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WASHINGTON-U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, held a hearing to examine President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2020 funding request for military construction, family housing and Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) for the Department of Defense (DoD).  

The hearing included testimony from Robert McMahon, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment; Lieutenant General Gwendolyn Bingham, Assistant Chief of Staff of the Army for Installation Management; Vice Admiral Dixon R. Smith, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Fleet Readiness and Logistics; Major General Vincent A. Coglianese, Commander of Marine Corps Installations Command; and Assistant Deputy Commandant, Installations and Logistics; and Brigadier General John J. Allen, Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection and Director of Civil Engineers.

The following is Chairman Boozman’s opening statement as prepared for delivery:

Good afternoon. The subcommittee will come to order. We meet today to discuss the President’s FY2020 budget request for military construction, family housing and Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) for the Department of Defense.  

The FY2020 base budget request of $11.2 billion reflects a nine percent increase over the FY2019 enacted level of $10.3 billion. While it is great to see an increase in the military construction request for the second consecutive year, reversing years of underfunding while simultaneously building ready and resilient installations will remain a challenge. The increased complexity of facilities needed to support today’s weapons systems and new platforms is driving complex designs, higher costs and aggressive construction schedules. 

Additionally, efforts to support several multibillion-dollar recapitalization initiatives culminate in large and complex projects taking up a greater share of the budget. We are all aware that this portfolio has been taking on increasing levels of risk for years, and affordability continues to decrease as the costs of construction projects continue to rise. This is evident in this year’s request, as the top twenty percent of projects account for half the budget.

The FY2020 budget request begins to improve our infrastructure, but the total military construction request is still less than three percent of the total Department of Defense budget. Congress and the department must collaborate to find innovative solutions to deliver facility investments with constrained resources. This is an urgent need, given that military construction not only supports new weapons platforms that are inter-dependent on purpose-built infrastructure, but it also provides for hospitals, schools and housing to improve the quality of life for our service members and their families.

To that end, I am pleased that the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Services are developing and implementing efforts on infrastructure management and reform. I look forward to learning more about how the services are implementing these initiatives and hearing how they will improve existing processes. 

The FY2020 Overseas Contingency Operations/European Deterrence Initiative request is $645 million; a decrease from the FY2019 enacted level of $921 million. I would be remiss if I didn’t note the $9.2 billion emergency request to support hurricane reconstruction efforts and the national emergency at the southern border. The damage at Tyndall Air Force Base and Camp Lejeune is truly devastating, and I think we must rebuild in a smart, thoughtful manner as quickly as we responsibly can.

I also believe that border security is an urgent need that should be a priority. Clearly, work remains to be done in order to achieve the level of border security that the American people are calling on Congress to deliver, and this will require a whole-of-government effort. I don’t think I’m exaggerating if I say the specific request in front of the subcommittee is unprecedented and will spark passionate debate among my colleagues. However, I remain hopeful that the subcommittee can work together in our traditional bipartisan fashion to develop a bill that supports the department and our service members.

Before we turn to our witnesses, I would like to recognize my colleague, Senator Schatz, for his opening remarks.