Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) delivered the following opening statement during today’s meeting to officially organize committee operations for the 111th Congress.   The organizational meeting allows Members to ratify the committee rules and the oversight plan for the 111th Congress, which will be available online at http://democrats-armedservices.house.gov

 “Welcome.  I am pleased to call the organizational meeting of the Armed Services Committee for the 111th Congress to order.

 “We have 12 new members joining and one returning member. Ranking Member McHugh and I will welcome each of you individually a little later on. 

 “But let me begin by complimenting the Republican Conference for choosing such an excellent Ranking Member in John McHugh. John has been an outstanding advocate on behalf of his constituents, the Army soldiers at Fort Drum, and truly the entire U.S. military for nearly two decades. Beyond that he has been a great friend. I look forward to our partnership in leading this committee and continuing its fine bipartisan tradition. I ask you all to join me in congratulating John McHugh on his recent election.

 “This committee continues to be in strong demand among new members. I attribute this not only to the enormous national security challenges facing our nation, but also to the excellent work accomplished by our members. We have continued to pass important, substantive annual defense authorization bills, even when many questioned whether we could succeed. I know we will continue this tradition of consistent and high-quality legislation through a bipartisan commitment to serve those in uniform and their families and to enhance the security of every American.

 “One of our tasks here today is to adopt our oversight plan for the next two years.  There is a plaque in front of this rostrum that states what our job is.  It quotes the Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, ‘The Congress shall have the Power to … raise and support Armies … to provide and maintain a Navy … to make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces.’  As it did in the last Congress, this mandate presents some significant challenges.

 “With a new administration taking office next week, we remain a nation engaged in two wars. Afghanistan clearly needs both additional resources and a new strategic approach.  We must ensure we eliminate the threat to the American homeland from the Afghan-Pakistan border area and ensure those threats cannot return. We must do that while carefully and responsibly drawing down our forces in Iraq.

 “At the same time, we must guard against future threats to this nation, by developing a solid national security strategy, providing for the strength and readiness of our military, and resetting its equipment and training capabilities. We must maintain the vitality of the all-volunteer force and ensure that we retain high-quality troops and their families. We must do all this and many other things at a time when our nation faces severe economic constraints. None of this will be easy, but I know our members will pull together to make the best decisions we can in cooperation with the new administration.

 “At this time let me introduce the very large and impressive new team joining us.
 “Let me start with a member who is no stranger to the committee—Mr. Jim Langevin. We welcome him back from his leave of absence from the HASC.  Jim served on the HASC during the 107th through 109th Congresses, and for a couple of months during the 110th Congress. We are thrilled to have his energy and intellect back.

 “Our first new member is Mr. Glenn Nye, representing the 2nd district of Virginia. Glenn represents one of the largest military populations in America. His district includes numerous military installations, including the world’s largest naval station in Norfolk. Glenn is a former Foreign Service officer who served in Kosovo, the West Bank, Afghanistan, and most recently Iraq.

 “From the 1st district of Maine we have Ms. Chellie Pingree. Chellie’s district is home to Naval Air Station Brunswick, and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Chellie previously served as the Senate Majority Leader in the Maine Senate representing her island community of North Haven, Maine. We are delighted to have her join the committee.

 “Next we have Mr. Larry Kissell from the 8th district of North Carolina. Larry’s district includes part of Fort Bragg, home to the 18th Airborne Corps, the 82nd Airborne Division, Army Special Operations Command, and the Golden Knights. Larry was a high school social studies teacher before joining us.

 “From the 1st district of New Mexico we have Mr. Martin Heinrich. The 1st district is home to a sizable defense industry including the Kirtland Air Force Base as well as the Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratory. Prior to winning his congressional race, Martin served as the President of the Albuquerque City Council. Most importantly, Martin was born in Cole Camp, Missouri, in my district.

 “Frank Kratovil comes from the 1st district of Maryland—a district home to a significant military and civilian population who work at nearby military installations including Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Fort Meade, Wallops Island, and the Naval Academy.   Frank previously served six years as State’s Attorney of Queen Anne’s County on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

 “From the 29th district of New York we have Mr. Eric J.J. Massa. Some of us know Eric from his service as a HASC staffer, but Eric is also a retired Navy commander and a former staffer to retired Gen. Wesley Clark. He brings a long resume in military policy and foreign affairs to the committee.

 “And, finally, I would like to introduce Mr. Bobby Bright from the 2nd district of Alabama. The 2nd district is home to Fort Rucker and Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base. Bobby was the former mayor of Montgomery, Alabama for nine years and we are very excited to have him with us.

 “We are fortunate to have such a talented and experienced group join the committee.

 “I now recognize the Gentleman from New York for any remarks he would like to make.”