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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006

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Location: Washington, DC


NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2006 -- (Senate - July 22, 2005)

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Mr. KENNEDY. Madam President, I join the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Levin, in paying tribute to the Armed Services Committee. I have been lucky enough to be on that committee now for 24 years. I must say that all of us have the highest regard and respect for the Senator from Virginia, the chairman of the committee. There has never been a time that he has not been courteous and diligent and thoughtful and considerate for those who have differing views that come up before the committee.

I understand the remarks by the Senator from Michigan and also our leader, Senator Reid; and although our friend takes the responsibility, we have been around here long enough to know that the overall schedule and timetable is made by the majority leader, with all due respect. He has the responsibility, obviously, for the Senate and the Senate agenda.

The part which is of concern is this, and I will mention this briefly. When we have cloture, we find out that many amendments that are related and are enormously important in terms of the subject matter, which is the Defense authorization bill, are effectively eliminated.

I took a quick look at some of the amendments that have been filed to date. We have a Stabenow amendment to fully fund health care for veterans. Nobody could watch the news last night and not understand the challenge our veterans are having in getting coverage and being treated well. That is true in my State, and the Nation was alerted again. We have had some debate on that issue. It is an issue of enormous importance. We make a commitment to those young men and women who volunteer and fight in our wars that they are going to have their needs attended to when they come back. They are not being attended to.

The Senator from Michigan, Ms. Stabenow, has an amendment that probably would not be eligible after cloture. It is on pay equity for reservists who are being deployed. We have so many being deployed over in Iraq, and it is an important amendment to make sure they are to be compensated. It is very important in terms of morale and, most of all, in terms of fairness for the reservists.

Then there is reform of the Pentagon procurement, with all of the kinds of challenges we have seen on the purchasing of the humvee. We reviewed that last night once again. An article that was written in the New York Times and the purchase conflict between the services, the lack of priority that was given really as a result of a failure of our procurement policies, we can do something about that, but we are not going to do something about it if we have cloture. Then there is the limitation of profits on defense contractors. We don't have to take a lot of time on that issue, but I think the American taxpayer, when they see hundreds of millions in windfall profits going to so many defense contractors, would have to say that spending a few moments on that to make sure, for example, the allegations that our troops are going to get the food they deserve and need on time and not be given second-level food is something that ought to be debated.

My amendment with Senator Feinstein and Senator Kerry on bunker busters relates to the whole issue of nuclear proliferation and stability. We probably would not be eligible to bring that up. There have been important issues on funding for the cooperative threat reduction, which is so important in terms of the nuclear proliferation, with the very important and impressive study released this last week.

Those give you a little bit of a flavor, and they are related to national security and defense. We are told we don't have time for that. I have been here when we spent 2 full weeks debating bankruptcy and for the credit card companies. The result of the bankruptcy bill we passed here means the profits for the credit card companies are going up $5.6 billion this next year. We spent 2 weeks on that issue that will benefit special interests. We spent more than a week on class action, which will benefit very special interests. We spent more than a week on highways. If you can spend more than a week on highways and you can look after the credit card companies and you can look after the major financial interests in class action, surely we can debate these issues that are related to the security and well-being of the troops of this country.

That is the point. I believe it is irrefutable myself. We were told last night, well, we had heard that Senator Levin, Senator Reid, and others might propose a commission to look into the whole question of the torture policies that have taken place at Abu Ghraib. We had 12 different studies done by the Armed Services Committee, and we still don't have anybody in the civilian areas that has been held accountable, even though they were the architects of the torture policy. This has given us a black eye all over the world. It has been an incentive, and it is inflaming al-Qaida. It has been a recruiting tool used in order to gather more recruits for al-Qaida.

It had been suggested that we have an independent commission review that. And then guess what happened. Within a matter of hours, the White House says, If that amendment is accepted, I will veto the bill that is developing with Defense authorization. Imagine that. The President will veto the bill if that amendment is accepted. He will veto the bill that provides the resources for our fighting men and women if we are going to have an independent kind of review about how we got into all of this trouble in terms of torture and inflaming al-Qaida because of those activities. They are going to veto the bill. Therefore, we are going to have cloture.

We don't have to be around here for a number of years to understand what is happening. That is just plain wrong, Mr. President. It is just plain wrong. It is not the way this body ought to be doing business. These issues are too important. People are ready to debate them.

