There are seven new Democratic members of the House Armed Services Committee.
Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., is serving his second term in Congress, but this
is his first full appointment to the Armed Services Committee. Larson told National
Defense that his main priorities include ensuring that “our women and
men who serve our country in the military are adequately provided for with good
salaries, housing and benefits.”
Larsen indicated that he would fight for several programs. “In these
uncertain times, it is important to increase funding and the effectiveness of
programs such as the Cooperative Threat Reduction Initiative that ensure that
nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in the former Soviet Union do not fall
into the wrong hands,” Larsen said
“Locally, I will work to highlight the strategic importance and value
that the military facilities in Washington State have for the defense of our
nation, especially the naval bases in my district, Naval Station Everett and
Whidbey Naval Air Station. It is very important that in future base-closure
rounds, the decision to close bases and other infrastructure are based solely
on merit,” he said.
Democratic Rep. Madeleine Bordallo, of Guam, is a U.S. territory representative,
which means she cannot vote on legislation brought to the floor of the House.
However, she can cast votes as a member of committees. Bordallo said that Congress
“must address defense priorities arising from the continuing war on terrorism
and potential conflict with Iraq.”
As a member of HASC, Bordallo said she was “working to enable the military
to best utilize its resources available on Guam to fight and win these conflicts.
The home porting of the USS Houston in 2004 and the increased operations at
Andersen Air Force Base are promising indications of this process,” she
Bordallo said she had several issues she planned to bring up in the committee
during the new session of Congress. “Given the terrorist attack on the
USS Cole, I am deeply concerned about repair work done on Navy vessels in foreign
countries and believe that the forward deployed loophole should be closed,”
Long-term goals for Bordallo are “to bring in additional submarines,
especially the new SSGN class that would be well-placed on Guam, and basing
strategic bombers that could project forces deep into the Asia-Pacific region.
In tandem with the increased operational activity, I would like to see an upgrade
to the aging military infrastructure on Guam, such as the Fena Reservoir and
the Naval Hospital,” she said.
Regarding the base closure and realignment process, Bordallo said “The
base closure process has had quite an impact on Guam, and I absolutely cannot
see how any further reductions can be made without sacrificing critical national
security interests. In fact, I believe that as tensions with North Korea increase,
the Department of Defense may be regretting some of the downsizing it did on
Guam in BRAC ’93,” she said.
Rep. Kendrick Meek, a Democrat from Florida, is a former police captain who
previously served on a public safety committee in the Florida State legislature.
In addition to his spot on HASC, he will be serving on the Select Committee
on Homeland Security.
“In addition to more than 115,000 active military personnel, Florida
has one of the largest reserve components and the highest number of military
retirees in the country,” he said.
“As military alignment has changed over the years, Florida bases have
trained thousands more troops and developed some of their high-tech weapons.
McDill Air Force Base, in Tampa, is headquarters for the U.S. Central Command
that oversees military activities in the Persian Gulf region,” he said.
Meek said he would be looking closely at funding levels for reserve and National
Guard troops. “There is some concern for me that we may be funding reserve
and National Guard training at levels lower than what we might need. The key
to readiness for our soldiers, leaders and units to deploy and fight is through
challenging training, with a focus on wartime missions. Reservists are being
deployed side by side with first-to-fight units. To maintain acceptable training
readiness, the Army must have sufficient funding to support operational tempo,
realistic maneuver training, adequate training ammunition levels, distributed
interactive simulations, and participation in joint and combined exercises,”
“Unfortunately, I see only minor increases in the training budgets, and
decreases in the overall operations budgets of the reserve and National Guard
budgets. With a possible war effort on and an increase in the deployment of
non-career troops, the largest since the Vietnam era, I hope to be able to highlight
the need for increase funding for training our troops,” Meek said.
“Most now-activated reservists and guardsmen received marching orders
in the past couple months, but some have been mobilized for more than a year
in response to the Sept. 11 attacks. I am concerned that there appears to be
some restrictions that force some reservists to stay in the service past their
planned retirement dates,” he said. Meek is also concerned about reservists’
loss of civilian income during military service and their lack of retirement
benefits before the age of 60.
“Some have noted that while they are dedicated to serving their country,
an additional year of service compounds the hardships of being away from their
loved ones and regular jobs. I plan to work to correct some of the inequities
between active and reserve unit troops,” Meek said.
Democratic Rep. Rodney Alexander, from Louisiana, is a veteran of the Air Force
reserves. One of his priorities is “to ensure the quality of life and
the safety of our military personnel. Our servicemen place their lives on the
line to protect our nation, and they deserve the best that we can do by them—everything
from pay and healthcare to ensuring that they are the best equipped and armed
forces in the world,” Alexander said.
Regarding the BRAC process, Alexander said that military bases serve many important
functions, “not the least of which is their impact on the economy of the
community in which they are located,” he said. However, “the existence
and use of a base must be justified by its military need,” he said.
“I will watch closely any discussion of base closure to guarantee that
our military infrastructure is being used in the best way possible while limiting
the economic impact to the minimum level necessary,” he said.
Other new Democratic members of the House Armed Services Committee are Reps.
Jim Marshall, of Georgia; Jim Cooper, of Tennessee, and Steve Israel, of New