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109th Congress                                                   Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session                                                    109-268

======================================================================
 
                    SUPPLY OUR SOLDIERS ACT OF 2005

                                _______
                                

November 3, 2005.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the 
              State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

  Mr. Tom Davis of Virginia, from the Committee on Government Reform, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 923]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Government Reform, to whom was referred 
the bill (H.R. 923) to amend title 39, United States Code, to 
provide for free mailing privileges for personal correspondence 
and parcels sent by family members from within the United 
States to members of the Armed Forces serving on active duty in 
Iraq or Afghanistan, having considered the same, report 
favorably thereon with amendments and recommend that the bill 
as amended do pass.

                                CONTENTS

                                                                   Page
Committee Statement and Views....................................     3
Section-by-Section...............................................     3
Explanation of Amendments........................................     4
Committee Consideration..........................................     4
Rollcall Votes...................................................     4
Correspondence...................................................     5
Application of Law to the Legislative Branch.....................     6
Statement of Oversight Findings and Recommendations of the 
  Committee......................................................     6
Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives............     6
Constitutional Authority Statement...............................     6
Federal Advisory Committee Act...................................     6
Unfunded Mandate Statement.......................................     6
Committee Estimate...............................................     6
Budget Authority and Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate...     7
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill as Reported.............     9
  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 ``Supply Our Soldiers Act of 2005''.

SEC. 2. POSTAL BENEFITS PROGRAM FOR MEMBERS OF THE ARMED FORCES.

  (a) In General.--The Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the 
United States Postal Service, shall provide for a program under which 
postal benefits shall be provided to qualified individuals in 
accordance with succeeding provisions of this Act.
  (b) Qualified Individual.--For purposes of this Act, the term 
``qualified individual'' means an individual who is--
          (1) a member of the Armed Forces of the United States on 
        active duty (as defined in section 101 of title 10, United 
        States Code); and
          (2)(A) serving in Iraq or Afghanistan; or
          (B) hospitalized at a facility under the jurisdiction of the 
        Armed Forces of the United States as a result of a disease or 
        injury incurred as a result of service in Iraq or Afghanistan.
  (c) Postal Benefits Described.--
          (1) In general.--The postal benefits provided under this Act 
        shall consist of such coupons or other similar evidence of 
        credit (whether in printed, electronic, or other format, and 
        hereinafter in this Act referred to as ``vouchers'') as the 
        Secretary of Defense (in consultation with the Postal Service) 
        shall determine, entitling the bearer or user to make qualified 
        mailings free of postage.
          (2) Qualified mailing.--For purposes of this Act, the term 
        ``qualified mailing'' means the mailing of any mail matter 
        which--
                  (A) is described in subparagraph (A), (B), (C), or 
                (D) of paragraph (3);
                  (B) is sent from within an area served by a United 
                States post office; and
                  (C) is addressed to a qualified individual.
          (3) Mail matter described.--The mail matter described in this 
        paragraph is--
                  (A) any letter mail not exceeding 13 ounces in weight 
                and having the character of personal correspondence;
                  (B) any sound- or video-recorded communications not 
                exceeding 15 pounds in weight and having the character 
                of personal correspondence;
                  (C) any ground parcel not exceeding 15 pounds in 
                weight; and
                  (D) any bound printed matter not exceeding 15 pounds 
                in weight.
          (4) Limitations.--
                  (A) Number.--An individual shall be eligible for 1 
                voucher for each month in which such individual is a 
                qualified individual.
                  (B) Use.--Any such voucher may not be used--
                          (i) for more than a single qualified mailing; 
                        or
                          (ii) after the earlier of--
                                  (I) the expiration date of such 
                                voucher, as designated by the Secretary 
                                of Defense; or
                                  (II) the last day of the 1-year 
                                period referred to in section 4.
          (5) Coordination rule.--Postal benefits under this Act shall 
        be in addition to, and not in lieu of, any reduced rates of 
        postage or other similar benefits which might otherwise be 
        available by or under law, including any rates of postage 
        resulting from the application of section 3401(b) of title 39, 
        United States Code.
  (d) Regulations.--Not later than 30 days after the date of the 
enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense (in consultation with 
the Postal Service) shall prescribe any regulations necessary to carry 
out this Act, including--
          (1) procedures by which vouchers will be provided or made 
        available (including measures to allow vouchers to reach, in a 
        timely manner, the persons selected by qualified individuals to 
        use the vouchers); and
          (2) procedures to ensure that the number of vouchers provided 
        or made available with respect to any qualified individual 
        complies with subsection (c)(4)(A).

