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The Honorable Congressman Paul Ryan
1st District, Wisconsin

ISSUE PAPERS

The following is Paul's views on issues that are of interest to the Air Force Association. They are posted on his web site,

Military and Veterans Affairs

Congressman Paul Ryan

All Americans owe a debt of gratitude to our countryís bravest individuals Ė those who have served and given their lives in defense of freedom and liberty. On the heels of much-needed funding increases in Fiscal Year 2008, in 2009, Congress again responded with funding levels consistent with our duty to provide for the needs of our nationís veterans and their families. The well-being and long-term health of Americaís servicemen and women are very important, and I have worked hard in Congress to help provide the best care possible for our veterans and current uniformed service members.

The Presidentís Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Request
President Obamaís budget requests $533.7 billion for the Department of Defense (DOD), a 4% increase over the previous yearís budget. It also requests an additional $205.5 billion to cover military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through FY2010. I applaud the Presidentís efforts to budget honestly for the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan, and his commitment to tackle the Pentagonís bloated and inefficient weapons development and acquisition process. However, I am concerned about the lack of attention given to the rising costs of DOD healthcare, whose accelerating growth rate puts the safety of our troops at risk over the long term.

While there are many ways to streamline the DOD budget, Congress must not forget its promises to our troops, our veterans at home, and the families of all who serve. Our troops overseas must be provided with the tools they need to complete their mission and return to their families as soon and as safely as possible. Further, we must also work to ensure our veterans and the families of all service members receive the care, support, and services they need in a timely, convenient, and efficient manner.

New GI Bill Benefits
The 1944 Servicemenís Readjustment Act allowed more than 8 million servicemen returning from the battlefields of World War II to receive college tuition benefits from the federal government. These benefits made it easier for veterans to obtain the education and training they needed to reintegrate into society and help drive the post-war economy. While well-intentioned, the program has been unable to cover the rising costs of college and university education.

The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, enacted as part of a larger supplemental spending package for Fiscal Year 2008, provides enhanced educational benefits for veterans and service members that more accurately pace the cost of todayís average college education. The bill also establishes the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance program, under which veterans and service members who have served on active duty in the armed forces on or after September 11, 2001, may receive assistance towards the cost of tuition and fees, a monthly housing allowance, and a stipend for books and supplies. In addition, the bill grants authority for service members who meet certain criteria to be permitted to transfer unused veterans education benefits to family members. Finally, it also increases maximum monthly benefits amounts under the Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty program and the Reserve Educational Assistance Program.

I applaud and support Congressí efforts to get these much-deserved benefits to the veterans who put their lives on the line in defense of our freedom. However, it is unfortunate that the House Leadership chose to hold veterans and service membersí benefits in order to pass billions of dollars of non-emergency funding in the FY2008 supplemental appropriations bill. While I could not support the overall appropriations bill because it circumvents Congressí own rules for fiscal accountability, I am glad our returning service members will receive the educational benefits they need to be successful after their service.

FY2009 Department of Defense Appropriations
The brave soldiers who are serving our country in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have made tremendous personal sacrifices in order to make the world a safer place. I am grateful to our troops for their service, and I am working to provide them with the equipment they need to achieve their missions safely and effectively and return to their families as soon as possible. Congress must also ensure that the families of these courageous individuals are thanked and cared for while their loved ones are away. On September 30, 2008, the President signed into law the Fiscal Year 2009 Continuing Appropriations Act, which included $487.7 billion for the DOD programs through March 2009. The bill contains:

Military Pay Raise: provisions were added to provide a 3.5% pay increase to our military, a 0.5% increase over the Presidentís request.

Stop-Loss Compensation: Provides $72 million in FY2009 to fund additional payments to any service member held on active duty past their enlistment date under a "Stop Loss" order. Affected soldiers in FY2009 can receive up to an additional $500 per month.

TRICARE Fee Hikes Rejected: For the third year in a row, Congress rejected the Administrationís proposal to raise fees and copayments for retirees who participate in TRICARE.

MRAP Vehicles: $2.6 billion of emergency funding was included for remaining requests for Mine Resistant Ambush Proof (MRAP) Vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan.

No Permanent Bases in Iraq: Prohibits funds from being used to construct permanent bases in Iraq or to exercise control over oil resources in Iraq.

