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                                                       Calendar No. 307
108th Congress                                                   Report
                                 SENATE
 1st Session                                                    108-164
======================================================================
 
                NATIONAL CEMETERY EXPANSION ACT OF 2003

                                _______
                                

                October 14, 2003.--Ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

  Mr. Specter, from the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, submitted the 
                               following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 1516]

    The Committee on Veterans' Affairs (hereinafter, 
``Committee''), to which was referred the bill (H.R. 1516) to 
provide for the establishment by the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs of five additional cemeteries in the National Cemetery 
Administration, having considered the same, reports favorably 
thereon with an amendment, and an amendment to the title, and 
recommends that the bill, as amended, do pass.

                              INTRODUCTION

    On March 31, 2003, Representative Jim Gerlach introduced 
H.R. 1516, a bill to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs 
to establish a national cemetery in southeastern Pennsylvania. 
H.R. 1516 was amended and ordered reported from the House 
Committee on Veterans' Affairs on July 10, 2003. It 
subsequently was passed by the House of Representatives on July 
21, 2003, by a vote of 408-0. On July 22, 2003, H.R. 1516 was 
received in the Senate and referred to the Senate Committee on 
Veterans' Affairs.
    On June 18, 2003, Committee Ranking Member Graham 
introduced S. 1282, a bill to require the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs to establish national cemeteries for geographically 
underserved populations of veterans, and for other purposes. 
Senators Bill Nelson and Jeff Sessions were original cosponsors 
of S. 1282. The bill was referred to the Committee on Veteran's 
Affairs.

                           COMMITTEE HEARING

    On July 10, 2003, the Committee held a hearing to receive 
testimony on, among other things, S. 1282. Testimony was heard 
from: The Honorable Daniel L. Cooper, Under Secretary for 
Benefits, Department of Veterans Affairs (hereinafter, ``VA''); 
Mr. Craig W. Duehring, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of 
Defense for Reserve Affairs, Department of Defense; Mr. Phillip 
R. Wilkerson, Deputy Manager of Operations and Training, 
Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division, The American 
Legion; Mr. Dennis Cullinan, Director, National Legislative 
Service, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States; Mr. 
Rick Surratt, Deputy National Legislative Director, Disabled 
American Veterans; Mr. Carl Blake, Associate Legislative 
Director, Paralyzed Veterans of America; and Mr. Richard Jones, 
National Legislative Director, AMVETS.

                           COMMITTEE MEETING

    After carefully reviewing the testimony from the foregoing 
hearing, the Committee met in open session on September 30, 
2003, and voted by unanimous voice vote to report favorably 
H.R. 1516, as amended, to include an original provision. 
Present were Senators Specter, Campbell, Lindsey Graham, 
Ensign, Rockefeller, Akaka, Jeffords, and Miller.

               SUMMARY OF THE COMMITTEE BILL AS REPORTED

    1. Section 2(a) of H.R. 1516 as Reported (hereinafter, 
``Committee bill'') would direct the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs to establish, within four years of enactment, six 
national cemeteries. The cemeteries to be established are to be 
located in Southeastern Pennsylvania; the Birmingham, Alabama, 
area; the Jacksonville, Florida, area; the Bakersfield, 
California, area; the Greenville/Columbia, South Carolina area; 
and the Sarasota County, Florida, area.
    2. Section 2(b) of the Committee Bill would make available 
advanced planning funds appropriated after fiscal year 2003 for 
the establishment of the six cemeteries.
    3. Section 2(c) of the Committee Bill would require the 
Secretary to solicit the advice and views of representatives of 
State and local veterans service organizations, and other 
appropriate individuals, in determining the specific sites 
where the six cemeteries will be located.
    4. Section 2(d) of the Committee Bill would require the 
Secretary, within 120 days after enactment, to submit a report 
to Congress setting forth the schedule for the establishment of 
each cemetery, and the amount of advance planning funding 
obligated for each cemetery.
    5. Section 2(e) of the Committee Bill would require the 
Secretary to submit an annual status report to Congress on the 
establishment of each cemetery and until each cemetery has been 
completed.
    6. Section 2(f) of the Committee Bill would specify which 
counties comprise the ``Southeastern Pennsylvania'' area.

