Mikulski Floor Statement on Reed-Mikulski Amendment
***Audio of statement for download– here (broadcast quality)
***Video of statement for download– here (broadcast quality)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, spoke on the Senate floor about the Reed-Mikulski amendment to keep parity between defense and non-defense spending.
The following are Vice Chairwoman Mikulski’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:
“I rise in support of the Reed-Mikulski Amendment to respond to threats to our nation by raising the caps for both defense and non-defense spending. All agree that we must defend the security of the United States. So many argue we need more money for the Department of Defense (DoD) even though DoD consumes 50 percent of discretionary spending. But I argue, not all of national security is in Department of Defense. There are clear and present dangers to Americans met by other agencies, such as the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), State, and Veterans Affairs (VA).
“The Bipartisan Budget Act, which passed with 64 votes in the Senate last October, was based on parity – equal relief from the consequences of sequestration. Because there have been significant consequences of sequester for the American people.
“We are willing to support the need to defend America by allowing more spending on defense. But America faces threats at home as well, and we need parity in responding to those threats. That’s why we are offering this amendment to say yes to $18 billion for defense needs, and yes to $18 billion for non-defense needs, so we can make the nation safer and more secure.
“The Reed-Mikulski Amendment does two things. It amends 2015 Bipartisan Budget Agreement to allow both: $18 billion of relief from sequestration for defense spending, the same amount authorized by the McCain Amendment, and $18 billion of relief from sequestration for non-defense spending, because there are threats that DoD can’t address.
“What does the amendment fund? There are five categories. 1) National security spending, in addition to DoD, for DHS to defend our coasts and borders, Department of Justice to track down drug cartels and terrorists and State Department diplomacy, foreign aid and embassy security. 2) Funding to address urgent threats to America, including heroin, failing water infrastructure as exposed in Flint, the Zika virus and cybersecurity. 3) Physical infrastructure, including funding for roads, bridges, transit and VA hospitals. 4) Research infrastructure investments, creating jobs through new products and cures. 5) Human infrastructure, providing more resources to underfunded, but overwhelmingly passed, authorizations for education and college affordability, workforce training and food safety. This amendment meets threats to America with new funding not available in our Appropriations bills due to austerity imposed by budget caps.
“Current spending caps are $20 billion below the fiscal year 2010 level, seven years ago. These cuts have consequences. This amendment authorizes funding to meet real problems. Other Members of the Appropriations Committee will come to the floor to discuss needs in their Subcommittees, but first I want to talk about some of the dangers we’re addressing with this amendment.
“The best way to keep our troops safe is peace. But we live in turbulent times, which means we need diplomacy. The State Department works around the world to quell conflict and help displaced and threatened refugees, stop weapons proliferation and support treasured allies, especially those absorbing refugees from Syria.
“We need embassy security so we can bring our diplomats home safely. We need foreign aid to respond to real human needs while avoiding creating new enemies abroad. We need the State Department to help keep America safe. That is why the Reed-Mikulski Amendment includes $1.9 billion to continue the key security mission of the State Department.
“Communities in the U.S. face lone wolf terrorists, drug traffickers and smugglers. The Department of Defense doesn’t fight domestic crime and terrorism. We need the Department of Homeland Security’s Coast Guard protecting our coasts, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) keeping air travel safe and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) securing the border. We also need the Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Marshals.
“This amendment authorizes $1.4 billion for DHS and the Department of Justice, so they can improve outrageous wait times at airports, meeting growing passenger volume which is up 7.4 percent from 2015, without compromising safety; hire 2,000 officers on the borders; hire FBI, local police and other federal law enforcement to capture and prosecute criminals here in America – violent crime rose nearly two percent last year after falling in two prior years. The Department of Defense can’t do those things.
“I now want to turn to a threat that requires all hands on deck: cybersecurity. We need DoD to help threats to our military, which is increasingly reliant on digital technology, and threats from Nation States. I am so proud of Cyber Command, Fort Meade and the National Security Agency (NSA) – the mothership of talent, focused on protecting the nation.
“But we have not done enough to protect ourselves at home. More than 22 million Americans are at risk of identity theft because our own Office of Personnel Management couldn’t keep their records safe. We need the FBI finding the criminals behind the keyboards, DHS advising federal agencies and the National Institute of Standards and Technology setting standards. And every agency needs to secure itself.
“Last year, federal agencies reported 77,000 cyber incidents – up 10 percent from fiscal year 2014. The Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office need to protect trade secrets, and the Social Security Administration needs to protect our personal information. That’s why our amendment includes $2 billion for cybersecurity, so our non-defense agencies can join DoD in the fight.
“The Reed-Mikulski Amendment helps America be more secure, but also safer. Americans are threatened daily with our roads and bridges failing, our waterways and ports needing modernization and our transit systems clogged and crumbling.
“Demand for flexible transportation investments is overwhelming. Since 2010, the Federal Aviation Administration’s backlog has grown by $1 billion to a total of $5 billion, risking breakdowns in air traffic control. Amtrak carries 30 million passengers each year, but can’t stop deadly derailments. Here in the National Capitol Region, while ‘safe track’ repairs clog highways and side streets, the Department of Transportation tells us there is an $86 billion maintenance backlog for bus and rail systems nationwide.
“It’s not just our transportation infrastructure that fails us, 60 percent of Veterans Health Administration facilities are over 50 years old and facilities are beginning to show their age. VA has catalogued almost $10 billion worth of maintenance deficiencies and code violations at existing hospitals and clinics. VA even classifies these deficiencies as Ds and Fs, from leaking roofs to air handling systems in need of replacement.
