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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. COONS. Mr. President, earlier this week, the Senate adopted an amendment to the bill we now consider that would, among other things, give the Chief of the National Guard Bureau a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I was a strong supporter of this amendment, as I was its two legislative predecessors, the Guardians of Freedom Act and the National Guard Empowerment and State-National Defense Integration Act.

Since then, I have actively lobbied my colleagues to support the measures, and I am glad that this week, so many of them came together to support it. With more than 70 cosponsors from across the political spectrum and ultimately, the unanimous consent of this body, the deep bipartisan support shown for the National Guard this week is not only indicative of the immense respect the brave citizen soldiers of this Nation have earned, but of the extraordinary potential they have for enhancing our national security.

A National Guard in one form or another has served our Nation bravely and honorably for 375 years. Their courage is no less respected, their families no less concerned for their well-being. They have done extraordinary work these last 10 years in in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and in Operation New Dawn. But that is not what this amendment was about. This amendment was not about rewarding what has been done in the past.

Rather, it was about recognizing what we need to do for our future in order to keep our country safe. That is the key here: bringing to bear every resource we have for the defense of this Nation.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff are the top military advisers to the President and to the Secretary of Defense. They are responsible for making sure our military is prepared for every threat to our national security, but as those threats tilt toward the asymmetric, so must our military planning.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have begun a fundamental transformation of our military, shifting away from a posture designed to counter Soviet aggression in Europe toward a posture that confronts asymmetric threats to American lives and interests.

Writing in a report for the Center for New American Security last year, retired General Gordon Sullivan described the National Guard as at a crossroads: ``Down one path lies continued transformation into a 21st-century operational force and progress on the planning, budgetary and management reforms still required to make that aspiration a reality. Down the other path lies regression to a Cold War-style strategic force meant only to be used as a last resort in the event of major war.''

There was a clear choice, and this week the Senate made it, taking what I believe is a significant step toward strengthening our national security.

When national defense solely meant fighting our enemies abroad, the current organizational strategy made sense. But now that we are more likely to have to defend against threats to America's national security here on American shores at the same time, we need the National Guard to have a seat at the table. We need the National Guard's resources and capabilities to be a first-line consideration that matches their first-line mandate.

In my home State of Delaware, the 31st Civil Support Team is the tip of the spear of the military response to a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear attack by terrorists. Following closely behind police, fire, and EMS services, our CST would diagnose the threat, inform and update the chain of command, and prepare the affected area to receive a response by larger units, coordinating as far up the chain as U.S. Northern Command.

When the Joint Chiefs sit down to plan for a biological attack on this country, they need someone at the table who fully understands the mission of units like the 31st Civil Support Team, whose members are full-time Guard, but not Active Duty military.

One area that needs more thought by the Joint Chiefs, and that I hope General McKinley and his successors will help them focus on, is the important role the Guard can play in cyber security, an area where most threats are decidedly asymmetric.

The Delaware Air National Guard's 166th Network Warfare Squadron is already playing a key role in our nation's defensive and offensive cyber capability working with U.S. Cyber Command, but its potential as a bridge between the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, between Federal and State governments, and between the public and private sectors has barely been considered outside of a few circles. Determining what unique role the Guard can play in cyber security to create a more robust, more flexible defense-in-depth is just one of the new ideas I believe the Chief of the National Guard Bureau can bring to the planning process.

The men and women of the National Guard bring extraordinary capabilities to our Armed Forces, and because of the action we have taken here this week, I know that our military will be better prepared for new and emerging threats to our Nation.

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Mr. COONS. Mr. President, another amendment that I filed to S. 1867, the Senate's Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization bill, would have advanced new clean energy opportunities and enjoyed bipartisan support. The amendment's cosponsors included Senators Shaheen, Portman, Gillibrand, Merkley, and Kerry. Unfortunately, we were not able to offer it this week because of a disagreement over scoring. It was an important opportunity missed so I wanted to take a moment to note what this amendment entailed.

Amendment No. 1265 would have confronted a critical long-term challenge facing our Nation's military: the spiraling cost of its reliance on petroleum. As we look for ways to save taxpayer dollars and reduce our Nation's dependence on foreign oil, utilizing more electric vehicles should become a priority for the Defense Department and the entire Federal Government.

Investment in clean energy technology is an investment in America's energy security. Liquid petroleum accounts for three-quarters of our Armed Forces' energy consumption, and approximately 60 percent of that comes from abroad. The Defense Department has explicitly cited the operational risk inherent to our dependence on foreign oil and has committed itself to aggressively reducing energy consumption.

Senate Amendment No. 1265 would allow the Defense Department and other Federal agencies to purchase electric vehicles and charging infrastructure under Energy Savings Performance Contracts, ESPC. ESPCs themselves aren't new: the government has used ESPCs for years to pay for energy efficiency upgrades. It has been enormously successful and costs the government nothing up front. That's right, ESPCs are paid for, financed, performed and guaranteed by the private sector with the government paying back the private sector through guaranteed energy savings over time. Our amendment would have made electric vehicles and charging infrastructure eligible for the program.

Energy efficiency is about more than turning the lights off when you leave a building. It is about the appliances you buy, the tools you use, and the vehicles you drive.

The Federal Government is America's largest energy consumer and within the government, the Defense Department is the biggest energy consumer. One out of every three vehicles owned by the Federal Government is owned by the Pentagon, which is why we raised this amendment this week.

Amendment No. 1265 would have helped increase the share of the government-owned fleet that is cost-efficient, energy-efficient electric vehicles. On top of that, it would not add a dime to the Federal deficit. By buying these vehicles in through ESPCs, the government does not put up any money up front. Rather, it enters an agreement with a private-sector contractor--a job-creating private-sector contractor--where the agency pays the contractor over an agreed-upon period of time--as many as 25 years.

What they are paying each month, though, is the net savings achieved by using the electric vehicle instead of a conventional vehicle. This is an unconventional, but creative and cost-efficient way to save money, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and even to help support a growing private industry.

This amendment would have simply provided the Defense Department with a new tool for acquiring cost-efficient electric vehicles, which is what they are asking us to do. They want to add electric vehicles to their fleets. The Defense Department has already done extraordinary work in leveraging energy efficiency to reduce its costs and reduce its dependence on foreign oil. We want to help them do more.

This is a challenging economic time for our country, and our military needs every advantage it can get as it confronts dangerous threats to our national and energy security. By empowering the Pentagon to buy more of these energy-efficient, cost-efficient electric vehicles, we are saving taxpayer dollars and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Investment in clean energy technology is an investment in America's energy security, and energy security is, without a doubt, an increasingly important, and increasingly fragile, aspect of America's national security.

This is a common-sense policy that unfortunately cannot be considered at this point because of a technicality in how the Congressional Budget Office scores ESPCs. It has been going on for 10 years and, as I understand, it has provided endless frustration to my colleagues on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and several other congressional committees, and this problem reaches beyond the electric vehicle option alone.

A key point to make here is that whenever Congress tells the Federal Government to become more efficient but does not provide appropriated funding for the purpose, a score is triggered because the government might use ESPCs to meet the mandate. Effectively, Congress cannot tell the Federal Government to save money through efficiency. Further, while ESPCs are scored by the CBO rules, OMB does not score them because the government does not incur any costs through their use. This specious score has essentially limited our ability to reduce appropriated dollars and achieve energy efficient simultaneously using private sector expertise and funding.

This amendment is something that is important to me. I am hopeful it is something that we will be able to pass down the road. In the meantime, it is an opportunity lost, to help our military prepare for the threats facing our nation.

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