SEC. 3. FUNDING.

  (a) In General.--There is authorized to be appropriated to the 
Department of Defense a sum determined by the Department of Defense to 
be equal to the expenses incurred by the Department in providing the 
benefits described in section 2(c).
  (b) Transfers to Postal Service.--
          (1) Based on estimates.--The Department of Defense shall 
        transfer to the Postal Service, out of any amount so 
        appropriated and in advance of each calendar quarter during 
        which postal benefits under this Act may be used, an amount 
        equal to the amount of postal benefits that the Department of 
        Defense estimates will be used during such quarter, reduced or 
        increased (as the case may be) by any amounts by which the 
        Department finds that a determination under this Act for a 
        prior quarter was greater than or less than the amount finally 
        determined for such quarter.
          (2) Based on final determination.--A final determination of 
        the amount necessary to correct any previous determination 
        under this section, and any transfer of amounts between the 
        Postal Service and the Department of Defense based on that 
        final determination, shall be made not later than 6 months 
        after the end of the 1-year period referred to in section 4.
  (c) Consultation Required.--All estimates and determinations under 
this section of the amount of postal benefits under this Act used in 
any period shall be made by the Department of Defense in consultation 
with the Postal Service.

SEC. 4. DURATION.

  The postal benefits under this Act shall apply with respect to mail 
matter sent during the 1-year period beginning on the date on which the 
regulations under section 2(d) take effect.

  Amend the title so as to read:

    A bill to provide for free mailing privileges for personal 
correspondence and certain other mail matter sent from within 
the United States to members of the Armed Forces serving on 
active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan.

                     COMMITTEE STATEMENT AND VIEWS

    H.R. 923, introduced on February 17, 2005 by Rep. Vito 
Fossella, would establish a program providing for free postage 
on certain mail matter being sent to members of the armed 
forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as those 
hospitalized due to disease or injury received as a result of 
service in Iraq or Afghanistan. Under an amendment in the 
nature of a substitute that was adopted by the Committee, the 
Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Postal Service, 
is required to establish a one-year program under which 
qualified members of the armed forces receive a monthly voucher 
that can be redeemed to pay the postal expenses of sending one 
letter or parcel to the service member. The service member can 
then send these vouchers to anyone they choose, such as family 
members or loved ones. H.R. 923, as amended, allows our 
fighting men and women to receive more mail from their families 
and loved ones back home--letters, videotapes, or care 
packages--while lessening the financial burden on those family 
members or loved ones.
    In addition to H.R. 923, sponsored by Rep. Vito Fossella, 
Rep. Harold Ford sponsored two bills, H.R. 887 and H.R. 2874 
(both titled ``Supply Our Soldiers Act of 2005''), which also 
provide for programs under which postal benefits are available 
for letters and packages sent from the U.S. to members of the 
Armed Forces serving on active duty in military operations 
around the world. Although the Committee did not act on H.R. 
887 or H.R. 2874, Mr. Fossella's and Mr. Ford's bills share 
similar core concepts.

                           SECTION-BY-SECTION

Section 1. Short title

    This section provides that the bill may be cited as the 
``Supply Our Soldiers Act of 2005.''

