1:06 PM EDT

Chet Edwards, D-TX 17th

Mr. EDWARDS. Let me just say that I have great respect for Mr. Hayes's support of the military. He and I have worked together over the years in support of our veterans and our troops; his record is clear on that. I sympathize with his interest and support his interest in seeing that we fully fund BRAC. I have been one of those, along with Mrs. Boyda and others on your side of the aisle, that have worked hard to try to fully fund BRAC.

The opposition I have to this amendment, Mr. Chairman, is not in the good-faith effort to increase funding for BRAC, even though we fully fund it by $8.2 billion. My opposition to this amendment comes from the fact that the gentleman would cut by 15 percent President Bush's request for the NATO Security Investment program. Now, maybe a lot of Americans aren't familiar with that program, but that program has provided infrastructure investment in Iraq to support U.S. forces in our fight in Iraq.

The NATO Investment program has provided funding for our troops in Afghanistan. We are working with NATO forces to defend our national security interests in Afghanistan.

The cut of $30 million proposed by the gentleman, I think, would unintentionally do great harm to the interests of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and throughout the world where we are working with NATO forces.

Let me give you some specifics of how this money is used. In the past, we have used $9 million for the restoration of water distribution system at the Royal Air Forces base in Lakenheath in the United Kingdom. We have three Air Force F-15 squadrons there. We have used this fund to provide $25 million for a medical treatment facility at Aviano Air Base in Italy. At Aviano, we have two U.S. Air Force F-16 squadron stations. And again, as I mentioned, we've used this money to support needed NATO

infrastructure that helps U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So I would like to offer to the gentleman a good-faith effort, as we move to conference committee, to work with Mr. Wicker and work on a bipartisan basis to see if we can find additional funding for BRAC. I want additional funding for BRAC, but let's not undermine President Bush's commitments to NATO, our Nation's commitments to NATO, and unintentionally undermine important infrastructure programs that do support our troops that are risking their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq, even as

we speak today.

1:09 PM EDT

Roger Wicker, R-MS 1st

Mr. WICKER. I thank my friend, the chairman of the subcommittee, for yielding.

I would simply join my chairman in his offer to continue working with Mr. Hayes with regard to this effort. Certainly, no one has been a stronger advocate for the men and women at Fort Bragg, and also Pope Air Force Base and the families in that surrounding area, than has Robin Hayes of North Carolina.

I appreciate the sense of the amendment. I suspect that it will not pass [Page: H6536]

today, Mr. Chairman, but I do want to work with Chairman EDWARDS to see if we can accommodate the gentleman from North Carolina's needs as we move forward in the process.

1:10 PM EDT

Robin Hayes, R-NC 8th

Mr. HAYES. I thank very much the chairman. People who know Chet Edwards and Robin Hayes clearly understand our love for the military. And I appreciate Ranking Member Wicker's comments. When all is said and done, they have tough decisions to make, but there is no place like home. Home is Fort Bragg, and I hope that the Members will support my amendment.

Again, I thank Chairman Edwards and Ranking Member Wicker, and I look forward to working with them however this comes out, because this process is not going to end this morning or tomorrow. And again, I thank you for the time and look forward to working with you. I hope the membership will support my amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

1:11 PM EDT

Chet Edwards, D-TX 17th

Mr. EDWARDS. Mr. Chairman, I do look forward to working with Mr. Hayes to see if we can find additional funding for BRAC.

I will just finish by saying that right now home for many American forces is Iraq, it's Afghanistan, it's with NATO forces throughout the world defending our families and our homes. That is why I simply must oppose this, reluctantly, but strongly oppose this amendment because of the source of the funding. If we can find a better source of the funding, I would be glad to support the gentleman.

But I must oppose the amendment because it would undermine our commitment to NATO and vital infrastructure programs and investments that are so very important to our servicemen and -women serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the world today.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.