“These deficiencies can cause serious problems. For example, old air handling units risk microbial contamination. If uncorrected, it could directly impact patient care because old ventilation systems would pump contaminated air into inpatient and outpatient areas. We all remember Walter Reed, where years of neglected maintenance led to horrible conditions for injured veterans and their families. Our veterans deserve better. That’s why the Reed-Mikulski Amendment includes $3.2 billion to meet the physical infrastructure needs of the U.S.
“It’s not just our physical infrastructure. America’s research infrastructure has failed to keep pace with inflation. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has lost more than 20 percent of its purchasing power since 2003. The history of economic growth shows we need civilian research to create new ideas and new jobs.
“The National Aeronautics and Space Administration built a methane detector for its Mars rover that is helping find dangerous gas leaks on Earth. The National Science Foundation funded two Stanford graduate students effort to build a search engine that formed the basis for Google. The Department of Energy is helping big trucks sip gas like a Civic. Our NIH researchers are on the cusp of finding cures for Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cancer. That’s why the Reed-Mikulski Amendment includes $3.5 billion for research and development to create jobs and find cures.
“We can’t cure cancer without investing in NIH. And now, we are looking at a new health crisis, and a new threat to America: Zika. Americans – particularly women and children – are in danger. The President has said $1.9 billion is needed to fight Zika and stopping it from doing any more harm. That funding is included in our amendment.
“As of June 6, there were more than 1,732 confirmed Zika cases, including 341 pregnant women, in the U.S. and its territories. The mosquitos that carry Zika are already in at least three of our states, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that soon they will be in 30 states.
“There’s still a lot we don’t know, but what we do know for sure is that Zika has terrible consequences for women and babies. Scientists have confirmed the link between the Zika infection in pregnancy and serious birth defects in babies. The details about what Zika does to the brains of unborn children are truly horrific. Zika is a threat we can stop if we have the will – and the funding – to do so.
“Another emergency we can stop is the heroin epidemic. Every senator and governor has heard about the resurgence of heroin, which knows no boundaries – geographic or socioeconomic. Since 1999, the rate of heroin and opioid deaths quadrupled to an average of 78 deaths each day.
“The Senate passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) on March 10 with a vote of 94-1. Authorization is nice, but we need the money to fund law enforcement, treatment and recovery and better pain management so people don’t get hooked on opioids in the first place. That’s why the Reed-Mikulski amendment includes $1.1 billion for heroin response and treatment.
“Every community is dealing with addiction, but every state also worries about its water. The amendment also includes $1.9 billion to upgrade water systems throughout the U.S. Today, nearly 100,000 residents of Flint don’t have clean and safe drinking water. Up to 9,000 children may have lead poisoning – some are already exhibiting signs in school. Flint’s water is still contaminated because its pipes are permanently damaged.
“This is a national crisis. Flint is ground zero. Contaminated drinking water is happening in cities and rural communities across America. This is about the infrastructure and our failure to replace it. But it’s about more than just replacing pipes. It’s about the human infrastructure. This is about the lives of our children. What happened in Flint, Michigan is a failure of a state’s government to protect its own people. The threat from our aging water systems is real, and it can’t be solved by DoD.
“From our water infrastructure to our human infrastructure which includes the very troops who make up the DoD, we must do more to ensure readiness. Shockingly, General Dempsey tells us only one of every four recruits qualifies for duty. One can’t read, one can’t meet physical requirements and one is disqualified due to legal or mental problems. They wanted to serve, but did we serve them?
“We have overwhelmingly passed authorizations to help. The Every Student Succeeds Act, which passed the Senate 85-12, aims to give kids a better K-12 education so they are ready for college, careers or military service. But implementation is underfunded in the fiscal year 2017 Labor-HHS-Education bill by more than $1 billion. We can’t say we want to solve problems with great policies, but then fail to fund the solutions. That’s why the Reed-Mikulski Amendment includes $900 million for underfunded authorizations of education and college affordability, job training and food safety policy.
“I talked at the beginning about how the State Department makes America safe with diplomacy and foreign aid. But I want to end with how foreign aid can help make us safer by helping the lost generation of children across the globe that is on the move and on the march.
“Nearly 60 million people worldwide are forced from their homes due to conflict and persecution. Refugees account for 20 million of those people – half of which are children. This is not an isolated problem. Millions of refugees are from Syria and Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan, Burundi and other conflict zones. What do they have in common? They are desperately in need of life saving assistance, including food, water, medical care and shelter. Many will not be able to return home for years – if ever.
“These refugees cannot survive indefinitely on relief aid. The children need to attend school. The adults need jobs. These refugees are scared and ready to face the unknown rather than endure the brutality at home. They are only asking for one thing: help. All of us remember a time when as a child we needed help, or our parents needed help. We also remember the names and faces of those who helped and those who refused.
“What do we think they are doing? Do we want these children to remember the United States as the people who helped, or as the people who refused? If we don’t help what are we creating? A generation of people who hate and distrust us because of our refusal when they were in need. We need the Reed-Mikulski amendment so our frugality doesn’t create a generation that hates America.
“We all want to protect America. I support the troops. I support the Department of Defense. I support the men and women at Maryland’s nine military bases. The Chairman of the Armed Services says they need $18 billion more to meet the threats around the world. I support that effort, but only if there is parity. That is why we are proposing $18 billion to meet threats to America not funded by the Department of Defense. I urge my colleagues to support the Reed-Mikulski Amendment to raise the caps for both defense and non-defense items that defend America.”
Contact: Mara Stark-Alcalá (202) 224-2667
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