Section 2. Postal benefits program for members of the armed forces

    Section 2(a) of the bill directs the Secretary of Defense, 
in consultation with the United States Postal Service, to 
establish a postal benefits program for certain members of the 
armed forces of the United States. The Committee expects that 
the Department of Defense and the United States Postal Service 
will work together to provide the benefits established by the 
bill in the most cost-effective manner possible, while ensuring 
that the benefits are not subsidized by postal ratepayers.
    Section 2(b) of the bill defines the individuals qualified 
to receive the benefit as active duty members of the armed 
forces of the United States who are either serving in Iraq or 
Afghanistan, or who are hospitalized at a United States armed 
forces facility as a result of disease or injury incurred as a 
result of service in Iraq or Afghanistan.
    Section 2(c) of the bill establishes that the benefit under 
the bill shall consist of a voucher redeemable at United States 
post offices to send a letter up to 13 ounces, a media mail 
piece up to 15 pounds, a bound printed matter mail piece up to 
15 pounds, or a ground parcel up to 15 pounds to a qualified 
individual, as defined in Section 2(b). Section 2(c) directs 
the Department of Defense to provide to qualified individuals 
one voucher for each month of eligibility. Section 2(c) directs 
the Department of Defense, in coordination with the Postal 
Service prescribe regulations within 30 days of enactment 
establishing the procedures by which the vouchers will be 
distributed to qualified individuals and, in turn, to the final 
users of the vouchers. The bill provides considerable 
flexibility to the Department of Defense and the Postal Service 
to determine the form which these vouchers will take (which 
could include electronic cards or paper coupons), and the means 
by which they are distributed. Again, the Committee expects the 
Department of Defense and the United States Postal Service to 
work together to determine the best means by which the benefits 
are to be distributed and redeemed.

Section 3. Funding

    Section 3 of the bill authorizes to be appropriated to the 
Department of Defense sufficient funds to cover its expenses 
under the legislation. Section 3 also requires the Department 
of Defense to estimate, on a quarterly basis, the postage that 
will be used under the program, and transfer such amounts to 
the Postal Service in advance. Section 3 provides for quarterly 
and final reconciliations of the Department of Defense's 
advance payments to the Postal Service.

Section 4. Duration

    Section 4 provides that the benefits under the bill will be 
made available for a one-year period only.

                       EXPLANATION OF AMENDMENTS

    The provisions of the substitute are explained in this 
report.

                        COMMITTEE CONSIDERATION

    On September 29, 2005, the Committee met in open session 
and ordered reported favorably the bill, H.R. 923, as amended, 
by voice vote, a quorum being present.

                             ROLLCALL VOTES

    No rollcall votes were held.

                             CORRESPONDENCE

                          House of Representatives,
                               Committee on Armed Services,
                                  Washington, DC, October 13, 2005.
Hon. Tom Davis,
Chairman, Committee on Government Reform,
Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: On September 29, 2005, the Committee on 
Government Reform ordered H.R. 923, the ``Supply Our Soldiers 
Act of 2005'' to be reported. As you know, H.R. 923, as 
amended, falls largely within the jurisdiction of the Committee 
on Armed Services.
    Our Committee recognizes the importance of H.R. 923 and the 
need for the legislation to move expeditiously. Therefore, 
while we have a valid claim to jurisdiction over these 
provisions the Committee on Armed Services will waive further 
consideration of H.R. 923. In the event of a conference with 
the Senate on this bill, the Committee on Armed Services 
reserves the right to seek the appointment of conferees.
    I would appreciate inclusion this letter and a copy of the 
response in your Committee's report on H.R. 923 and the 
Congressional Record during consideration of the measure on the 
House floor.
    With best wishes.
            Sincerely,
                                             Duncan Hunter,
                                                          Chairman.
                                ------                                

                          House of Representatives,
                            Committee on Government Reform,
                                  Washington, DC, October 20, 2005.
Hon. Duncan Hunter,
Chairman, Committee on Armed Services,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: Thank you for your recent letter 
regarding the Committee on Armed Services' jurisdictional 
interest in H.R. 923, The Supply Our Soldiers Act of 2005, and 
your willingness to forego consideration of H.R. 923 by the 
Committee.
    I agree that the Committee on Armed Services has a valid 
claim to jurisdiction over H.R. 923. In the event of a 
conference with the Senate on this bill, I will support your 
request for the appointment of outside conferees from the 
Committee on Armed Services.
    As you have requested, I will include a copy of your letter 
and this response in the Government Reform Committee's report 
on H.R. 923 and in the Congressional Record during 
consideration of the legislation on the House floor. Thank you 
for your assistance as we work towards the enactment of H.R. 
923.
            Sincerely,
                                                 Tom Davis,
                                                          Chairman.

