Congresswoman McCollum's Remarks on the Amendment to Reduce Spending on Military Bands and the Deficit

[as prepared]

Mr. Chairman, over the past four years the Department of Defense has spent a stunning $1.55 billion on military bands, musical performances, and concert tours around the world. That’s right, $1.55 billion in taxpayer funds in four years for military bands.

This amendment reduces Pentagon spending for military bands and musical performances from the $388 million in this bill to $200 million for fiscal year 2013. The $188 million reduction is transferred to the deficit reduction account.

In the National Defense Authorization Act – H.R. 4310 – this House included language to limit the authorization for “military musical units” not to exceed $200 million. This amendment conforms with the defense authorization while cutting spending by $188 million.

With our nation in a fiscal crisis, the Pentagon is on pace to spend $4 billion over the next decade on military bands!

Is the United States really going to borrow from China and other foreign countries so the Defense Department can spend billions for its 140 bands and more than 5,000 full-time professional musicians?

How does that enhance our national security?

Congress has a duty to provide the necessary resources for our Armed Forces and to ensure our national defense. We also have an obligation to ensure that every dollar in this bill is strengthening our national security.

Spending $388 million of the taxpayers’ money on military music does not make our nation more secure. It is excessive and a luxury the Pentagon and taxpayers can no longer afford.

Before he retired last year, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates (National Journal: January 22, 2011) said, “We must come to realize that not every defense program is necessary, not every defense dollar is sacred and well spent, and that more of everything is simply not sustainable.”

Mr. Chairman, the defense dollars I want to cut today from “military musical units” are not necessary, they are certainly not sacred, they are not well spent with so many other pressing needs, and in this fiscal environment they are not sustainable.

I don’t think there is anyone here today that will tell the American people that there is no waste or excess in the Pentagon’s budget.  

This Congress should not be protecting waste and excess in the Pentagon, we should be cutting it!

There is a lot of talk, mostly from my Republican colleagues, about protecting the defense budget from sequestration and protecting millionaires and billionaires from expiring tax cuts.

Protecting every single defense dollar means shifting the burden and pain for billions of additional budget cuts on to local communities and on to middle class families, seniors, the poor, and vulnerable children.

Is this Congress really going to kick more kids off the school lunch program or make deeper cuts to our first responders in order to justify paying for more military music?  

That will not be my choice.  That does not reflect my values. And it is not the legacy I want to leave behind as a policymaker.

This amendment cuts a program that has grown out of control, it reduces the deficit and it does nothing – nothing – to impact military readiness, mission strength, or our troops’ ability to defend our nation.

I urge my colleagues to support the McCollum Amendment to cut military bands.    

I yield back my time.