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Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, I rise to pay tribute to three fallen National Guard members from South Carolina who were killed in Afghanistan on June 20, 2012, in Khost Province. They were members of the 133rd Military Police Company who were serving on this duty. There are now 16 members of the South Carolina National Guard who have died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003.
With the July 4 weekend coming up, we are preceding one of our biggest holidays in America, and people rightfully will take some time off, I hope, to enjoy their families and friends and get away from work and have some family time.
It marks a special event in our Nation's history: The founding of our Nation through a declaration of independence that was not just words but resulted in men and women fighting to achieve our independence.
Here we are a couple hundred years later and we are still fighting. My belief is, as to the radical Islamists who would kill us all if they could, it is better to fight them over there so we do not have to fight them here.
Afghanistan was the place the Taliban took over after the Russians left and invited al-Qaida into the country, with bin Laden as their honored guest. He had sanctuary there and was able to plan the attacks of 9/11 from sanctuary provided to him in Afghanistan.
Our goal is to never let Afghanistan become a sanctuary for al-Qaida or other terrorist groups. Thus, we are in a long struggle. It has been 10 years. It has been hard, but we are making progress. The Afghan Army is getting better and stronger. The police are getting more proficient at their job. We are going to be winding the war down in 2014. But I think we can do it in a fashion to make sure Afghanistan remains stable and our national security interests are protected.
But to make all those things possible--the weekend we are going to enjoy, and the holiday season, and denying terrorists safe havens--some of us have to leave our families and go off and fight this war.
SFC Brad Thomas of Easley, SC, was killed in an attack on June 20. He was a graduate of Travelers Rest High School and attended Greenville Technical College. He was a member of the 133rd Military Police Company of the South Carolina Army National Guard.
He is survived by his wife Jana and a son Cayden, a brother and two sisters. I know the family is devastated. You are in our prayers, and God bless you and give you the healing and understanding during this tough time.
To SFC Brad Thomas, you died in the service of your country, and you will be missed.
LT Ryan Davis Rawl of Lexington, SC, was killed in the same attack. He was a first lieutenant in the 133rd MP Company. He graduated from Lexington High School. He was a graduate of the Citadel. He is survived by his wife Katherine and their daughter Callie and their son Caleb.
I just want to acknowledge to Katherine, who interned in our office, that you are certainly in our prayers. You did a great job for us, and anything we can do for any of these families in South Carolina, we will. We very much pray for you and your family.
Sgt John ``J.D.'' David Meador, II, graduated from Lexington High School. He was a member of the wrestling team and was a wrestling coach. He was a member of the same MP Company. He is survived by his wife Christy and three daughters: Olivia, Brianna, and Elana. To Christy and her family, you will be in our prayers.
This will be a tough weekend in South Carolina. We are going to have three funerals.
To General Livingston and the National Guard family, you are certainly in our prayers. This is a tough blow for an MP company to have three people killed in one attack. So to all the members of that company, we will do our best to take care of your families while you are gone.
We have had a big argument about health care and about transportation, and that is great--democracy in action. What is the right decision for the Court to have made in the health care case? Is this a good transportation bill? I appreciate in a bipartisan fashion trying to find a solution.
But I just wanted to take a few minutes before going to the holiday weekend and remind us of one thing we do have in common: Our freedom depends on people willing to fight for it, and the one thing about this war--whether you agree with the war in Afghanistan or not--virtually every American, regardless of political persuasion, has shown an appreciation for the troops and their families. I cannot thank Members of Congress enough for never losing sight. No matter how they feel about this war, we all appreciate those who fight it, and we all suffer and mourn for those who lose their lives in this cause.
I believe this is a just cause. I believe these men who joined the military voluntarily and left their families to go to Afghanistan were doing so in the most noble tradition of the country--that they were trying to make our families safer, my family safer, and they died in the service of their country. And that is a life well lived. They died far too soon. They left behind young children, but they will never be forgotten.
May God grant them eternal rest and peace. May God bless and provide understanding and healing to the families left behind. And may, as Americans, we never forget that our freedom is dependent upon a few of us being willing to go to faraway places, with strange sounding names, and risk never coming back.
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Mr. GRAHAM. Well, one, I hope my colleagues will stay around for a minute or two because this is an important topic to be talking about.
Let me put this in the perspective of what we are trying to do and what we are trying to avoid. We are about $16 trillion in debt. There is probably no stronger defense supporters in the Congress than Jon Kyl and John McCain.
