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Money Well Spent

April 18, 2016
Weekly Columns

Oklahoma is the proud home of numerous military and National Guard installations. We are consistently among the top states in terms of our number of active duty personnel. And our communities that are the home to these men and women in uniform are the envy of every branch of service. That fact was reflected last week when the House Appropriations Committee, of which I am a member, passed the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MILCON) Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017.

The (MILCON) Appropriations bill that was passed last week funded new and ongoing military infrastructure projects, and it also appropriated funds to improve the programs, assistance and benefits promised to our nation’s veterans. This year, the legislation required funds to improve oversight and accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and included a significant investment for modernization of the health records system to ensure our veterans receive care in a timely manner. 

Focusing back to Oklahoma, this year’s bill also included provisions that directly impact our state’s own military service members in a very positive way. In fact, out of the significant investment of $76.6 million set aside for military construction projects in Oklahoma, the vast majority would benefit projects located right in the Fourth District. That includes the National Guard Readiness Center in Ardmore and two projects at Tinker Air Force Base. 

Although most people would not normally associate a Military Construction bill with disease eradication, this legislation also provided the Centers for Disease Control the flexibility to use unspent Ebola virus money to confront the Zika virus, which has been proven to cause debilitating birth defects in children. While the Obama Administration continues to demand additional hundreds of millions additional dollars to confront the Zika virus, I believe the president needs to explain how the money will be spent to combat the Zika virus. At this point in time, his request lacks enough detail to be seriously considered. As is his custom, the president is asking for a blank check to spend however he sees fit.

Most Americans agree that the federal government spends too much money and spends it on unnecessary and wasteful programs—and I agree.  Last week, however, I was proud to vote to appropriate money to support our men and women in uniform, our worthy veterans and to help eradicate a vicious virus that threatens unborn children. In this volatile environment that is increasingly hostile to everything the federal government touches, we should remember that some of our tax dollars are indeed being well spent.