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Rep. Cole Addresses House on National Defense Authorization Act

May 22, 2008

WASHINGTON - Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) made the following remarks on the House floor last night supporting H.R. 5658, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009.  This bill authorizes budget authority for the Department of Defense and the national security programs at the Department of Energy.  Congressman Cole, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, has worked with the committee over the last few weeks to construct the components of the bill.

"Mr. Chairman... I am particularly pleased to rise in support of this legislation, H.R. 5658, the National Defense Authorization Act, and I am particularly pleased that it is named for my good friend and our distinguished colleague, Mr. Hunter, who served our country in so many ways, in uniform, in Congress, and certainly with great distinction and great fairness on both sides with both sides of the aisle as former chairman of our committee."

"I particularly want to thank our current chairman, Mr. Skelton, who presides so professionally with such personal integrity and so thoughtfully over this important committee, and our staff, which does great work on a bipartisan basis."

"This committee really does work the way that I think most Americans wish Congress worked, and I think it sets an outstanding example that I wish others would follow."

"There is very much in this bill, Mr. Chairman, that is excellent. I am particularly pleased with the increase in family support, the focus on additional barracks, the additional money in the research, development, testing, evaluation and procurement accounts, the $70 billion set aside for continuing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a commitment to address the rest of the needs that our men and women in the field have. When we have forces deployed, whether we agree with the purpose or not, they should never, ever doubt our commitment to seeing that they have everything they need, fully and in a timely fashion, and this committee does its best to do that."

"But there are some disappointments in this bill as well, Mr. Chairman. I am particularly disappointed, like my friend Mr. Akin, in the cut in the Future Combat System funding of $233 million from the request that the President sent forward. We are going to regret that on some battlefield in some dangerous place at some point in the future."

"Mr. Chairman, I am particularly disappointed that we did not deal in a serious fashion in my opinion with Mr. Saxton's amendment, which would have set a baseline of 4 percent of our GNP for future military funding. That is something we know we need to do. We know in this committee on a bipartisan basis that we spend too little. That is a mistake we have made on both sides of the aisle. It is a bipartisan mistake."

"We cut far too much during the 1990s. History teaches us and our chairman often appropriately lectures us that contingencies will come that we do not understand and do not anticipate, and we know from the bitter lessons of history that if we have not prepared through sustained investment in our military, we can never make up lost ground with hasty and ill-thought out appropriations in the short-term. I wish we had done that. I hope we will do that in the amendment process."

"But, Mr. Chairman, the perfect cannot be the enemy of the good, and this bill is very, very good and is a product of genuine bipartisan cooperation. So I am very proud to support it and very proud to urge other Members of the Congress to vote for it."