My view: Spending bill prioritizes defense, veterans
Before adjourning for recess, the U.S. House of Representatives advanced a critical bill to fund the Department of Defense, including our nuclear weapons programs, military construction projects, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Passing the Make America Secure Appropriations Act sends a strong signal that we are dedicated to the safety and security of all Americans and the well-being of our veterans.
The world is an increasingly dangerous place and, having assessed those threats, we must now provide the funding necessary to ensure we can defeat our adversaries and keep America safe. The boost in defense funding will rebuild our military readiness and our Navy's Fleet. Appropriately, the bill funds the full pay raise our troops deserve, supporting the men and women in uniform tasked with meeting the security challenges we face.
Last week, I wrote an op-ed for the Virginian-Pilot explaining the Virginian priorities included in this security package and why it is critical to our Veterans and service members.
The full article is pasted below.
Please do not hesitate to contact me anytime an issue that concerns you comes before the House, especially if it concerns defense and national security.
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Rob Wittman: Spending bill prioritizes defense, veterans
By Rob Wittman
August 4, 2017
ONE OF THE PRIMARY responsibilities of the federal government is to defend the nation and protect our vital interests around the world. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives advanced a critical bill to fund the Department of Defense, including our nuclear weapons programs, military construction projects, the Department of Veterans Affairs and construction of a wall along our southern border with Mexico.
The Make America Secure Appropriations Act also contains key priorities for Virginia that will allow us to maintain our role as the nation’s leader in supporting our national defense and better care for our veterans.
First, the Department of Defense portion of the bill provides base funding of $658 billion, a 13 percent increase over 2017 levels. This boost in funding will help restore military readiness damaged by the harmful sequester cuts and continue the commitment to growing our Navy’s Fleet.
The bill keeps our military on the cutting edge of defense technology by investing heavily in research and development, ensuring that the equipment and weapons used by our troops are the best found anywhere in the world. And since we ask our troops to do difficult jobs in an increasingly dangerous world, the bill funds a 2.4 percent pay raise for them, the largest pay increase in eight years.
Most critically for Virginia, the Defense Department portion of the bill contains language blocking funds from being used to propose, plan for or execute a new or additional base realignment and closure round and allows funds to be used on multiyear procurement contracts for up to 13 Virginia-class attack submarines. Virginia-class submarines are built in Newport News, so this provision will boost job growth in the commonwealth.
Next, the Make America Secure Appropriations Act calls for nearly $90 billion in military construction and veterans affairs funding. That includes $73 billion specifically for the Department of Veterans Affairs, a 5 percent increase over last year’s levels. With that funding, the VA will be able to better treat and care for our veterans, particularly in the areas of claims processing, suicide prevention and treating opioid addiction.
The military construction funds total $10 billion and will allow us to improve military family housing, military medical facilities and Defense Department education facilities for the children of our service members. This funding also will be used to construct and maintain barracks, training facilities, and Guard and Reserve facilities around the country.
In addition to the veterans’ portion of the Make America Secure Appropriations Act, the House also passed legislation authorizing 28 VA medical facility leases, including two facilities in Virginia — one in Fredericksburg and one in Hampton Roads. This authorization will improve access to care and health care outcomes for our Virginian veterans living in two areas with increasing veteran populations.
Finally, since securing our border is a part of maintaining national security, the Make America Secure Appropriations Act includes $1.6 billion for the construction of a wall along the southern border with Mexico. While it’s not a complete solution to our illegal immigration challenges, building new portions and expanding existing areas of the border wall are important.
In addition, we need to leverage new technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles and reduce the number of visa overstays by implementing a mandatory biometric entry/exit system.
Of course, measures such as these are just one facet of a comprehensive approach to solving illegal immigration. We also must ensure that current immigration laws are enforced, immigration programs work properly and the temporary-worker visa program is overhauled so that it works better for employers and documented workers.
If our nation is not secure, we can achieve little else. Given the threats we face around the world, passing this national security-focused funding bill sends a strong signal that we are dedicated to the safety and security of all Americans, the well-being of our veterans, and the sovereignty of our great nation.