In addition, President Bush requested an additional $162.4 billion for FY2008 operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with a bridge-fund for FY2009 operations, in the form of an emergency supplemental from Congress. Despite disagreements about some of the policy inserted into the legislation by House Leadership, Congress eventually passed, and the President signed into law, a supplemental appropriating $202 billion to cover both the Presidentís war funding request and billions of dollars of unrelated spending.

While passage of this law did provide much needed funding for our troops in Iraq, House Leadership included appropriations in the bill for non-emergency domestic programs that had nothing to do with operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. I was dismayed by the approach taken by House Leadership on this issue. Given the success of the Surge, I think it is irresponsible for Members of Congress to hold our troops in the field hostage to the passage of billions of dollars of unrelated, non-emergency spending. It is very important that our military receives the funding necessary to ensure we do not lose the gains already realized by the Surge.

As Congress works with the Obama Administration to scale down operations in Iraq and refocus our efforts in Afghanistan, I will continue working to provide our troops with the tools, equipment, and supplies they need to complete their mission and return home as soon as possible.

FY2009 Military Construction, VA and Related Agencies Appropriations
I am happy to report that Congress made significant progress on veteransí issues over the past year. I supported H.R. 6599, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act of 2009, because it increases funding for veterans and related military programs by $6.2 billion or 7.1% over FY2008. Provisions of this legislation were included in the FY2009 Consolidated Appropriations Act, providing $94.4 billion over all for Veterans Affairs funding, including $40.9 billion for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). The bill also included:

$3.8 billion for veteran mental health care, including $319 million for PTSD treatment and $15.5 million for suicide prevention initiatives.

Language encouraging the VA to increase the level of funding for the National Centers for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by least $2 million to expand programs that help ensure the proper understanding of the combined impact of PTSD and (Traumatic Brain Injury) TBI.

$510 million for the medical and prosthetic research account to help service members who have lost limbs in service to our country.

$133 million to increase the mileage reimbursement rate to 41.5 cents a mile, along with an administrative provision to freeze the deductible at the FY2008 levels (i.e. $7.77 for a one way trip, $15.54 for a round trip, with a maximum of $46.62 per calendar month).

$250 million for rural health outreach initiatives, along with reporting requirements on the VA concerning the challenges and costs faced by veterans in remote rural areas when obtaining medical services from the VA.

I believe that the funding for veteransí benefits and health care is one of the most important responsibilities of the federal government, and I am pleased that Congress was able to come together in support of our nationís veterans with this funding and policy reforms. Though I could not vote for the overall Continuing Appropriations bill, I supported the passage of these provisions in the original House version of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act of 2009. For my part, I will continue to work to provide greater care for those who have served our nation and made great sacrifices for all of us.

A dditional Information.
For more information on military and veteransí issues and priorities, please refer to the following web sites: 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: www.va.gov  

Support Our Troops - How You Can Help: http://www.americasupportsyou.com/americasupportsyou/help.html

U.S. Department of Defense: www.defenselink.mil  

 

 

 

 

Homeland Security
 

Congressman Paul Ryan

The Presidentís Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Request
The Presidentís FY2010 base budget requests $42.7 billion for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), about 3.5% increase over FY2009 appropriations. I applaud the Presidentís efforts to provide increased funding for Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to help deal with the threat posed to our homeland by illegal immigration.

While the funding requested in the Presidentís budget for DHS reflects only a modest increase in DHS spending compared to other federal agencies, it is important to note that significant amounts of DHS funding were recently passed under the budget radar as part of H.R. 1, the Stimulus Bill. This request also phases in increases in the per-ticket airline passenger security fee, a policy that would increase the price of airline tickets for consumers and has been rejected repeatedly by Congress during the Bush Administration. As Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, I will work with my colleagues and the Obama Administration to increase transparency and accountability in DHS and other homeland protection programs.

First Responder Funding in the Stimulus
On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, into law. The final version of this legislation contains approximately $4 billion in federal assistance for state and local first responders. Specifically, this legislation includes:

$2 billion for the Byrne JAG formula grant program and $225 million for Byrne competitive grants, which provide federal funding to assist state and local law enforcement with crime control;

$225 million for Violence Against Women programs, of which $175 million is for STOP grants and $50 million is for transitional housing assistance grants;

$1 billion for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office for the hiring and rehiring of additional career law enforcement officers and civilian public safety personnel. The bill waives the 25% local match and the $75,000 per officer cap;

$40 million for competitive grants to provide assistance and equipment to local law enforcement along the Southern border and in High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas to combat criminal narcotics activity stemming from the Southern border, of which $10 million shall be for the Department of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearmís Project Gunrunner;

$100 million to be distributed by the Office for Victims of Crime, $125 million for assistance to law enforcement in rural areas, and $50 million for Internet Crimes against Children initiatives; and

$120 million in FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grants, along with a waiver for local matching funds under this program.

