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Hearing of the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee - Implementation of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Decisions

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Location: Washington, DC

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REP. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH (R-NJ): Thank you to my good friend from Colorado.

And thank you, Mr. Chairman, for allowing us to sit in on this committee. There are four of us here that are not part of it, and I do thank you for that.

Mr. Chairman, while it is probably true that many -- perhaps most -- of the BRAC recommendations years to date have refocused, synergistically enhanced and led to positive military outcomes -- i.e., the joint base in New Jersey -- the impending closure of Fort Monmouth represents an egregious exception that unnecessarily puts the warfighter at risk.

Because of a near-certain loss of over 3,000 highly skilled, highly motivated, extraordinarily talented men and women -- 70 percent of the fort's work force will not move -- it will take several years to replicate in Aberdeen what is currently a world-class facility.

Mr. Chairman, we're at war. We don't have years. Gaps put lives at risk.

Victor Ferlise, who recently retired after 36 years of C4ISR service, including the 14 years as deputy to the commanding general, will tell the committee in panel two that Fort Monmouth ranked extremely high in military value, including first in development and acquisition and information systems technology, and first in sensors, electronic and electronic warfare, and that only when non-mission- related attributes are factored in does its value drop.

Secretary Grone testified just a few moments ago that military value was the primary consideration in making closures and realignment recommendation. So my first question to Secretary Grone: Would you explain this contradiction? In areas where it really matters -- high military value -- one, one, one, then three -- when non-mission related attributes are factored in, it drops. So if that was the criteria, why did, again, Fort Monmouth be put on the closure list?

Secretary Grone also testified that COBRA was not designed to nor does it produce budgetary, "qualitary" estimates. Why not? Why not a better look at what the real costs are? Chairman Ortiz, you talked about the process being tainted and flawed. Nowhere is that more apparent than in that under-accounting.

Systematically underestimating costs: GAO puts Fort Monmouth's closure at $680 million more than advertised and raises concerns among many of us that selected estimates were used to achieve a desired outcome. It turns out that even when COBRA's funny numbers were corrected -- like the garrison operating costs, thought to be $93 million; it was really $50 million per year. Even the number of $1.44 billion in terms of what the total costs of moving would be, those validated costs were not included in what the BRAC commissioners looked at.

The bottom line, Mr. Chairman, is this: In an unprecedented act, the BRAC Commission itself seemed troubled enough to caveat this and only this decision with unprecedented conditionality by requiring a DOD report verifying that the move to Aberdeen will be accomplished without a disruption of their support to the global war on terror, that redundant capabilities be put in place to mitigate potential degradation of such support, and to ensure maximum retention of critical work force.

We argue, our delegation, that this simply cannot be done, and we believe that the numbers and the rationale that we have offered throughout this process proves it.

I would ask, Mr. Chairman, respectfully, that there be a follow- up hearing -- you did say this was the first hearing -- perhaps in January to carefully review that report which DOD will submit at the end of this month to scrutinize the business plan to ensure that each concern is thoroughly addressed. Too much is at stake, too many Americans; too many coalition soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines may be put in serious jeopardy if we don't get this right.

Specifically, in addition to the military value question, Mr. Grone, I would ask 30 percent retention of critical work force is the anticipated number -- 70 percent loss, 3,100 employees. Does that, in your opinion, satisfy the BRAC Commission's concern of maximum retention of critical work force, and does this loss of difficult-to- replace intellectual capacity and capital pose any risk whatsoever to the warfighter?

Vic Ferlise calls this irreparable and irresponsible.

He says there will be very few employees left to train those folks in Aberdeen who may get these jobs. Who's going to do the training if that wealth of knowledge has been lost? We're very concerned about this.

And on jointness, there is already jointness with what is now the joint base in New Jersey, and I think that was missed and that is a serious oversight.

But if you could speak to those issues, I'd deeply appreciate it.

REP. ORTIZ: Thank you. Let's give time now to the secretary to respond to these questions.

Go ahead, Mr. Secretary.

MR. GRONE: Mr. Chairman, there's quite a lot there.

Let me start with the first question, military value. The issue as it was laid out by the gentleman from New Jersey is in relation to certain snapshots of military value. What he also didn't say is that when all aspects of military value were racked up, Fort Monmouth ranked 50th among Army installations.

Now, military value has a number of aspects to it. One of the key aspects is status quo configuration or the development of future capability. And in the development of the recommendation, the emphasis was on the development of future capability. And in my response to the gentleman from Maryland, I talked a bit about that future capability and the Army will detail in further detail the mission sets as they're going to be developed at Aberdeen and why they are critically important as we realign mission not just from Fort Monmouth but also from Fort Belvoir to co-locate at Aberdeen Proving Ground and create synergistic relationships that go beyond the current status quo in C4ISR.

