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Putting the Brakes on Runaway Defense Spending

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Speaker, Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke testified on Capitol Hill last week and warned us that deficit reduction ``should be a top priority'' and that current spending projections are unsustainable. In response, the gentleman from Wisconsin, who chairs the Budget Committee, said that we needed to get our fiscal house in order, otherwise, ``it's going to get ugly pretty fast.''

To him, I would say: It's already ugly. It's really ugly for 13 million Americans who woke up this morning without a job to go to. And it would get uglier still if we embraced his vision of a shredded safety net and a voucher program that ends Medicare as we know it.

Here is what I find particularly distressing and disturbing: for my colleagues in the majority, every other sentence out of their mouths is about reducing Federal spending, and yet the programs they want to cut are the very ones that are keeping working families afloat. They never seem to aim their ax at the part of the budget that has shot through the roof the last 10 years and now eats up more than half of discretionary spending. I'm talking, of course, about the Pentagon budget.

It doesn't make any sense that the military industrial complex has gotten a virtually blank check while important domestic programs--and also important civilian international programs that promote national security--look for change in the couch in order to survive.

If we're in belt-tightening mode, then we should all be in belt-tightening mode. But if there are Federal dollars available--and there certainly are--I want to know why we can't make strong investments in the food stamps program, Head Start, or Pell Grants. If there's enough money to give the Pentagon a staggering $700 billion-plus a year, I want to know why we can't make relatively modest, but meaningful, investments in paid family leave or early childhood education.

The good news is that the President of the United States gets it. With the support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he is taking a strong first step toward putting the brakes on runaway defense spending.

But I think that we need to do more and we need to be much bolder. When we spend more on defense than the next 10 nations combined, clearly our priorities are out of whack.

The Cold War has been over for 20 years, and yet we still have tens of thousands of troops stationed in Europe. This makes no sense at all. Something else that doesn't make sense: our presence in Afghanistan. And it's not just the peace and justice folks who are calling for the end of this misguided adventure. Lieutenant Colonel Daniel L. Davis, Army ``brass,'' is asking, ``How many more men must die in support of a mission that is not succeeding?''

He goes on to say, ``You can spin all kinds of stuff, but you can't spin the fact that more men are getting blown up every year.''

Mr. Speaker, what we need is a fundamental overhaul in the way that we think about protecting America. We need to be smarter about national security.

SMART Security means replacing weapons systems with humanitarian aid and development. It means a civilian surge instead of a military surge. It means peaceful diplomacy instead of military devastation. It means lifting up and empowering innocent Afghan people instead of occupying their country and perpetuating a war that has killed them by the thousands.

This SMART Security approach is not only the better way to protect our interests and keep our country safe, it comes at a fraction of the cost of what we are spending.

Mr. Speaker, for the sake of our national conscience, also for our national treasury, it's time to do the smart thing and bring our troops home. Don't ask me; ask Colonel Daniel Davis.


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