MAKING EMERGENCY SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDING SEPTEMBER 30, 2006 -- (Senate - April 26, 2006)
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, as she is exiting the Chamber, I wish to commend my friend and colleague, the Senator from New York, for an excellent statement and comment about what is really at play here at noontime in the Senate; that is, a choice between meeting our responsibilities to the service men and women who are serving bravely and gallantly in Iraq and Afghanistan and also meeting our responsibilities to protect our country at our border. I have listened to her on many different occasions, and she spelled out the choice as clearly and as passionately as I have ever heard the case made. I thank her for her excellent and eloquent comments.
Mr. President, we are getting close to decision time on this particular amendment. Just to review very briefly where we are on the issues that are before us, I think all of us in this Chamber understand that we are making progress on an extremely difficult and complex issue; that is, the issue on immigration reform.
There are strong emotions, strong feelings, and strong beliefs on a variety of different aspects of immigration reform, but one which I believe has total support in this body is that what we do need to do is be able to control our borders, and to be able to do that, we have to be able to make the investment which is going to be necessary to secure our borders.
Many of us believe that just in and of itself trying to establish just a border or just a fence in one part of the country is not going to do it.
All we have to really do is look at history. We understand that 10 years ago, about 40,000 illegals were coming into the United States. Since that time, we have spent over $10 billion on border security, we have increased the number of border guards by 300 percent, and now we have some 400,000 coming into the United States.
It is going to take tough border security, but it is going to take something more in terms of law enforcement in this country for those who are eligible to be able to work and separating out those who are ineligible and also to be able to develop a program of earned citizenship for individuals who are here because they want to provide for their families, to work hard, to play by the rules, and to serve in the Armed Forces. They are prepared to pay a penalty, and they are prepared to go to the back of the line and wait their turn for up to 11 years before they would even be eligible for citizenship.
The immigration debate will continue along, and we will get back to it here in the Senate, but there is broad agreement on doing more in terms of our border security. There is some difference in how that should be shaped, but we ought to recognize that we need the resources, we need the $2 billion which is before the Senate. What is completely unacceptable is the tradeoff between trying to deal with and seal our borders and to see a reduction in the support for our military and the armed services in both Iraq and Afghanistan. A number of us have worked very hard to increase in more protective humvees and the up-armoring of the humvees over the last 3 1/2 years.
I serve on the Armed Services Committee. We have had 12 different estimates from the Defense Department on the requirement for up-armor humvees, and after each and every time, they have raised the requirement in order to protect troops.
We have added resources, both in the Armed Services Committee and here on the floor, to ensure that we are going to provide the best protection that the humvees can provide when they are up-armored. Now we are faced with an amendment which would reduce the resources for up-armoring humvees, something I believe is completely unacceptable. The tradeoff is completely unacceptable. We need both.
We have read and Americans have understood that we need to do a great deal more on armor for our troops. We are all familiar with the stories of American servicemen going through dumpsters in Iraq to get strips of steel and metal and strapping those onto their vehicles because we weren't providing sufficient body armor either to individuals or to the trucks that are used in convoys over there. Nonetheless, the proposal that is being offered by the Senator from New Hampshire would reduce the funds available for the kinds of protective armor which is so essential for individuals and for their vehicles.
The IED, as we have heard from General Casey, as we have heard from General Abizaid, and as we have heard from the commanders in the field, is the primary threat to American service men and women. Who of us has not watched the news virtually every single night and not seen the smoking ruins of some vehicle where young, brave, courageous American men have lost their lives? Those are primarily destroyed by IEDs.
We have not done the kind of research into IEDs necessary in order to master the technology so our servicemen will have a defense. In the very beginning, IEDs were being set off with simple signals, but we were unable to jam them because it interfered with our military's communications. We have an opportunity. We have sent men and women to the Moon and brought them back, but we are unable to develop the electronics to set off the IED before it can hurt our troops coming down the road. I don't understand it. But I know that we haven't utilized to the extent we should the entrepreneurship, the ideas, and the innovation in the private sector in terms of electronics to be able to advance this whole area of technology.
We have finally established a very interesting important task force to try to bring in the best minds in defense and the private sector together to solve this problem. But we are going to be cut back on that for border security. What possible sense does that make?
Those are a few of the very top priorities but there other priorities that will be affected, including training the Iraqi security forces to upgrade their skills so they can stand up and Americans can stand down. This amendment would cut that program, as well as training programs in Afghanistan.
Why in the world, if we have made assessments that these programs are justified, are necessary, that are included in the supplemental, is it possibly justified to say: Well, those weren't really accurate, those really didn't reflect the need? We can chip away at any number of those programs because we need border security. It is a bad choice.
I would like to take note, particularly of some of the smaller dollar items but, nonetheless, items which are of enormous importance and consequence.
