REAL SECURITY PLAN FOR AMERICA -- (House of Representatives - July 20, 2006)
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Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, tonight Representative Van Hollen and I will be discussing one of the core issues of national security, and that is energy independence.
National security is the core function of our government. For most of our history as a Nation, bipartisanship governed American national security policymaking. In the words of Senator Arthur Vandenberg, a Republican, ``Politics must end at the water's edge.''
A succession of American Presidents from Woodrow Wilson to Harry Truman to Dwight Eisenhower to Ronald Reagan guided this Nation through two world wars and the tense decades of the Cold War. Their leadership was based on asserting America's power in a way
that advanced the ideals of our founders, and which made America a beacon to millions of people who were suffering under fascism and communism.
Most importantly, these men knew the limits of any one Nation's ability, and they saw the wisdom of marshaling our strength with that of other freedom-loving people. They listened to the counsel of our allies and members of both parties here at home.
The current administration has too often believed that it has the answers and does not need to pay attention to the ideas of others. This refusal to listen to other voices and an excessively partisan and ideological approach has resulted in an America that is more isolated than at any time in the postwar era.
Around the world, among nations that should be our strong allies, we are less often seen as a force for good in the world, and this has jeopardized the cooperation we must have to win the war on terror. This has been most clearly seen in Iraq, where insistence on invading the country without the broad international coalition we assembled in the Gulf War, and then our brushing aside offers of help from the international community, have seriously undermined the war effort and increased the burden that our troops and our country must bear.
But Iraq is not the only challenge facing our Nation. The ongoing crisis involving Israel, and Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists, Iran's standoff with the international community over its nuclear program, and a similar faceoff with North Korea are all competing for the attention of American policymakers.
In each of those crises, America's ability to marshal international support and use the full range of our power to effect a positive outcome has been undermined by the administration's ineffective stewardship of our national security. Democrats have developed a comprehensive blueprint to better protect America and to restore our Nation's position of international leadership.
Our plan, Real Security, was devised with the assistance of a broad range of experts, former military officers, retired diplomats, law enforcement personnel, homeland security experts and others, who helped identify key areas where current policies have failed and where new ones were needed.
In a series of six Special Orders, my colleagues and I have been sharing with the American people our vision for a more secure America. The plan has five pillars, and each of our Special Order hours have been addressing each of them in turn: Building a military for the 21st century, winning the war on terrorism, securing our homeland, a way forward in Iraq, and achieving energy independence for America, the subject of Ms. Kaptur's recent 5-minute speech.
During our first Special Order we discussed the first pillar of our plan, building a military for the 21st century. To briefly summarize what we discussed 2 weeks ago, here are the elements of that pillar: Rebuild a state-of-the-art military; develop the world's best equipment and training, and maintain that equipment and training; accurate intelligence and a strategy for success; a GI bill of Rights for the 21st century; and strengthening the National Guard.
We next discussed a comprehensive plan to win the war on terror, which focused on a wide-ranging series of strategies to destroy the threat posed by Islamic radicalism. This involves destroying al Qaeda and finishing the job in Afghanistan; doubling special forces and improving intelligence; eliminating terrorist breeding grounds; preventative diplomacy and new international leadership; securing loose nuclear materials by 2010; stopping nuclear weapons development in Iran and North Korea.
The job of securing our homeland remains unfinished. In the wake of 9/11, there have been numerous commissions and investigations at the Federal, State and local level as well as a multitude of private studies. All of them, all of them, have pointed to a broad systemic and other flaws in our homeland security program.
Almost 2 years ago, the independent 9/11 Commission published its report, but most of its recommendations have yet to be implemented. Our homeland security plan requires the implementation of all of the 9/11 Commission recommendations. It provides for the screening of all containers and cargo.
It safeguards our nuclear and chemical plants. It prohibits outsourcing of ports, airports and mass transit to foreign interests. Trains and equips our first responders and invests in public health to safeguard Americans.
In early June we discussed our plan for Iraq, a new course to make 2006 a year of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with Iraqis assuming primary responsibility for securing and governing their country with a responsible redeployment of U.S. forces. Democrats will insist that Iraqis make the political compromises necessary to unite their country and defeat the insurgency, promote regional diplomacy, and strongly encourage allies and other nations to play a constructive role.
For the remainder of today's hour, we will discuss the fifth pillar of Real Security: Stable, reliable, affordable sources of energy are crucial to the U.S. economy and to the global economy.
To ensure such a supply, I believe developing cleaner sources of energy and encouraging energy efficiency and conservation must be among the Nation's top priorities. Members of both parties in Congress and the administration must work together toward a pragmatic and comprehensive strategy to secure American prosperity in the 21st century.
Democrats have long advocated increased investment in the search for alternative fuels and the development of energy-efficient technology. Today European and Asian competitors are already developing technologies that will reduce fuel consumption and lower the emission of green house gases.
