Floor and Committee Statements

Monday, January 24, 2005

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Hearing on the nomination of Jim Nicholson to serve as Secretary of Veterans' Affairs
Veterans' Affairs Committee

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA): Mr. Chairman, I'll submit my full statement for the record. I would make two or three quick comments.

One, it's a privilege and honor to serve on this committee, serve with you as Chairman and Ranking Member Akaka, I look very much forward to doing that.

I'm delighted to be here at this hearing for Ambassador Nicholson and particularly delighted to be here in the best interests of the veterans of the United States of America.

And although I know that the opening statement of the ambassador is to follow, I have already read it and I want to acknowledge at the outset my appreciation to his commitments in terms of veterans about health care and the honor of those who make the ultimate sacrifice in our United States military.

And I look forward to the hearing and the opening statement of Ambassador Nicholson.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

***

Sen. Isakson : Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Ambassador Nicholson, I wanted, really, to ask one question and let you kind of expand on it.

Late last year, the 48th National Guard unit, state of Georgia, was activated. They're being trained now. In May, they will be deployed in Iraq.

Our country is at a point in time where we have never been more dependent on our Guard and our reservists and obviously on volunteers. And we live in a world where we know, although we hope it won't happen, there will be another time and another place and another occasion where we will call on America's young men and women in our reserves to fight on our behalf.

So therefore the attractiveness of that, continuing to meet our recruiting requirements, and the quality of life when activated for those Guardsmen and reservists is critical.

I'd like to hear your thoughts on that topic in particular and if, in fact, you've looked into the future of your administration and what you might want to do to actually accomplish that in terms of the attractiveness and taking care of those Guardsmen and reservists.

Mr. Jim Nicholson: I tried to make that point in my opening statement, Senator, because I do think there is a causal effect between how we end up fulfilling a promise that we make and the attitude of people as they look at that as one of their options for a vocation or service to their country, however they see it.

I think it's also very important the way we project it or market it. And I am sensitive to Senator Rockefeller's comment about that. Because I think, and I can remember being this way, that as a young trooper you feel a certain immortality and that these things they talk about about VA old folks homes or even VA hospitals are vagaries that don't apply to me, and in that way would have a diminished recruiting or marketing appeal, which bespeaks that we need to really have a strong outreach about those benefits and that concern of our country.

You know, we're spending and trying very hard to provide a great service to our veterans. And I think that education about that is a very important point going forward in this all-volunteer force context.

Sen. Isakson : Well, I appreciate your commitment, and I appreciate the fact that in your thirty years eight were active, and 22 were reserve, so you've been on both sides of that service to the country. And I am honored to have voted for your confirmation. I look forward to working with you as secretary.

Mr. Nicholson: Thank you.

Sen. Isakson : I yield back