March 2005 Enewsletter
My office is publishing this electronic newsletter as a way to keep you informed about what is happening in Washington and in the district. You can also log onto the congressional website at http://www.house.gov/markudall for more information about constituent services, upcoming events or to read recent statements on various issues. Please feel free to share this newsletter with friends or direct them to my website. I hope you will find this newsletter to be helpful and informative.
Thank you for your interest,
1. UDALL: CONGRESS MUST NOT FAIL TO SUPPLY TROOPS
Congressman Udall, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, released the following statement regarding his support for H.R. 1268, the Emergency Supplemental Wartime Appropriations Act of 2005:
"Bottom line is that we need to provide the funding necessary to keep our troops supplied and protected. With our troops stretched thin, forced to perform longer tours of duty and short of equipment and supplies, funding for our men and women in uniform must not be held hostage to disagreements about the wisdom or folly of Bush administration policies.
"I have been a critic of the Bush administration's policy in Iraq. But I think even those who have supported it should be deeply concerned about the escalating cost of our efforts there. If approved, the president's emergency supplemental appropriations request will bring the total cost of our operations in Iraq so far to over $200 billion. This amount gives me pause, but Congress must not fail to supply our troops.
"When I visited Iraq last year, I met with our troops and it is clear to me that more resources, including body armor and military equipment, are needed to safeguard their lives. The bill we are considering today provides these resources. It includes important provisions to raise the military death gratuity from $12,000 to $100,000 and includes funding for contract linguists for the Army and additional body armor for the Army and Marines.
"But large as it is, the bill still falls short in some respects. More funding is needed for veterans' health care and mental health care and helping members of the National Guard transition back to civilian life.
"The bill also lacks answers to some tough questions. How many more supplemental requests like this one does the administration plan to present to Congress? What is our post-election strategy in Iraq? Can we account for the billions of dollars already spent in Iraq, and are the remaining billions of dollars in reconstruction funds being well spent? Why can't we get a solid answer about the numbers of trained and equipped Iraqi troops?
"We must continue to ask questions, not only to provide accountability to American taxpayers, but also to keep faith with the real needs of our troops in the field. The more effectively we use these billions to train and equip Iraqi troops, the more quickly Iraqis will be able to fend for themselves, which means a ticket home for our troops."
2. UDALL BILL AIMS TO EXPAND BROADBAND ACCESS IN RURAL AREAS
Congressman Udall has introduced legislation that would expand broadband access into rural areas so that millions of Americans in this country are not left behind in an increasingly information-dependent society.
From education, to health care to economic development, the benefits the Internet has provided are invaluable. However, access to this technology has created a divide between haves and have-nots in our country. High speed broadband Internet is common in most urban and suburban areas. Although nearly a quarter of the nation's population lives in rural America, rural access to broadband is either nonexistent or extremely costly. Udall's legislation will provide rural regions the tools they need to increase economic opportunity and improve their quality of life.
The Rural Access to Broadband Services Act of 2005 provides a tax incentive for companies that invest in broadband access in rural regions of our country. It also encourages the development of "next generation" technology, typically more expensive, through the same type of incentive. The bill also supports research in technologies that enhance broadband service and provide more effective and less expensive service to rural areas. It directs the National Science Foundation to conduct research into both the availability and access of broadband technologies. Finally, the measure creates an office in the Department of Commerce to coordinate federal resources relating to rural broadband access. In the past, several agencies have been involved with the development and deployment of broadband. This office will provide a central point within the government to monitor this effort and reduce overlap within other agencies.
Because providing access to broadband technologies in rural America is an expensive endeavor Udall said that the government should bring the same kind of force to broadband access as it did to rural electrification.
3. INSPECTOR GENERAL AUDIT QUESTIONS NOAA REORGANIZATION PLAN
A Commerce Department Inspector General audit has concluded that the findings and recommendations included in a Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH) report could not be the sole basis for consolidating and moving the NOAA administrative facilities in Boulder. Congressman Udall last year asked the Commerce Department to stop any reorganization plans until the IG conducted an audit and inspection of the BAH report because he believed it contained inaccurate data and could jeopardize over 100 jobs in Colorado.
Udall said that reorganizing and moving NOAA's Mountain Administrative Support Center (MASC) would not strengthen management or result in any cost savings, and that the IG findings should halt any plans to dismantle and move these offices.
The 2004 BAH report recommended reorganizing the Administrative Support Center structure, closing the Boulder facility and moving it to either Washington, D.C. or Seattle. The Commerce Department Inspector General Johnnie Frazier said he found the BAH recommendations inadequate because he could not validate the estimated cost savings and the report lacked sufficient analysis and data to support a reorganization plan. The IG said that he still had concerns even after meeting with the consultants who prepared the report.
"As a result, we concluded that neither the findings nor recommendations contained in the Booz Allen reports can serve as the sole justification for action by NOAA," Frazier wrote in a letter to Udall. Frazier also said that NOAA did not disagree with his conclusions and acknowledged that the IG report "undercuts the value of the [BAH] study."
NOAA has already reorganized the MASC director's office, a move that reflects recommendations in the BAH report. Udall is concerned that even though the BAH report has been discredited, NOAA officials may still try to proceed with further reorganization plans. He strongly discouraged them from proceeding without Congressional approval, which is required by law.
