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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                         (Camp David, Maryland)
For Immediate Release                                      July 13, 2000


Today I have signed into law H.R. 4425, the Military Construction Appropriations Act, FY 2001, Emergency Supplemental Act, FY 2000, and Cerro Grande Fire Supplemental, which provides funding for military construction and family housing programs of the Department of Defense (DoD), and urgently needed supplemental resources.

I am gratified that my Administration and the Congress were able to reach agreement on the FY 2000 supplemental legislation included in H.R. 4425. This important supplemental appropriation provides urgently needed resources to keep the peace and build stability in Kosovo, bolster democracy and reform elsewhere in Southeast Europe, support the Colombian government's fight against drug traffickers, provide needed home energy assistance for low-income families, provide further assistance to the victims of Hurricane Floyd and other natural disasters, including the crisis in Mozambique, and for other purposes.

I commend the Congress for providing the critical resources needed to continue our support for Plan Colombia, President Pastrana's strategy to address Colombia's national security, socioeconomic, and drug-related problems. The $1.3 billion provided underscores our commitment to support the fight against drug traffickers and benefits the United States by bringing greater peace and prosperity to an important American ally.

Nonetheless, I am concerned that certain provisions of the bill will limit the effectiveness of our assistance. Key initiatives, such as ground-based radar, secure field communications, and force protection are funded at levels below my request. Furthermore, the Congress substituted its own judgement for that of the U.S. and Colombian militaries, and provided funding for only 16 of the 30 Blackhawk helicopters requested for the Colombian Army, providing instead funding for 30 Huey II helicopters. The substitution of Huey IIs for Blackhawks creates logistical and pilot training problems for an already stretched infrastructure in Colombia, and fields a significantly less capable helicopter for the counterdrug mission.

I am pleased that the bill fully funds our request for military operations in Kosovo. We will work to ensure that the additional resources for readiness, military personnel, natural disaster recovery, defense healthcare, fuel, equipment upgrades, and intelligence support high priority activities within the Department of Defense.

I am disappointed that the bill does not include funding I requested for U.N. peacekeeping operations in the region, requested security and operational needs for embassies in Kosovo, or assistance for economic and democratic reforms in the region. The U.N. mission in Kosovo is performing an extraordinarily difficult but essential task of overseeing civilian administration until the people of Kosovo are able to assume that responsibility themselves. Secure facilities are needed in Kosovo to ensure the security of our employees serving U.S. interests and working to achieve lasting peace in the region. The requested funds support essential civilian infrastructure that would facilitate a prudent exit strategy for Kosovo and achieve long-term stability in the Balkans.

I am also disappointed that the bill does not include requested funding for the multilateral Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt reduction initiative. Debt relief is both a moral imperative and good economics. Each year, most countries eligible for the HIPC initiative spend more on foreign debt service than on health. In many, one in ten children dies before his or her first birthday, one in three is malnourished, the average adult has had only 3 years of schooling, and HIV infection rates are as high as 20 percent. The failure of the Congress to provide this funding will result in delays in imple-menting debt reduction for qualifying countries, especially those in Latin America that have implemented far-reaching economic reforms. Similarly, while I am pleased that the Congress provided some funding for reconstruction assistance to Mozambique and the other Southern African countries devastated by recent flooding, these countries require additional assistance to recover from natural disasters and continue their progress in implementing economic and democratic reforms.

I am disappointed that requested funding was not provided for a number of other important programs including:

I am pleased that the bill provides $40 million included in our agreement with the Government of Puerto Rico related to the Navy training facility on the island of Vieques. This will be used for projects that will meet the health, environmental, and economic concerns of the residents as well as fund the referendum to determine the range's future.

I am especially pleased that this legislation includes over $300 million in relief funds for Hurricane Floyd and other natural disasters. It also includes $600 million I requested for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. This funding will provide needed assistance for low-income families.

The bill provides $661 million to address the consequences of the fires in Los Alamos, New Mexico, as well as $350 million for firefighting activities.

While the Congress dropped most of the objectionable riders from the bill, regrettably, the Congress has included several objectionable language provisions:

I am pleased that the Congress has decided not to include statutory language that would have interfered with the Department of the Army's management of the Army Corps of Engineers. The proposed legislative rider would have prevented the Secretary of the Army from clarifying the proper relationship between senior Corps of Engineers officials and the appointed civilian officials of the Army who have responsibility for overseeing the Corps of Engineers' activities. It is important and appropriate that the Congress has retained for these civilian officials, who are confirmed by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, the means to ensure a clear chain of command necessary for effective organization performance. Weakening this relationship statu-torily would raise serious constitutional issues that extend to civilian-military relationships far beyond the Corps of Engineers. I am concerned, however, about language included in the Conference Statement of the Managers setting out certain conditions related to these management issues. As this language does not prevent the Army from proceeding with management improvements, to the extent the Congress has requested additional consultation, this request will be fully honored. The Congress has also requested that the Army not move forward with these clarifying improvements until ongoing investigations regarding the Army Corps of Engineers are made available and considered. We take this language to refer to the Army Inspector General's investigation of matters related to the Upper Mississippi study, which is the only investigation the Army has underway regarding the Corps of Engineers. I am directing the Secretary of the Army to review potential implications of the Inspector General's investigation for the proposed reforms, to take them into account if relevant, and to consult with the Congress about these investigations as he proceeds with his management improvements.

The Act funds the vast majority of my request for military construction projects, the military housing program, and other quality-of-life projects for our military personnel and their families. The requested projects are critical to supporting military readiness and the quality of life of our soldiers and their families. However, I have several concerns with the bill:

Today, I am designating as emergency requirements the funds -- with two exceptions -- in the Act that the Congress has so designated. The exceptions are for the Department of Health and Human Services Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Department of the Interior Wildland Fire Management program. The emergency designations are necessary so that urgently needed funds are available for critical needs.


                              THE WHITE HOUSE,
                              July 13, 2000.

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