On the question of COBRA, there's a reason why COBRA doesn't have budget-quality data, and that is that in order to secure budget- quality data we would have to send site survey teams to the field. If we send site survey teams to the field, we could give the impression that we have already made decisions.

COBRA was designed to give some reasonable estimate on a cost basis with a zero-year baseline so that you could adequately compare a variety of options.

REP. SMITH: With all due respect, if I could interrupt, Secretary Grone: $1.4 billion was sent from the fort to the Department of Defense. Why wasn't that included?

MR. GRONE: I will get to that point, Mr. Smith.

And that point is this: The law provides, specifies, requires that the process the department uses rest on certified data. Certified data is a chain of custody process. Questions go out from the headquarters through the system to the field. The data comes back up from the field, from Fort Monmouth, through the system to be used in the process.

Later on in the process -- frankly, at points after which the secretary had delivered his recommendations -- there were individuals who suggested that some of the data might be wrong. The department was not legally in a position to accept data outside the certified data chain of custody and submit that to the commission because it would violate another requirement of the statute and that is that we treat all installations equally.

Now, on the question of whether or not the commission had access to the information, the commission records in three instances -- three separate hearings -- demonstrate clearly that the commission had access to data that we could not provide. The commission, having examined that record thoroughly, both our record and the record it developed through field hearing and other submissions, voted six to two to not remove Fort Monmouth from the list and then voted seven to one to allow it to proceed.

A number of the issues that have been raised by members recently in the press and in other fora were the same issues that were addressed at the commission, data that -- same data, same issues. The commission, exercising its independent discretion, also changed the Fort Monmouth recommend of the department in at least one instance by requiring night vision capability to remain at Fort Belvoir. The notion that the commission was a rubber stamp for the department's recommendations is not supported by the facts and is also not supported by the activity of the commission in changing 35 percent of the recommendations in some way, major or minor.

The issue is: What is going to be the future capability that's to be developed at Aberdeen Proving Ground in a synergistic way that ties a number of different activities together -- not just to co- locate them but to enhance collaboration that will allow better support to the warfighter.

The issue of loss of intellectual capital: The record is replete with debate inside the department and at the commission on whether -- the essential question was this: Is intellectual capital elastic or inelastic? At the end of that debate, the judgment was that intellectual capital was elastic because if you hold the other position, you can't move anything.

And so the inherent military value in the recommendation, the implementation plans of the Department of Defense, the needs of the technical community, the needs of the warfighter are all going to be met through the objectives of this recommendation. And the notion that somehow senior military leadership in the development of the recommendation did so in a way that would put lives at risk on the battlefield is simply wrong, I submit respectfully. And so --

REP. SMITH: If I could follow up very briefly, Mr. Chairman?

REP. ORTIZ: Well, go ahead. Make it short because we've got other members who want to ask questions as well.

REP. SMITH: Did the department anticipate a 70 percent of individuals, the men and women, not moving? I mean, would you have arrived at the same move -- Fort Monmouth to Aberdeen -- if that were factored in?

I mean, that is such a high number of talented individuals who are lost to the system. I mean, just because the law required this or required that, at what point do you say corrective action needs to be taken, this is a mistake?

MR. GRONE: The availability of individuals and their ability to retire, if you want to look at it from that way in the status quo configuration, is at about the same rate as it is across the rest of the department.

So what essentially is being argued -- and I understand and respect the needs and desires of the New Jersey delegation and other interested parties to want to retain that mission there and they so fought, as you did and others did, before the commission. I respect that. The national decision was to do something else.

And our obligation is to carry out the statute, and that's what we intend to do.

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REP. SMITH: Would my friend yield, Mr. Pallone?

REP. PALLONE: Sure.

REP. ORTIZ: Let's just don't make it too long because his time has expired.

REP. SMITH: That's why a second hearing that would focus on the business plan, whether or not this could be achieved, but let's invite the chairman of the commission, Secretary Principi, to be a witness as well, because he will know what was his intent and that of the others because we think we have a very clear understanding that this was a conditionality, and so again, we shouldn't talk about well, maybe this or maybe that; let's get to the bottom of it.

And again, Secretary Grone, at the bottom line is the warfighter. This is not, as Mr. Cummings said in the newspapers, a football game and it's against the New Jersey delegation versus the Maryland delegation; this is all about the men and women in the field. And I've spent too much of my time in VA hospitals as former chairman of the VA Committee writing legislation that became law to help service- connected disabled veterans to look askance when we believe an egregious mistake is in the process of being made. We are bipartisan on this and I would hope that the cooler heads at the Pentagon would say a mistake -- "Well, we're not just going to keep going up that hill even though our men are being slaughtered," to use a metaphor.

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REP. SMITH: Yes, Mr. Chairman. Thank you very much. I do appreciate it.

Let me ask -- I would also like to ask Mr. Ferlise a couple of questions.

