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Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. POLIS. I thank the gentleman.

I rise in opposition to the amendment. There are over 20 million acres of Federal land in Colorado. I want to be clear with, of course, great respect to my colleague from Ohio. This is not in any way, shape or form a giveaway to our counties. This is land we cannot tax, we cannot develop, we cannot benefit from. In fact, PILT payments are insufficient. They're too low to compensate for the burden of having all this land that's not part of our local tax base. It is a burden. In fact many of our counties have to actually spend money maintaining this land because some of the Federal infrastructure isn't sufficient as well. There is nobody who's making out like a bandit from this and it's all we can do to justify the fact that the Federal Government owns a lot of land.

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Mr. POLIS. Mr. Chairman, we all share the goal of reducing the deficit. If we are serious about deficit reduction, we need to look at defense as one of the line items. My amendment would save hundreds of millions of dollars by reducing our troop count in Europe. Instead of having over 80,000 troops in Europe where they are no longer needed, we would reduce the amount of troops in Europe to 35,000. This would allow the Department of Defense to save money by closing bases in Europe that don't have any strategic rationale. Deploying our troops out of Europe and closing these bases is an excellent way to help reduce expenditures and save money.

My amendment would only cut 7,500 troops which would save $278 million. An additional 35,000 troops would be available for deployment to actual theaters where we have a strategic interest. So it would enhance our preparedness at the same time as saving money.

This step would save $278 million and improve our national security.

Reducing our troop levels would save money, personnel costs, housing expenses and the cost of stationing troops abroad. On top of these savings, my amendment will allow us to close bases across Europe that, quite frankly, Mr. Chairman, are relics of a bygone era. Rather than fighting the demons of the past, we need to focus on the very real threats of the present and the future. We are no longer in a battle with the Nazis. We are no longer in a battle with the Soviets. The need for these bases was understandable in a different geopolitical context.

But what is their justification now? The U.S. taxpayer did not sign up to defend wealthy European democracies from imaginary threats forever. These bases cost U.S. taxpayers millions and millions of dollars. I fail to understand why we're wasting money to maintain bases where they aren't needed. Our European Allies are some of the richest countries in the world. Why are we subsidizing their defense spending? Our European allies have enjoyed a free ride on the American dime for years now. Today, they spend on average only 2 percent of GDP on defense, while we spend between 4 and 5 percent.

There's no reason for us to subsidize European defense while every other aspect of our government we are looking at for cuts.

I understand that many of the troops stationed in Europe have in the past been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. My amendment is consistent with that. Currently 13,000 troops stationed in Germany and Iraq are deployed in our theaters of operation. My amendment would allow for that to continue. It allows for 35,000 troops, well within the number that are currently deployed in actual theaters where we have a strategic interest.

Nor does my amendment signal any kind of weakening of our commitment to NATO. With modern technology, we can move troops and weapons quickly across the globe when needed. My amendment would still allow for 35,000 troops to remain in Europe so they can do joint exercises with NATO. It is time for us to rethink our defense spending. We are not under threat in Europe. Maintaining a network of bases in Europe is not a rational or effective response to the terrorist threat, nor is it fiscally responsible.

These cuts are not my idea. They are based on recommendations from the Sustainable Defense Task Force, a bipartisan project organized by Congressman Frank, Congressman Paul, Congressman Jones, and Senator Wyden and backed by a number of credible organizations, CATO Institute, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Center for American Progress, Center for Defense Information, National Security Network and others.

Even Donald Rumsfeld believes it is time to change our policy. This is his quote from his recent book: ``Of the quarter million troops deployed abroad in 2011, more than 100,000 were in Europe, the vast majority stationed in Germany to fend off an invasion by a Soviet Union that no longer existed. I believed our troops had to do more than serve as security blankets for wealthy allied nations.''

When even Donald Rumsfeld admits that this policy doesn't make sense and isn't cost justified, we must seriously reconsider our policy maintaining bases in regions that are clearly peaceful and pose no threat.

Let's get serious about balancing the budget and find savings in every agency, including DOD. Reducing our military presence in Europe is low-hanging fruit. This will save money. The time is now. The time was last year. The time was 3 years ago. After the fall of the Soviet Union, there fails to be a strategic rationale to maintain our current troop levels or expenditure levels in the European theater.

My amendment will save taxpayer money and improve military preparedness for conflicts in zones where America has a strategic imperative to fight the global war on terrorism. I urge a ``yes'' vote on the amendment.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. POLIS. Madam Chair, this amendment would help increase the ability of the administration to leverage the resources they already have to support expansion and replication of charter schools that have shown to be effective.

Basically, this amendment will remove a regulation that prevents subgranting and doesn't allow charter school grants to be done through intermediaries, which are generally venture philanthropy organizations like New Schools Venture Fund and Charter School Growth Network. These organizations have proven that they can help guide charter schools and CMOs, organizations that manage one or two charter schools and help build them into successful, multisite organizations that support student success.

These venture philanthropy organizations use the same model in the nonprofit sense--I want to emphasis they are nonprofits--as venture capital does in the private sector and support excellence in the charter schools that are part of their portfolio. They encourage rigorous evaluations. They provide strategic guidance to board membership.

One of the issues we frequently have with charter schools is lack of quality governance. These intermediaries actually can help establish quality governance, which is such an important determinant of whether a charter school is successful or not. They can provide flexibility and provide specific interventions as needed. When something isn't working, they can help.

Finally, it will empower the administration to help be able to work through venture philanthropy organizations to better leverage Federal funds. If you have X dollars in Federal funds, they can combine that with two-X or three-X in private philanthropic capital they have raised to have a more meaningful impact on student achievement, to help expand and replicate what we know works with regard to charter schools.

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