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Skelton: Support troops and families, oppose “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” repeal
Skelton: Support troops and families, oppose “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” repeal

Congressman Ike Skelton
WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 31, 2010) — I consider myself blessed to serve as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, the most bipartisan committee in Congress. Missouri’s Fourth District has played a vital role in defending our nation for generations, and those who live here should be proud of the national influence we have when it comes to matters of national security. 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 fulfills its constitutional role by preparing a defense authorization bill. For Missouri, this year’s bill authorizes substantial military construction at Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood and additional support for the National Guard. In order to improve the quality of life for our forces and their families, the bill would provide a 1.9 percent pay raise for all service members, increase the hostile fire and imminent danger pay — for the first time since 2004 — for those serving in harm’s way, and boost the family separation allowance for personnel deployed away from their loved ones.

Recognizing the evolving nature of 21st Century threats, the 2011 defense bill would greatly expand the military’s counterinsurgency and counterterrorism capabilities. For example, substantial funds for Special Forces training and operations, cybersecurity efforts, and counter-ideology initiatives have all been allocated in this legislation. Since the threats to our troops overseas and our nation are constantly changing, the bill also would establish a Rapid Innovation Program to get the cutting edge technologies our troops need to the front lines as fast as possible.

Unfortunately, hundreds of the great provisions in this bill have been overshadowed by a secondary issue: the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” While I opposed the so-called Murphy Amendment that would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I did support final passage of the defense bill. Thus I stood by our military — our troops and their families — during this time of war. I helped craft the original “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law in 1993 and continue to support it, but my most solemn duty under the constitution, as a member of the Congress of the United States, is to provide for the common defense. Our Armed Forces and the American people are counting on us to work together to provide the critical funding needed to strengthen counterterrorism efforts, strengthen military readiness, and strengthen our service members and their families.

As Congress continues its effort to produce the best possible defense bill for our military and our nation, I will continue working with Republicans and Democrats to demonstrate our nation’s gratitude for the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform and their families 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 www.house.gov/skelton.

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