Senate Democrats

H.R. 2642, the Fiscal Year 2008 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act

Summary

H.R.2642, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2008, would provide $109.2 billion ($64.7 billion in discretionary funds) in appropriations for military construction, military family housing, and veterans affairs programs.  This amount is $18.2 billion more than last year’s funding levels for these programs, excluding emergency supplemental funding, and $4 billion more than President Bush’s budget request.

The majority of the increased funding provided in the bill – $3.6 billion – would be allocated to veterans’ health care initiatives, including critical programs for the research and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.  The bill would provide a total of $87.5 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), to ensure that the VA is able to meet the current needs of veterans and also provide for the long-term needs of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

In addition, H.R.2642 would provide $21.557 billion for military construction, with more than half of the funding allocated for base realignment and closure activities (BRAC) and the President’s proposed “Grow the Force” initiative,” to increase the end strength of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 over five years.  The rest of the proposed funding would support existing construction and maintenance requirements, including critical renovations and repairs to military facilities and military family housing.

Major Provisions

Title I:  Military Construction

Military Construction: Active Duty.  The bill would provide a total of $8.904 billion for Active Duty construction, including the following:

  • $3.9 billion for Army construction, which is $111 million below the requested amount and $1.9 billion above Fiscal Year 2007 levels (excluding supplemental funding);
  • $2.168 billion for Navy and Marine Corps construction, which is $64 million above the requested amount and $1.066 billion above last year’s funding levels (excluding supplemental funding);
  • $1.048 billion for Air Force construction, which is $136.4 million above the President’s request and $37.2 million below Fiscal Year 2007 levels (excluding supplemental funding); and
  • $1.759 billion for defense-wide construction projects, which is $40.6 million below the budget request and $741.9 million above Fiscal Year 2007 funding. 

Military Construction: National Guard and Reserve. H.R.2642 would provide $929.9 million for National Guard and Reserve construction, including:

  • $478.8 million for Army National Guard projects, which is $74.5 million above the requested amount;
  • $229 million for Air National Guard construction, which is $143.5 million above the President’s budget;
  • $138.4 million for Army Reserve construction, which is $18.7 million above the requested amount;
  • $59.2 million for Naval Reserve projects, which is equal to the requested amount; and
  • $24.5 million for Air Force Reserve projects, which is $2.1 million below the President’s request.

Military Construction: Family Housing.  The bill would appropriate $2.922 billion for family housing.  This amount is $1.115 billion below the amount appropriated for Fiscal Year 2007, and $10 million below the President’s request.  Specifically, H.R.2642 would appropriate:

  • to the Army, $419.4 million for construction and $742.9 million for operations and maintenance, which are equal to the President’s request;
  • to the Navy and Marine Corps, $288.3 million for construction ($10 million below the requested amount) and $371.4 million for operations and maintenance (equal to the requested amount);
  • to the Air Force, $362.7 million for construction and $688.3 million for operations and maintenance, which are equal to the President’s request;
  • for defense-wide housing operation and maintenance $48.8 million, which is equal to the requested amount; and
  • to the Department of Defense Family Housing Improvement Fund, $500,000, which is equal to the President’s budget request.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization Security Investment Program. H.R.2642 would provide $201.4 million for the U.S. share of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) security investment program, including acquisition and construction of facilities and other expenses related to the defense of the North Atlantic Treaty Area.  This amount is equal to the President’s budget request and $3.4 million below Fiscal Year 2007 appropriations.

Chemical Demilitarization. The bill would provide $104.2 million for chemical demilitarization construction projects, which is $18 million above the President’s request.

Base Realignment and Closure Account.  The bill would deposit $320.7 million into the 1990 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) account (which is $100 million above the requested amount) and $8.17 billion into the 2005 BRAC account (equal to the President’s request), to remain available until expended. 

Title II:  Department of Veterans Affairs

Title II of H.R.2642 would appropriate $87.5 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  Of this amount, $44.487 billion, roughly 51 percent of the total, is for mandatory programs, and $43.014 billion is for discretionary appropriations.  This amount represents an increase of $3.597 billion above the President’s request and $6.534 above Fiscal Year 2007 levels (excluding supplemental funding).

Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).  The bill would provide $44.642 billion for the VBA, which is equal to the President’s request and is $3.2 billion above Fiscal Year 2007 appropriations. This amount includes funding as follows for mandatory programs:

  • $41.236 billion for compensation and pensions;
  • $3.3 billion for readjustment benefits; and
  • $41.25 million for veterans insurance and indemnities.

