(Extensions of Remarks - December 21, 2012)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E1998-E1999]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                            FISCAL YEAR 2013


                               speech of

                        HON. WILLIAM R. KEATING

                            of massachusetts

                    in the house of representatives

                      Thursday, December 20, 2012

  Mr. KEATING. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank Ranking Member Smith 
and Chairman McKeon in reaching an agreement on the proposed Air Force 
structure changes for FY13 in the conference report on H.R. 4310. Since 
the Air Force's original proposal in February, I, along with a number 
of my colleagues in the Massachusetts delegation, have been concerned 
over the future of the 102nd Air Operation Group within my district. 
The work of these Guardsmen at the historic Otis Air National Guard 
Base on Cape Cod is critical in supporting active duty Air Force 
members in a joint 24/7/365 intelligence, surveillance, and 
reconnaissance mission. The work that is completed at Otis has the 
direct impact of saving the lives of Americans overseas, and it is all 
done locally, in a cost-effective manner. Not many Guard bases have the 
training or infrastructure to support such concentrated day to day 
activities, but the men and women of Otis greatly contribute to 
Massachusetts' widely understood reputation as the ``brain state'' 
through their education and specialized training. Their work is further 
supported by an extensive network of communications infrastructure and 
technology. Otis is also a part of the larger Massachusetts Military 
Reservation, which employs an efficient State and Federal base model to 
share responsibilities, labor, and costs associated with the base among 

[[Page E1999]]

Air Force, Air Guard, Army Guard, Coast Guard, and the Department of 
Homeland Security. It would have been a sad turn of events and complete 
waste of national resources and defense assets if this unit were to be 
eliminated. For this reason, I was pleased to learn that after numerous 
letters and meetings with both Air Force and Air National Guard 
officials, the Air Force came to the same conclusion in regard to the 
loss of these men and women. Following a careful review of its original 
proposal, the Air Force updated its recommendations in November and 
included the restoration of 141 positions within the 102nd Air 
Operations Group. This conference report will now bring this 
recommendation to life and grant not only the heroes at Otis with the 
job security that they deserve, but our Nation with the adequate 
defense that it has been promised.
  I would also like to take a moment to thank the conferees for their 
work in regard to a small provision that will have a big impact on the 
descendants of the over 5,000 African-American patriots who fought for 
independence and freedom during the Revolutionary War. This provision 
will authorize the National Mall Liberty Fund to establish a memorial 
in Washington, D.C. to honor the service and sacrifice of these brave 
men and their families. Massachusetts alone was home to 31 percent of 
the 5,000 known African American soldiers. Only 1,174 of the 1,550 are 
connected by birth, enlistment, or residence to a municipality, 
including 60 patriots from 10 towns in Barnstable County in my 
district. Sandwich (17), Falmouth (12), Barnstable (9), and Harwich (6) 
had the highest numbers. Many more could be unaccounted for and are 
awaiting discovery. I am confident that through the establishment of 
this fully-funded memorial many more heroic tales surrounding the 
African-American Revolutionary War heroes honored will come to light 
and further contribute to our Nation's history and legacy.
  Finally, the conference report includes the reauthorization of the 
Assistance to Firefighter Grant (AFG) program, which is composed of the 
FIRE and SAFER grant programs. As the Ranking Member of the Homeland 
Security Comittee's Oversight, Investigations and Management 
subcommittee I have witnessed firsthand the impact of these grants in 
improving the equipment and training of career, volunteer, and 
combination fire departments. Many fire departments throughout the 
Commonwealth, particularly in Fall River and New Bedford, where aging, 
industrial infrastructure remains particularly prone to fires, rely on 
these funds. Just this summer, I was able to work with my delegation to 
help secure a SAFER grant for Fall River Fire Department, which 
reinstated the jobs of 79 firefighters. A number of fire houses across 
the country are now waiting for a new round of funding to keep their 
doors open to the communities that they protect. This reauthorization 
is the first step in helping to do this, but I urge this body to act 
swiftly in setting aside the appropriate funding for the AFG program to 
keep the firefighters who risk their lives each day, employed and ready 
to assist.