Family support counseling: We have read about the explosion in the number of divorces that have taken place among our service men and women who are returning from Iraq. It is now four or five times the national average of those in their generation because of the stress experienced by these individuals, both those who go to Iraq and, sadly, those who are left behind. So we provide assistance in terms of family support counseling, which is so important, so necessary.
And all of us are familiar with the stories of children who are missing their father and may have difficulties in school. We also hear of the families who have difficulties in adjusting to the fact that parents are away for a long time, come home for a brief time, and then are sent back to Iraq; come home for a brief time, and then are sent back to Iraq again. This puts enormous pressure on families who see these enormous potential dangers to the lives and well-being of their loved ones. So the resources in here to help with support counseling are very important. This amendment would reduce those services.
This amendment would also reduce the help and assistance, particularly, for patient transportation, medical services, and rehabilitation services, particularly for those severely wounded. The fact is, we have made some progress in the advancement of technology for helmets, so we have less injuries to the brain and to the head than we have seen in previous wars. And we have also made improvements in body armor. But as a result we have seen the extraordinary trauma in the extremities, and many servicemen have lost their limbs--legs and arms. We have some special provisions in this legislation to give greater focus and attention, direction and support, to programs that deal with these injuries.
I do not understand why, if we are talking about getting $2 billion for border security--which I strongly support--we ought to put at risk any of these programs. That is what this amendment will do. We know we have to do something to protect our borders. We know we need to make the improvements which are outlined in both the amendments of Senator Reid and Senator Gregg, which are areas I certainly support, but we should not do it at the cost of these essential programs which are absolutely necessary for those individuals who are fighting on the front line and risking their lives every single day in a dangerous part of the world, and their families.
It is the wrong choice to make, to put any of these programs at risk in order to support the $2 billion. We ought to be able to support that. We ought to add that and it should be a part of this Nation's obligation for the future.
I just remind ourselves of a recent excellent report by a Nobel laureate, Professor Stiglitz, at Columbia, whose estimate is that this war in Iraq--just in Iraq--is going to cost $1 trillion--$1 trillion--before the end of it. A Nobel laureate estimating it will cost $1 trillion. We are being asked here for just about $2 billion to provide vital support services to those men and women who fight this war. It seems to me we have seen extraordinary expenditures already to date. I had my reservations, and I opposed going to this war, and I still believe it has not enhanced our national security or the security of Americans, but, nonetheless, what I am sure of is that it does not make sense for us to see a reduction in these programs that are so vital for our service men and women.
Mr. President, I yield back.
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I thank the chairman of the Committee on Armed Services for his kind words about aircraft carrier named for my brother. The chairman has long been a friend of my family, and his support is deeply appreciated and reciprocated.
All of us in our family are proud of the USS John F. Kennedy, and to her many years of outstanding service to our country. The keel for the carrier was laid on October 22, 1964, in the chairman's home State of Virginia. She was christened on May 27, 1967, by President Kennedy's daughter Caroline, when she was just 9 years old, the carrier came to be affectionately known to her crew as ``Big John.''
In 1983, the JFK was called upon to support U.S. forces during the growing crisis in Beirut. Six years later, at the height of the cold war, F-14 Tomcats assigned to the Kennedy shot down two Libyan Mig-23s that were threatening the battle group.
Afterward, the JFK returned to the U.S. and visited New York City for Fleet Week and then returned home to Boston for the Fourth of July, to the state that my brother was so proud to represent. Soon after that, she was assigned to the Red Sea, and stayed to support Gulf War I in Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
The following year, she was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea and monitored the turmoil in the former Yugoslavia. Later returning to the U.S. for routine maintenance, she was designated as the Reserve Operational Carrier.
In 1996, the carrier made a dramatic visit to the port of Dublin in Ireland.
More than 10,000 visitors were able to tour the ship and learn about her history. I was honored to be there for that visit and awed by love the Irish people showed her. Before she left, 16 planes from the JFK took off from the flight deck and performed a thank-you flyover of Cork and Dublin, in gratitude for the affection shown by people.
From September 1999 through March 2000, the JFK was back in the Mediterranean, and her aircraft patrolled Iraq's southern no-fly-zone. In 2002, in the Mediterranean and in the Arabian Gulf, she supported our troops in Afghanistan and Operation Enduring Freedom. She was called on again in 2004 to support U.S. troops in Operation Iraqi Freedom. She was relieved by the USS Harry S Truman. She returned to her homeport in Mayport, FL, that December and last year, she made what may be her final visits to Boston and New York.
It is bittersweet to know she will be retired, but the people of Massachusetts and the Kennedy family are very proud of her service and know she holds a special place in the hearts of the Navy and the Nation.
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