              APPLICATION OF LAW TO THE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH

    Section 102(b)(3) of Public Law 104-1 requires a 
description of the application of this bill to the legislative 
branch where the bill relates to the terms and conditions of 
employment or access to public services and accommodations. 
This bill would establisha program providing for free postage 
on certain mail matter being sent to members of the armed forces 
serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Legislative branch employees and their families, to the 
extent that they are otherwise eligible for the benefits 
provided by this legislation, have equal access to its 
benefits.

  STATEMENT OF OVERSIGHT FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE COMMITTEE

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(1) of rule XIII and clause 
(2)(b)(1) of rule X of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives, the Committee's oversight findings and 
recommendations are reflected in the descriptive portions of 
this report.

         STATEMENT OF GENERAL PERFORMANCE GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

    In accordance with clause 3(c)(4) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the Committee's performance 
goals and objectives are reflected in the descriptive portions 
of this report.

                   CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY STATEMENT

    Under clause 3(d)(1) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House 
of Representatives, the Committee must include a statement 
citing the specific powers granted to Congress to enact the law 
proposed by H.R. 923. Article I, Section 8, Clause 7 of the 
Constitution of the United States grants the Congress the power 
to enact this law.

                     FEDERAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE ACT

    The Committee finds that the legislation does not establish 
or authorize the establishment of an advisory committee within 
the definition of 5 U.S.C. App., Section 5(b).

                       UNFUNDED MANDATE STATEMENT

    Section 423 of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment 
Control Act (as amended by Section 101(a)(2) of the Unfunded 
Mandate Reform Act, P.L. 104-4) requires a statement whether 
the provisions of the report include unfunded mandates. In 
compliance with this requirement the Committee has received a 
letter from the Congressional Budget Office included herein.

                           COMMITTEE ESTIMATE

    Clause 3(d)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives requires an estimate and a comparison by the 
Committee of the costs that would be incurred in carrying out 
H.R. 923. However, clause 3(d)(3)(B) of that rule provides that 
this requirement does not apply when the Committee has included 
in its report a timely submitted cost estimate of the bill 
prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget Office 
under section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act.

     BUDGET AUTHORITY AND CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE COST ESTIMATE

    With respect to the requirements of clause 3(c)(2) of rule 
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and section 
308(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 and with respect 
to requirements of clause (3)(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives and section 402 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee has received 
the following cost estimate for H.R. 923 from the Director of 
Congressional Budget Office:

                                                  October 14, 2005.
Hon. Tom Davis,
Chairman, Committee on Government Reform,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 923, the Supply 
Our Soldiers Act of 2005.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contacts are Mark 
Grabowicz, for costs relating to the U.S. Postal Service, and 
Matthew Schmit, for costs to the Department of Defense.
            Sincerely,
                                       Douglas Holtz-Eakin,
                                                          Director.
    Enclosure.

H.R. 923--Supply Our Soldiers Act of 2005

    Summary: H.R. 923 would authorize the appropriation of such 
sums as necessary for the Department of Defense (DoD) to cover 
the costs of providing free postage for one year for monthly 
mailings sent to certain members of the U.S. Armed Forces. CBO 
estimates that implementing H.R. 923 would cost $30 million 
over the 2006-2007 period, assuming appropriation of the 
necessary amounts. Enacting the bill would not affect revenues 
or direct spending.
    H.R. 923 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) 
and would not affect the budgets of state, local, or tribal 
governments.
    Estimated cost to the Federal Government: The estimated 
budgetary impact of H.R. 923 is shown in the following table. 
The costs of this legislation fall within budget function 050 
(national defense).

