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108th Congress                                                   Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session                                                    108-199

======================================================================



 
                NATIONAL CEMETERY EXPANSION ACT OF 2003

                                _______
                                

 July 10, 2003.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the 
              State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

   Mr. Smith of New Jersey, from the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 1516]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

  The Committee on Veterans' Affairs, to whom was referred the 
bill (H.R. 1516) to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to 
establish a national cemetery for veterans in southeastern 
Pennsylvania, having considered the same, reports favorably 
thereon with amendments and recommends that the bill as amended 
do pass.

  The amendments are as follows:
  Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the 
following:

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``National Cemetery Expansion Act of 
2003''.

SEC. 2. ESTABLISHMENT OF NEW NATIONAL CEMETERIES.

    (a) Establishment.--Not later than four years after the date of the 
enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, in accordance 
with chapter 24 of title 38, United States Code, shall establish five 
new national cemeteries. The new cemeteries shall be located in the 
following locations (those locations having been determined by the 
Secretary of Veterans Affairs to be the most appropriate locations for 
new national cemeteries):
          (1) Southeastern Pennsylvania.
          (2) The Birmingham, Alabama, area.
          (3) The Jacksonville, Florida, area.
          (4) The Bakersfield, California, area.
          (5) The Greenville/Columbia, South Carolina, area.
    (b) Funds.--Amounts appropriated for the Department of Veterans 
Affairs for any fiscal year after fiscal year 2003 for Advance Planning 
shall be available for the purposes of subsection (a).
    (c) Site Selection Process.--In determining the specific sites for 
the new cemeteries required by subsection (a) within the locations 
specified in that subsection, the Secretary shall solicit the advice 
and views of representatives of State and local veterans organizations 
and other individuals as the Secretary considers appropriate.
    (d) Initial Report.--Not later than 120 days after the date of the 
enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit to Congress a report 
on the establishment of the national cemeteries required by subsection 
(a). The report shall--
          (1) set forth a schedule for the establishment of each such 
        cemetery and an estimate of the costs associated with the 
        establishment of each such cemetery; and
          (2) identify the amount of Advance Planning Funds obligated 
        for purposes of this section as of the submission of the 
        report.
    (e) Annual Reports.--The Secretary shall submit to Congress an 
annual report on the implementation of this section until the 
establishment of all five cemeteries is completed and each such 
cemetery has opened. The Secretary shall include in each such annual 
report an update of the information provided under paragraphs (1) and 
(2) of subsection (d).
    (f) Definition of Southeastern Pennsylvania.--In this section, the 
term ``southeastern Pennsylvania'' means the city of Philadelphia and 
Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, 
Philadelphia County, and Montgomery County in the State of 
Pennsylvania.

    Amend the title so as to read:

    A bill to provide for the establishment by the Secretary of 
Veterans Affairs of five additional cemeteries in the National Cemetery 
System.

                              Introduction

    The reported bill reflects the Committee's consideration of 
H.R. 1516, introduced on March 31, 2003, by Honorable Jim 
Gerlach and Honorable Joseph M. Hoeffel.
    On June 11, 2003, the Subcommittee on Benefits held a 
hearing on eight bills, among them H.R. 1516, to direct the 
Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a national cemetery 
for veterans in southeastern Pennsylvania.
    On June 25, 2003, the Subcommittee on Benefits met and 
unanimously ordered H.R. 1516, as amended, reported favorably 
to the full Committee.
    On June 26, 2003, the full Committee met and ordered H.R. 
1516, as amended, reported favorably to the House by unanimous 
voice vote.

                      Summary of the Reported Bill

    H.R. 1516, as amended, would:

    1. Direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish, 
not later than four years after the date of enactment, five new 
national cemeteries in the following areas: southeastern 
Pennsylvania; Birmingham, Alabama; Jacksonville, Florida; 
Bakersfield, California; and Greenville/Columbia, South 
Carolina.

    2. Direct the Secretary to use Advance Planning Funds for 
the establishment of the new cemeteries.

    3. Direct the Secretary, in determining the specific sites 
for the new cemeteries, to solicit the advice of 
representatives of State and local veterans organizations and 
other individuals as the Secretary considers appropriate.

