NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2005 -- (House of Representatives - May 20, 2004)
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Knollenberg). Pursuant to House Resolution 648 and rule XVIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the further consideration of the bill, H.R. 4200.
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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I strongly support the provision in the FY 2005 Defense Authorization Bill that would finally end the Survivor Benefit Penalty (SBP), a reduction in survivor benefits when a beneficiary reaches age 62. I have heard from many veterans and military families among my constituents who have waited for too long to end this discriminatory policy. Members who signed up for SBP in the 1970s were led to believe they were purchasing annuities that would provide their surviving spouses 55 percent of retired pay for life. After paying decades of premiums, they understandably feel betrayed upon learning that their benefit drops by more than one-third when they reach age 62. To make matters worse, the U.S. Defense Department Actuary has confirmed that the federal subsidy has dropped to 19 percent-far below the 40 percent level Congress intended when the program was first enacted. There could be no more effective way for the Federal government to restore the intended cost-sharing relationship than by raising the age-62 SBP annuity.
I have been a long-standing cosponsor of two free-standing bipartisan bills, H.R. 548 and H.R. 3763, to make this change in the law and eliminate this penalty as quickly as affordable. Unfortunately, these bills remained stuck in committee until a discharge petition was filed a few weeks ago to bring this matter to a vote. I was happy to co-sign that discharge petition, just as I was glad to be one of nearly 170 Democrats in this House to co-sign the letter sent to Congressman Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, urging that this provision be included in this bill. Now we must fight to retain this provision in conference to ensure a 5-year phase-in to finally eliminate this penalty once and for all.
Mr. Chairman, I oppose those provisions in the FY 2005 Defense Authorization Bill which authorize an additional $28 million on the nuclear bunker buster, the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, plus $9 million for "advanced concept initiatives." The direction in which the Bush Administration is leading our nation on nuclear weapons policy by steadily increasing funding for this type of de-stabilizing research is reckless and ill-advised. That is why I support the amendment offered by my colleagues, U.S. Representatives TAUSCHER, MARKEY, and SPRATT, which would have shifted the funding in this bill away from Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator to increase both U.S. intelligence capabilities to get at hard and deeply buried targets and improved conventional bunker-busting capabilities.
The U.S. Department of Energy, DOE, originally planned to spend $45 million on such research between FY2003 and FY2005. According to the Congressional Research Service, DOE now projects spending $71 million through FY2006.
We should be stepping away from researching new tactical nuclear weapons for new uses, not warming to that proposition. We are sending the wrong message to our allies and potential adversaries around the world. When they see the Bush Administration steadily increasing U.S. spending for this kind of research, they are understandably concerned that the U.S. is opening Pandora's box and encouraging the development and procurement of a new generation of nuclear weapons.
Furthermore, this type of research does not make practical, scientific sense.
Supporters of the nuclear bunker buster claim that such weapons would accomplish the destruction of deeply buried targets without causing massive collateral damage. But they ignore some fundamental considerations that are underscored in several recent scientific studies including some by scientists at Princeton University and by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
First, since weapons cannot penetrate very deeply into the ground, then destroying deep hardened targets would require powerful, high-yield nuclear warheads.
Second, it is relatively easy to build a bunker so deep, 1,000 yards underground, that no earth-penetrating nuclear weapons, no matter how large its yield, could destroy such a bunker.
Third, even a small, low-yield earth-penetrating nuclear weapon will create enormous radioactive fallout because the explosion could not be contained underground. The radioactive debris thrown into the air would drift for miles on the wind.
Fourth, there is no guarantee that a nuclear blast would successfully destroy chemical or biological weapons. In fact, a nuclear attack on a bunker that contains chemical or biological weapons could easily lead to the release and spread of those agents.
Fifth, there are conventional alternatives to the use of nuclear bunker busters. Current precision-guided conventional weapons could instead be used to cut off a bunker's communications, power, and air supply, thus effectively keeping the enemy weapons underground and unusable until U.S. forces could secure them.
Finally, it is very troubling to me that, while Bush administration officials are quick to point out that no funds are authorized in this bill for production of these weapons, it is worth noting that their preferred federal budget plan over the next 5 years outlines spending $485 million to move into the deployment and engineering phases for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator.
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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I support the provision in this bill which would at least postpone the 2005 BRAC Round until 2007.
Since September 11, 2001, the national security and defense needs of our nation have been changing and are still changing. We are still uncertain as to what resources we will need in the future.
First, U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan and Iraq for an uncertain period of time. Just look at Bosnia and Korea. In fact, after considerable effort to keep Congress from increasing end-strength, DOD is not reducing the number of military personnel in Iraq as planned, and Congress is increasing end-strength by 39,000 over 3 years.
Second, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is still in the process of being established and the facilities and resources needed for its diverse challenges, including any current military infrastructure that might be needed, are
Third, difficult decisions are yet to be made about the number of troops needed in Europe and Asia and where they should be located.
Fourth, there are efforts underway to raise or remove the caps on the number of troops in Colombia, and we have 2,500 Marines in Haiti. Similarly, we also see moves to shift at least 3,600 troops from South Korea to Iraq.
Fifth, congressional oversight of the re-deployment and re-positioning of American troops is needed now more than ever. Yet, there has been no structured, deliberate, and timely effort on the part of DOD to work with Congress to prepare our nation to confront additional and unprecedented challenges in the post-9/11 world. In fact, as reported in the National Journal last month, "The department [DOD] has no plans to share the study [global posture review] with Congress, although Pentagon officials say the study will inform the BRAC process."
Sixth, the BRAC process is estimated to cost approximately $15 billion. Savings above the cost of implementing BRAC are not required until 2011. These funds could be used now for our troops now.
Seventh, we are confronting very different circumstances in 2005 compared to the BRAC Rounds conducted in 1988, 1991, 1993 or 1995. Savings from previous BRAC rounds were derived almost entirely from substantial reductions in force structure and end strength. But now, we are increasing end strength and considering increases in force structure.
Mr. Chairman, the following reports are required from DOD between January 1, 2006, and March 15, 2006, or the BRAC process dies:
a. The Pentagon's Integrated Global Basing Strategy, including basing locations, rotational plans and policies, and overseas and domestic infrastructure requirements associated with that strategy;
b. A study of the infrastructure requirements associated with force transformation efforts; a report on infrastructure requirements related to changes to the active and reserve personnel mixtures of the services;
c. A study of the infrastructure requirements resulting from the Secretary of Defense's "10-30-30" objective; a reassessment of excess infrastructure capacity that is based upon infrastructure, facility, and space requirements of current, future, and surged military forces; and
d. A definition of, and infrastructure requirements associated with, "surge requirements" as determined by the Secretary as required by section 2822 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 (Public Law 108-136).
It is prudent for implementation of BRAC to be put off 2 years (1 year if you start at the final due date of the reports) to allow Congress the opportunity and more time to review these reports in light of our nation's evolving defense needs.
Realistically, even if Congress was to obtain the reports I've cited during the current BRAC timeline, there would not be enough opportunity for Congress to fully review and debate the merits before we would be required to vote on closure and realignment choices.
We should postpone the 2005 BRAC Round for at least 2 years.