We had the amendment that I have here, which is very similar to the amendment Senator Feinstein and I offered earlier on another appropriations bill. It is a matter of enormous importance in terms of the issue of nuclear proliferation.

There is an excellent study this last week about the worst weapons in the worst hands. The National Security Advisory Group is chaired by Willian Perry, former Secretary of Defense, and is made up of an extraordinary group of men and women who have spent their lives in terms of national security and defense and talking about the dangers of increased nuclear weapons. Well, we have now in this bill the design for new nuclear weapons. They will say: No, we don't, it is only $4.5 million. Look at the Department of Energy's congressional budget, right here on page 63, where cumulatively they are planning to spend a half billion

dollars on it. New nuclear weapon? We are looking at a new nuclear weapon in the Defense authorization bill.

Look at the front page here of the New York Times, right up on the top: ``New York Starts to Inspect Bags on the Subways.'' What is the greatest threat to our homeland security, a new nuclear weapon or--here it is--``New York Starts to Inspect Bags on the Subways.'' The second story: Bombs set in London at four sites, failed to explode, no one hurt. And we are going out and building another nuclear weapon.

We welcome the opportunity to address the Senate now on Friday, but this is a matter of enormous importance and consequence. We are told these issues are not as important as freeing the gun industry from liability, a special interest. So we have an NRA check. I know where the votes are on that. We are going to get another special interest check. We have a special interest check for credit cards, a special interest check because of class actions, and we are going to get another one now from the NRA.

We are not going to have the chance for these Senators to be able to debate pay equity for the reserves? Health care for veterans? No. We don't have the time. What is more important to us? I have plans at the end of next week along with everybody else, but what is more important than continuing and finishing this legislation? That is what we are supposed to do as Senators.

Mr. President, when you look over where we spend the time and how we have spent the time, surely these issues that are of such fundamental importance to our national security and to the security of the American people deserve the kind of time our leader and Senator Levin have suggested.

For the past 60 years, one of the principal tenets of the American national security policy has been to limit the number of nuclear weapons in the world and to limit the number of countries that possess them.

In 1962, President Kennedy warned that if action weren't taken at that time, there would be 20 nuclear weapon nations by the end of the 1970s. That is what he said in 1962. Because of initiatives he and successive Presidents--Republican and Democrat--took to prevent that, today there are only eight nuclear armed states.

Through careful negotiations, we arrived at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the foundation of all current global nuclear arms control. The nonproliferation treaty, signed in 1968, has long stood for the fundamental principle that the world will be safer if nuclear proliferation doesn't extend to other countries.

I send to the desk an amendment on behalf of myself, the Senator from California, Mrs. Feinstein, and my colleague and friend, the Senator from Massachusetts, Mr. Kerry.

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Mr. KENNEDY. Madam President, in that compact of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the foundation of all global nuclear arms control, 184 nations have voluntarily rejected nuclear weapons. These include 40 states, such as Japan, Germany, Sweden, and Singapore, that have the technical infrastructure to build nuclear arsenals if they chose to do so.

In addition, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Taiwan, South Korea, and others have turned away from nuclear weapons because of the NPT and our leadership.

America led the way to a safer world by example. By adhering to these carefully crafted agreements, we were able to discourage the spread of dangerous nuclear weapons that would threaten our security.

However, the Bush administration has abandoned that course. Not only has this White House expressed disdain for decades of nuclear arms control, but it now threatens to launch a new nuclear arms race. As we are discouraging North Korea and Iran from producing nuclear arms--and as we are trying to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists--the Bush administration recklessly proposes for the United States to produce a new breed of nuclear weapon. President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld want to develop a new tactical nuclear weapon that can burrow deep into the earth and destroy bunkers and weapon caches. The new weapon they propose has the chilling title of robust nuclear earth penetrator. They hold the dangerous and misguided belief that our Nation's interests are served by developing what they consider a more easily usable nuclear bomb--more easily usable nuclear bomb. That is just what we need more of today.

Most Americans believe that is wrong. Therefore, the amendment that Senator Feinstein and I offer today will halt this dangerous new policy and redirect the $4 million in funds from the robust nuclear earth penetrator research program to the National Guard for the more urgent task of preventing another terrorist attack on our Nation's capital.

