TOP ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE DEM ASKS PRESIDENT TO ADDRESS SECURITY AND QUALITY OF LIFE ISSUES FOR U.S. TROOPS IN IRAQ

For Immediate Release:

September 25, 2003

Contact:Lara Battles or Whitney Frost
(202) 225-2876

Washington, DC – In a letter to the President, Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO) called on the Administration to address issues that are affecting U.S. service members’ security and quality of life while deployed in Iraq.  Skelton urged the President to provide funding for these urgent needs within the Administration’s $87 billion supplemental appropriations request for Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I recently returned from a bipartisan Congressional delegation to Iraq,” said Skelton.  “We are all deeply impressed and proud of our amazing American soldiers.  It is their commitment and ingenuity that is responsible for many of the successes that are directly benefiting the daily lives of the Iraqi people in many parts of the country.”

“In numerous conversations, however, with our troops and their commanders, it became clear that there are critical policies and needs that are affecting our service members’ security and quality of life,” said Skelton.

Skelton identified four major areas of concern: the extension of Reserve and National Guard tours of duty to one-year in theater; continuation of the hazardous duty pay and separation allowance for deployed service members; implementation of mid-tour home rest and recuperation leave policies; and action on providing our troops with the necessary equipment to meet critical security needs. 

“I am concerned that lengthening the time on active duty for Reserve and National Guard members beyond one year could have long-term implications for recruitment and retention and have requested data on this issue,” said Skelton. 

“During our visit to Iraq, we also heard repeatedly how important hazardous duty pay and separations allowances are for our troops and their families.  I believe it is essential to the morale and well-being of our military families to let them know that we will continue these benefits and fund them in the supplemental.  I also understand that the Defense Department recently approved a policy to allow mid-tour home leaves, which is very important to our service members, and I urge the Administration to quickly provide details about how the policy will be implemented and which troops and units will be eligible,” said Skelton. 

“Most significantly, our delegation learned that service members lack equipment needed for their security – including approximately 37,000 plates for body armor vests, upgraded armor for HMMWVs, and jammers that would prevent remote-controlled explosive devices from detonating.  These items are essential to ensuring that all of our troops are able to serve safely and should be fully funded as part of the supplemental request,” said Skelton.                                

- 30 -

Congressman Ike Skelton (D-MO) serves as Ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.  For further information, please contact Lara Battles or Whitney Frost at (202)225-2876, or check Congressman Skelton’s web site at http://www.house.gov/skelton.

 

September 25, 2003

The President

The White House

Washington, D.C.   20500

Dear Mr. President:

I recently returned from a bipartisan Congressional delegation to Iraq.  We were all deeply impressed and proud of our amazing American soldiers.  It is their commitment and ingenuity that is responsible for many of the successes that are directly benefiting the daily lives of the Iraqi people in many parts of the country. 

In numerous conversations, however, with our troops and their commanders, it became clear that there are critical policies and needs that are affecting our service members’ security and quality of life.  Given the quality of their service and the pride they reflect on this nation, I think it important to bring these to your attention:

  • Reserve and National Guard tours of duty: Reserve and National Guard tours have been extended to one-year in theater, thus lengthening their time on active duty including training time beyond one year.  I am concerned with the long-term implications for recruitment and retention of this policy and would like to request data on these implications be made available.
  • Hazardous duty pay and separation allowance: The delegation heard repeatedly how important these benefits are to troops and their families and yet the Fiscal Year 2004 supplemental spending request would not fund these for the full year.  I urge you to reconsider and fully fund these critical benefits.
  • Mid-tour Home Rest and Recuperation Leave: The delegation also consistently heard about the importance of quickly instituting a policy of mid-tour home leaves.  I understand that the Defense Department has recently approved this policy.  I hope they will quickly provide details to Congress about how the policy will be implemented and which troops and units will be eligible.
  • Critical security needs: The delegation found that there are still deficiencies in items needed for the security of our troops serving in Iraq including approximately 37,000 plates for body armor vests, upgraded armor for HMMWVs, and jammers that would prevent remote-controlled explosive devices from detonating.  It is my understanding that some of these needs are covered as part of the supplemental request, but I urge you to ensure that all are included.  These items are essential to ensuring that all of our troops are able to serve safely.

 Sincerely,

/s/

Ike Skelton

Ranking Democrat

Committee on Armed Services