Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) delivered the following remarks during general debate on H.R. 2647, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010:  

 “Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of H.R. 2647, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010.  The House Armed Services Committee brings before the House a bill reported out of committee on a vote of 61-0.  This consensus was achieved after a great deal of hard work.  Our mark-up lasted almost 17 hours, we considered 129 amendments and we adopted 107 of them.  And we had an excellent debate on the issues in the best tradition of the committee.  I am confident we will have a similar experience in the full House.

 “I am pleased to be joined in support of the bill by my friend and partner, Buck McKeon. I am thrilled that he is our Ranking Member and I commend him for jumping in head-first on his first official day on the job, which was the day of our full committee mark-up.  He has been a very able and constructive partner, as well as, when required, a skilled opponent.  I must, however, also mention our esteemed colleague John McHugh, who has agreed to become the Secretary of the Army, but who leaves our committee having established a lasting legacy, especially on issues of personnel.  In this debate, we will consider, and I’m confident we will adopt, an amendment that is a tribute to his work on the committee.

 “Likewise, I must thank the subcommittee chairman and ranking members who contributed so much to writing this bill.  They did their homework, and I am very pleased with the outcome of their efforts.   They solved almost every problem set out for them and accomplished a lot of good government at the same time.  They were ably assisted by our committee staff, the amazing professionals in the Office of the Legislative Counsel, and the Office of the Parliamentarian.

 “H.R. 2647 authorizes $550.5 billion in budget authority for the Department of Defense (DoD) and the national security programs of the Department of Energy (DoE).  The bill also authorizes $130 billion to support ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan during fiscal year 2010.  These amounts are essentially equal to the President’s budget request for items in the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committee. 

 “H.R. 2647 reflects the Congress’s deep commitment to supporting U.S. service members and to providing the necessary resources to keep Americans safe.  The bill provides our military personnel a 3.4 percent pay raise, an increase of 0.5 percent above the President’s request.  The bill also includes a number of initiatives to support military families.  In the Year of the Military Family, we provide funds to establish a Center for Care for Military Members and their families; we also increase the weight allowance for shipment of household items for senior non-commissioned officers, and authorize the transportation of a second vehicle for members who are changing stations from or to a non-foreign area outside the United States.  The bill also provides funding to enhance the Health Professions Scholarship program for mental health providers to support the troops and their families.      

 “The mark fully funds the President’s budget request for military training, equipment maintenance, and facilities upkeep. By doing so, the committee continues its efforts to address readiness shortfalls that have developed over the past eight years.  To address some of these concerns, in this mark we have added $1.6 billion to O&M including: $395 million for Navy aviation and ship depot maintenance; $762 million to achieve 100 percent of the requirement for sustainment of facilities, including DOD schools; and $450 million to improve the quality of Army training barracks. 

 “The war in Afghanistan is a critical mission that is finally gaining the attention it demands.  To ensure our strategy in both countries is effective and achieves the intended goals within well-defined timelines, the bill requires the President to assess U.S. efforts and regularly report on progress.  It also authorizes the new Pakistan Counter-Insurgency Fund to allow our commanders to help Pakistan quickly and more effectively go after terrorist safe havens.

 “On Iraq, the committee supports the President’s policy while also upholding the Congress’s responsibility to provide oversight to the process of drawing down the mountain of material purchased, transported, and built up in Iraq at tremendous expense to the taxpayer.

 “In the area of nonproliferation, the bill increases funding and creates new authorities to strengthen the Department of Defense’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program. The bill also fully supports the Department of Energy’s nonproliferation programs, and adds substantial funding in support of the President’s plan to secure and remove all known vulnerable nuclear materials that can be used for weapons.

 “The bill takes additional steps on acquisition reform beyond what we did in the bill on weapons acquisition enacted last month. And it also ensures that the Quadrennial Defense Review currently being undertaken by the Department of Defense both complies with the law and gives Congress the insights it needs to make judgments about force structure and programmatic changes.

 “In summary, Mr. Chairman, I believe this bill can be supported by every member of the House of Representatives.  I recognize that some who have deep objections to current defense policy on various issues may feel compelled to oppose this bill.  That is their right and is as it should be.  But even in most of those cases, I believe that solid progress is made in this bill towards protecting our national security in the right way.  I ask for members to vote for H.R. 2647; for our troops and their families; and for a strong national defense for our nation.”