Ranking Member McCollum Statement at the Subcommittee Markup of the 2024 Defense Funding Bill
Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the subcommittee markup of the 2024 Defense funding bill:
–As Prepared for Delivery–
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The defense of our nation is a collaborative effort. And the Constitution of the United States vests the Congress with the power to “provide for the common defense.” Simply put, we are all in this together as Americans.
Unfortunately, the Fiscal Year 2024 Department of Defense Appropriations Act presented to us today does not reflect that perspective. The majority’s bill includes several provisions that would undermine the readiness of the Department of Defense, and leave us less secure in the world – not more. The majority has funded this bill very close to President Biden’s requested level.
As you all know, when I was the Chair of this Subcommittee in the 117th Congress, I funded the House bills at the President’s request. We worked together as Appropriators in a bipartisan fashion to craft bills that funded the Department of Defense and Congressional priorities. Less than a month ago, we came together again in a bipartisan fashion to pass the Fiscal Responsibility Act. We prevented a national default, and set the spending limits for this Congress. But as we have discussed in markups held earlier this week, the Republican majority has decided to walk away from that deal by proposing unacceptable cuts to other Appropriations bills. And make no mistake, this will have an impact on our national defense.
We have already seen one example.
The $200 million we cut from Military Construction on Tuesday to add funds to this bill - will have an impact on future defense spending. When you shortchange military construction projects, sustainment and maintenance costs of aging or obsolete infrastructure will skyrocket. That money will come out of this bill, and we will be forced to maintain aged infrastructure that does little for the warfighter. The list will go on.
As former President Trump’s Secretary of Defense once said, “If State Department funding gets cut, I need to buy more ammunition.”
American lives will be put at risk if we cannot head off conflict with effective diplomacy. If you cut funding for education programs, it will be harder for potential recruits to pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Our national security is underpinned not only by funding in this bill, but by all the appropriations bills.
Regarding the numbers in this bill:
I am very concerned about the $1.1 billion in cuts to civilian personnel. We saw what happened the last time Congress directed the Department to cut civilian employees in Fiscal Year 2013. The intent was to save $10 billion over five years. But the Department was unable to achieve those savings. That is because the excessive loss of civilian personnel forced service members and expensive contractors to take on duties that could be easily done by civilians.
If we repeat history, individual and unit readiness will suffer, but we will not save money. A reduction in civilian personnel will also increase delays in the oversight and execution of acquisition contracts. That means more time in the valley of death for small businesses and startups. It will blunt our military’s technological edge.
The bill also contains steep reductions to existing climate resiliency programs. And an outright ban on assessing climate impacts on the Department.
The reductions in funding for climate resiliency programs will leave the Services more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change – which the Department of Defense has labeled a national security threat. In many hearings and markups this year, you have heard me discuss specific instances of hurricanes, flooding, and wildfires that have significantly impacted DoD installations to the tune of billions of dollars. When we cut these programs, we will be paying for it on the back end.
Finally, I must say that in my 16 years as an Appropriator, I have never seen such shocking and extreme policy riders included in an Appropriations bill – let alone the Defense bill. For a force that is almost 20 percent women, to include a provision that would restrict service members and dependents from seeking basic reproductive health care will undermine readiness, and have disastrous recruitment and retention consequences.
The bill also contains provisions that will discourage recruitment from across America’s diversity, which is our strength as a nation. I will have more to say about these and other provisions during the full committee markup. But it is very clear that all these divisive riders must come out, or this bill will not gain the bipartisan support necessary to become law.
Mr. Chairman, regrettably at this time, I will be unable to vote for passage of this bill. And I cannot recommend to my colleagues that they support it. But I do look forward to working with you in a bipartisan fashion over the coming months to get a bill that secures our national defense, and that all of us can support.
I yield back.