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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Madam President, I rise today in support of the Department of Defense and our men and women in uniform who stand watch around the clock around the world to protect us from a truly staggering range of threats. As I have alluded, I rise specifically to speak to my amendment No. 2985, which I have introduced in concert with our military officials and leadership.

As a proud member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I have designed this amendment to support the Department of Defense and their efforts to pursue alternative fuels and energy investments. Senators Murray, Shaheen, Bingaman, Hagan, Kerry, Begich, and Tom Udall have joined me in cosponsoring this legislation.

We, as Senators and as Americans, frequently acknowledge the courage and the sacrifice of our troops. But I would also point out that they are incredibly smart, insightful, and forward thinking. In order to keep ahead of current enemies and future threats, our military leaders must be students of history. They have to understand the past in order to predict the future. They have to be ready to face challenges from the air, sea, and land, and now increasingly from the cyber domain. They must prepare to defend our Nation from hostile nation States such as Iran and from terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida.

In order to do all of this, they must have the best technology in the world. We must also provide them with the flexibility to adapt to an ever-changing landscape and the resources they need to research, develop, and employ new technologies. That is our solemn commitment, and I would offer our solemn responsibility, to those who fight on our behalf. They have placed themselves between us and harm's way. In return, we promise to invest in the technology, training, and resources they need to stay safe.

For me and many of our colleagues that includes encouraging, supporting, requiring, actually, the DOD to invest in energy sources and fuel technologies that reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Ultimately, section 313 of the Defense authorization bill before us today would severely limit the ability of the Department of Defense to use alternative fuels.

Given the threats facing our Nation today and in the future, that is not acceptable. I want to point out the Department of Defense strongly opposes the constricting provisions in the current Defense authorization bill for that reason and for a number of other reasons. I want to quote what the Office of the Secretary of Defense says about section 313.

The OSD says that 313 is ``detrimental to DOD's long-term energy security;'' that it is ``overly broad,'' ``ambiguous,'' and it ``restricts the flexibility of military commanders.'' Those are the DOD's words about this section. I want to point out I strongly agree with those words. Therefore, I have offered this very simple amendment that would remove this limiting provision from the bill. I firmly believe that removing section 313 of the Defense authorization bill is in the best interests of our military and our country. Let me tell you why.

In the carrying out of the work of our Nation, the Department of Defense consumes approximately 330,000 barrels of oil every single day. That works out to 120 million barrels of oil per year. That is a truly staggering number. This year, given those numbers, the military has already spent $15 billion on fuel. Because of rising global oil prices that is about $2.5 billion more than they forecast, and the year is not even over yet. We have another month to go.

Those rising costs in dollars and operational capability are staggering. Think of it this way: For every 25-cent increase in the price per gallon of oil, the military's fuel bill increases by $1 billion. So then what happens? In order to make up for that shortfall, the DOD then has to pull money from the operations and maintenance accounts, which means that rising fuel costs result in less training, deferred maintenance, and reduced operational capability.

Let me be clear. The current language that was added to this bill by some of my colleagues tells the Defense Department they cannot pursue energy security and instead must rely on an energy source that is quickly eating away at their capabilities and effectiveness. That means our people are less prepared when they go into harm's way, and they are less ready to fight when it matters most. For me, and I hope for the majority of my colleagues, that is far too steep a price.

That is why the DOD is investing in technology to increase fuel efficiency, promote conservation, and to find alternatives to foreign oil. General Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said simply but powerfully: Saving energy saves lives. It should tell us something that in an era of reduced DOD budgets our senior leaders remain fully committed to this effort. We should support them in these commonsense approaches. That is why the DOD is funding research and development for new fuels that can be made from biological feed stocks. And these are fuels that can be literally grown here and refined here, right in our own country, right at home.

This R&D effort I am alluding to is part of a proud legacy of military research programs that have benefited our entire country through many decades. So what I am saying is even under the threat of sequestration, investments in new energy technology and alternative fuels remain a top priority for our military leadership. For those who would say we cannot afford to spend money on alternative fuels, our uniformed senior leaders tell us otherwise and, in fact, suggest that we cannot afford not to make these investments.

Let me share another way of looking at this. The investment is tiny when we compare it to the potential payoff. For less than .03 percent of the defense budget, our military is building a foundation for a new domestic energy source that could save billions of dollars and keep more of the money we do spend on fuel right here at home.

We spend about $300 billion a year on overseas sources of oil--$300 billion. If we could keep one-twentieth of a percent of that money at home we would pay for this program. Let me put it in perspective another way.

