Mikulski Statement at Full Committee Markup of FY17 Defense and Homeland Security Appropriations Bills
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, participated in a Full Committee markup to consider the fiscal year 2017 Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations bills.
The following are Vice Chairwoman Mikulski’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, Chairman Cochran. Earlier this week, I recounted being a young Congresswoman when the dashing Senator Cochran came to the Port of Baltimore to launch an AEGIS class ship. But the ship he has launched on this Committee is bipartisan-ship.
“Today, we consider two more bipartisan bills: the Defense bill written by Chairman Cochran and Vice Chairman Durbin, and the Homeland Security bill written by Chairman Hoeven and Ranking Member Shaheen. They are the seventh and eighth bills considered by the Full Committee. Thus far, six bills have been reported unanimously. Why has the Committee supported these bills so overwhelmingly? Because they are developed with fairness and cooperation, they meet the limits set by the Bipartisan Budget Agreement of 2015 and they avoid poison pill riders.
“First, I would like to discuss the Defense bill. Totaling $575 billion, it is a massive bill that’s equal in scope to the other 11 bills combined. I’m so proud of how the Committee worked with rigor and diligence. Members were informed by civilian leadership and listened to military leaders, but ultimately focused on figuring out, ‘How can we best defend and protect the nation?’
“The Defense bill makes key investments to give our troops the right tools, technology, equipment and training to meet the growing and diverse challenges we talk about on this Committee and the Intelligence Committee – from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and terrorism to cybersecurity and the opening of the Arctic.
“I am especially glad the bill respects, acknowledges and supports our treasured allies. The bill provides for the full Israeli request of $600.7 million for missile defense, a substantial increase to the $487 million in fiscal year 2016. This funding is actually provided in the bill, without gimmicks. The defense authorization bill, which is coming to the Senate floor soon, does not fully fund these cooperative programs. The Appropriations bill has the real money Israel needs. The bill also fully funds the European Reassurance Initiative at $3.4 billion to improve military cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries and other partners who are worried about further Russian aggression.
“Most importantly, this bill is crafted with the notion that our military is only as strong as its troops. So, good order and morale are supported in the bill. The bill includes a 1.6 percent pay raise for military and civilian employees and protects important military and family benefits, such as the commissary system. Commissaries provide access to healthy foods at low prices around the world, and are one of the most popular services for service members and their families.
“The bill adds funding for DoD medical research programs, totaling $1.4 billion. This funding is making medical breakthroughs possible. Advancements in transplantation science allow doctors to replace a whole limb, giving a service member back his or her life, while also advancing treatment for all Americans. They are also developing new ways of treating pain to avoid over-reliance on addictive opioids.
“As the Senator for Maryland, I represent nine military installations where they are training the next generation of officers at the Naval Academy; caring for patients at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center; conducting research and development at Aberdeen, Pax River and Fort Detrick; and flying Air Force One from Joint Base Andrews. There is Naval Support Facility Indian Head, Naval Sea Systems Carderock and of course, Fort Meade – the Mothership.
“These installations support 130,000 jobs. The men and women who work there, and their families, protect and serve the United States around the world. I am so proud of them, and glad to support a Defense Appropriations bill that supports them.
“This markup also shows that the defense of America is not all in the Defense Appropriations bill. We are also considering the Homeland Security bill today. The Department of Homeland Security provides both national security and economic security. The bill supports the Coast Guard, fighting drugs and performing search and rescue; Customs and Border Protection, defending our borders and our economy; Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ensuring compliance with our immigration laws; and Transportation Security Administration (TSA), helping make travel more secure.
“I want to highlight that this bill provides necessary resources for TSA to address growing passenger wait times and missed flights at our nation’s busiest airports. It provides $7.669 billion for TSA, $228 million more than fiscal year 2016, to hire more TSA screeners than was requested, deploy more bomb sniffing dogs and invest in new, innovative screening technologies.
“Within the Coast Guard, the bill focuses on ensuring the fleet is ready to meet its mission through new ships like the ice breaker funded in the Defense bill, and by keeping current assets ready for duty with $94 million for the Coast Guard Yard. This funding will allow the skilled men and women at the Yard to service and maintain current ships.
“But homeland security starts in each of our communities. Whether we are responding to a terrorist threat or a tornado or hurricane, state and local first responders will be on the scene immediately. That’s why I’m glad the Homeland Security bill provides $1.54 billion for state and local grants, protecting us from terrorism and other emerging threats.
“I do wish the bill had more for Fire grants. Fire departments across my state and the country rely on Fire grants for personnel, trucks, hazmat and breathing gear. Recent examples include Hagerstown, which received $68,433 for 102 face masks and Grantsville, which received $38,876 to replace a 40-year-old air compressor. Unfortunately, Fire grants are funded at the fiscal year 2015 level of $680 million.
“The Homeland Security bill funds disaster and mitigation efforts to aid communities recovering from devastating weather events and reduce the impacts of disasters before they strike. The bill also makes important investments to train the next generation of cyber personnel so we are able to get ahead of cyber attacks.
“In conclusion, these are good bills that enhance America’s national and homeland security, support troops and their families, and help first responders on the front lines. I am happy to support these two bills.”
Contact: Mara Stark-Alcalá (202) 224-2667
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