Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Holds Public Hearing in San Antonio
SAN ANTONIO - The Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations met today, February 23, 2000, at the Greater Kelly Development Authority in San Antonio.
Today the committee heard invited testimony from a variety of individuals. Testimony focused on development strategies for extending the operational usefulness of Texas military facilities and attracting new military missions. Witnesses also assessed the effectiveness of state benefits currently available to veterans and made recommendations to improve their delivery.
Committee members include Senators Carlos F. Truan of Corpus Christi, serving as chair, Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay, Steve Ogden of Bryan, Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso, and Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio. Special guests included Representatives Juan Solis and Carlos Uresti both of San Antonio.
The hearing started with invited testimony from General Howard D. Graves, Chancellor, Texas A&M University System. Graves discussed how the A&M University System is currently conducting educational services in conjunction with various military installations in Texas. Example, military personnel at Ft. Hood, located near Killeen, have been conducting agriculture extension services, training in financial management, and holding child abuse and drug and alcohol abuse prevention classes with departments at A&M University.
Major General Daniel James III, Adjutant General of Texas, then testified. James spoke about some of the community programs that the Texas National Guard is currently involved in. He was proud to tell the committee that the National Guard is currently involved in the 'war against drugs'. Last year the Texas National Guard seized $2.5 billion in drugs and property. So far, for 2000, $280 million in drugs and property has been seized by the Texas National Guard. Although James feels that the Texas National Guard is doing a great job in combating the perils of drug trafficking, he would like to see an increase of troops involved in the prevention of drug manufacturing, distribution, and use.
James then discussed the Youth Challenge Program (YCP). Two hundred juveniles a year enter into the YCP in Texas. The program is an alternative to incarceration for criminal youth. Within YCP, 81% of participants either go on to continue their formal education, get paying jobs, or join the military. James said this program is a better and less expensive alternative than incarceration. It only costs $14,000 to send a juvenile through the YCP program, as opposed to $48,000 to send them to prison.
After Major General Daniel James' testimony, the committee recognized a special guest: Louis R. Rocco, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, and staff member of the Texas Vet Center. Rocco told the committee that he is not impressed with the type and quality of medical services that veterans receive in Texas, mainly in the valley and border areas. He stated that Texas veterans are not receiving full and thorough medical attention when they visit veteran hospitals, and he wants that to change.
A collective presentation by the City of San Antonio, San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, Kelly USA and Fort Sam Houston then followed. Councilwoman Debra Guerrero offered opening remarks to the committee. Manuel Longoria, Jr. gave an overview of the City-Base program at Brooks Air Force Base. Longoria stated that the City-Base program could use an increase in state appropriated funds in order to attract more private businesses. Currently there is a handful of businesses that utilize the facilities at Brooks Air Force Base. Longoria would like to see an increase in these numbers.
Kathleen Curd, Executive Officer to the Garrison Commander, Ft. Sam Houston, spoke about the Fort Sam Houston Leasing Initiative. The Housing Leasing Initiative offers low interest loans for potential home buyers that are in the military.
After Curd's testimony, Mr. Paul Roberson, Executive Director of Kelly USA (KUSA), gave an update on KUSA. Roberson discussed future logistical plans for Kelly Air Force base once it closes in July of 2001, and formally becomes KUSA. There are numerous projects and goals that Roberson wants to achieve, two of which are developing 21,000 jobs at KUSA by 2006 and redeveloping the layout of the base for the future industrial park, in order to lure Fortune 500 companies to the area.
After group testimony, Jacqueline Hardee of the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission discussed environmental issues facing San Antonio military installations.
No public testimony was offered today.
The committee recessed subject to call of the chair, with its next meeting to be announced at a later time and date. The committee will submit its findings from these hearings in the form of a report to the 77th Legislature, which will convene in January of 2001.
Click hereto watch the hearing in RealVideo format.