Quite a bit has happened since the last time we visited. I had the sincere honor of spending Mother’s Day with our American troops in Afghanistan as part of a congressional delegation to that war-torn country. The troops are in good spirits and are intent on completing their mission in Afghanistan. I met some Americans who have served several consecutive tours, including one man who has only seen his family for six months out of the last three years. Our country can't thank these brave men and women enough for the sacrifices they and their families are making for the cause of freedom. We all owe them our sincerest thanks and heartfelt gratitude along with our continual prayers and support. They are doing a great job and making great strides against the enemy.
Insurgents are being driven from the country town by town; province by province. Infrastructure is being built. The USDA and agriculture teams from the National Guard are training farmers to grow wheat instead of poppies. A legal system is being developed that will be capable of rooting out corruption and bringing perpetrators to justice. Small businesses are sprouting up. An Afghani security force is being developed.
I had the opportunity to meet Afghan soldiers who are working to bring law and order to their country. I was impressed with efforts to get women involved in government. Afghanistan’s Constitution stipulates that women occupy approximately one-third of the positions in the Parliament but women in some parts of the country never see life outside the compounds in which they live. In these areas there is concern that women who participate in government could face retribution, including death, from the Taliban should the United States forces leave too soon. After speaking to the troops on the ground – the real experts – there is no doubt in my mind that U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan should be smart, incremental, and based on solid results - not on political calculations – if we are to sustain the positive advances that have been made.
When I returned to Washington I had the privilege of working to obtain much-needed funding for our men and women in uniform as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. My colleagues and I in the House Armed Services Committee were able to maintain the prominent role that will be played by Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base in our nation’s defense. This was done through passage of $49 million in military construction for a Vehicle Maintenance Facility at Fort Leonard Wood and almost $5 million in military construction for a Weapons Storage Area Security Control Facility at Whiteman AFB. In addition, an amendment I offered brought another $40 million in Air Force funds for vital national security needs. Our servicemen and women can rest assured I will continue to fight for their interests as this legislation moves from the committee to the floor of the U.S. House.
The House also took action, this week, to address skyrocketing gasoline prices by passing two important bills I co-sponsored. They are designed to allow the United States to use more of its energy resources: the Putting the Gulf Back to Work Act and the Reversing President Obama’s Offshore Moratorium Act. These pieces of legislation aim to end the de facto moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and other offshore sites and to lift the ban on new offshore drilling. Americans’ wallets are being emptied by escalating pump prices. A sure way to bring down the cost of gas is to drill for more of our own energy and to not rely on oil from foreign nations. It is my hope the Senate will pick up these bills, pass them in a timely manner, and send them to President Obama. With gas prices hovering around the $4 per gallon mark, Americans need relief – now!