Senator Collins Calls for Action on Appropriations, Defense Funding Bills
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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Subcommittee on Defense, delivered remarks on the Senate floor today to urge action on the Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations bills and warn against the dangers of a year-long continuing resolution.
A transcript of Senator Collins’ remarks are as follows:
Madam President, I come to the floor to urge action on the Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations bills that fund critical programs, programs that are so important to America and American families. Programs ranging from biomedical research to our national defense. On November 1st, the Senate passed its first package of three appropriations bills: the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs legislation, the Agriculture and FDA bill, and the Transportation and Housing bill. And Madam President, due to the extraordinary work of the members of the Appropriations Committee, they passed by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 82-15.
Despite the Appropriations Committee working hard to report all 12 of the funding bills by the end of July, additional full-year appropriations bills have not been brought to the Senate floor. Instead, the federal government has been operating under short-term funding patches, known as “continuing resolutions,” since the start of the Fiscal Year on October 1st. These temporary funding patches lead to harmful uncertainties, needless inefficiencies, and wasted taxpayer dollars.
Madam President, one of the bills that I hope will be brought to the floor soon is the Department of Defense appropriations bill. This bill would provide critical resources for our military at a time when we are facing many complex threats from around the globe, including those posed by an imperialistic Russia, a hegemonic China, and an increasingly belligerent Iran and its proxies.
Earlier this summer, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the Defense funding bill by a strong bipartisan vote of 27 to 1. This bill contains funding for key national security priorities, including: providing our troops and their families with the pay and benefits they deserve, expanding our Naval fleet and modernizing the nuclear triad, strengthening deterrence against China, our pacing threat, rebuilding our munitions stockpiles, and addressing military readiness and capability gaps.
Each day that the Department of Defense operates under a temporary funding measure – rather than its full-year appropriations bill – important national security investments remain on hold. For example, the Department has identified more than 330 new programs or production increases that cannot proceed. This includes more than a dozen high priority initiatives identified by the Air Force, $6 billion in Army transformation efforts, and multi-year procurement authority for Virginia Class submarines.
In a letter that was sent to the Appropriations Committee just today, Chairman C.Q. Brown, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, writes, “We cannot outpace our pacing challenge while under a continuing resolution.”
In other words Madam President, continuing resolutions give China the upper-hand. I ask unanimous consent that the text of General Brown’s letter be printed in the record following my remarks.
Recently, some have called for simply passing a year-long continuing resolution for Fiscal Year 2024, essentially locking in last year’s priorities, continuing to fund programs that should not be funded or that should be reduced, and preventing the funding of new programs. I would like to take a few moments to describe just how harmful that would be to our national defense.
A year-long continuing resolution would simply fail to provide the resources needed to protect our nation. For Fiscal Year 2024, it would reduce defense spending by $26.6 billion relative to the President’s budget request and the Fiscal Responsibility Act, and by $34.6 billion compared to the funding levels approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee by that wide bipartisan vote. So you can see Madam President, the big difference that having a yearlong CR would lock in completely inadequate funding levels given the threats that we face.
Many of the key national security priorities funded in the Defense bill would suffer under a year-long continuing resolution. Let me give some specific examples:
To respond to military recruitment challenges, the Senate Committee-approved bill would invest in our men and women in uniform. It includes funding for the 5.2 percent military pay raise. As General Brown points out, a year-long CR “would create a $5.8 billion shortfall in military personnel funding and exacerbate recruiting and retention challenges.” To offset the costs of the pay raise for the military, DOD would be forced to slow recruiting – the last thing we want to see happen – delay service members’ moves, and take other detrimental actions. So this chart compares our Committee bill versus a year-long CR, and as you can see there are tremendous differences in quality of life issues for our service members, and the actual funding for the pay raise, which would go into effect, but the Department would have to take money out of other personnel accounts.
Other quality-of-life initiatives in the bill, such as expanding pre-Kindergarten for more than 4,000 children of service members, and improving living conditions for sailors serving aboard ships, would not be able to proceed during a year-long CR.
Our Committee-passed bill also invests in the overdue modernization of all three legs of the nuclear triad. These efforts would be delayed under the year-long CR because of a nearly $3.4 billion funding shortfall.
At a time when China’s navy is already at least 80 ships larger than our own, the Committee-approved bill includes record investments – more than $33 billion – in Navy shipbuilding. It includes funding for two destroyers and advance procurement for a much-needed third. In recent days, the capabilities of these ships and the professionalism and expertise of the sailors who serve aboard them have been on full display as they have downed numerous drones and missiles headed toward them and aimed also at Israel. Two of these ships I am proud to say, the USS Carney and the USS Thomas Hudner, were built at Bath Iron Works in my state. Since October 7, Iranian-backed proxies have launched at least 73 attacks on U.S. service members and bases. Our fleet is essential to protect those service members and bases, as well as Israel.
The Senate Committee-approved bill also includes funding for two Virginia-class submarines, two frigates, and a down payment on an amphibious ship, which is the Marine Corps’ top unfunded priority. In addition to contributing to cost increases and delays in the delivery of ships to the Navy, a year-long CR would result in only one Virginia-class submarine, one frigate, and potentially no funding for the amphibious ship or the third destroyer. General Brown points out in his letter that 30 percent of the funding in the Navy shipbuilding request could not be spent.
The Defense bill also includes more than $65 billion for capabilities or requirements related to the Indo-Pacific, including $857 million to meet the highest priorities of the most senior U.S. military commander in the region and an additional $981 million for other unfunded requirements listed as priorities by our military services focused on deterring China.
Our bill would authorize multiyear procurements for seven munitions critical to the region, such as long-range precision missiles, Patriot air defense missiles, and anti-ship missiles. Multiyear procurements provide stability and predictability to our defense industrial base and save taxpayer dollars. Neither the additional funding nor the authority to award these contracts would be possible under a year-long CR.
Our Committee-passed bill would ramp up investments in the U.S. defense industrial base. It would increase munitions procurement funding by 31 percent compared to the last fiscal year, and includes $1.8 billion to modernize 23 Army depots, arsenals, and ammo plants across 17 states. Under a year-long CR, both of those initiatives would be blocked or delayed.
Our Committee-passed bill also includes readiness investments that would be put at risk under a year-long CR. Up to 75 Navy ship repair availabilities would be delayed or cancelled, which would degrade the Navy’s ability to deploy its fleet for operations, even as the Navy is maintaining a greater presence and projecting power in the Middle East since Hamas’ terrorist attack against Israel.
And there was just yesterday a news story talking about the Department of Defense ordering an additional aircraft carrier strike group, air defenses, fighter jets, and hundreds of troops to the middle east since those surprise attacks on Israel in an effort to prevent that conflict from spiraling into a regional war. But the problem is that the military, because it has not received its regular appropriations bill, is having to scramble to find the funding for this. Because these Middle East troop movements weren’t planned, the Pentagon has had to pull the funding from existing maintenance and operations accounts. That means less money for training, exercises, and deployments that the military had already planned for this year.
Madam President, our nation’s security and our servicemen and women deserve better than a year-long CR. In the letter sent today, General Brown writes that besides passing a supplemental, “the single greatest thing that Congress can do to enable the Department to execute our strategy is to enact a full-year appropriation.”
Let’s get our work done, and pass the full-year funding bills.
I urge my colleagues to work together. Let’s meet the challenges our nation faces.
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