                               DISCUSSION

    Chapter 24 of title 38, United States Code, establishes 
within VA a National Cemetery Administration (hereinafter, 
``NCA'') which is responsible for the interment of deceased 
service members and veterans, as well as their spouses and 
dependent children. Section2404 of title 38 authorizes the 
Secretary to make all rules and regulations necessary to carry out the 
provisions of chapter 24, title 38, including the development of 
national cemeteries.
    In response to section 613 of the Veterans Millennium 
Health Care and Benefits Act, Public Law 106-117, VA contracted 
for an independent study to assess the number of additional 
national cemeteries required to meet the future burial needs of 
veterans to ensure that 90 percent of veterans resided within 
75 miles of an open state or national cemetery. The report 
identified 31 locations as areas where cemeteries would need to 
be established to achieve the 90 percent goal.
    Recognizing that it would not be practicable to establish 
national cemeteries in all 31 locations, especially in areas 
where state cemeteries would more appropriately meet the needs 
of smaller veteran's populations, VA established a threshold of 
170,000 veterans which, if residing more than 75 miles from an 
open state or national cemetery, would justify the VA's 
establishment or expansion of national cemeteries. Based on 
revised population estimates transmitted to the Committee on 
June 4, 2003, and applying the threshold criteria it 
established, VA identified 11 locations that required either a 
new national cemetery or an expansion of an existing national 
cemetery. One of those locations, Chesapeake, Virginia, will be 
served by an already planned state cemetery funded through VA's 
State Cemetery Grants Program. Four of those locations cab be 
served by expanding existing national cemeteries. Six locations 
will require the construction of new national cemeteries. They 
are: Bakersfield, California; Birmingham, Alabama; Greenville/
Columbia, south Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; Philadelphia, 
Pennsylvania; and Sarasota County, Florida. The Committee bill 
directs VA to establish national cemeteries at those six 
locations.

                             COST ESTIMATE

    In compliance with paragraph 11(a) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing rules of the Senate, the Committee, based on 
information supplied by the Congressional Budget Office 
(hereinafter, ``CBO'') estimates that enactment of the 
Committee bill would cost $11 million in 2004 and $93 million 
over the 2004-2008 period, assuming appropriation of the 
necessary amounts, and would not affect direct spending or 
receipts. Enactment of the committee bill would not affect the 
budget of state, local, or tribal governments.
    The cost estimate provided by CBO, setting forth a detailed 
breakdown of costs, follows:

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               Congressional Budget Office,
                                   Washington, DC, October 6, 2003.
Hon. Arlen Specter,
Chairman, Committee on Veteran's Affairs,
U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) 
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 contact is Dwayne M. 
Wright.
            Sincerely,
                                       Douglas Holtz-Eakin,
                                                          Director.
    Enclosure.

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

    H.R. 1516 would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs 
(VA) to establish new national cemeteries for deceased veterans 
in southeastern Pennsylvania, the Birmingham, Alabama area, the 
Jacksonville, Florida area, the Bakersfield, California area, 
the Greenville/Columbia, South Carolina area, and the Sarasota 
County, Florida area. CBO estimates that implementing the act 
would cost $11 million in 2004 and $93 million over the 2004-
2008 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts. 
The act 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 costs of this legislation fall within budget function 700 
(veterans benefits and services).

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                       By fiscal year, in millions of dollars--
                                                                    --------------------------------------------
                                                                       2004     2005     2006     2007     2008
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  CHANGES IN SPENDING SUBJECT TO APPROPRIATION

Estimated Authorization Level......................................       42        0       21        0       90
Estimated Outlays..................................................       11       31       10       11       30
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    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 six new national 
cemeteries would require the appropriation of $153 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 $42 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 six 
cemeteries would take about two years and would cost about $21 
million. CBO estimates that appropriations of about $90 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 act would cost $11 
million in 2004 and $93 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.
    Previous CBO estimate: On July 1, 2003, CBO transmitted a 
cost estimate for H.R. 1516 as ordered reported by the House 
Committee on Veterans' Affairs on June 26, 2003. The Senate 
version of H.R. 1516 would authorize the establishment of one 
additional national cemetery; therefore, the estimated costs of 
this version of the act are higher.
    Estimated prepared by: Federal Costs: Dwayne M. Wright; 
Impact on State, Local, and Tribal Governments: Melissa 
Merrell; and Impact on the Private Sector: Allison Percy.
    Estimate approved by: Peter H. Fontaine, Deputy Assistant 
Director for Budget Analysis.

