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Visclosky addresses issues in FY 2019 Defense Appropriations Act

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U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, spoke on Wednesday before the House Appropriations Committee on the Fiscal Year 2019 Defense Appropriations Act.

Excerpts:

“I would like to begin by calling attention to an issue of great importance to me--the full integration of women in the military. Female servicemembers are invaluable to the defense of our nation. For the majority of the time they have been allowed in the military, women have had to assimilate into a culture not established with them in mind. This is not the best way to maximize the effectiveness of our armed services.

“While I appreciate the opening of combat career fields to women and the Department of Defense’s (DoD) emerging efforts to ensure that combat equipment is designed and fitted for female servicemembers, I would submit that these are immediate-term solutions.

“Put bluntly, the rate at which women leave the service is a detriment to readiness. Some of the reasons for their departures are glaringly obvious and will be difficult to overcome because they will require cultural and significant policy changes. I am pleased that the House Armed Services Committee, in their FY 2019 authorization bill, has taken a step to establish a female retention baseline and develop ways to improve female retention. Initiatives like these help the Committee to better focus funding where it can be most effective and improve overall readiness. . . .

“Specific to our bill . . . . (o)versight of the management and expenditure of the $674 billion that is provided to the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community is a core function of the Defense Subcommittee. I believe good oversight is fostered by constructive and informed dialogue between the Committee and the agencies. Oversight cannot be effective when proposals are presented at the last minute with the intention of forcing a decision. Oversight cannot be effective when complex changes to a program are first communicated to the Legislative Branch through the media. As such, while I appreciate all the hard work that the services are putting towards readiness, modernization, and lethality, this report contains several sections encouraging the Department, as a whole, and with a special focus on the Army, to adhere to Congressional direction, increase transparency for budget exhibits, and improve quality and timeliness of communication.

“And speaking of timeliness, Congress has its own issues to deal with. Particularly the inability to enact Appropriations bills anywhere close to the start of the fiscal year (FY). For the Department of Defense, and for any agency, the lack of predictable appropriations is a major obstacle to the planning and execution of programs. I was cautiously optimistic that the Bipartisan Budget Agreement, which provided relief from the Budget Control Act (BCA), would provide a pathway for completing the FY 2019 bills in a somewhat timely manner. The members of the Committee, particularly the Chair and Ranking, are doing their best to get our work done.

“Unfortunately, the next two fiscal years present daunting obstacles that make it even more important to complete our FY 2019 work as soon as possible. Most obvious is the return of the BCA caps in FY 2020, which if left unchanged, will require the Department’s base funding for FY 2020 to be reduced by $71 billion from the level provided in this bill. A reduction of that magnitude would cause unfathomable disruption and I know that senior leaders in the Pentagon are already identifying programs that have a lower return on investment to cut in this scenario. I would prefer to have those individuals focused on other matters and the sooner Congress bellies up to the bar and provides a fifth round of statutory relief for the last two years of the BCA, the better. . . .

“Finally, I remain concerned that while we have seen plenty of long-awaited, long-term planning and strategy documents generated by the Pentagon and the White House over the last 500 days, the bulk of our ongoing military operations continue to be authorized by legislation from 17 years ago. There have been four Presidential elections and eight Congressional elections since the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). It is a shame that this Congress cannot muster the will to even debate an updated AUMF. I hope we will be successful this year.”

 

Posted 6/14/2018

 
 
 
 

 

 

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