Big Decisions

Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) greets Airmen during an E-8C Joint
Surveillance Target Attack Radar System demonstration at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar
in February 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jared Trimarchi)

by Andrew Wickenden ’09

“Our committee pays the bills,” says Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen ’69, L.H.D. ’01, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee and Chair of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

Along with the Senate Appropriations Committee, the House Appropriations Committee is granted budget authority and is responsible for allocating money to fund federal government programs.

The 2015 Department of Defense Appropriations Act, for example—a 151-page, $491 billion defense bill sponsored by Frelinghuysen—covers military expenditures for everything from shipbuilding, to military research and development, to healthcare for servicemembers, as well as national intelligence.

“The size of our military is coming down, but we need to ensure we have new technologies and intelligence to defend our nation,” he says, citing also the need for international military and humanitarian relief.

“We’re the world’s only superpower, so it’s no surprise that we provide assistance to countries around the world while working with our traditional allies. We’re first in line in humanitarian disasters and intervene where appropriate.”

A Republican serving 730,000 constituents in 54 communities in New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District, Frelinghuysen says that to witness the scale of responsibility and direct impact of their work in Washington, “it’s important that all Members of Congress travel. I’ve been to the Middle East to talk with the generals who lead, with the soldiers on the front lines, and with the sailors who keep our Navy operating. Our military is all over the globe. Part of my job is to visit military installations and account for how our money is being spent.”

The 2015 Defense Appropriations Act was written, he says, not only “to ensure that those in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Special Forces have everything they need to be superior in whatever military situation they encounter,” but to adapt to future defense challenges.

“So many have been traumatized by deployments—it’s important to ensure they get the best healthcare and assistance,” says Frelinghuysen, a Vietnam veteran himself who pays regular visits to service-members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Also a member of key appropriations subcommittees on Energy and Water Development and Homeland Security, Frelinghuysen cites the support of his “extraordinarily able and knowledgeable staff” and as well as bipartisan efforts with his fellow members of Congress in achieving their objectives and staying within budget.

“In Congress, we often refer to Democrats, Republicans, and the Appropriations Committee,” he says. “We scrub the budget. We challenge its assumptions, from the lowest level of detail to the highest.”

Reflecting on his career, Frelinghuysen says, “Who would have thought a Hobart grad, drafted a few months out of college, would be in charge of the largest discretionary spending part of the federal budget?"


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