For about half of what we spend on military bands each year, we could be establishing a domestic energy industry. For less than the cost of a single F-35, we could diversify our energy portfolio and drive down costs. We would be taking billions of dollars out of the hands of terrorists and reducing the risk to our military personnel.

So in that context, what is the problem? Well, the proponents for cutting off these investments in alternative fuels argue that the Defense Department should not be involved in the development of new energy sources. I think it has already become clear, but I want to say it again: I could not disagree more. These biofuels, when we produce them, cannot be used as leverage against us. These refineries cannot be overrun by Nigerian rebels or blockaded by Iranian gun boats.

Energy security is national security. This is exactly the kind of investment our military should be making. In fact, military R&D has sustained the enormous technological advantage that we have maintained over our adversaries historically. Our willingness to invest in the future has kept us safe. So my colleagues say the DOD should not be spending money on energy development. I would respectfully remind them we have always spent money on energy development, and it has made us safer.

If that view had prevailed in years passed, we would not have a nuclear-powered Navy. Without military investment in emerging technologies, we would not have jet engines, microchips, microwave ovens, radar, or GPS navigation. Ensuring our energy security ought to be a national priority. Our reliance on foreign oil is a threat to our security and our economy. Our reliance on foreign oil harms our economy and our national security. Now we have the chance to do something about it.

This is a national problem. That is why DOD has partnered with the Department of Energy, Department of Agriculture, and private industry to find a solution. That is exactly how our government is supposed to work.

If we believe the DOD has a vested interest in having reliable sources of fuel and energy, then we should agree they have a role to play in ensuring that new fuels we have to develop meet their needs.

Now, as with any technology, the cost of alternative fuels starts high, but they are coming down steadily. As we all know, the price of oil continues to climb and, equally important, is subject to those sudden spikes due to unpredictable global events. My colleagues who are opposed to the DOD energy programs would have us believe that alternative fuel prices are unaffordable. But let me share some facts.

In 2009 the Navy paid about $66 per gallon for biofuels used for research. But that price decreased over a 3-year period by 61 percent. During that same period, oil prices rose by about 120 percent. Today, right now, drop-in biofuels for cars and jet aircraft are available for around $4 per gallon. These costs will continue to drop if we keep making smart investments in smart technologies.

These are the facts, but even if we disagree with those points, there is another important factor I hope we will consider. Section 313 of the Defense authorization bill harms military missions and technologies that are being used right now to find and destroy our enemies.

Let me explain. The Office of the Secretary of Defense has said the language is so broad and so poorly defined that it would prohibit the DOD from purchasing any nonpetroleum fuel that costs more than traditional fuels. So we have to ask, what does that mean?

Let me give a couple of examples. That would include the solid oxide fuels used in rockets and missiles. That would include coal-to-liquid fuels. That includes alternative fuels purchased overseas where there are no petroleum-based fuels available, like in South Africa and in countries that have mandatory alternative fuel blends. It restricts fuel blends to a 50-50 ratio, even if that is not the best or the most practical mix.

So the outcome of that would be if the DOD wanted to use a more efficient or cost-effective mix of traditional fuel to biofuel, they would not be able to do so. So I believe section 313 of the bill we are debating will send the wrong political message as well. It will make investors wary of the U.S. Government's commitment to weaning ourselves off foreign oil. It would help keep us reliant on foreign oil. Let me list the countries: Russia, Venezuela, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, I have not even mentioned Iran.

It is poorly drafted and damaging to our security. Instead, we have an opportunity today to help our military and our country. This is how we move forward. This is not about an environmental agenda or some kind of a green conspiracy. It is about doing the right thing, supporting our military brass, establishing a stronger national security and energy security posture in the years ahead.

I urge my colleagues to support my amendment to strike section 313. As I conclude, I ask unanimous consent that Senators Gillibrand and Tom Udall be added as cosponsors to my amendment No. 2985 to S. 3254.

The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Franken.) Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. UDALL of Colorado. I yield the floor.

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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. I would add just a couple final remarks.

I think we have heard a compelling reason to remove section 313 from the National Defense Authorization Act. National security is energy security and vice versa. Let's stand with our military leadership, let's stand with our NCOs, and let's stand with our enlisted personnel and ensure that the military can continue to invest in this important area of energy security which will save lives, create economic opportunity, and make sure we can project force abroad and protect the values we hold so dear.

I urge my colleagues to vote for this amendment at 2:00 p.m. We have a tentative agreement.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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