Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) delivered the following remarks during general debate on H.R. 5136, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011:  


“Madam Chair, I rise in support of H.R. 5136, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011.  I am pleased to be joined here today with my friend, Buck McKeon. Buck has been a true partner in this effort to bring forward a bipartisan bill that addresses the national security needs of our country.  The committee passed the defense authorization bill by a vote of 59 to 0.


“H.R. 5136 authorizes $567 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 $159 billion to support ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan during fiscal year 2011.  These amounts are essentially equal to the President’s budget request for items in the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committee.


“H.R. 5136 continues Congress’s deep commitment to supporting U.S. service members and their families and to provide the necessary resources to keep Americans safe.  The bill provides our military personnel a 1.9 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, including extending health care coverage to adult dependent children up to age 26.  We also have the single most comprehensive legislative proposal to address sexual assault in the military.


“The bill also fully funds the President’s budget request for military training, equipment maintenance, and facilities upkeep, which continues the committee’s efforts to address readiness shortfalls that have developed over previous years.  The bill provides an increase of $12 billion above the fiscal year 2010 budget for operation and maintenance, including $345 million to fully fund the first increment of construction necessary to modernize DOD schools, $13.6 billion for training of all active-duty and reserve forces to increase readiness, and an increase of $500 million for day-to-day operations of Army bases, which has a direct impact on our soldiers.  It also provides an increase of $700 million above the Administration’s budget to address the equipment shortfalls in National Guard and Reserve units


“The war in Afghanistan is a critical mission that is essential to our national security.  To ensure that our strategies in both Iraq and Afghanistan are effective and achieve the intended goals within well-defined timelines, the bill requires the President to assess U.S. efforts and regularly report on progress, including providing timelines by which he plans to achieve his goals.  It also extends the authorization of the Pakistan Counter-Insurgency Fund through fiscal year 2011 to allow commanders to help Pakistan quickly and more effectively go after terrorist safe havens.  The bill also provides $1.6 billion for coalition support fund to reimburse nations that are providing logistical, military and other support to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.


“On Iraq, the bill upholds 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 continues our focus on keeping weapons of mass destruction and related materials out of the hands of terrorists, and strengthens our nonproliferation programs and activities.  The bill increases funding for the Department of Energy’s nonproliferation programs, and adds funding to continue the Administration’s plan to secure and remove all known vulnerable nuclear materials that can be used for weapons.


“There are lots of other good things in this bill, which my colleagues will cover.  I want to recognize the members of the House Armed Services Committee for their contributions in making this bill one of the best that the committee has put forward in recent years. 


“Madam Speaker, our nation has been at war for nearly a decade.  Our troops are worn and their families are tired and the nation recognizes their sacrifices.  This bill addresses many of the concerns that they have raised.  I urge my colleagues to support our troops and their families, and vote for the defense authorization bill.”