Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 30th
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Town Hall with Congressman Sam Farr

SamFarrNewThe death of Osama bin Laden has initiated a conversation about our role in Afghanistan and the money that has been spent. Are you in favor of reducing defense spending? If so, by how much?

The death of Osama bin Laden not only landed a major blow against threats posed by al-Qaeda, but it gave comfort and some sense of closure to thousands of families that were affected by the devastating 9/11 attacks. And for the hundreds of thousands of soldiers that have unflinchingly marched into countless battles in Afghanistan, it gave them a renewed sense of pride and purpose for their service and sacrifice.

Our country met the news with a collective sigh of relief, but it is clear that protecting our nation against violent extremism is not over. But after a decade of fighting in Afghanistan, and nation building in Iraq and intervening in other hot spots in the Middle East, it is time we learn from our past.

The valuable lesson we have learned is that any serious national security strategy must see past military confirmation, and look to uplift the communities that are breeding extremism at home and around the world. That means reevaluating and reprioritizing defense spending to reflect a foreign policy strategy that is actively engaged in winning hearts and minds, and not just dropping bombs.

Last week, the House voted on the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes $690 billion in defense spending. While the bill contains important funding allocations to protect our men and women in uniform, if falls far short of steering our nation in a new course of sustainable peace.

At a time of deep budget cuts targeting the safety nets for seniors and the disadvantaged, it is only fair that we also look at the high price tag of defense spending. Our current path is not only unsustainable at home, but also shortsighted in securing long-term security threats abroad.

I continue to have hope that our nation will shift its course, end its military engagements, and finally seek to address the root causes of the threats facing our nation.

We just celebrated Memorial Day. What is congress doing to help memorialize the men and women who have given their lives for our country?

I have always believed that our nation has an obligation to honor the sacrifice and commitment made by generations of men and women in uniform that have fought to protect our nation’s ideals and way of life. For that reason, I have worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Central Coast veterans to make the dream of the Fort Ord Veterans Cemetery a reality.

After years of facing budgetary and policy roadblocks, that included constant negotiations bouncing back from D.C. to Sacramento to the Central Coast, the Fort Ord Veterans Cemetery now has a roadmap with a potential path of starting construction as early as September 2012. Even though we have not yet crossed the finished line, and tough work still lies ahead, the great progress we have made gives me hope that this dream will in fact soon be a reality for thousands of dedicated veterans who have worked to give their fellow soldiers the final resting place worthy of their service.

Memorial Day allows us an opportunity to honor and remember our fallen heroes. But as our country continues to be engaged in a war in Afghanistan, actively involved in Iraq, and selectively intervening in Libya, Memorial Day also reminds us of our ongoing responsibility to honor our returning soldiers.

Last week, I was proud to cast my vote in support of the Restoring GI Bill Fairness Act, which will give young veterans the opportunity to pursue higher education and the tools to build successful lives after their unwavering service. I am also happy to report that the Department of Veterans Affairs will provide additional support to injured veterans through the New Family Caregiver Program, which will give veterans the resources to receive care in their homes.

Being a member of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee has also given me the platform to continue to champion the cause of veterans through the most direct vehicle for increasing funding for veteran programs.

From the skies of Libya to the urban battlefields of Baghdad and Kabul, brave Americans have pledged to sacrifice and risk their lives for our country, and to never leave a fellow soldier behind. On Memorial Day, and everyday, let it be our continued pledge that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind.

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