Floor and Committee Statements

Friday, December 18, 2009

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Floor Statement on Department of Defense Appropriations
Remarks as Delivered on the Senate Floor

Mr. President, I rise today to support the DOD appropriations bill before us and to take a few minutes to talk about a couple of the provisions in the bill that are important to Georgia but, in particular, I think, also point out something important for us to recognize as Members of the Senate.

In this appropriation is an appropriation to the Office of Economic Assistance for $40 million. That money is appropriated to be competitively granted back to communities for various economic difficulties they have suffered. One of those communities is Hinesville, GA, in Liberty County, the home of Fort Stewart. Fort Stewart is the base through which most of our troops who serve today in Afghanistan and Iraq pass and many are trained. It is an outstanding facility in a town with a population of about 29,000. It is a rural county near the coast and near the great Port of Savannah where almost all of the materiel and equipment is shipped from the United States to the theater in the Middle East.

A few years ago, it was announced by the DOD that we would add three new brigade combat teams in the United States of America, and Fort Stewart would be the host of one of those new brigade combat teams. Immediately, the community has done what it has always done. It invested tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure, road improvements, community improvements, and it incentivized the private sector through the banks and the developing community to build the housing necessary to house the dependents and families of those new troops who would come and be a part of that brigade combat team. So the construction work began over 2 years ago. Moneys were borrowed, developments were begun.

A little earlier this year, it was announced quickly and summarily that the Department of Defense was dropping back those three brigade combat teams and that none of the three would be created or deployed. Unfortunately for the community of Liberty County and for the private developers and the banking system there, they cannot get a do-over. They have already borrowed the money. They have already deployed the capital. They already made the investment.

Worst of all, the announcement came at a time when we are in great economic turmoil anyway, where our banking centers are under great stress. As I know everybody is aware, of all the States in the United States, the State of Georgia has had the most banks closed by the FDIC during the last 18 months. To have these assets become nonaccruing assets because the military changed its mind and the decision puts all of the banks that participated in that in a difficult situation.

I rise to thank the committee and Chairman Inouye and Ranking Member Cochran and all the members of the House committee, especially Congressman Jack Kingston from Savannah, for adding this $40 million to the Office of Economic Assistance. It will be a help, but it also should be a warning. Whenever we announce to communities in our States an expansion of our military in that State, and we call upon them to provide the money, the infrastructure, and manpower as their cost to support those troops, if we pull the plug, we change our mind, unfortunately, they don't get a do-over. It is important for us to live up to the responsibilities we have to see to it that, to the maximum extent possible, those communities are made whole.

In the months ahead, I will continue to work on behalf of Liberty County and the people of Hinesville, GA, who have made this investment to see to it we do everything we can to have the deployments necessary to make up the difference, and where that is not possible, to see to it that funds are available to hopefully mitigate some of the damage.

The beginning of that starts with passage of this bill today or tomorrow morning. It will pass this $40 million program for the Office of Economic Assistance, so that Hinesville in Liberty County, and other communities damaged by the decision made to withdraw the brigade combat teams, will have a chance to be made whole.