CONGRESSMAN BISHOP STATEMENT ON FY 2016 MILCON/VA APPROPRIATIONS BILL MARK UP
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, issued the following statement regarding the passage of the Fiscal Year 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act out of the full U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.
“The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act has a strong reputation for finding bipartisan common ground as members work together to fund the construction of military facilities and strive to improve the quality of life and care afforded to our veterans and military families. I am pleased the Committee continues to demonstrate strong support of our service members, but recognize that serious challenges remain in fulfilling our responsibility to veterans and moving the appropriations process forward under such inadequate sequester funding levels.
“Passage of this bill maintains the tough but fair reporting requirements for DoD-VA Electronic Health Records integration, prioritizes the elimination of the VA claims backlog, as well as provides necessary funding for military maintenance and construction of military family housing, information technology, and medical facilities.
“However, I believe that it is well past time to be more strategic about how we handle our federal budget, so we can eventually stop lurching from one fiscal crisis to the next. The Majority chose to lock in sequester levels of funding, forcing a shift in a portion of the Military Construction budget into the Overseas Contingency Operations account, and a major reduction in the VA’s construction budget. Today’s markup is another step in a long appropriations process, and while I am concerned about the impact of these reductions, I am hopeful that these concerns will be addressed as we move further towards full passage.”
Below is a list of highlights of funding levels and other key provisions in the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs Bill:
BACKGROUND & BILL HIGHLIGHTS:
2016 Mark: $76.057 billion
2016 OCO: $532 million
2015 Enacted: $71.808 billion
2015 OCO: $221 million
President's Request: $78.785 billion
MILCON/VA IN GEORGIA:
- $10.9 million for replacement pump house and truck fill stands at Moody Air Force Base;
- $90 million for a Command and Control Facility at Fort Gordon;
- $7.851 million for ground source heat pumps in Albany;
- $8.099 million for industrial control system infrastructure at Kings Bay;
- $48.279 million for bombing range expansion Phase II in Townsend;
Air National Guard
- $9 million for C-130 Squadron Operations at Savannah/Hilton Head IAP;
MILITARY CONSTRUCTION: $7.151 billion, an increase of $593 million above the FY 2015 enacted level and $1.286 billion below the President’s request, is provided for Military Construction programs.
- The total funding for Reserve Components is $512 million, which is $85 million above the FY 2015 enacted level, and $39.1 million below the President’s request.
- The bill fully funds the 2015 budget request for Family Housing construction at $1.413 billion, which is $222.6 million more than the FY 2015 enacted level.
- The bill fully funds the 2016 budget request for the BRAC account at $251.3 million, a decrease of $63.7 million from the FY 2015 enacted level.
VETERANS AFFAIRS: The Committee recommendation includes $68.662 billion in discretionary funding, which is $3.6 billion above the 2015 level, and $1.4 billion below the President’s request.
- Unlike previous years, the subcommittee recommendation fails to meet the discretionary budget request in several areas, including Medical Services; Medical Support and Compliance; Medical Facilities; Medical and Prosthetic Research; Construction, Major Projects; General Administration; and Information Technology.
- As authorized by Congress in 2009, the VA medical services accounts are provided funding one year in advance. The recommendation includes $967 million of the $1.1 billion requested for the current year budget request, which is in addition to the FY 2016 advance appropriation provided in the FY 2015 law.
- The subcommittee recommendation provides $606.8 million for Medical and Prosthetic Research, which is $17.8 million above the FY 2015 enacted level, and $17.8 million less than the President’s request.
- The subcommittee recommendation provides $561.8 million for Construction, Major Projects, which is equal to the FY 2015 enacted level and $582 million less than the President’s request. The bill also shifts responsibility from Congress to the VA to decide which projects would be funded and which would not.
OTHER VA ISSUES:
- Electronic Health Records: Like the FY 2015 Appropriations law, the subcommittee recommendation includes language requiring the VA to provide information on the VistA Evolution system before release of 75 percent of the funding provided.
- Disability Claims Backlog: The subcommittee recommendation continues monthly reporting requirements from regional offices on disability claims processing performance and quality reports on remediation efforts at the poorest performing regional offices.
- Construction Funding: To enhance oversight on VA’s facility construction efforts:
- No funding greater than $5 million may be reprogrammed between construction accounts without approval by the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations;
- Any change to the scope of a construction project is prohibited without the approval of the Committees; and
- VA must report any bid savings of $5 million or more on projects as soon as they are identified.
For more information on funding levels and other key provisions in the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs Bill, please click here.