This action is especially warranted in light of the bombings in the London subway. Instead of developing new nukes, we should address the real-world challenges of terrorism that we face right here, right now.

In the end, the administration would like us to buy something we don't need, that endangers us by its mere existence, and that makes our important diplomatic goals much more difficult to achieve.

Our challenge in addressing nuclear nonproliferation issues is not that there are too few nuclear weapons in the world, but that there are too many; not that they are too difficult to use but too easy.

North Korea has recently acquired nuclear weapons and does not hesitate to rattle them. Iran is widely thought to be moving forward on the development of nuclear weapons capability. The increased availability of nuclear technology to other nations is an ominous development, especially when it is difficult to accept at face value their statements that the technology is intended only for peaceful purposes.

What moral authority do we have to ask other nations to give up their desire for nuclear weapons of their own when we are developing a new generation of such weapons of our own? How can we tell other nations not to sell their nuclear technology to others when we are exporting our own technology?

For the past 2 years, Congress has raised major doubts about the bunker-buster program and significantly cut back on its funding. But the administration still presses forward for their development. For fiscal year 2004, they requested $15 million for it, and Congress reluctantly provided half that amount. For 2005, they requested another $27 million and submitted a 5-year request for nearly $500 million, and Congress denied their request.

This year, nothing has changed. The fiscal year 2006 budget request from the President includes $4 million for the Department of Energy to study the bunker buster, and $4.5 million for the Department of Defense for the same purpose. Thankfully, our colleagues in the House were wiser and eliminated the funds.

The administration obviously is still committed to this reckless approach. Secretary Rumsfeld made his position clear in January, when he wrote to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham:

I think we should request funds in 06 and 07 to complete the study ..... You can count on my support for your efforts to revitalize the nuclear weapons infrastructure and to complete the RNEP study.

The fiscal year 2006 budget requests funds only to complete the feasibility study for these nuclear weapons, but we already know what the next step is. In the budget sent to us last year, the administration stated in plain language that they intend to develop it. Ambassador Linton Brooks, the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, claims the future budget projection was merely a placeholder ``in the event the President decides to proceed with the development and Congress approves.'' But their fiscal year 2005 budget clearly shows the administration's unmistakable intention to develop and ultimately produce this weapon.

They would like us to believe this is a clean, surgical nuclear weapon. They say it will burrow into underground targets, destroy them with no adverse consequence for the environment. But science says such claims are false.

A National Academy of Sciences April 2005 study confirms exactly what most of us thought: that these nuclear weapons, like other nuclear bombs, result in catastrophic nuclear fallout. They can poison tens of millions of people and create radioactive lands for many years to come.

The study goes on to say:

Current experience and empirical predictions indicate that the earth-penetrator weapons cannot penetrate to depths required for total containment of the effects of a nuclear explosion. To be fully contained, a 300 kiloton weapon would have to be detonated at the bottom of a carefully stemmed emplacement hole about 800 meters deep. Because the practical penetrating depth of an earth penetrating weapon is only a few meters--a small fraction of the depth for the full containment--there will be blast, thermal, initial nuclear radiation, and fallout effects--

From the use of the weapon.

Even if we were willing to accept the catastrophic damage a nuclear explosion would cause, the bunker buster would still not be able to destroy all the buried bunkers the intelligence community has identified.

This chart, based on the data from the National Academy of Sciences, depicts the simulated maximum effect of a 1-megaton earth-penetrating weapon. This massively destructive weapon cannot reach more than 400 meters. All an adversary has to do is bury its bunker below that depth.

Bunker busters also require pinpoint accuracy to hit deeply buried bunkers. But such accuracy requires precise intelligence about the location of the target. As the study emphasized, an attack by a nuclear weapon can be effective in destroying weapons or weapons materials, including nuclear materials and chemical or biological agents, but only if it is detonated in the actual chamber where the weapons or materials are located. Even more disturbing, if the bomb is only slightly off target, the detonation may cause the spread of deadly chemical and germs, in addition to the radioactive fallout.

If it were clear that this weapon were needed to protect our troops, then Congress would probably support it. But that is not the case. At the House Armed Services Committee hearing in March, program chief Linton Brooks once again was asked if there was a military requirement for the bunker buster, and he categorically said:

No, there is not.

This chart shows how important it is that the bunker buster be precise, in terms of targeting, or otherwise it is not going to destroy the target, and the dangers of chemical and nuclear material proliferation are dramatic.