Veterans Health Administration (VHA).  The bill would provide $37.2 billion for the VHA, which is $2.6 billion more than the President’s request and $4.5 billion more than Fiscal Year 2007 funding levels (excluding supplemental funding).  This allocation includes funding for the following programs:

  • Medical services.  The bill would provide $28.979 billion for VHA medical services, which is $1.8 billion above the requested amount and represents an increase of $3.46 billion over Fiscal Year 2007 funding (excluding supplemental funding).  Medical services funding includes allocations for investments in polytrauma rehabilitation programs, mental health services, post-traumatic stress disorder treatments, traumatic brain injury programs, readjustment counseling, among other programs.
  • Medical Administration.  H.R.2642 includes $3.642 billion for VHA medical administration, which is $200 million above the President’s request and $464 million over Fiscal Year 2007 funding (excluding supplemental funding).
  • Medical facilities.  The bill would provide $4.092 billion for the operation and maintenance of the VA healthcare system’s infrastructure to ensure that VA medical facilities are maintained at the highest level possible.  This amount is $500 million above the President’s request and $522.4 million above Fiscal Year 2007 levels (excluding supplemental funding).
  • Medical and prosthetic research. H.R.2642 would provide $500 million for medical and prosthetic research, including $15 million for research related to Gulf War Illness.  This amount represents an $89 million increase over the President’s proposal and is $86 million above Fiscal Year 2007 levels (excluding supplemental funding).
  • Medical Care Collection Fund.  The bill includes authority to retain co-payments and third-party collections, estimated at $2.414 billion for Fiscal Year 2008.  This would effectively provide VHA with a total of $39.627 billion in resources.

National Cemetery Administration.  The bill would provide $217.7 million for the National Cemetery Administration, which is $50.9 million above the requested amount and $56.96 million above Fiscal Year 2007 levels.

Departmental Administration. H.R.2642 would provide $5.427 billion for Departmental Administration.  This includes:

  • $1.612 billion for general operating expenses, which is $130.5 million above Fiscal Year 2007 levels (excluding supplemental funding) and $140.2 million above the President’s request.  The increased funding would be provided to support efforts to improve the claims process.
  • $88.7 million for the Office of the Inspector General to ensure effective oversight of VA programs and operations.  This amount is $16.1 million above the requested amount and $15.6 billion above Fiscal Year 2007 levels.
  • $727.4 million for major construction projects, which is equal to the President’s request and $328.4 million above Fiscal Year 2007 funding.
  • $751.4 million for minor construction projects, which is $518 million above the requested amount and $552.5 million above Fiscal Year 2007 (excluding supplemental funding).
  • $250 million for grants for the construction of state extended care facilities, which is $165 million above the President’s requested amount and the Fiscal Year 2007 level.   
  • $100 million for grants for the construction of state veterans’ cemeteries, which is $68 million more than the requested amount and Fiscal Year 2007 funding.
  • $1.898 billion for information and technology systems, which is $38.8 million above the President’s request and $684 million above the Fiscal Year 2007 level (excluding supplemental funding).  These funds would support initiatives to improve VA claims processing and ensure electronic interoperability between the VA and Department of Defense for sharing medical records and processing benefits claims.

Title III:  Related Agencies

American Battle Monuments Commission.  H.R.2642 would provide $56.6 million for the ABMC for the maintenance and construction of U.S. monuments and memorials commemorating the achievements of the Armed Forces, including $45.6 million for salaries and expenses and $11 million for foreign currency fluctuation.  This amount is $3.5 million above the budget request and $14.6 million above Fiscal Year 2007 funding.

U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.  The bill would allocate $24.2 million for salaries and expenses for the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, to review decisions of the Board of Veterans’ appeals.  This amount is $3 million above the President’s request and $4 million above last year’s funding level.

Department of Defense – Civil.  H.R.2642 would provide $31.8 million for Army cemeterial expenses, to fund the administration, operation, and maintenance of Arlington National Cemetery.  This amount is $4.9 million above the requested amount and $1.86 million above Fiscal Year 2007 funding.

Armed Services Retirement Home.  The bill would provide $61.6 million to operate and maintain the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C. and Gulfport, MS, which is equal to the budget request.

Legislative History

On June 14, 2007, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 28 to 1 to favorably report H.R.2642, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2008.

On June 16, 2007 the House of Representatives voted 409-2 to pass its version of H.R.2642.                                                      

Previous Votes

The Senate passed H.R.5385,the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2007, on November 15, 2006 by a voice vote.  The Senate did not act on a conference report to H.R.5385 before the 109th Congress ended.

The Senate passed H.R.2528, the Fiscal Year 2006 Military Construction Appropriations Act, on September 22, 2005, by a vote of 98-0.  It passed the conference report for H.R.2528 on November 18, 2005 by unanimous consent.

The Senate passed H.R.4837, the Fiscal Year 2005 Military Construction Appropriations Act, on September 20, 2004, by a vote of 91-0.  It passed the conference report for H.R.4837 on October 11, 2004 by voice vote.

On November 20, 2004, the Senate passed the conference report to H.R.4818, the Fiscal Year 2005 Consolidated Appropriations Act, by a 65-30 vote.  H.R.4818 included appropriations for the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

Statement of Administration Policy

No Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) has been issued by the White House regarding the Senate version of H.R.2642.  On June 13, 2007, the White House issued a SAP citing major objections to the House of Representatives’ version of H.R.2642.  The SAP can be viewed at the White House Office of Management and Budget website (H.R.2642sap-h.pdf">http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/legislative/sap/110-1/H.R.2642sap-h.pdf).  

Amendments 

Information on amendments to H.R.2642 will be distributed by the DPC as it becomes available. 

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