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National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2010 - Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I rise for two purposes. One is to make a quick response to the remarks of Senator Chambliss concerning the F-22 and a couple of remarks about what I understand is going to be next on the agenda which will be proposed by the majority leader, which is a hate crimes bill, which is very difficult for me to understand.

Senator Chambliss very appropriately pointed out that many times when we put together an authorization bill, we find offsets, as we call them--ways of paying for whatever item we want to add in the authorization bill. But I think it is important for us to point out that the Chambliss amendment during the markup, while putting this bill together, provided $1.75 billion for F-22 procurement. It took funds from presumed unobligated balances of several accounts. In all candor, they were unjustified assumptions.

The amendment cut $850 million from O&M accounts, which is operations and maintenance. That means the operating, the maintenance, the equipping, the replacement of very much needed parts and supplies that provide for the readiness of our troops, enabling them to stay ready for today's conflicts and for tomorrow's challenges. The account also covers day-to-day costs of the Department. This includes items such as training, maintenance of ships, aircraft, combat vehicles, recruiting, education support, procurement of general supplies and equipment, and repairs and maintenance of Department of Defense facilities.

Our military is engaged around the world. It is irresponsible to cut the resources they rely on to prepare successfully for their mission to protect the United States and its security interests worldwide. We owe it to our military to provide them with every resource. Based on historical data, the reductions that are in the Chambliss amendment to pay for the additional $1.75 billion would affect the following areas: Army's training and operating tempo, including training additional helicopter crews for irregular warfare missions; Navy's depot maintenance for surface ships; Air Force's depot maintenance and contractor logistical support for critical aircraft and unmanned vehicles; and the special operations command missions support and training of its forces.

Furthermore, a reduction of this magnitude would affect the Secretary's initiatives to hire and train additional acquisition professionals needed to improve the Department's ability to contract, develop, and procure weapon systems and to replace contractors with Federal employees, thereby reducing the $1.2 billion in savings that is reflected in the budget.

In addition, these accounts will have to absorb the increased cost of fuel that has occurred since the budget was submitted and additional civilian pay raises. That assumes the Congress sets the civilian pay raises at the same level as the military pay raise of 3.4 percent.

The other two ``offsets'' are $400 million from military personnel funding. Much of the funding in the military personnel accounts is entitlement driven. Thus, there is limited flexibility to absorb these reductions without affecting the readiness of U.S. forces. These reductions will directly translate into cuts to recruiting and retention bonuses incentives and other important programs such as covering the cost to move members and their families to new assignments. It will affect unit readiness by hindering the services' ability to meet end strength goals and fully staff operational units with critical personnel prior to deployment. If Congress sustains these reductions, the services will need to submit a reprogramming action to make sure our military forces are fully supported.

Finally, the Senator from Georgia assumes $500 million in first-year savings from the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act, which he referred to in his remarks. I am very proud to have worked under the leadership of Senator Levin and together coming up with a very important piece of legislation, strongly supported by the President and the Secretary of Defense, to reform the way we acquire weapon systems. The cost overruns have been outrageous, as we know, throughout the past few years. But there is no one--no one in our wildest imagination--who believes that in the first year of acquisition reform we will save $500 million. I would love to see that happen. I would love to see pigs fly. But we are not going to save $500 million in the first year of a piece of legislation that has not been implemented and would not be for some period of time.

So I am very flattered by the reliance of Senator Chambliss on $500 million in savings from the legislation we recently passed through the Congress and that has been signed by the President of the United States, but in all due respect, it is totally unrealistic. So what we are really doing is adding $1.75 billion and not accounting for ways to reduce spending or impose savings in any other way.

But I also understand and appreciate the passion, commitment, knowledge, and contributions of Senator Chambliss of Georgia. There is no more valued member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. We simply have an honest disagreement on this issue. I appreciate the many qualities of the F-22 aircraft and the enormous contribution it makes to our Nation's security, but the fact is, we don't need any more of them. That comes from the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Air Force, and others involved in these issues for a long period of time.

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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, just for a minute, because I know colleagues are waiting, it is my understanding that following the disposition of this amendment, which we hope would happen tomorrow morning, the majority leader will move to take up a hate crimes bill. The hate crimes bill is, to say the least, a very controversial piece of legislation and may deserve the debate and discussion of the Members of this body. But the fact is, it has nothing to do with the Department of Defense authorization bill. What the Defense authorization bill has a lot to do with is the training, equipping, taking care of reenlistment and retention, and all of the things necessary to defend our Nation's national security.

We are in two wars. We are in two wars, and we need to pass this legislation. So the majority leader's priority is a hate crimes bill--a hate crimes bill which has nothing to do with the Defense authorization. I hope if the majority leader does that, it will be the last time he will ever complain about an unrelated amendment being brought up by this side of the aisle.

Look, there are important amendments that need to be debated and considered on this legislation. This has to do with the defense of this Nation. So what are we going to do? We are going to tie up the Senate for a number of days. For a number of days we are going to tie up the Senate on a totally unrelated, very controversial, very emotional issue that has nothing to do with defending this Nation.

So I urge my colleagues on this side of the aisle, I urge the distinguished chairman, I urge the majority leader, let's move forward with addressing the defense needs of this country, save the hate crimes bill for another day, and do what is necessary for the men and women in our military rather than putting an agenda item that has nothing to do with defense next before this body.

I predict again that when this bill comes up, if the hate crimes bill is proposed by the majority leader and agreed to by the distinguished chairman, it will lead to a great deal of controversy and unnecessary debate and discussion on a defense bill. If the majority leader, who controls the agenda, wants to bring up a hate crimes bill, I would imagine he would be able to bring it up on his own. Instead, he wants to stick it on to the bill that the men and women who are serving in our military and are in harm's way today are depending on. It is not right. It is not the right thing to do.

I hope the majority leader and the chairman of the committee will reconsider their position and wait and bring up a hate crimes bill as a separate piece of legislation for deliberation and discussion and vote from this body and not tie it to the Defense authorization bill.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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