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Witness Testimony of Hon. Max Cleland, Secretary, American Battle Monuments Commission

Introduction

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee ...

Thank you for this opportunity to appear before you to discuss the American Battle Monuments Commission's Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriation Request.

Honoring our Nation's fallen has been the mission of our Commission since 1923. Our purpose was eloquently stated in 1934 by our first chairman, General of the Armies John J. Pershing, who promised that:

"Time will not dim the glory of their deeds."

We honor the fallen by commemorating the service, achievements and sacrifice of America's armed forces.

It is our responsibility to preserve for future generations the twenty-four cemeteries and twenty-five memorials, monuments and markers worldwide that have been entrusted to our care by the American people, to honor America's war dead, missing in action, and those that fought at their side.

We have an equally important responsibility to continue the historical narrative for those who created it-to tell their stories at each of our overseas cemeteries.

This imperative has never been more evident than over the past few weeks, when we lost Frank Buckles and Len Lomell to the passage of time.

Many have read the story of Frank Buckles in recent weeks. With his passing, at the age of 110, we lost our last Doughboy of World War l-our nation's living connection to the Great War.

Not as many Americans know of Len Lomell. I had the honor of meeting Len 15 months ago at his home in New Jersey. He exemplified the humble courage of our World War II generation, as he told me the story of Pointe du Hoc.

On D-Day, June 6th, 1944, Lomell was a first sergeant and acting platoon leader in D Company, 2nd Ranger Battalion. He climbed the 100-foot cliffs of Pointe du Hoc with his comrades, after already being wounded in the side by machine gun fire. Experiencing the death and wounding of many comrades, he continued to move forward.

Once at the top of the cliff, he began looking for the five 155-millimeter guns that could have decimated the American invasion forces on Omaha and Utah Beaches. The guns could not be found. Lomell and Jack Kuhn went looking for them.

Approximately one mile down a sunken road Lomell spotted the guns concealed under camouflage in an orchard. German soldiers located 100 meters away did not see them coming.

Lomell used silent thermite grenades on two of the guns. The incendiary compound poured out of the grenades like solder, hardening like a weld around the gears. Running back to the platoon to get more grenades, Lomell and Kuhn returned to destroy the remaining guns.

Historian Stephen Ambrose said that other than General Eisenhower, Lomell contributed most to the success of D-Day. Len was discharged in December 1945. He died two weeks ago at the age of 91. .

We had hoped to have Len with us at Pointe du Hoc this June—67th anniversary of D-Day—when we rededicate the Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument.

The monument and German Observation Bunker it sits upon had been dosed to the public since March 2001 because of cliff erosion. It was reopened this month, following completion of a project to stabilize the cliff and preserve this iconic site.

I will never forget the story Len shared with me, told not with bravado but with the matter-of-factness so typical of those who fought and won the Second World War. He will be in my thoughts on June 6th.

Our mission—our noble purpose—is to honor the service, achievements and sacrifice of those, like Frank Buckles and Len Lomell, who have served overseas in the United States armed forces since our entry into the First World War.

We execute that mission in part by maintaining our overseas cemeteries to a standard of excellence unparalleled for sites of their kind around the world.

Those whom we honor deserve nothing less.

The men and women buried in our overseas cemeteries and memorialized on our walls of the missing served and sacrificed so that we—and others—might live in peace and freedom. And they continue to serve today, as sentinels giving silent testimony to citizens of the world, of the values and principles for which we stand.

Telling Their Story

Maintaining our cemeteries and memorials to the highest of standards will always be the Commission's top priority. But an increasingly important priority is to do a better job of preserving and telling the stories of those honored within them.

We are making progress toward that end:

  • We have projects underway to improve the interpretive and visitor services at Cambridge, Sicily-Rome, Meuse-Argonne and Flanders Field American Cemeteries.
  • We are adding interpretive exhibits at Pointe du Hoc—our second most visited overseas site, surpassed only by Normandy American Cemetery and Vietnam battle maps to the Honolulu Memorial.
  • We are producing educational interactive programs on major U.S. campaigns of the world wars for our Web site.

Similar projects at our other cemeteries will follow as we adapt our visitor facilities, our Web site, and our message to the interests and demands of younger generations, for whom these important heritage sites and timeless lessons must remain relevant.

Our goal is to maintain the world's finest commemorative sites; and to provide our visitors, in person and online, the historical context for understanding why our overseas cemeteries were established, how and why those honored within them died, and the values and principles for which they died.

