Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support for the work of our Chairman, John Murtha, our Ranking Minority Member, Bill Young, and the Democratic and Republican staff of the House Appropriations Committee on Defense. Unlike years past, this legislation demands that our President provide us with a plan as we move forward in Afghanistan; demands that our President provide us with a plan as we close down Guantanamo Bay; provides more funding for "stop loss" and helps to protect our country against flu pandemics. This bill provides direction for the President and American citizens; is disciplined in its approach regarding Afghanistan, Pakistan and Guantanamo Bay; and is diligent in ensuring the wise use of tax dollars.
First and foremost, I must thank Chairman Murtha and Ranking Minority Member Young, along with 118 of my colleagues, who helped to fight to preserve funding for the Stryker Medical Evacuation Unit. On April 1, 2009, I sent this letter signed by my colleagues to Chairman Murtha to fight for funding for the Stryker MEV. Secretary of Defense Bob Gates recommended that this program be zero funded for the Supplemental, which would have had a devastating effect on the State of Michigan and others as well. I am a proud Progressive, and did not support the War in Iraq. Regardless of whether you support the war or not, we all agree that those servicemembers who voluntarily put themselves in harm's way should have the best equipment available. This Supplemental will provide close to $340 million for the Stryker. Without
funding in the FY09 Supplemental, General Dynamics would be forced to cut more than 1,000 employees in Michigan, Ohio, Alabama, Florida, and Pennsylvania. I am proud to have fought for the funding for this program that will allow the building of over 250 Strykers.
An estimated 795 supplier companies would be impacted in 40 States. The direct economic impact to Michigan would be a loss of $241 million along with more than 19,000 jobs.
The Stryker MEV or battlefield ambulance, which is what I, along with my colleagues, have been working to fund, offers our troops the best medical treatment. Its mobility, speed and protection levels have saved the lives of wounded soldiers. The Stryker MEV ambulance, which would be used to replace Vietnam-era M113s, offers greater interior space, carries more wounded soldiers, medics and medical supplies. It also features the latest in life support and medical monitoring systems and has air conditioning. Our servicemembers deserve this much for their battlefield ambulance.
The Strykers have been deemed the soldier's "first choice." Strykers are eight-wheel, armored combat vehicles that can be transported in a C-130 plane. There are 10 configurations of the Stryker including the Infantry Carrier Vehicle, ICV, and the Mobile Gun System, MGS.
The contract for Strykers was awarded in 2000 to General Dynamics Land Systems and a former subsidiary of General Motors, GM Defense. They were designed in Sterling Heights, Michigan and are manufactured in Lima, Ohio and Anniston, Alabama, by General Dynamics Land Systems, with many of the key components of the Stryker designed and built by the United Auto Workers labor union.
The first Stryker vehicles were deployed in 2002. Since then, more than 2,700 vehicles have been delivered and more than 18,000 soldiers have been trained. The fleet has accumulated 22 million miles.
Key characteristics of the Stryker are survivability and mobility. The vehicle allows soldiers to maneuver in close quarters, offers protection in open areas and can quickly transport troops to key battlefields. The Army selected the Stryker because it provides the best protection, performance and value for the Army's Bridge Combat Teams. The Stryker, named after two individuals who earned the Medal of Honor, is one of the preferred vehicles of the U.S. Marine Corps. Perhaps Col. Robert Brown, commander of the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Multinational Force--Northwest which is equipped with Strykers, could make the best argument for the Stryker:
The Stryker brigade has fought from Fallujah, Baghdad, Euphrates River Valley and then up in the Tigris River Valley and all the way up to Mosul in northern Iraq and out to the border out in Syria over the last year.
The Stryker's fantastic. It has incredible mobility, incredible speed. It has saved hundreds of my soldiers' lives. I'm telling you hundreds of their lives. We've been hit by 84 suicide VBIEDs, and I've had the greater majority of soldiers walk away without even a scratch. It's absolutely amazing. If I were in any other type vehicle, I would've had huge problems.
The other thing is it carries, you know, the infantry men in the back that no other vehicle can do; nine infantry men that come out of that Stryker and are incredible in urban operations. You could ask any one of my soldiers, and they would choose the Stryker of any vehicle they could possibly ride in.
This bill mandates that President Obama submit every 90 days a report to Congress that includes how the government of Iraq is assuming responsibility for reconciliation initiatives; how the draw down of military forces complies with the President's guidelines to withdraw all U.S. combat brigades from Iraq by August 31, 2010, and requires accountability from the contractors who are doing business in Iraq. The legislation also states that there will be no permanent bases in Iraq.
Appreciating that the President has issued the closure of Guantanamo Bay's detention facilities, we ask the President to submit to Congress a comprehensive plan for what the Administration plans to do with detainees still held at Guantanamo Bay; and a detailed analysis of the total estimated cost of closing this detention facility and any related costs.
The bill also gives the President a year to come up with a comprehensive, cohesive plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan. By February 2010, the bill gives the President time to assess whether the Governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan are, or are not, demonstrating the necessary commitment, capability, conduct and unity of purpose to warrant the continued policy of the President. Our people deserve to know what our goals, objectives, and timetables are if we are going to commit the lives of their husbands and wives, sons and daughters, children and grandchildren and the scarce resources of the American taxpayer.
I am proud that this bill includes an increase in the funding for the mental health of our servicemembers, to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, and Traumatic Brain Injuries, TBI. Families of our servicemembers who have children with disabilities will get an increase in the help that they receive through this legislation, as well as compensating our troops who have served under "stop loss" conditions. Recognizing the hardship placed on troops and their families by being forced to remain on active duty longer than they planned, Congress ordered a special $500 per month payment for any servicemember who had to serve under stop loss. For the U.S. Army, the average compensation would be $4,000; for the U.S. Navy, $7,500; for the U.S. Marine Corps, $4,500; and for the U.S. Air Force, $5,500.
We owe our servicemembers a great debt. I am proud of our work on this bill to ensure accountability and responsibility from our Administration; to protect American citizens from pandemics and disease; to partially compensate our servicemembers and their families for their sacrifice; and boost the economy of the State of Michigan. I look forward to quick consideration in the Senate of this legislation and that it is signed into law soon.