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                    By fiscal year, in millions of dollars--
                                                               -------------------------------------------------
                                                                  2006      2007      2008      2009      2010
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  CHANGES IN SPENDING SUBJECT TO APPROPRIATION


Estimated Authorization Level.................................        21         9         0         0         0
Estimated Outlays.............................................        19        11         0         0         0
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Basis of Estimate

    H.R. 923 would authorize the appropriation of such sums as 
necessary for DoD to cover the costs of providing free postage 
for one year for monthly mailings sent to certain members of 
the U.S. Armed Forces. CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 923 
would cost $30 million over fiscal years 2006 and 2007, 
including $17 million for postage and $13 million for DoD's 
transportation and administrative costs, assuming appropriation 
of the necessary amounts. For this estimate, we assume that the 
bill will be enacted in December 2005 and that free mailings 
will begin early in calendar year 2006 and end after one year.
            Postage costs
    For members of the U.S. Armed Forces on active duty in Iraq 
or Afghanistan, or hospitalized as a result of such service, 
H.R. 923 would provide certain mailing privileges for one year. 
Each of those servicemembers could receive one free mailing 
each month from family or friends in the United States, subject 
to certain conditions. The monthly mailing would be restricted 
to: a letter not exceeding 13 ounces in weight and having the 
character of personal correspondence, or a sound- or video-
recorded communication, ground parcel, or bound printed matter 
not exceeding 15 pounds in weight.
    CBO estimates that about 145,000 troops in Iraq, 
Afghanistan, and military hospitals would be eligible for the 
bill's mailing privileges. We assume that nearly all of these 
individuals (at least 90 percent) would participate each month. 
We expect that the majority of monthly mailings would be ground 
parcels of (or near) 15 pounds because it is likely that family 
and friends would take full advantage of the free postage. 
Based on rates that the United States Postal Service (USPS) is 
expected to charge in 2006 for ground parcels and other mail 
sent to U.S. servicemembers overseas, we estimate that each 
monthly mailing would cost, on average, about $11. Thus, CBO 
estimates that postage for the mailing privilege offered by the 
bill would cost about $17 million.
            DoD transportation and administration costs
    The rates charged by USPS include only the cost of handling 
and transporting the parcels to centralized DoD collection 
points within the continental United States. Transportation of 
the parcels overseas and final distribution is the 
responsibility of DoD. Because this bill would likely increase 
the amount of mail sent to servicemembers in Iraq and 
Afghanistan, DoD would incur additional costs for 
transportation, handling, and administration.
    Based on information from the Government Accountability 
Office and DoD, CBO estimates that the cost to transport and 
distribute mail to Iraq and Afghanistan averages about $5,000 
per ton. In 2003, DoD shipped about 30,000 tons of mail to Iraq 
and Afghanistan. Since we expect that most friends and family 
members would use the full 15-pound allotment as permitted by 
the bill, CBO estimates that the amount of mail sent free of 
postage under H.R. 923 would total in excess of 10,000 tons. 
CBO expects, however, that much of this mail would be sent 
regardless of cost (i.e., much of it would likely be sent under 
current law). Absent information from the Department of Defense 
regarding the increase in the total amount of mail that would 
require transportation overseas under this legislation, CBO 
assumes an overall increase of about 25 percent, or about 2,500 
tons. Therefore, CBO estimates that implementing this bill 
would increase DoD's transportation, handling, and 
administrative costs by $13 million over the 2006-2007 period.
    Intergovernmental and private-sector impact: H.R. 923 
contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as 
defined in UMRA and would not affect the budgets of state, 
local, or tribal governments.
    Estimate prepared by: Federal costs: DoD: Matthew Schmit; 
USPS: Mark Grabowicz; impact on state, local, and tribal 
governments: Sarah Puro; impact on the private sector: Paige 
Piper/Bach.
    Estimate approved by: Peter H. Fontaine, Deputy Assistant 
Director for Budget Analysis.

          CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW MADE BY THE BILL AS REPORTED

    H.R. 923 makes no changes to existing law.