Appropriation Request

To execute this mission, our Fiscal Year 2012 request seeks $61 .1 million for our Salaries and Expenses Account and $16.0 million to replenish our Foreign Currency Fluctuation Account.

The $61.1 million we request for Salaries and Expenses supports Commission requirements for compensation and benefits; rent and utilities; maintenance, infrastructure, and capital improvements; contracting for services; procurement of supplies and materials; and replacement of equipment.

Our Salaries and Expenses request is $1 .6 million below the annualized funding provided by the current Continuing Resolution for FY 2011.

To support this level of effort our staffing requirement remains at 409 Full-Time Equivalent positions.

Most of the Commission's facilities range in age from 49 to 95 years old, with the Mexico City National Cemetery being nearly 160 years old. Care and maintenance of these aging heritage sites requires exceptionally intensive labor. Not surprisingly, compensation and benefits consume nearly half of the Commission's appropriations request.

The $16.0 million we need to replenish our Foreign Currency Fluctuation Account defrays losses resulting from changes in the value of foreign currencies against the U.S. Dollar, allowing us to maintain purchasing power in an uncertain financial environment—a critical factor when 70 percent of our annual appropriation is spent overseas.

In the summer of 2009, I began an initiative to simplify, streamline and support our mission operations. We have completed that transition. In the process we eliminated a redundant contract staff in our Washington headquarters, closed an unnecessary regional office in Rome, and centralized all overseas operations under a single administrative office in Paris.

Our agency is now streamlined into a Washington-based policy and support office and a Paris-based field operations center responsible for all overseas cemeteries and memorials. The new structure is standardizing operations at our 24 cemeteries, improving supervision of our cemeteries, providing new career growth opportunities for our superintendents, and positioning us for success in the 21st century.

And this summer we will implement a new Financial Management System that will enable us to more efficiently manage our financial resources.

Conclusion

The Commission's mission success hinges on our ability to perform three core functions: (1) keep the headstones white; (2) keep the grass green; and (3) tell the story of those we honor.

Our Fiscal Year 2012 request enables us to perform these core functions to a level of excellence that our war dead deserve and that the American people expect.

With the support of the Administration and the Congress, we do our part to meet the challenge posed by the words of the poet Archibald MacLeish:

" ... We leave you our deaths: give them their meaning ..:

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, we welcome your visits to our commemorative sites—to experience firsthand the inspiration they provide to all who walk those hallowed grounds.

Thank you again for allowing me to present this summary of our mission operations and our appropriation request.

This concludes my prepared statement. I will be pleased to respond to your questions.


Total Budget Authority Requested for Fiscal Year 2012

The American Battle Monuments Commission requests $77,100,000 in total budget authority for fiscal year (FY) 2012 to provide funding for Salaries and Expenses and the

Foreign Currency Fluctuation Account.

  FY2010
Appropriation
FY2011
Annualized CR
 FY2012
Request
Change
Salaries & Expenses $62,675,000 $62,675,000 $61,100,000 ($1 ,575,000)
Foreign Currency $20,200,000 $16,000,000 $16,000,000 $0
Total $82,875,000 $78,675,000 $77,100,000 ($1 ,575,000)
Full-Time Equivalent employment 409 409 409 0

Salaries and Expenses Request

The Commission's FY 2012 budget request for salaries and expenses of $61,100,000 is $1,575,000 below the annualized funding provided by the current Continuing Resolution (P.L. 111-242, as amended) for FY 2011. Adjustments to the Commission's budget request are shown below:

FY 2011 -Annualized Level under the Continuing Resolution  $62,675,000
Adjustments:

Notes

   
Salaries and Benefits 1 $578,000  
Utilities, Services and Cemetery Supplies 2  $1,491,000  
Maintenance and Infrastructure Programs 3 ($3,644,000)  
Total Adjustments      ($1,575,000)
FY 2012 Budget Request     $61,100,000

Notes:

1 Increase for Salaries and Benefits for the expenses of overseas employees; estimates include a pay freeze in effect for FY 2011 and FY 2012.

2 Net Increase for Utilities, Contractual Services and Cemetery Supplies offset by reductions in Rent, Travel, Transportation, payments to the Department of State, etc.

3 Decrease in the Maintenance and Infrastructure Programs at ABfI..1C cemeteries and monuments.

Foreign Currency Fluctuation Account Request

The FY 2012 budget request to replenish its Foreign Currency Fluctuation Account is estimated to be $16,000,000. This funding is required to retain the Commission's buying power against currency losses, primarily against the European Euro.