Last week the House debated the FY07 Defense Authorization bill (H.R. 5122) to ensure our servicemen and women have every tool they need to fight and win the War on Terror. I had the opportunity to lead the debate on the rule for this important piece of legislation. A rule, which sets the terms of debate on the floor, must be passed before the actual piece of legislation is debatable. H.R. 5122 passed in the House and must now be debated in the Senate.

 The FY07 Defense Authorization bill authorizes an additional $50 billion in supplemental funding to support the War on Terror's operational costs, personnel expenses and the procurement of new equipment.  It authorizes additional funding for force protection needs in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, including up-armored humvees, humvee improvised explosive device (IED) protection kits and gunner protection kits, IED jammers and state-of-the-art body armor.

The Defense Authorization bill, as reported from the Armed Services Committee, recommends an additional increase of 30,000 personnel for the Army and 5,000 personnel for the Marine Corps. I think these increases are necessary to sustain current missions without putting an unbearable strain on our men and women in service.  The bill also proposes an end strength increase for the Army National Guard by 17,100 over the original budget request. H.R. 5122 provides a 2.7% pay raise for members of the armed forces. The legislation also provides an additional $471 million for National Guard personnel, operations and maintenance and defense health, as well as $318 million for procurement to support the recommended National Guard end strength of 350,000.

 H.R. 5122 makes great strides to protect health care for our military. The Defense Authorization bill rejects the Department of Defense's proposed fee increases retirees must pay under the TRICARE standard health program and zeroes out co-pays for generic and formulary mail order prescriptions. To ensure that a comprehensive policy and fiscal basis for sustaining future military health care benefits are in place, H.R. 5122 recommends an independent review by a task force, the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). H.R. 5122 also adds $735 million to the Defense Health Program to restore funding cuts included in the DOD budget request in anticipation of increased beneficiary cost shares, which as mentioned, H.R. 5122 prohibits.

 These funding proposals are vital to our troops and to our mission in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our troops are on the front lines every day and it is our responsibility to provide them with the every resource they need to be successful.

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