Unfortunately, I could not support the passage of H.R. 1. While there is no doubt that programs like these that were included in the Stimulus have merit, their inclusion in legislation meant to jump-start our economy is questionable. I agree that an urgent and effective fiscal response was needed to help our ailing economy, however I do not believe the overall bill will help our economy recover. I hope that Congress will now return to regular order so that we can find ways to fund these important programs in a more fiscally-responsible manner.

FY2009 Homeland Security Appropriations
Unfortunately, the 110th Congress missed an important opportunity for progress in funding important first responder programs by failing to consider a stand-alone Homeland Security Appropriations bill. However, Congress eventually passed H.R. 2638, Omnibus Appropriations legislation for Fiscal Year 2009, which included funding for Homeland Security programs through March of 2009. H.R. 2638 was signed into law by the President on September 30, 2008, and provided DHS with $41.2 billion for FY2009, a 6% increase above the Administrationís request. While many DHS programs were funded at levels equal to FY2008, some state and local grants programs did receive modest increases over last year. Specifically, the Omnibus included:

$4.1 million in DHS state and local grant authority;

$838 million for high-density urban areas and $50 million for interoperable communications grants;

$8 million for trucking industry security, $400 million for port security, and $400 million for transit security;

$775 million for firefighter grants; and

$890 million for State Homeland Security Grant Program.

In addition, the FY2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act included key oversight provisions for the Department of Homeland Securityís Secure Border Initiative. As a proponent of border security and a supporter of the Secure Fence Act, I was deeply concerned with repeated delays by the Administration in construction of the pedestrian and vehicle border fencing. The Omnibus language requires timely reporting by DHS officials to Congress on the status of fence construction and efforts to expedite the Secure Border Initiative. By the end of December 2008, DHS completed 370 miles of pedestrian fencing and 300 miles of vehicle fencing.

Congress also passed separately an emergency supplemental appropriations bill that included $2.7 billion to help Midwestern States defray disaster costs incurred by snow and flood emergencies. Southeastern Wisconsin was hit particularly hard by these unpredictable natural disasters in 2008, and I am glad Congress provided our states with the assistance necessary to rebuild and repair critical infrastructure and supplement some of the costs of state and local emergency response.

FY2009 Science, Justice, and Commerce Appropriations
Congress also passed the Science, Justice, and Commerce Appropriations Act as part of the FY2009 Omnibus on September 30, 2008. As with Homeland Security Appropriations, the Omnibus funds Science, Justice and Commerce programs through March of 2009 largely at the same levels as FY2008. The following provisions were continued at last yearís levels:

$600 million for the Byrne Memorial JAG program and $124.5 million for Byrne Discretionary Grants;

$460 million for State Criminal Alien Assistance Program;

$40 million for the Southwest Border Prosecutor Initiative;

$15 million for Victims of Trafficking.

The law also provides FY2008 level funding in FY2009 COPS, supporting funding for programs such as:

$30 million for Bulletproof Vests;

$85 million for the Meth Hot Spots program.

Over the last few years, the amount of funding available to state and local officials through Office of Justice Programs has declined. Specifically, the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants and COPS programs, which provide local law enforcement with much-needed flexibility and discretion instead of the red tape and strings accompanying similar federal funding streams, have been the target of spending cuts. Meeting and talking with law enforcement officials back in Wisconsin, I realize how much they depend on these grant programs. I was pleased that H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, included $4 billion for first responder programs.

Border Security
Mexico is currently in the midst of an extremely violent drug war. In 2009 alone, over 1,000 violent murders have been committed. Much of the violence occurring in Mexico takes place along the U.S.-Mexican border, where vast sums of money can be made by smuggling drugs into the U.S. Many analysts have concerns that due to the resources that Mexican drug cartels have, the Mexican government will not be able to effectively deal with the threat these gangs pose. Should the Mexican government be co-opted by these gangs, it will become a failed state. This would pose severe risks to the United States and we must take action to protect our border from this threat.