    4. Require the Secretary to submit a report to Congress 
within 120 days of enactment setting forth the five areas where 
those cemeteries will be established, a schedule for 
establishment, the estimated cost associated with 
establishment, and the amount of Advance Planning Funds 
obligated for this purpose.

    5. Require the Secretary to submit to Congress an annual 
report that updates the information included in the initial 
report until the five cemeteries are completed.

                       Background and Discussion

    Establishment of new national cemeteries.--Section 2(a) of 
the bill would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to 
establish, not later than four years after the date of 
enactment of this Act, five new national cemeteries in the 
following areas: southeastern Pennsylvania; Birmingham, 
Alabama; Jacksonville, Florida; Bakersfield, California; and 
Greenville/Columbia, South Carolina. The Committee intends that 
the cemetery in southeastern Pennsylvania will be readily 
accessible to veterans in southwestern New Jersey. The 
Committee expects the Secretary to be sensitive to the concerns 
of veterans and the local population in the designated areas.
    In July of 1862, Congress enacted legislation authorizing 
the President to purchase ``cemetery grounds to be used as 
national cemeteries for soldiers who shall have died in the 
service of the country.'' That year, fourteen cemeteries were 
established. The words spoken by President Abraham Lincoln at 
the dedication of the national cemetery at Gettysburg set the 
perspective: ``We cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we 
cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who 
struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to 
add or detract.''
    The National Cemetery Administration (NCA) maintains almost 
2.5 million gravesites at 124 national cemeteries in 39 states, 
the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Of these, 61 have 
available, unassigned gravesites for burial of both casketed 
and cremated remains; 26 will only accept cremated remains and 
the remains of family members for internment in the same 
gravesite as a previously deceased family member; and 33 are 
closed to new internments, but may accommodate family members 
in the same gravesite as a previously deceased family member.
    Occupied graves maintained by NCA are projected to increase 
from 2,380,500 in fiscal year 2000 to almost 3 million in 2008. 
VA is continuing to develop new cemeteries in areas not 
presently served by a veterans' cemetery, including national 
cemeteries, Atlanta, Georgia; Detroit, Michigan; Fort Sill, 
Oklahoma; Miami, Florida; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and 
Sacramento, California.
    Section 613 of Public Law 106-117, the Veterans Millennium 
Health Care and Benefits Act, required VA to contract for an 
assessment of the current and future burial needs of the 
nation's veterans. VA awarded the contract to Logistics 
Management Institute (LMI). Volume 1 of the study, entitled 
``Future Burial Needs,'' reviewed current and future burial 
needs of veterans and identified areas of the country where new 
national cemeteries might be constructed. According to existing 
VA planning guidelines, VA should establish cemeteries as 
needed to provide service to 90 percent of veterans within 75 
miles of their homes. The study projected burial needs in 5-
year increments to the year 2020, and discussed the costs of 
establishing a new cemetery. It was based upon data from the 
1990 census; in June, 2003, VA updated the burial needs report 
to reflect the veterans' population from the 2000 census. As a 
result of the study, several areas of need were identified. The 
five areas listed in the bill are the areas most in need that 
cannot be served through expansion of an existing national 
cemetery or through establishment of a state cemetery using 
federal grant funds.

                      Section-By-Section Analysis

    Section 1 of the bill would provide that this Act is to be 
cited as the ``National Cemetery Expansion Act of 2003''.

    Section 2(a) of the bill would require the Secretary of 
Veterans Affairs to establish, not later than four years after 
the date of the enactment of this Act, five new national 
cemeteries. The new cemeteries shall be located in the 
following locations (those locations having been determined by 
the Secretary to be the most appropriate locations for new 
national cemeteries): southeastern Pennsylvania; the 
Birmingham, Alabama, area; the Jacksonville, Florida, area; the 
Bakersfield, California, area; and the Greenville/Columbia, 
South Carolina, area.

    Section 2(b) of the bill would make available amounts 
appropriated for the Department of Veterans Affairs for any 
fiscal year after fiscal year 2003 for Advance Planning shall 
be available for the purposes of subsection (a).

