NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2004-CONFERENCE REPORT-RESUMED
Mr. INHOFE. Madam President, I apologize to our distinguished chairman for not having been down here during this discussion. As he well knows, I chair the Environment and Public Works Committee. I am proud to say we were able to get a bill out, the reauthorization bill. I feel very good about that. It will be coming to the floor. It is a good compromise but it required my attendance.
I want to be on record to say that our chairman and the ranking member have done a very good job. We have worked closely together during the development of the authorization bill. We are making great headway. We are turning in the right direction. I particularly applaud those who participated in the ultimate compromise that we agreed on having to do with the lease program, the 767s. We all understand we have a crisis in our tanker fleet. Our KC-135s are getting old and there is controversy over how much longer they can be used. Nonetheless, our pilots who are performing this significant mission of refueling need to have the very best. We are addressing that problem.
In the area of TRICARE, we have made some advancements that are long overdue. I know in my State of Oklahoma, we probably have one of the highest populations of retired military, many of them in Lawton and scattered throughout the State. I know there are very serious concerns we have gone a long way to meet.
Environmental issues bother me a great deal, and maybe I am more concerned about what has happened to our ability to train our troops, because I happen to also chair the Environment and Public Works Committee. So we deal with the environmental issues.
But it is very disheartening when you go down to your part of the country and see what has happened in some of the endangered species programs and how we are addressing those.
In Fort Bragg, in Camp Lejeune, for example, we are spending such an inordinate amount of money protecting the suspected habitat of the red-cockaded woodpecker that it is having a very deteriorating effect on our ability to train. This is something that does concern me greatly, and we are starting to address that, I know, in relation to the issue of endangered species. We have clarified the law that is going to perhaps, hopefully, stop some of the injunctions that have been taking place. I think we are making some progress there.
I am glad we are addressing end strength-not as much as I would like to or our chairman would like to because this is a compromise situation, but we have to recognize that we allowed our end strength to deteriorate, in terms of numbers, to the point that we are OPTEMPO of our regular services, we are OPTEMPO for our Guard and the Reserves. It is at an unacceptably high rate.
I do not think there is one Member of this Senate who does not go home and talk to his Guard and Reserve units, only to find out that critical MOS, military occupation specialties, are being lost because they are just overworked. You cannot expect someone who is in a citizens militia to have to be full time. Essentially, that is what is happening right now.
So we are starting to address that, and I think we need to go much further in the future. When I see that we did have a problem all during the 1990s, that I articulated on this Senate floor, when we had a lowering in the amount of attention that was given to our military in terms of end strength, in terms of modernization, in terms of national missile defense, these things were very disturbing to me. I know we are now recognizing it.
I hate to say it in this way, but I really think those who subscribe to the idea-or did subscribe to the idea prior to 9/11-that the cold war is over and we need not have the size military we once did are just dead wrong. I look wistfully back at those days when we knew what our enemies had. We had one major superforce out there, and that superforce was predictable.
Now we have the proliferation of both weapons of mass destruction throughout the world and the delivery system. We know what countries have a delivery system that could reach us here in Washington, DC. We need to make up for what was lost during that period of time.
Lastly, I would agree with Secretary Rumsfeld who at one of our earlier meetings suggested that throughout the entire 20th century, the percentage of our GDP that went to defense was about 5.7 percent, and that dropped down in the 1990s to about 2.7 percent. We are up to 3.4 percent approximately.
I think we need to stop and rethink that as an overall picture of a plan for the future, perhaps it should be somewhere around 4, 4.5, or 5 percent because the nature of the threat that is out there is more expensive. I think we need to address it. So I think this bill goes a long way in that direction.
I am very pleased with the product we have. We have a long way to go, and I hope we can join hands and do that in the future.
Again, I applaud our chairman and the ranking member for the efforts they have put forth in making this legislation a reality.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Virginia.
Mr. WARNER. Madam President, I thank my distinguished colleague for his steadfast service on our committee these many years, and particularly in this past year when we were confronted with a number of very serious issues. And I recognize the consideration of this conference report coincides with his markup in the Environment and Public Works Committee on which I am privileged to serve with him. But, I say to the Senator, you manage to do both quite well.
Mr. INHOFE. I thank the Senator.