Operational control of our borders should be among the highest priorities of Congress. Every nation has the right to control entry and exit across its border. Porous borders leave us susceptible to the illegal crossing of terrorists, drug lords, and gang members, placing our homeland security in serious jeopardy. I urge Congress to clear up more of the red tape hindering our efforts to secure the border, and will continue working toward enforcement of our nationís borders.

Additional Information.
For more information on the homeland security, please refer to the following web sites: 

The House Committee on Homeland Security: http://hsc.house.gov

U.S. Department of Homeland Security: http://www.dhs.gov

 

War on Terrorism

Congressman Paul Ryan

Although we have successfully warded off another domestic terrorist attack since September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda and its allies remain intent on killing innocent people and spreading an ideology of violence and hatred around the world. We must remain vigilant in our defense of freedom and democracy as we face difficult challenges in Iraq, Afghanistan, and on other fronts in the War on Terrorism.

Security Transition in Iraq
In Iraq, the tremendous sacrifices of our troops in implementing the Surge strategy have successfully weakened al-Qaeda, calmed sectarian tensions, and reduced reliance on local militias. Since 2007, civilian deaths have fallen by 63% to levels not seen since 2004. In addition, high-profile attacks against coalition forces have decreased by 59% nationwide since their highs in early 2007, and coalition casualties remain at 2004 levels. Iraqi Security Forces, who control operations in 13 of Iraqís 18 provinces, are set to assume operational control of the remaining U.S.-controlled provinces by the end of 2009. Provided these security gains are maintained and the government of Iraq continues to build capacity, major redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq should be complete in 2011.

In addition to providing security for millions of Iraqis, the Surge has successfully provided the Government of Iraq with the breathing space necessary for their burgeoning democracy to take root. In February, the Government of Iraq passed an important milestone with the peaceful conclusion of provincial elections. Unlike previous elections, Sunni voters turned out in large numbers, and participation was estimated at 51% of registered voters. Prime Minister Nouri al-Malikiís Coalition for the State of Law candidates won in nine of Iraqís 14 provinces, earning sizeable gains against Iranian-backed Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Party.

These encouraging results show that democracy has a real chance to succeed in Iraq despite Iranís attempts to increase its influence in the Government of Iraq. As confidence in Prime Minister al-Maliki continues to grow, it is imperative that his administration build on these political successes to form a strong coalition capable of maintaining control of their country during the security transition. It is also essential that Iraqis assume full responsibility for maintaining security in all provinces of their country. In the meantime, we must continue training Iraqis and providing them with logistical support they need so that they can take responsibility for the security of their country, and we can bring our troops home as quickly as possible.

New Challenges in Afghanistan
While we have seen great progress in Iraq, we must stay focused on troubling developments in Afghanistan. Taliban insurgents have fought U.S. and coalition forces to reestablish strongholds across Afghanistanís frontier and into tribally-administered areas of Pakistan, undermining the Afghan Government and hindering coalition efforts to seal Afghanistanís porous frontier borders. U.S. commanders are working with the Obama Administration to develop a strategy for quelling the insurgency, hunting down terrorists, and ensuring Afghanistan does not revert to Taliban control.

US and NATO forces face tremendous challenges as spring takes hold in Afghanistan. Warmer weather and melting snow help open up transportation in the country, making it easier for insurgents to mobilize men and materiel against coalition forces. Recent attacks in Kabul and along NATO supply routes in nearby Pakistan are evidence that the insurgents are well-armed, deeply entrenched and anxious to continue their insurgency.

In coordination with the upcoming spring thaw, President Obama plans to supplement combat troops in Afghanistan with additional Marine Expeditionary Units and Army brigades. This will increase troop levels by about five brigades or 17,000 troops, bringing the total number of US troops in Afghanistan to about 50,000. In addition to providing increased security in populated areas and near the Afghan-Pakistan border, these troops will increase the intensity of counter-drug operations against Afghanistanís highly-lucrative opium trade. Afghanistan produces about 80% of the worldís heroin from its poppy fields, and much of the proceeds of these drug sales are used to fund the Taliban insurgency.