A copy of the Inspector General report can be found at http://www.oig.doc.gov/oig/reports/national_oceanic_atmospheric_administration/index.html]
4. UDALL REACTS TO RECOMMENDATIONS IN AIR FORCE ACADEMY SEXUAL ASSAULT SCANDAL
Congressman Udall, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, released the following statement in reaction to Air Force Acting Secretary Peter B. Teets' recommendation to not discipline military officials in the Air Force Academy sexual assault scandal:
"The Air Force Academy sexual assault scandal and Acting Secretary Teets' recommendation clearly land on Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's lap. I'd urge Mr. Rumsfeld to put himself in the shoes of the parents whose daughters go to the Air Force Academy. It is a shame that these recommendations, to essentially take no action against individuals, come at a time when the military is already having a hard time recruiting. The many honorable and hard-working cadets and faculty at the Air Force Academy must be concerned as well. Mr. Rumsfeld cannot afford to sweep this under the rug.
"Both as a parent of a teenage daughter and as a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, I am deeply concerned about the lack of accountability couched in the memo. Two investigations and many months later, no one has been held responsible for the sexual abuses at the Air Force Academy. It isn't enough to say that punishing the commanders would be plowing old ground.' By his own admission, Secretary Teets didn't even interview the cadets or anyone else connected to the rape cases, which I find both puzzling and troubling.
"The memo, however, is only part of the problem. The Pentagon has moved too slowly to get a new sexual-assault policy into place. Now the Pentagon must demonstrate that accountability and the highest standards of discipline and conduct will be enforced throughout the Armed Forces."
5. UDALL SAYS ALL VIEWS SHOULD BE HEARD AT SOCIAL SECURITY TOWN HALLS
At his own Social Security town meeting in Broomfield on March 31, Congressman Udall urged the White House to include all points of view at the Social Security town meetings his administration is holding across the country.
In a letter to White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Udall asked him to look into allegations of inappropriate behavior by the White House advance team at a recent Denver town hall and to take steps to ensure that no one is improperly removed from participating in similar events in the future.
"I do not question the authority of the Executive Branch to hold public meetings focused on the President's initiatives. However, I believe that events characterized as town meetings or forums ought to be open to all citizens regardless of their party affiliation or political views. So long as people are respectful and not disruptive, they ought to be given an opportunity to attend meetings that are ultimately paid for with federal funds," said Udall.
During the Denver event, three Coloradans were ejected from the meeting alleged because one of the participants had a bumper sticker on her car that said "No more blood for oil." Udall sent a letter to the Secret Service on March 28 asking for clarification of the events leading up to and including the ejection of the three Coloradans.
Udall said that town halls are helpful for discussing important issues, but they should not exclude people who have opposing views.
6. UDALL REMEMBERS POPE AS A GREAT ADVOCATE FOR PEACE AND THOSE OPPRESSED BY POVERTY'
Congressman Udall released the following statement regarding the death of Pope John Paul II:
"With the passing of Pope John Paul II, the world has lost a great advocate for peace and for those oppressed by poverty. For the millions of people he touched during his 26 years as the leader of the Catholic Church, he was a beacon of hope, faith and charity.
"The Pope will leave an incredible imprint on world history, particularly the role he played in helping to bring down the Iron Curtain of the former communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the fight he lead against global poverty.
"On a more personal note, I particularly admire the Pope for making public his battle with Parkinson's disease, an illness that brought down my father. The Pope put a human face on this horrible disease and showed that anyone, including great holy men, could become afflicted and still achieve greatness.
"Whether Catholic or non-Catholic, everyone can agree that the Pope demonstrated great compassion for those in need, and people throughout the world returned that compassion as he lived his last days on this Earth."
7. GAO CRITICIZES AGENCY CONFLICT OF INTEREST IN RESEARCH AGREEMENTS
House Science Committee Members Reps. Mark Udall (D-CO) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) have released a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report critical of two research agreements between Federal agencies and industry.
GAO found that both the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had failed to take appropriate steps to evaluate the conflict-of-interest potential inherent in their respective research agreements with the American Chemical Council (ACC). This collaboration between a regulated industry and agencies that either directly regulate that industry or support research that supports those regulations, raises questions regarding whether the agreements were in the public's best interest. Curiously, GAO found that at both agencies, some officials were aware that a conflict could exist.
NIEHS has agreed to implement GAO's recommendation that in the future similar types of agreements will be subject to a conflict-of-interest evaluation. EPA has not indicated whether it intends to implement GAO's recommendations. Udall said that NIEHS is to be congratulated for embracing these changes, that and future cooperative agreements should be subjected to the closest scrutiny to guarantee the public is best served by such initiatives. He hopes EPA will follow the NIEHS lead and also implement these recommendations.
Also released today is a Science Committee Democratic staff memo produced for Udall and Johnson to put the GAO report in a broader perspective. The memo makes a case that a conflict of interest, at least in its appearance, was inherent in the agreements between the agencies and the ACC. The memo also raises concerns about a broader range of government cooperation with regulated industries.
The GAO report was requested by Udall in the 108th Congress when he served as the Ranking Member of the Environment, Technology and Standards Subcommittee and Ms. Johnson when she served as Ranking Member of the Research Subcommittee. Udall has taken over responsibility as Ranking Member on the Space Subcommittee. Ms. Johnson now serves as Ranking Member on the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee of the Committee on Transportation.
Copies of the GAO report are available on the GAO's web site. A copy of the Democratic Staff Memorandum on Government-Industry Cooperation is available at the Science Democrats website at:
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Member of Congress