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Skelton says defense authorization bill supports the troops and their families
Skelton says defense authorization bill supports the troops and their families

Congressman Ike Skelton
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Aug. 2, 2009) — I consider myself blessed to serve as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, which from my perspective is the best committee in Congress. The committee’s 62 members come from every corner of the country and reflect diverse political philosophies, but together we find common purpose in our efforts to do our very best to provide the necessary resources to keep Americans safe and protect U.S. national security interests.

Each year, the House Armed Services Committee plays its constitutional role by preparing a defense authorization bill. While many people may immediately think of the major weapon systems and military hardware authorized in this bill, I am particularly proud of what this legislation would do to make life better for our troops and their families. Taking the best possible care of our troops and their families is a critical part of meeting our national security responsibilities. We could have the finest equipment and technology in the world, but we would be lost without the outstanding military personnel whose professionalism, commitment, and patriotism make our military forces the best the world has ever known.

As approved by the House, this year’s defense authorization bill would reflect our strong support for U.S. service members. In order to improve the quality of life for our forces and their families, the bill would provide a 3.4 percent pay raise for all service members, continuing our efforts to reduce the pay raise gap between the uniformed services and the private sector. The bill would extend the authority for the Defense Department to offer bonuses, would expand TRICARE health coverage to reserve component members and their families, and would provide $1.95 billion for family housing programs.

Recognizing the strain that almost eight years of continuous combat has put on our forces, the bill would increase the size of the military, which would allow troops to spend more time at home and more time to get the training they need to be ready. While Congress has authorized increasing the size of the military for several consecutive years, I am pleased that Defense Secretary Robert Gates also supports this effort and recently announced steps to increase the size of the Army by 22,000 troops.

To meet the changing needs of today’s service members and their families, the bill would establish an internship pilot program for military spouses in order to offer federal government career opportunities that are portable when the time comes to relocate. The bill would also authorize Impact Aid funding to make sure that schools with large enrollments of military children provide the quality education our children need and our nation expects.

Each year, members of the House Armed Services Committee work very hard to make this the best bill possible for our military and for our nation. As Congress moves toward completing a defense authorization bill that the President can sign into law, we must always keep in mind the provisions of this bill that are so important to military service members and their families. Taking care of our troops and the two million military families that support them is a solemn duty, and I’m proud that the House Armed Services Committee leads the effort to demonstrate our nation’s gratitude for the sacrifices they make to keep our country free.

Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Skelton’s website is at http://www.house.gov/skelton.

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