It is my hope that this new strategy in Afghanistan will help provide security and deny resources to the growing insurgency, giving Afghan security forces a chance to finish training with coalition forces and take control of their country. In the meantime, we will continue to work with the Government of Afghanistan and our international partners towards building an Afghanistan that is never again a safe haven for terrorists, is moderate and democratic, is capable of governing its territory and borders, and is respectful of the rights of all its citizens.

The Need for Success
Moving forward in Iraq and Afghanistan, we must bear in mind the consequences of failure. If we give up now, a weakened al-Qaeda would quickly rematerialize in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, sectarian and tribal conflicts would reignite and escalate. Iran, a known supporter of terrorist groups including Hezbollah and Hamas, would emerge as the dominant regional power. Afghanistan would likely relapse into a series of bloody power struggles between terrorist-sympathizing Taliban supporters and increasingly powerful drug lords, the same conditions that allowed Afghanistan to become a safe-haven for al-Qaeda terrorists in the first place.

You may be asking yourself Ė why is this so important? What does all this have to do with me? For our communities, for our families, and for our way of life Ė the stakes could not be higher. As a father of three young children, I realize the importance of ensuring that Iraq and Afghanistan do not become the new bases for world-wide terrorist operations. In a post-9/11 world, we cannot let up in our fight against radical extremists - those that seek to end our way of life. The safety and security of our nation and the fate of the free world depends on it.

The Presidentís Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Request
President Obamaís FY2010 base budget requests $533.7 billion for the Department of Defense (DOD), a 4% increase over FY2009. It also requests an additional $205.5 billion to cover military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through FY2010. I applaud the Presidentís efforts to budget honestly for the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan, and his commitment to tackle the Pentagonís bloated and inefficient weapons development and acquisition process. However, I am concerned about the lack of attention given to the rising costs of DOD healthcare, whose accelerating growth rate puts the safety of our troops at risk over the long term.

While there are many ways to streamline the DOD budget, Congress must not forget its promises to our troops, our veterans at home, and the families of all who serve. Our troops overseas must be provided with the tools they need to complete their mission and return to their families as soon as possible, and we must also work to ensure our veterans and the families of all service members receive the care, support, and services they need in a timely, convenient, and efficient manner.

Fulfilling our Commitment to our Troops
The brave soldiers who are serving our country in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have made tremendous personal sacrifices in order to make the world a safer place. I am grateful to our troops for their service, and I am working to provide them with the equipment they need to achieve their missions safely and effectively and return to their families as soon as possible. Congress must also ensure that the families of these courageous individuals are thanked and cared for while their loved ones are away. On September 30, 2008, the President signed the Fiscal Year 2009 Continuing Appropriations Act, which contains $487.7 billion for DOD programs through March 2009. The bill contains the following provisions:

Military Pay Raise: provisions were added to provide a 3.5% pay increase to our military, a 0.5% increase over the Presidentís request.

Stop-Loss Compensation: Provides $72 million for service members held on active duty past their enlistment date under a "Stop Loss" order. Affected soldiers in FY2009 can receive up to an additional $500 per month.

TRICARE Fee Hikes Rejected: For the third year in a row, Congress rejected Administration proposals to raise fees and copayments for retirees who participate in TRICARE.

MRAP Vehicles: $2.6 billion of emergency funding was included for remaining requests for Mine Resistant Ambush Proof (MRAP) Vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan.

No Permanent Bases in Iraq: Prohibits funds from being used to construct permanent bases in Iraq or to exercise control over oil resources in Iraq.

In addition, President Bush requested an additional $162.4 billion for FY2008 operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with a bridge-fund for FY2009 operations, in the form of an emergency supplemental appropriation bill from Congress. Despite disagreements about some of the policy inserted into the legislation by House Leadership, Congress eventually passed and the President signed into law a bill appropriating $202 billion to cover both the Presidentís war funding request and billions of dollars of unrelated spending through March 2009.

As Congress works with the Obama Administration to scale down operations in Iraq and refocus our efforts in Afghanistan, I will continue working to provide our troops with the tools, equipment, and supplies they need to complete their mission and return home as soon as possible.

Additional Information.
For more information on the war on terrorism, please refer to the following web sites: 

U.S. Department of Defense: www.defenselink.mil  

Support Our Troops - How You Can Help: http://www.americasupportsyou.com/americasupportsyou/help.html

 

 

http://house.gov/ryan

 

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Last updated 15 April 2009