Opening Statement of Hon. John Boozman, Ranking Republican Member, and a Representative in Congress from the State of Arkansas
Madame Chairwoman, Thank you for holding this hearing. I know that we were originally scheduled to conduct a joint hearing with Chairman Snyder’s Subcommittee on Military Personnel but events at Walter Reed necessitated he change his focus for the moment, and rightly so.
Today we will hear from several witnesses on modernizing the GI Bill, especially as those benefits apply to members of the National Guard and Reserves. As you know, you and I are both original co-sponsors of Chairman Snyder’s HR 1102, and I look forward to working with you and my fellow Arkansan to craft changes that complement our ability to recruit and retain the forces we need while treating those who defend us fairly. That will not be an easy task, and today’s hearing is an important part of that process.
I suppose my basic approach is that you cannot retain someone you don’t recruit. So, a benefit must first attract someone to military service. Hopefully, once someone joins, aspects of military life such as comradeship, adventure, training, and just plain old patriotism will convince members to stay regardless of whether there are post-discharge benefits. For those who choose to leave, we should be wise enough to thank them profusely for their service and make them aware that they are always welcome back to the family.
Having said that, none of us on this dais can ignore the fiscal realities facing Congress. The question then becomes, is it fair to the taxpayers to pay more than needed to attract good people to military service? I would say that again, we must balance the levels of benefits with what is needed to recruit and retain members.
Madame Chairwoman, I am looking forward to hearing from today’s witnesses including Major General Wofford, the Adjutant General of the Arkansas National Guard. I found his written testimony particularly poignant and recommend it as a good read.