Rather than American entrepreneurs, it is our competitors who are prospering from these developments. By marshaling America's great strengths, our innovativeness, our technological prowess, our entrepreneurial spirit, we can better secure our Nation, save our environment, and become the world leader in this cutting-edge industry.
In pursuing energy security, we must use the Nation's resources effectively. The Real Security Plan directs the national investment to areas that minimize economic risk while maximizing the potential benefits. It also aligns incentives for American consumers with the goals of our Nation.
It makes transparent the true costs of energy and ensures that the easy choice for Americans is also the right choice for the Nation. Finally, it emphasizes the importance of energy as a national security issue.
To achieve this vision, the Real Security Plan offers fresh policy ideas. These ideas are drawn from a broad range of stakeholders, academic experts, government administrators, energy industry executives, environmentalists, and a vibrant grass-roots community.
The Real Security Plan pushes the Federal bureaucracy to overcome its business-as-usual approach and it encourages American entrepreneurs to innovate. While many of the ideas are new, some have been around for years. For example, experts have for many years recommended updating the Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency or CAFE standards. This year even the majority on the Government Reform Committee stated in a report that the fuel economy standards have stagnated for years.
Unfortunately, while the President has talked about the Nation's addiction to oil, he has failed to take the simple action of updating the CAFE standards. The President may believe that fuel efficiency standards are a burden on American manufacturers, or a constraint on the American consumer, but, sadly, he has underestimated American ingenuity and the willingness of Americas to sacrifice in the war on terror.
In contrast, in 1961 President Kennedy announced his vision for the Apollo project to put a man on the Moon in one decade, by saying, ``I believe that this Nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out.
``But I think every citizen of this country as well as the Members of Congress should consider the matter carefully in making their judgment, to which we have given attention over many weeks and months, because it is a very heavy burden. And there is no
sense in agreeing unless we are prepared to do the work and bear the burdens to make it successful. If we are not, we should decide today and this year.
``This decision demands,'' he said, ``a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, material and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already spread thin.
``It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline, which have not always characterized our research and development efforts. It means we cannot afford undue work stoppages, inflated cost of materials or talent, wasteful interagency rivalries or a high turnover of key personnel.''
You might recall, in speaking of the Apollo project, President Kennedy also said, ``We do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard.''
This is the sort of leadership we need today on energy, and the level of commitment that we must be prepared to make, and we must ask of the American people. Unfortunately, this President has not asked the American people to sacrifice in the face of war or in the face of our tremendous challenges.
I would now like to turn to my colleague, Representative Van Hollen of Maryland, who has been a very outspoken leader on national security, in general, on energy independence, in particular. I yield to the gentleman from Maryland.
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Mr. SCHIFF. I thank the gentlewoman for all her leadership on this issue, and you alluded to the free market and the operation of market forces. That is not always as free as it might appear, particularly in the price at the pump. But there have been several obstacles to our energy independence, what has been a lack of vision in terms of where we need to go as a country in the administration and in the Defense Department, as you point out, but there have also obviously been within the oil industry efforts to stop this from happening.
I have to imagine the best and quickest way to bring oil prices down is to make other sources of energy competitive. If we can incentivize the development of these biofuels and make them more readily available, the oil companies are going to drop their prices in a hurry in order to undercut this new industry, if nothing more.
But what really kind of gnaws at me is when we look around the world at what China is doing with solar power and solar cities now, at what South American countries are doing at making themselves energy independent with biofuels, and what Japan is doing in terms of development of hybrid technology and how they are passing us by, that really grieves me because it hurts our national security interests. It hurts our economy.
Let me do a reality check with Mr. Van Hollen's district which is 3,000 miles from mine. If I ask my constituents, would you be willing to make a sacrifice so that you could tell the oil producing Nations of the world, many of which are not our friends, we do not want your oil, we do not need your oil, you can take your oil and whatever, my constituents would leap at that. How would your constituents feel?
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Mr. SCHIFF. I wanted to make one comment and I have a question for Ms. Kaptur.
When we talk about sacrifice during the War on Terror, really the only people in America who have been asked to sacrifice are the men and women in uniform and their families, and they are sacrificing big time; multiple deployments to Iraq, to Afghanistan, families left behind, wondering if their loved one is going to come back at all, come back in one piece, how to make ends meet while they are gone.
I met when I was in Iraq a young man serving there who was on his way back home. His wife was also in the service. She was on her way to Iraq. They were going to be like two ships passing in the night. The level of sacrifice of the men and women in uniform is nothing short of outstanding.
Outside of that group, though, Americans have not been asked to sacrifice for the greater good, but we are sacrificing in an unexpected way, and that is when we go to the pump. We are paying a heavy price. The problem is that the price we are paying is not going for any productive gain.
