Wednesday, October 27, 2021

These are the people whose lives our nation is spending

A letter is now circulating within the Virginia delegation regarding your request for $400 million in additional aid for America’s wildfires.

While we applaud your courageous work to address this national emergency, however, our letter asks that you consider forgoing the requested funds to save one billion dollars on your weapons programs and vastly improve the safety of U.S. troops.

Additionally, we ask that you increase the personal, morale and readiness of U.S. military forces who are risking their lives, career and patriotism to effectively fight the fires and secure the border – by providing personnel to fight and recover from the devastating wildfires and ensuring military personnel who are coming home from this grueling and highly visible task are receiving the benefits that they have earned.

There are also many communities that rely on jobs generated by the military and military contractors to support their families and local economies. While there is no denying the terrible damage and loss of life that these fires have wrought, there is no better place to provide these paychecks and benefits than at the back of our country.

These “farms of steel” are the only defense the American military has right now and it is completely irresponsible to put human lives at risk for the construction of your missiles and bombs.

Background

The Mid-Atlantic region is enduring one of the most devastating wildfire seasons in its history. It is the most expensive wildfire season on record and has burned more than 1,300,000 acres across the continental United States in July and August.

In 2018, Virginia recorded 639 wildfires that burned a total of more than 100,000 acres. Already, these 2018 wildfires destroyed 64 homes, 11 businesses and 15 significant structures throughout Virginia. In the first week of July 2019, the Mid-Atlantic region has experienced a total of 93 wildfires that burned a total of 157,000 acres.

States like Virginia and Colorado and more recently Arizona have joined New Mexico, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah in requesting additional assistance to deal with the unprecedented damages from these devastating wildfires.

In June of 2018, in response to the increasing amount of acreage burned, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) declared a major disaster for Wildland Complex Fires in 16 states. The disaster designation meant that victims of the Mid-Atlantic states’ wildfires would receive direct financial relief.

Approximately 76,000 acres in Virginia, has been consumed by wildfire to date.

Background: Virginia State Police Major General Stephen W B. Flaherty, State Fire Marshal Julie A. Mohler, and NPS Fire Marshal Corey P. Fulford stated:

The overwhelming and unprecedented costs associated with the wildfires and resulting emergency response in the Mid-Atlantic have forced many communities across the region to make budget-busting decisions for meeting critical government needs. For counties that are using emergencies to address budget shortfalls, they are cutting services and critical staff.

To be able to mitigate the human costs of the Mid-Atlantic wildfires, it is our understanding that there are three possible options:

Vetoes . We understand that given the troubling circumstances that have impacted the wildfire relief, the President may simply choose to reject some of these appropriations. We do not believe this is a responsible way to address this crisis. Instead, we urge the President to come to his senses and approve the significant funding request.

. We understand that given the troubling circumstances that have impacted the wildfire relief, the President may simply choose to reject some of these appropriations. We do not believe this is a responsible way to address this crisis. Instead, we urge the President to come to his senses and approve the significant funding request. Clarifications of current appropriations . This option allows any provision of appropriations added by Congress in future years to be applicable to the current disasters. Of course, once the Administration has time to review the changes made to law that would allow this change, the President may ultimately veto funding for areas previously designated as military controlled. But in the immediate context of providing funding for combat operations, the change is beneficial and in some cases critical to reducing funding problems. The alternative to this change is to use existing funds and additional funding for the Mid-Atlantic where there are large operating deficits.

. This option allows any provision of appropriations added by Congress in future years to be applicable to the current disasters. Of course, once the Administration has time to review the changes made to law that would allow this change, the President may ultimately veto funding for areas previously designated as military controlled. But in the immediate context of providing funding for combat operations, the change is beneficial and in some cases critical to reducing funding problems. The alternative to this change is to use existing funds and additional funding for the Mid-Atlantic where there are large operating deficits. Emergency Supplemental Arrangements . When a

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