Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) praised today’s House action to approve H.R. 1585, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. H.R. 1585 passed in the House by a vote of 397 to 27. "I want to thank my House colleagues for their bipartisan support of the defense authorization bill. This is a strong bill that addresses our military’s critical readiness needs, supports our troops in the field and at home, and protects the American people. We can all be proud we are making America safer by passing a good piece of legislation.
"Yesterday’s statement from the Administration threatening to veto the defense bill was a great disappointment to me. This bill does so many good things for service members and their families, so it came as a surprise that the President would oppose a pay raise for our troops and a small increase in compensation for military survivors. In light of the fact that such a large majority of House members from both parties voted for this defense bill, I hope that we can work out our differences with the Administration as the legislative process continues.
"The centerpiece of this defense bill is military readiness. Our nation has the finest military the world has ever seen, but after more than five years at war, our forces are feeling the strain of repeated deployments and much of their equipment is worn out. Military leaders have testified before Congress about our readiness problems, particularly for the non-deployed forces at home.
"This defense authorization bill tackles these problems head on by fully funding the reset of Army and Marine Corps equipment, providing additional funds for National Guard and Reserve equipment, and increasing training funds so that units get more adequate training. The bill establishes a new Defense Readiness Production Board identify readiness gaps and mobilize the industrial base, as well as a Strategic Readiness Fund to provide resources necessary to meet these critical requirements.
"This bill makes major investments in force protection for our troops in the field, with efforts to move quickly to supply Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles that provide increased protection against improvised explosive devices. The bill adds more Navy ships, reversing a decline in the size of the fleet and helping us maintain our status as a seafaring nation. The bill also authorizes an increase in the size of the military, which will help our nation meet our military commitments and ease the strain service members are experiencing due to multiple deployments.
"We ask so much of our forces. We have an obligation to give them the training and the equipment they need to complete their missions and keep our country safe. We also have an obligation to take care of the personal needs of our service members and their families. There are many provisions in this bill that are good for our men and women in uniform, such as a 3.5 percent pay raise and a prohibition on fee increases for the TRICARE and TRICARE pharmacy programs. The bill also addresses the problems identified at Walter Reed so that our wounded warriors receive the care they need as they recover.
"Many other important measures are in this bill, including greater accountability for our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, an expanded commitment to nonproliferation and Cooperative Threat Reduction programs, responsible funding levels for missile defense programs, and provisions to examine the military services’ roles and missions. Taken together, each of the provisions in the defense authorization bill will help us fulfill our responsibility to support the military and protect the American people.
"Once again, I want to thank the members of the House and particularly the members of the House Armed Services Committee for their efforts to make this the best bill possible for America’s national defense. For our next step, we await the Senate’s action on the defense authorization bill and look forward to sending a first-rate defense bill to the President for his signature," said Skelton.
Further information on H.R. 1585 is available online at http://democrats-armedservices.house.gov .