Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives amended and approved S. 3001, the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, by a vote of 392 to 39.

 “I 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 strained by two wars, and the bill provides critical funding to repair and replace equipment, to purchase equipment for the National Guard and Reserve, and for construction and repair of defense facilities, such as military barracks.

 “To help manage demands placed on our service members by our military obligations, the agreement increases the size of the military by 7,000 soldiers, 5,000 Marines, 1,023 sailors, and by 450 airmen.  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 includes provisions to better coordinate military operations in Afghanistan and to enhance security and stability in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.  The bill also places restrictions on the use of training and reconstruction funds in Iraq and requires the Defense Department to report to Congress on any Status of Forces Agreements between the U.S. and Iraq.

 “Members of Congress and staff have done yeoman’s work to produce this excellent bill.  Our service members will benefit from our efforts to make this the best bill possible for America’s national defense.  I hope our Senate colleagues will take prompt action to approve this measure so we can send this defense bill to the President as soon as possible.”