And I would -- to you, Mr. Chairman, with the business report coming out, the report from the DOD, would again reiterate the request that there be a follow-up hearing.

You know, with every rule there's an exception. As I said in my opening, BRAC has done some very good things.

I've been involved in -- you know, we've had some of our bases in New Jersey put on the list. Some of them were changed, some of them for the better. But in this case, this is the most glaring exception I've seen in my 27 years of a DOD blunder that is about to be, you know, unfolded and implemented.

And I think, you know, with all due respect to our good friends in Maryland, they will find very quickly that they won't have the personnel to train these individuals. Vic Ferlise said -- made that point in his testimony. And at the end of the day this is all about the warfighter. It's whether or not we pull the plug on a number of important missions.

Secretary Harvey, as you pointed out, Mr. Ferlise, didn't even know what the mission was. And you know he's had a lot on his plate at the time. But when you misstate in a way that is then reported upon, it just begs the question who's advising him?

You know, the fact that Mr. Ferlise just mentioned that that certified data that he himself -- and let's underscore that -- he himself certified after his own internal audits, did not make its way onto consideration for the BRAC commissioners. But three months later on the BRAC website -- because we went to it and downloaded, as did others, I'm sure -- they had the certified data. It was like after the fact, "Oh, let's get this on the website real quick." This somehow suggests that it was taken into due consideration, which we have every reason to believe it was not.

There needs to be very, very careful scrutiny given to this egregious decision.

But I would like to ask Mr. Ferlise: You've called the loss of intellectual capital -- which will be about 3,100 people and maybe more -- irreparable and irresponsible. You said that the intellectual capital would be lost and not recovered for an intolerable period of time, if ever, which I think is a very telling statement.

You point out that system experts take from six to nine years if they're trained right out of college or soon after college, four to six years if they're in mid-career. You also point out -- and this needs to be underscored a thousand times -- very few employees will be available to train the new employees.

So we'll have a thud, a loss of capability that will happen overnight -- or, in the terms of the DOD implementation, a few years -- but that's overnight. And who gets hurt at the end of the day? Our warfighters.

If you could elaborate on this irreplaceable loss for the committee, because I think that begs the question as to why this needs to be stopped.

MR. FERLISE: I think in response to that question you need to understand first at least my view what Fort Monmouth is. It's a national treasure that we have that grew up in Monmouth County, New Jersey. It grew up in the shadow of giants -- Bell Laboratories, Sarnoff Laboratories. There was a time when they were stealing my engineers at $25,000 bonus for anybody that could bring an engineer from Fort Monmouth to them. Belcore is there, Telcordia is there, and a whole raft of IT giants. AT&T is there.

So what you're looking at today in Fort Monmouth is a national treasure that is not going to be readily replaced elsewhere, especially going to an area where there is no culture of C4ISR. If you were to move to a place like Boston, where MIT is and a whole raft of institutions there, you might have a start at it.

But to move to a place with no C4ISR background is a recipe for disaster that only our soldiers will have to pay for.

So I think that intellectual capital will not be readily replaced. The people will be replaced, but the ones that can figure out how to deal with that particular jammer threat are not going to be there.

Now, the jammers that we have in theater defeat about 80 percent of the threats, and to give you an idea of the magnitude, we're talking about a threat, an actuating mechanism, that has changed more than 500 times. Engineers at Fort Monmouth get that information through something called TDAC (sp), the FBI, and they immediately destruct the device and figure out what the countermeasure is.

In fact, some of the countermeasures are already on the shelf anticipating where the physics will go next, if it's going into the infrared or the RF range or what it is so that we are anticipating. The latest jammer that's over there is a software-defined jammer that we can just change the software in it without redeploying the package.

And when I talk about jammers, I'm talking about 30,000 are there. Every Thursday morning, I had to report to the four star on how many more had been fielded, how many more had been installed. It was that critical of an issue, and it is a -- it's obvious it's a critical issue.

And to take that cadre of people and move them and risk this loss is unthinkable to me.

And I talk about IEDs. IEDs is a family of equipments, but there are fire finders over there. There's lightweight counter mortar radars that are over there, came from Fort Monmouth. The C-RAM, a spectacular device that shoots down mortars in flight -- in flight -- 70 percent hit rate. There's a whole raft of radars, radios, computers, all types of intel equipment coming from there, totaling, as I said, one-half of the entire inventory of national stock-numbered items.

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REP. SMITH: I thank the distinguished chairman for yielding and again for including us on your panel.

Let me ask Mr. Ferlise a question with regards to Phil Grone, when he spoke earlier, mentioned 50th in terms of military value as if he was dropping a bomb. You addressed that in your written statement, about the non-mission related attributes like environmental elasticity. Could you explain this fallacy? Because again, it has surface appeal, but as soon as you dig away a little bit it just -- there's nothing there --

MR. FERLISE: It's about maneuver ranges, he's talking about. He's correct. We don't have 50,000 acres there. But we have Fort Dix with an enormous range. In fact, it has one of the only tank ranges on the East Coast. We also have Fort Irwin. We test at both of those places.