Yes, we are paying a lot more at the pump. But where is that money going? It is going in two places. It is going into the record profits that Mr. Van Hollen mentioned, which it is not just record profits for the oil industry. The oil companies have had the largest profits of any corporation in American corporate history, and these are the same companies that are enjoying the tax subsidies that we keep passing. And yes, the market is allowing them to take these profits. It is not compelling them to. It is not compelling them to charge that price at the pump, but it is giving them the opportunity to, and they are taking it. So part of the money is going there.
Where else is the money going? Well, a lot of the money is going to the Middle East. A lot of it is going to countries that, either openly or covertly, are funding people who are trying to kill us. That is not a worthwhile sacrifice for Americans to make. And the terrible tragedy of this is. And I think probably the biggest missed opportunity of this administration is if we had started 5 years ago, or even after 9/11, and we said we are going to make the sacrifice now to wean ourselves off of oil, we might have had to pay a little bit more in terms of our conservation measures, but that money would be an investment in our security. Now we are paying 10 times as much, and it is going to some of the people trying to kill us.
What I wanted to ask Ms. Kaptur, I know other countries in South America, for example, have gone a long way in terms of using biofuel, have made themselves energy independent, have done what we have not been able to do. If we did have the right package of incentives, if the government was a leader and worked with the agriculture industry, how much of our domestic consumption of energy could be supplied by biofuels?
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Mr. SCHIFF. I thank you very much for your leadership on this, and it seems to me there is maybe no other issue that is as cost-cutting, as energy independent and has such a positive synergy, since that to the degree we could wean ourselves off of foreign oil, that helps us with our national security and our foreign policy.
To the degree we can develop these new technologies, that helps us economically. There has been tremendous demand in China, India, and elsewhere that are energy-starved countries with strong GDPs. So it is an economic winner.
In terms of our environment, not sending all of those ozone-depleting gases and the greenhouse effect and the global warming, it is an environmental imperative.
In terms of rescuing the family farm and helping our agriculture industry, it could be a vital part of the answer.
Almost every challenge we face as a Nation intersects at the intersection of energy independence. Now, some people point at other solutions, and I want to ask the gentleman about this.
Probably the most prominent debate we have on energy kind of tells you where we are here is on drilling in Alaska. From my point of view, that does not make much sense, both in terms of how long it would take to extract the oil, the environmental costs, but I wanted to ask your thoughts on that.
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Mr. SCHIFF. The gentleman is exactly right. We have this choice. We have had this choice for several years. We can have more of the same, more of the same $3.50-a-gallon gas, maybe $4-a-gallon gas at the pump, more warming of the global environment, more production of greenhouse gases, more pain economically in terms of higher energy costs for businesses.
Or we can have a new direction. I think we have talked about several of the ingredients of that new direction tonight. The investment of biofuels: That helps our farms and it helps our economy, it helps our energy independence, and it helps our energy independence and our national security.
Investment in other alternative energy sources like solar power where the profit points are almost there, almost there for a great expansion of solar power. They just need a little incentivization before they can be broadly employed.
The development of windpower, geothermal, and the whole host of renewable energy sources. This is the new direction we need to take this country in. Otherwise, every time we have a flare-up in the Middle East, as right now we are having this tragic situation, Hezbollah has attacked Israel, kidnapped soldiers and prompted this conflagration of the region, gas prices are going through the roof.
Iran thumbs its nose at the international community and says we are going forward with our nuclear program, gas prices go through the roof.
Hurricanes in the gulf take out refining capacity. We can't predict, as you say. We don't have a crystal ball. We don't know next year if it is going to be a hurricane, or next year it is going to be the Middle East, or the Venezuelan head of state who is anathema of the United States, but we do know it will be something. And if we don't take action to change the direction of our country to a new direction, we are going to be continuing to be funding a lot of the people that are bent on our destruction.
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Mr. SCHIFF. I thank the gentlewoman for her leadership on this issue and on so many other issues here in the Congress.
I want to wrap up by bringing this back to where we started, and that is the integral nexus between energy independence and national security. You can imagine what a positive to our national security policy it would be if in our dealings in the Middle East, our dealings with Russia and China and our dealings with South America, if energy was not an issue in the sense we were not dependent on other parts of the world, and particularly the Gulf States. What a transformative effect that could have in a positive way on our national security policy. Energy independence is really key.
Our new direction, as outlined by real security, is energy independence by 2020. This is an achievable goal. It would require the kind of commitment that President Kennedy talked about when he talked about the Apollo project, but it can be done.
I have great confidence in the American people and the American entrepreneur. We can do this. It would eliminate our reliance on Middle Eastern oil. We would increase production of alternative fuels in America. We would promote hybrid and flex-fuel vehicle technology in manufacturing, and we would enhance energy efficiency and conservation incentives. This is the direction Democrats feel we need to bring this country in order to make sure that our security is in fact very real.
I want to yield to my colleague from Maryland for his closing remarks and once again thank you for not only this evening, but for all of your work on the national security plan.