The Senator just spoke of war. John McCain has seen his fair share of war. I think he understands as well as anybody in this body--probably better than most--what happens in war. People get hurt and people get killed and anybody who has been in the military is no fan of war. But the goal sometimes is to make sure those who are asked to fight a particular war can fight it quickly, overwhelmingly, win, and come home.
What we are doing is trying to get out of debt. The three of us are pretty big defense hawks, but we have all agreed the Pentagon has to reduce their spending too. I think all of us--particularly Senator McCain--believe there is a lot of waste in the Pentagon and that we could achieve $50 billion in savings over the next decade by reforming the way the Pentagon does business and, quite frankly, do more with less. So count us all in--the three of us--for reducing defense spending to help get us out of debt.
But here is what has us all upset. The supercommittee that was formed by the Budget Control Act had a mission of cutting $1.2 trillion over a decade to help get us out of debt. That is a pretty small number given what we are going to spend over the next 10 years. But the committee--Republicans and Democrats--could not find common ground as to how to cut $1.2 trillion over the next decade. There was a penalty provision in the law, and it said that in the event the supercommittee failed, we would cut $1.2 trillion over the next decade as follows: $600 billion out of the Defense Department, $600 billion out of the rest of the government.
If that penalty kicks in, then we will have cut $1 trillion out of the Defense Department over the next decade, blindly, across the board. Every account gets affected.
What did Secretary Panetta say? He said: Sign me up for $450 billion. I think we can get there. We will lose some capability, but we will be OK as a nation. We could fight Iran and win if we had to.
Then I asked him: What if we did $1 trillion over the next decade--if we overdoubled what you are trying to cut? He said: We would be shooting ourselves in the head as a nation. We would not have the ability to go in and take out the nuclear program in Iran because the weapons we need we could not maintain and afford.
When it comes to personnel costs, we are reducing the Army by 80,000 people under the $450 billion plan. If we do sequestration on top of that, I say to Senator McCain, we are taking another 100,000 people out of the Army. Under sequestration, the Navy would be down to a little over 200 ships. We would have the smallest Navy since 1915, the smallest Air Force in the history of the country, and the Army would go back to 1940 levels.
To my colleagues, do you believe the world has gotten that much safer that we do not need a Navy bigger than in 1915, given the threats we are facing from Iran, China, North Korea? Do you think now is a good time for the country to basically disarm, given the threats we face from radical terrorism throughout the whole globe?
So here is what we are going to do, and our congressional leaders need to be on notice. About 1 million people would lose their jobs if we put these cuts in place, and we would destroy the defense industrial base that provides good jobs to the economy and keeps us free and safe by giving our people technology better than the enemy has.
Three National Guardsmen were killed in June in Afghanistan. We have improved the National Guard. But when we first started this war, National Guard units were leaving to go to the fight with inferior equipment. They did not have armor. So if we do sequestration on top of what we are already trying to cut in the Defense Department, we will destroy the finest military in the history of the world at a time we need it the most.
This is a body known for doing some pretty dumb things. This would be the prize. So what Senators McCain, Kyl, and myself are trying to do is avoid sequestration before the first of the year so our defense people can plan. If we do not set this aside before the election, that is political malpractice. I thank Senator McCain and Senator Kyl for their leadership.
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Mr. GRAHAM. I would like all three Senators to comment on this proposition. You have just challenged the President, who is the Commander in Chief, by the way, to fix the problem that your Secretary of Defense has said would be most devastating to our ability to defend ourselves. He said it would be catastrophic, it would be draconian, there is no way to plan for it, we would be shooting ourselves in the head. Mr. President, you are the Commander in Chief. When your Secretary of Defense and every general under your command is telling you and the Congress, you need to fix this before it gets out of hand, why are you not asking us, as Republicans and Democrats, to answer the call of the Secretary of Defense? You are the Commander in Chief, my friend. It is your job to make sure our military has what it needs to go fight wars that we send them to fight and protect our Nation.
But that is not enough. It is also our job as Members of Congress to take care of those who serve. So to our Republican and Democratic leader: Why do you not convene a group of Senators? And to our leaders in the House: Why do you not get a group of House Members, and ask us to come up with a plan to do at least one thing, avoid the consequence of sequestration for 1 year in 2013, to take the monkey off their back?
I am willing to meet our Democratic friends in the middle to find a way to offset the $110 billion in defense and nondefense spending. But to our leaders and to the President, if you think the rest of us are going to sit on the sideline and let this matter be taken up in lameduck when it becomes a nightmare for the country, you can forget it. So we are challenging our leaders and the President to get a group together to fix this.
I ask Senator McCain, do you think that is a good idea?
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