                      REGULATORY IMPACT STATEMENT

    In compliance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee on Veterans' 
Affairs has made an evaluation of the regulatory impact that 
would be incurred in carrying out the Committee bill. The 
Committee finds that the Committee bill would not entail any 
regulation of individuals or businesses or result in any impact 
on the personal privacy of any individuals and that the 
paperwork resulting from enactment would be minimal.

                 TABULATION OF VOTES CAST IN COMMITTEE

    In compliance with paragraph 7 of rule XXVI of the Standing 
Rules of the Senate, the following is a tabulation of votes 
cast in person or by proxy by members of the Committee on 
Veterans' Affairs at its September 30, 2003, meeting. On that 
date, the Committee, by unanimous voice vote, ordered H.R. 
1516, a bill to provide for the establishment by the Secretary 
of Veterans Affairs of five additional cemeteries in the 
National Cemetery System, as amended, reported favorably to the 
Senate.

                             AGENCY REPORT

    On July 10, 2003, VA Under Secretary for Benefits, Daniel 
L. Cooper, appeared before the Committee on Veterans' Affairs 
and submitted testimony on, among other things, S. 1282, a bill 
similar to that reported by the Committee. Excerpts from these 
statements are reprinted below:

Statement of Daniel L. Cooper, Under Secretary for Benefits, Department 
                          of Veterans Affairs

    Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, thank you for 
the opportunity to testify today on several bills of great 
interest to veterans

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *

S. 1282
    S. 1282 would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to 
establish national cemeteries for geographically underserved 
populations of veterans. It would direct the Secretary to 
identify the ten burial service areas in the United States, as 
determined by the Secretary, most in need of a new national 
cemetery to ensure that 90 percent of the veterans who reside 
in each service area live within 75 miles of a national 
cemetery. The bill would defined ``burial service area'' as 
having a radius of approximately 75 miles, containing a minimum 
population of approximately 170,000 veterans, and not being 
served by a national or state veterans cemetery. In addition, 
the bill would direct the Secretary to submit to Congress a 
report setting forth each burial service area identified by the 
Secretary as needing a cemetery and a schedule and cost 
estimate for the establishment of each new national cemetery. 
The first report would be due within 120 days after the date of 
enactment, and annual status reports would be required until 
the ten cemeteries were completed.
    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, Pub. L. No. 106-117 
(1999), Congress directed VA to identify areas of the country 
with the greatest concentrations of veterans who do not have 
reasonable access to a burial option in a national or state 
veterans cemetery. Substantial documentation demonstrates 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 threshold of 170,000 
within a 75-mile service radius is an appropriate threshold for 
the establishment of a new national cemetery.
    In response to the Veterans Millennium Health Care and 
Benefits Act, on May 15, 2002, VA transmitted to Congress a 
report entitled, Study on Improvements to Veterans Cemeteries--
Volume 1: Future Burial Needs. An independent contractor, 
Logistics Management Institute (LMI), prepared the report. It 
assesses the number of additional cemeteries needed to ensure 
that 90 percent of veterans live within 75 miles of a national 
or state veterans cemetery between 2005 and 2020. The report 
identified 31 locations recommended by LMI as areas of greatest 
need. Six sites had over 170,000 veterans who currently were 
not being served by a burial option by a state or national 
cemetery within 75 miles of their residences. On June 4, 2003, 
VA transmitted revised veteran population estimates, based on 
2000 United States Census data. From the two listings, eleven 
locations were identified as meeting VA's population threshold. 
VA plans to meet the identified unmet burial needs in each 
location by either establishing a new national cemetery or 
expanding an existing national cemetery.
    Several steps are 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 requirements; $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. 
A new national cemetery's average annual operating costs range 
between $1 million and $2 million, without consideration of 
headstones and grave liners, which are purchased through 
mandatory funds.
    Because the Future Burial Needs report released last year 
and the updated demographic data transmitted to Congress 
earlier this year satisfy the intent behind S. 1282, enactment 
of this bill is unnecessary. However, VA is committed to begin 
addressing those identified locations with unment burial needs 
within the annual budgetary process.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


         CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW MADE BY H.R. 1516 AS REPORTED

    Since the Committee bill would not repeal or amend any 
provisions of current law, this report does not contain the 
material described in clauses (a) and (b) of paragraph 12 of 
rule XXVI of the Standing Rules of the Senate.