate the Widow’s Tax—a tax that occurs because survivors must forfeit most or all of their Survivor Benefit Plan Annuity to receive Dependency Indemnity Compensation.  Nor were we able to provide for concurrent receipt of military disability retired pay and VA disability pay, as proposed by the President. 

“I know that Chairman Skelton has attempted to find the offsets, but so far, despite this House approving trillions in spending that is not offset, this body has been unable or unwilling to find the means to support widows and disabled veterans.

“One of the areas where there is disagreement between the aisles is detainee policy. We need to keep terrorists off of our soil, not fight to get them here.  We are disappointed that the bill does not prohibit the transfer of any Guantanamo Bay detainee to U.S. soil.

“Finally, for the last eight years we have asked the men and women of the Armed Forces and their families to make repeated sacrifices while serving this nation.  They have unhesitatingly and selflessly responded in a magnificent manner, without hesitation putting mission and nation ahead of self and family.  Now the proponents of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell want to rush a vote to the floor that disrupts the process that was put in place earlier this year to give the troops the opportunity to make their view known on this most important issue.

“After making the continuous sacrifice of fighting two wars over the course of eight years, the men and women of our military deserve to be heard.  Congress acting first is the equivalent of turning to our men and women in uniform, and their families, and saying your opinion, your views, do not count.

“Yesterday, I received letters from all four service chiefs.  I ask that copies of the letters be included in the record.

“Let me read a couple of excerpts: General Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff,  writes:  ‘I believe it is important, a matter of keeping faith with those currently serving in the Armed Forces, that the Secretary of Defense commissioned review be completed before there is any legislation to repeal the Don’t ask Don’t Tell law.  Such action…sends an important signal to our Airmen and families that their opinion matters.’   General Casey, Army Chief of Staff, writes: ‘I believe that repealing the law before the completion of the review will be seen by the men and women of the Army as a reversal of our commitment to hear their views before moving forward.’  Similar views are expressed by Admiral Roughead and General Conway. 

“Mr. Chairman, I planned on addressing this matter in detail when we debate Mr. Murphy’s amendment. Unfortunately, the leadership deemed this debate – this issue critical to the morale and welfare of our military—worthy of only 10 minutes of debate. TEN MINUTES. The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will get as much time for debate today as the Manager’s amendment. This is an outrage.

“I’d like to make one last point.  If this body were to adopt Mr. Murphy’s amendment then this House would breach the trust of the 2.5 million men and women in uniform and their families by saying to them that their voices do not count.  We owe our military personnel better.   In order to allow this House the time it needs to hear from our military forces—and their families—before we make a decision, I would encourage Members to vote against the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell compromise, and against final passage if my Democratic colleagues refuse to wait to hear from our troops.

“As in years past, I believe that this legislation reflects many of the Armed Service Committee’s priorities in supporting our nation’s dedicated and courageous servicemembers.  I thank Chairman Skelton for putting together an excellent bill and helping us to stay focused on delivering a bill that protects, sustains, and builds our forces. I support H.R. 5136 as passed by the Armed Services Committee.  I look forward to working with my colleagues to improve H.R. 5136.”