    Section 2(c) of the bill would require the Secretary, in 
determining the specific sites for the new cemeteries required 
by subsection (a), to solicit the advice and views of 
representatives of State and local veterans organizations and 
other individuals as the Secretary considers appropriate.

    Section 2(d) of the bill would require the Secretary to 
submit a report, not later than 120 days after date of 
enactment, on the establishment of the national cemeteries 
required by subsection (a). The report would (1) set forth a 
schedule for the establishment of each such cemetery and an 
estimate of the cost associated with the establishment of each 
such cemetery; and (2) identify the amount of Advance Planning 
Funds obligated for purposes of this section as of the 
submission of the report.

    Section 2(e) of the bill would require the Secretary to 
submit to Congress an annual report on the implementation of 
this section until the establishment of all five cemeteries is 
completed and each cemetery has opened. The Secretary would be 
required to include in each annual report an update of the 
information provided in the initial report as required in 
subsection (d).

    Section 2(f) of the bill would define the term 
``southeastern Pennsylvania'' as the city of Philadelphia and 
Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, 
Philadelphia County, and Montgomery County in the State of 
Pennsylvania.

                    Performance Goals and Objectives

    The reported bill would authorize establishment of new 
national cemeteries under laws administered by the Secretary of 
Veterans Affairs. The performance goals and objectives of 
national cemeteries administered by the National Cemetery 
Administration are established in annual performance plans and 
are subject to the Committee's regular oversight.

              Statement of the Views of the Administration

  Statement of Robert J. Epley, Associate Deputy Under Secretary for 
   Policy and Program Management, Veterans Benefits Administration, 
Department of Veterans Affairs, Before the House Committee on Veterans' 
            Affairs, Subcommittee on Benefits, June 11, 2003

    Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the 
opportunity to testify today on several legislative items of interest 
to veterans. Accompanying me today is John H. Thompson, Deputy General 
Counsel.
                             * * * * * * *

                               h.r. 1516

    H.R. 1516 would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to 
establish within four years a national cemetery to serve veterans and 
their families in southeastern Pennsylvania. It would also direct the 
Secretary to consult with appropriate Federal, State, and local 
officials and representatives of veterans service organizations before 
selecting the site for the cemetery and would allow the Governor of 
Pennsylvania to establish a panel to make a recommendation to the 
Secretary concerning the selection of the site. In addition, it would 
direct the Secretary to submit a report to Congress setting forth a 
schedule and cost estimate for the establishment of the national 
cemetery.
    VA is aware that not all of America's veterans and their families 
have easy and convenient access to a national cemetery. In the Veterans 
Millennium Health Care and Benefits Act, Congress directed VA to 
identify areas of the country with the greatest concentration of 
veterans who do not have reasonable access to a burial option in a 
national or state veterans cemetery. Substantial documentation exists 
to demonstrate that 80 percent of burials in national cemeteries 
involve individuals who resided within 75 miles of the cemetery. VA has 
determined that a veteran population of 170,000 within a 75-mile 
service radius would be an appropriate threshold for the establishment 
of a new national cemetery.
    VA notes that the New Jersey state veterans cemetery is not 
available to Pennsylvania veterans and that, under current conditions, 
the Beverly National Cemetery in New Jersey will become unavailable for 
new burials much sooner than we had expected. We also determined that 
Monroe County, Pennsylvania should be included in the Philadelphia area 
service area. These circumstances, coupled with updated data on veteran 
demographics, lead to a conclusion that there are 170,000 or more 
veterans living in southeast Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, who 
do not have adequate access to a burial option within 75 miles that 
would provide appropriate honor for their service as veterans of the 
Armed Forces of the United States.
    Consequently, VA supports the concept of H.R. 1516 and will 
prioritize the construction of a Philadelphia area cemetery within 2005 
budgetary resources.
    Based on our experience, there are several steps involved in 
establishing a new national cemetery. Depending on the size of the 
project, the cost of these steps can range from $100,000 to $250,000 
for environmental compliance; $3 million to $6 million for land 
acquisition, if required; $1 million to $2 million for master planning 
and design; and $15 million to $25 million for construction. Even with 
an aggressive schedule, it generally takes 4\1/2\ to 5 years to open a 
cemetery to initial burials. The average annual operational costs of a 
new national cemetery range between $1 million and $2 million, without 
consideration of headstones and grave liners, which are purchased 
through mandatory funding.

