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Issue Position: Defense

Issue Position

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For eight years now our country has faced down terrorism, waged two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and kept in check rogue nations that seek to build and proliferate nuclear weapons.

Over the past months, America faced all these same problems as well as the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The road ahead will not be easy. The collapse of the credit market, rising unemployment numbers, and the accompanying decline in federal revenues have left our nation in a position where we simply no longer have as many resources to devote to national security as we once had. Therefore, we must take two steps to ensure that our nation's economic problems do not compromise our nation's security.

Invest in Our Troops -- Victories in the war on terrorism will be won on the backs of the men and women of the armed forces, and not through the use of any single weapon system or technological achievement. We must, therefore, use our defense dollars to make sure that our troops have the skills needed to fight 21st century wars. That means that we strengthen our fighting force by providing our troops more training in counterinsurgency and antiterrorism tactics.

We must also continue to incentivize the recruitment of capable young men and women into the military to make sure that America retains as effective a fight force as we developed over the past eight years. That's why I voted for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. This new program will encourage more military recruits by promising to pay for their college tuition and their housing costs after they leave the military just as long as they serve 90 continuous days and 36 total months of active duty service. We all know that the cost of college has risen dramatically and that the job market has seen better day. This bill will make sure that young Americans who serve their country in the line of duty will be able to attend college or graduate school at no cost to them and will not be burdened by college debt upon graduation.

Investing in our troops also means that we must provide our armed forces with enough rest time in between deployments so that they may be as effective as possible. Currently, our military is being stretched too thin by extended deployments and minimized dwell time, which many retired military leaders have warned will push our forces to the breaking point. To address this concern, I joined Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.) in cosponsoring legislation to ensure our brave men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan will receive the same amount of time at home with their loved ones as time they serve on the battlefield.

In the coming months, I will seek out more bipartisan ways to support our troops and to promote the health and stability of our armed forces.

Make Smart Investments in Weapons Systems -- Last April, the Government Accountability Office released its annual assessment of Department of Defense's major weapon systems and revealed that the cost overruns on the 95 largest programs now amounted to $295 billion more than their original program estimates, putting the sum total of these costs at $1.6 trillion.

If our nation is to navigate the economic crisis and continue to fight two wars, we must curb this inefficient use of defense dollars. That means that we must end no-bid defense contracts, reform the weapons acquisition process so that our weapons are developed in a cost-effective way, and we must incentivize defense contractors to deliver weapon systems on time and under budget.

Last September, I held a hearing in my Federal Financial Management subcommittee of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee to examine this issue. We found that some of these costs overruns could be reduced by some basic reforms to the weapons development process. These findings prompted me to become a cosponsor of the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act, which, among other things, creates an independent "Cost Czar" for the Department of Defense who will hold acquisition officials and defense companies' feet to the fire to reduce cost overruns in our biggest defense projects.

While must make sure that we are developing our weapon systems in a cost-effective way, we also must be sure that our defense dollars go to weapons that will enable us to succeed in our battles against terrorists and will prepare us for the challenges yet ahead. Too often we find in our defense budgets billion-dollar, line-items for weapons designed for the Cold War and not for our current or future battles. I strongly support Secretary of Defense Gate's effort to curtail some of these obsolete programs and over the coming months I will work with him and the Armed Services Committee to work to achieve these goals.


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