Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif.: Good morning. This is congresswoman Ellen Tauscher from California, chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee.
Last week, I was honored to see the House pass my bill to stop the Pentagon's practice of sending soldiers and marines back to Iraq without proper rest or training.
The president's surge has sent many of our army units to Iraq for the second and third time. We are asking our troops to make heroic sacrifices, yet as soon as they return we rush them back into battle.
Army generals recommend that in times of war, our troops have two years away from combat after one year on the battlefield. My bipartisan bill sets a bottom line; a minimum period of rest, recuperation and training between deployments.
Today that ratio is upside-down. Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan spend only 12 months at home for every 15 months in combat. The result is that after more than four years of overextended and frequent deployments, we have put our troops and our overall defense readiness at risk.
When we send our troops back into battle before they are ready, we put them in greater danger than we should. That's not fair to them, and it's not good for national security. With policies like this, it's no wonder the Army found itself 3,000 officers short, or that midgrade sergeants are leaving at higher-than-desired rates.
As the chairman of an armed services subcommittee, I know how this war has threatened our national security and damaged military readiness. As a Californian, I'm well aware that spending nearly $330 million in Iraq is draining the homeland security resources of my state and others.
As we speak, an army national guard unit from Walnut Creek, Calif., is leading a task force deploying to Iraq. These 824 brave men and women are the largest California guard unit to be deployed since the Korean War. These are the men and women that my legislation will protect.
We are sending more and more men and women to Iraq every day, while the Bush administration wastes billions in Iraq. They deserve better than a revolving door of service that keeps them away from their families for too long, and sends them back to battle too quickly.
Those who refuse to admit we need a change of course in Iraq claim this legislation will tie the hands of the commander-in-chief. This is simply untrue. There are waivers for operational emergencies that pose threats to national security, as well as for individuals who volunteer to deploy sooner.
A similar measure, sponsored by Jim Webb of Virginia, is currently stalled in the Senate because of a Republican filibuster. President Bush has also threatened to veto the legislation if it should reach his desk.
If we are honest about wanting to support our troops, there is no better place to start than with the rest and training they require to complete their mission and return home safely.
To those who would stand in the way, rather than behind our troops, I say: If you truly support the fighting men and women of our armed forces, and if you truly believe in a military that stands second-to-none in a dangerous world, then stop the obstruction and start by doing what you know is right.
My friends, we must come together as Americans to conserve the readiness of the greatest military in history. For our troops, and for our national security.
This has been congresswoman Ellen Tauscher. Thank you for listening.