                             * * * * * * *

               Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate

    The following letter was received from the Congressional 
Budget Office concerning the cost of the reported bill:

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               Congressional Budget Office,
                                       Washington, DC, July 1, 2003
Hon. Christopher H. Smith
Chairman, Committee on Veterans' Affairs,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC

    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 1516, the National 
Cemetery Expansion Act of 2003.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contacts are Dwayne M. 
Wright and Melissa E. Zimmerman, who can be reached at 226-
2840.

            Sincerely,
                                       Douglas Holtz-Eakin,
                                                           Director
    Enclosure.

               Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate

           H.R. 1516--National Cemetery Expansion Act of 2003

As ordered reported by the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs on June 
                                26, 2003

Summary
    H.R. 1516 would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs 
(VA) to establish new national cemeteries for deceased veterans 
located in southeastern Pennsylvania, the Birmingham, Alabama 
area, the Jacksonville, Florida area, the Bakersfield, 
California area, and the Greenville/Columbia, South Carolina 
area. CBO estimates that implementing the bill would cost $9 
million in 2004 and $78 million over the 2004-2008 period, 
assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts. The bill would 
not affect direct spending or receipts.
    H.R. 1516 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) 
and would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal 
governments.
Estimated cost to the federal government
    The estimated budgetary impact of H.R. 1516 is shown in the 
following table. The estimate assumes that H.R. 1516 will be 
enacted by October 1, 2003, and that the necessary amounts will 
be appropriated for each year. The costs of this legislation 
fall within budget function 700 (veterans benefits and 
services).



                                                                      By Fiscal Year, in Millions of Dollars
                                                                 -----------------------------------------------
                                                                   2003    2004    2005    2006    2007    2008
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                  CHANGES IN SPENDING SUBJECT TO APPROPRIATION
Estimated Authorization Level...................................       0      35       0      18       0      75
Estimated Outlays...............................................       0       9      26       9       9      25
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------




Basis of estimate
    Based on information from VA about the costs of cemeteries 
currently under construction, CBO estimates that the planning 
and construction of these five new national cemeteries would 
require appropriation of $128 million over the 2004-2008 
period. According to VA, it takes about five years, on average, 
to establish a new national cemetery. In 2004, costs of about 
$35 million would stem from environmental impact studies and 
the acquisition of the needed land. Absent information from VA, 
CBO assumes that all of the land for these cemeteries would 
have to be purchased (land donations would decrease the cost of 
acquisition). The subsequent planning, design, and preparation 
of specifications for the five cemeteries would take about two 
years and would cost about $18 million. CBO estimates that 
appropriations of about $75 million would be necessary in 2008 
for cemetery construction, and that the resulting outlays would 
occur over a three-year period. Thus, CBO estimates that 
implementing the bill would cost $9 million in 2004 and $78 
million over the 2004-2008 period, assuming appropriation of 
the necessary amounts.
Intergovernmental and private-sector impact
    H.R. 1516 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in UMRA and would impose no costs on state, 
local, or tribal governments.
Estimate prepared by:
    Federal Costs: Dwayne M. Wright and Melissa E. Zimmerman 
(226-2840)
    Impact on State, Local, and Tribal Governments: Gregory 
Waring (225-3220)
    Impact on the Private Sector: Allison Percy (226-2900)
Estimated approved by:
    Paul R. Cullinan
    Chief for Human Resources Cost Estimates Unit
    Budget Analysis Division

                     Statement of Federal Mandates

    The preceding Congressional Budget Office cost estimate 
states that the bill contains no intergovernmental or private 
sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.

                 Statement of Constitutional Authority

    Pursuant to Article I, section 8 of the United States 
Constitution, the reported bill is authorized by Congress' 
power to ``provide for the common Defense and general Welfare 
of the United States.''