REP. SMITH: And there's already jointness with those bases?

MR. FERLISE: Yeah. That's correct. So, you know, I think that's part of the same story that we haven't heard the end of yet. There's no logic here. I can't express it to you in a way that says this is good for soldiers. And I defy you to find somebody to come forward and say, "This is the best thing we've done for the warfighter; I don't care about money; I don't care about people in Monmouth losing jobs." Nobody says that because it's absolutely not true. In 29 months they couldn't even articulate something that could pass the straight-face test.

And the other thing I want to say is in that 29 months, since that caveat came out, not one single step has been taken to protect that work force. There are things that could have been done, retention bonuses for people, all kinds of other things. None of that's been done.

That report should address what have you done in the last 29 months? Every one of those 29 months I can tell you people have left Fort Monmouth.

They've gone to the joint base. They've gone to Picatinny. They've gone to industry. They've gone all over. But you just can't sit by and let that happen.

Now, I don't want you to misunderstand where we came from before I retired. We did everything we could to bring people from Maryland. We recruited routinely at Maryland because we wanted to get those people up here, train them, and then hopefully they'd want to move back to Maryland. So when I was in government service, I viewed myself as executing the law. And I'm going to do everything I could. And they will too. But I can tell you, the people at Monmouth are committed to doing whatever the law is because warfighters need it, not because of money, not because of jobs. The bottom line: Every document you ever got from Fort Monmouth said our bottom line is the soldier.

People in industry ask me, why do you say that? Their bottom line's money. Ours isn't money. Ours is taking care of those soldiers, wherever they are in the world, and doing whatever we have to do.

I'll give you one more example. I realize we're a little long on time, sir.

Blue Force Tracking -- I got a call from the Pentagon six months before we went into Iraq. "How many teams can you give me to field Blue Force Tracking in the theater? All the vehicles are there already."

Took me about two hours. I called them back, the G6 of the Army. I said: "You have a blank check. If you want one team I'll give you one. If you want 10, I'll give you 10. You want 100, we'll give you 100 teams."

In short, we'll do whatever we had to do. And Blue Force Tracking got into the tune of 1,200 vehicles and saved lives. The tank battalions that crossed in Baghdad saw each other because of Blue Force Tracking -- saved lives.

And that's what you've got there. You have a national treasure, and we can't let it just go by.

REP. SMITH: Finally, Lieutenant Governor Brown: Phil Grone said earlier that details in the report that we'll release later this month will include mitigation of any loss of intellectual capital. And I'm asking you sincerely: You went through, you know, people's resumes, and, you know, we could do the same thing and say we have this kind of capability, you know; we'll put it up in a brochure. But when it comes down to people who have a very specific expertise that has been learned over the course of several years, do you see -- and again, the use of the word mitigation. We use the word mitigation when you're talking about toxic waste cleanup. You know, you lessen the risk.

As Phil just mentioned a moment ago, you know, no one's saying this is a good thing. They're saying it's not necessarily a bad thing. And I'm wondering, do you have any concern -- any whatsoever -- that there is a risk to the warfighter because of this move?

LT. GOV. BROWN: Mr. Smith, my concern is that in Maryland we're doing what we can do each and every day to support the warfighter, and that's what we're committed to doing. Some of the steps that we've taken -- recognizing that often the employee looks to a spouse in helping make that decision, whether you move. We've set up one-stop shops in -- at Fort Monmouth to -- for spousal employment and transitional services. We've set up the same thing outside of the gated Aberdeen Proving Ground to facilitate that communication, to continue to identify those needs to get those percentages as high as we can do.

That's what our focus is on, bringing as many people with the jobs so that we --

REP. SMITH: I understand. Is there anything in Mr. Ferlise's testimony -- which I think just lays out this case. If this was going to court before a jury, I think it would be a unanimous jury that this is a foolish move, casting no aspersions whatsoever on Aberdeen nor on Maryland but just based on intellectual loss, the capacity of people to do this job in the midst of a horrific war. You know, so my concern is, did you hear anything in what Mr. Ferlise said that would persuade you that there's some caution here, that there is some risk that's gone underappreciated by some?

LT. GOV. BROWN: Mr. Smith, that is somewhat out of my lane. All I can tell you is that what's in my lane is making sure that we invest in the human capital and the physical infrastructure in Maryland so that we can accommodate the arrival of families and jobs and we're doing that each and every day. And we do -- I met with the leadership at Fort Monmouth. I've heard their concerns. We've heard their concerns as well as at Aberdeen Proving Ground. And each and every day we commit ourselves to addressing those concerns. And we know it is a challenge.

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