Our military has no need for a nuclear bunker buster. Existing conventional weapons have the ability to neutralize this threat. These charts from the National Academy of Sciences show the types of deeply buried, hardened bunkers the nuclear bunker buster is intended to destroy. All bunkers must have air intakes, energy sources, and entrances. If we can destroy them by conventional means, we have accomplished our purpose.

The administration's effort to build a new class of nuclear weapon is only further evidence of their reckless nuclear policy.

We have studied this issue long enough. It is ridiculous for the administration to try to keep this program going, and it could be suicidal for the Nation and for our troops. While the administration studies a weapon that will never work and may never be used, it has taken its eye off the true danger: terrorists with weapons of mass destruction here at home in our subways and our train stations.

Protecting our Nation should be the administration's No. 1 priority and, sadly, they have not learned that lesson from 9/11. The alarm bell that went off on September 11, 2001, is still ringing loudly. It rang in London earlier this month and again yesterday. It rang in Madrid last year. And it has been ringing in Turkey, Indonesia, Morocco, Kenya, and elsewhere around the world in the nearly 4 years since the tragedy of 9/11.

In our Nation's Capital, the alarm bell continues to sound, but the administration has been inexcusably slow in heeding its warning.

Our amendment will better protect our Nation's Capital from a terrorist attack. It provides urgently needed funds to the Washington, DC, National Guard to make up for the shortfalls they face in equipment and training.

U.S. officials plainly state that al-Qaida and other terrorist groups are determined to strike the United States again. And we all know that our Nation's Capital is a prime target.

On July 10, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said that ``the desire and the capability'' are there for another terrorist attack in America.

The former Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, ADM James Loy, told the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 16:

We believe that attacking the homeland remains at the top of al-Qaida's operational priority list ..... We believe that their intent remains strong for attempting another major operation here.

He says:

The probability of an attack is assessed to be high. .....

FBI Director Robert Mueller told the Intelligence Committee on February 16:

The threat posed by international terrorism, and in particular from al-Qaida and related groups, continues to be the gravest we face .....

Despite these serious and terrifying threats, the DC National Guard, which provides an indispensable role in responding to terrorist attacks, has long received inadequate funding.

In a terrorist attack, the DC National Guard will be mobilized to assist in evacuation efforts, provide security at the attack site, and assist in mass casualty care. Mayor Williams and the city council realize the vulnerability to such attacks and the potentially catastrophic consequences if terrorists attack a train carrying hazardous material.

According to a RAND analysis on terrorism and railroad security, 40 percent of freight being carried from city to city across the country, including half of the Nation's hazardous material, is moved by rail. In 2003 alone, 11,000 railroad cars containing hazardous material passed through Washington, DC.

We believe the administration's position in supporting the development of a new nuclear weapon system is misguided. It is not based on sound science. And there is a recognition that they do not have their priorities straight. We have learned the lesson of this past week, that what we have to do is expand our attention in terms of the homeland security issue. That has to be our focus, and we learned that again this morning in London.

Why the administration insists that they think our national security is going to be enhanced and expanded by building a new system makes no sense at all.

A final point. There are those who will say this is just a study; we ought to be able to study; we ought to be able to study what progress can be developed in terms of the shape of our warheads and the building materials that are necessary to make it more effective; we live in a dangerous world. All of which is true, we ought to be able to have a study, but that is not what this is about.

As I have mentioned, the opposition, by and large, will say this is just a study. Then we will have to come back to Congress and get the approval.

See what the intention of this administration is. ``Department of Energy, 2005 Congressional Budget Request, National Nuclear Security Administration, Office of the Administrator, Weapons Activities.'' Open this to page 63. There it is.

They talk about what is going to be the request over the period of these next 5 years, and it is $484 million. That is not a study. That is the development of a weapons system. Those resources could be more effectively used providing security at home, working through homeland security, than developing a new weapons system which will make it more complicated and more difficult for the United States to be the leader in the world, which we have been under Republican and Democratic Presidents since 1962, in reducing the number of countries that have dangerous nuclear weapons. We should stay the course. That has been a wise judgment and decision by Republican and Democratic Presidents. We should not be about the business of developing new nuclear weapons, which is going to upset that whole movement and make this country less secure.

I yield the floor.

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