House Approves Legislation 229 to 194
Washington, DC - Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) today voted to pass legislation to guarantee that soldiers get adequate time at home between deployments to Iraq. Congresswoman Shea-Porter was an original co-sponsor of the bill, which was introduced in the House after a similar proposal was put forward in the Senate by Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) earlier this month.
"We hear a lot of talk from the White House about supporting our troops. That is what this bill does," said Congresswoman Shea-Porter in her statement. "This bill will support our troops by supporting their right to have a break from combat, and it will support our military families by protecting their rights to spend time with their loved ones."
The bill (H.R. 3159) would set clear requirements for the amount of time which units of the regular Armed Forces, as well as members of the National Guard and Reserves, must be given at home between deployments. Specifically, it states that if a unit of the regular Armed Forces deploys to Iraq, it will have the same amount of time at home as the duration of its last tour before it can be redeployed. For the National Guard and Reserves, the bill sets the time at home as no less than three times the duration of the previous deployment.
Current Army standards call for soldiers to be given two years between deployments, although many Army and Marine Corps units have been operating on a schedule that has them deployed for fifteen months at a time with only twelve months in between tours.
"As a former military spouse and proud wife of a veteran, I know how important this is to military families," said Shea-Porter. "The President's policies have failed on many levels, but they certainly have failed on the soldiers and the troops who are suffering this great strain right now."
H.R. 3159 passed the House today by a vote of 229 to 194.
Background on the bill, along with Congresswoman Shea-Porter's floor statement, are attached below.
United States House of Representatives
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The Text of Congresswoman Shea-Porter's Statement to the House of Representatives in Support of HR 3159
"I stand here today in strong support of HR 3159. As a former military spouse and proud wife of a veteran, I know how important this is to military families. The President's policies have failed on many levels, but they certainly have failed on the soldiers and the troops who are suffering this great strain right now.
"I find it ironic that the Iraqi parliament is on vacation for a month while we stand here and tell our troops that they can not have a break, that they need to stay in the field, in the heat, fighting the battle for the Iraqis.
"Every one of the Army's available, active duty combat brigades, along with 80% of the Reserves and National Guard, have served at least one tour in Iraq or Afghanistan - and the strain is starting to show.
"Recruiting and reenlistment are down, especially in the Army which reported a 7 percent first retention drop, and they were having to offer greater bonuses to attract people. Reports of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder are up - and this spring, the Secretary of Defense announced that active duty army soldiers can expect to spend more time in Iraq than they spend at home, with only twelve month breaks between fifteen month deployments.
"We hear a lot of talk from the White House about supporting our troops. That is what this bill does. This bill will support our troops by supporting their right to have a break from combat, and it will support our military families by protecting their rights to spend time with their loved ones.
"I urge my colleagues - regardless of whether they support or oppose the war in Iraq and the President's policies - to support HR 3159."
Details of H.R. 3159
Faced with the strains of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many units have fallen well below the standards outlined in the bill and even the Department of Defense's own guidelines. Recent Pentagon policy established by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reflects this change, lowering the standard from two years at home for every one year abroad to a cycle of fifteen month deployments with twelve month periods at home for each unit.
Denying soldiers adequate time at home is not simply harming morale and placing undue strain on military families, it is also damaging the readiness of our Armed Forces. For the majority of service members, 'dwell time' between deployments is not a period of rest and relaxation. The time includes frequent absences from home for training exercises, refurbishment of damaged equipment, and assimilating new members into the unit. Without time for these critical activities, our ability to respond to threats at home and abroad will suffer.
Provisions of H.R. 3159
o Deals exclusively with deployments to Operation Iraqi Freedom
o The bill establishes the following requirements for deployments:
o Units of the Armed Forces must be given time between deployments that is no less than the time for which they were previously deployed.
o Units or members of the Reserves or National Guard must be given no less than three times the duration of their previous deployment before being redeployed.
o The bill also gives the Sense of the Congress that:
o For the regular Armed Forces, the optimal minimum period between deployments is a 2:1 ratio of time home versus time served overseas.
o For the Reserves and National Guard, the optimal period of time between deployments is no less than five years, with no individual deployment lasting more than one year.
o Waivers and Emergency Situations
o In the event of an operational emergency posing a threat to vital national security interests, the President m ay waive the bill's limitations by certifying to Congress that the deployment of a particular unit or member is necessary.
o The military may also provide waivers for individual volunteers who seek to redeploy before the expiration of the mandated time between deployments.