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National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2010--Continued

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2010--Continued -- (Senate - July 14, 2009)

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AMENDMENT NO. 1469

Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to voice my support for the Levin-McCain amendment to strike $1.75 billion added to the bill that is on the Senate floor to purchase additional F-22 aircraft that have not been requested by the Pentagon.

I believe this amendment presents us with an important choice of what our national security priorities will be going forward: Will we continue to pour billions and billions of dollars into weapon systems despite the fact they are not requested and despite cost overruns and program delays, or will we make the hard choices necessary to ensure that our troops in the field have what they need to fight present and future conflicts?

I believe the choice is clear. I am aware this means, for some States that are making this plane or have subcontracts--and we have some in our own State--that this means jobs. But if we don't move forward to what we really need to produce for our troops today, we are never going to be able to do the best for our troops and do the best for our country.

By the way, as we move forward, that means jobs. I was just up in northern Minnesota visiting a little company that has no contacts with the military, no political connections to get contracts, and they had been in a very open, transparent process because they make an incredibly light backpack that is good for the troops, good for their back, and they got the contract. This is a new era, and part of this new era is transparency. Part of the new era means we actually will look at what our military needs.

No one can dispute that the F-22 possesses unique flying and combat capabilities or that it will serve an important role in protecting our Nation in the future. The question is not whether we should keep the F-22 in service, the question is whether we should purchase additional planes at the expense of more urgent needs for our troops.

Our Armed Forces are currently fighting in two major conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. After more than 7 years in Afghanistan and more than 6 years in Iraq, the F-22 has not been used in combat. It has not flown over those countries. Over the course of these conflicts, we have seen the tragic consequences when our troops don't have the equipment and resources they need, such as enhanced body armor or vehicles to protect them from IEDs. We have seen what happens when we don't give our troops what they need. We cannot continue on this course. We must focus our defense resources on the personnel, equipment, and systems necessary to respond quickly to unconventional and evolving conflicts while maintaining the ability to counter conventional foes.

For years, Members on both sides of the aisle have come to the Senate Floor to denounce wasteful spending in our defense budget and called on the Pentagon to be more responsible in its budgetary and procurement policies. Hearing this call, our military leaders have produced a plan this year to address wasteful and unnecessary defense spending so we can ensure that we are providing our Armed Forces the tools they need to keep America safe and strong while also ensuring that taxpayer dollars are used responsibly.

We have a major debt in this country. Some of it is because of mistakes made in the past. With this economy, there is enough blame to go around everywhere. We have a major debt, a major deficit, and we have troops who need to get the equipment they deserve. What is the answer, put $1.75 billion into some planes the Pentagon says they do not need? I don't think that is the answer.

It should be noted that the limit on the number of F-22s that the Levin-McCain amendment would restore is supported by the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and both the current and the immediate past Presidents of the United States.

I believe Senators LEVIN and MCCAIN should be commended for their dedication to improving our defense posture and budget and for putting their own political interests aside--their own jobs, in their own States.

Earlier this spring, I was traveling with Senator McCain in Vietnam when the Pentagon's proposed reductions, including the F-22s, were announced. I discussed with him at length what this would mean, the difficult decisions that Members are going to have in their own States. But I also talked to him about what the troops need. Right now the troops and their commanders are telling us they do not need these planes, so it is a testament to the service of Senator McCain to our Nation and the work Senator Levin has done for years that they are leading the fight to defend the recommendations of our military and civilian leaders. I am proud to join them.

This amendment presents us with an opportunity. We can begin making decisions based on security interests and fiscal responsibility and cut $1.75 billion for additional F-22 aircraft that our military commanders say they do not need or we continue on a course that cannot be sustained. I urge my colleagues to do what is in this Nation's best long-term interest, in the best interests of our troops, and to vote for the Levin-McCain amendment.

I yield the floor.

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