Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 5658, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, by a vote of 384 to 23.

 “I want to thank my House colleagues for their bipartisan support of the defense authorization bill.  This bill takes care of our nation’s defense priorities by restoring military readiness, providing our forces with the means to protect the American people, and demonstrating our commitment to service members and their families.

 “U.S. military readiness has been sorely tested by more than six years of war and rebuilding readiness must be our number one priority.  Toward this goal, the bill provides significant resources for unfunded readiness initiatives requested by the services, for National Guard and Reserve equipment, and for construction and repair of defense facilities, such as military barracks.

 “To help reduce the strain on our forces, the bill increases the size of the military by 7,000 Army troops and 5,000 Marines. In support of our service members and their families, this bill provides a much-needed 3.9 percent pay increase and prohibits increases in health care fees. 

 “This defense authorization bill also sets important policy concerning ongoing operations in Afghanistan in Iraq.  The bill requires the administration to submit separate budget requests to clearly lay out requirements for the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq, and calls on the Iraqis to step up their investments in reconstruction and security efforts, which are currently being shouldered by the U.S. military.

 “This is an excellent bill and 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.”