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Mr. INHOFE. Madam President, we have been listening to our good friend from Kansas concerning this contract air traffic control tower amendment. I think there is no better example to use when talking about a bureaucracy taking something that everybody wants, that is very inexpensive, and using that to try to force people to do something that should never have happened.
In terms of the contract air traffic control towers, this is not just a rural issue. This is something that can happen all around. It happens that I have six in my State of Oklahoma and up in Kansas I believe they have five, but the fact is this is a major safety issue. We have a huge, bloated bureaucracy in the FAA. Yet we are saying we have to close a handful of towers and let people be uncontrolled. I know a little about that; it is what I did for a living. It is totally outrageous.
So we have an amendment, Senator Moran and I, to redirect the money within the FAA budget. There would be no additional cost. It would rescind $23.8 million from FAA facilities and equipment. Now, I ask, are facilities and equipment more important than actually having an active control tower in these congested areas? Also, it would take $26.2 million from FAA research and development. Well, I can assure you this is more significant, and no one looking at this would rationally say it is not. So I encourage my good friend from Kansas to pursue this.
Similar to this is something that I, along with several Democrats--the primary one being Kay Hagan--am concerned about, and that is what has happened in terms of a decision that was made by the Secretary of Defense to take out the tuition assistance. This is a very small amount of money for our troops who are over there serving now.
This is kind of interesting because I was a product of the draft. My service was not voluntary when I was in, and I thought a total voluntary force would not be effective. As I found out, it was. Well, one of the main reasons people do sign up--a lot of people say: Yes, I want to serve my country. A lot say: Yes, I want a career in the Army, Navy, Marines, or Air Force. However, they also want to advance themselves. They want an education, and in many cases, the only way they can get one is to have this tuition assistance program.
I can recall being over in the mess halls in Afghanistan and actually out in the field in Afghanistan where we have some 200,000 Army troops there now who are participating in this program. This is not an expensive program. All we want to do is make sure we give what was taken away from those individuals who are trying to better themselves, trying to better their lives, perhaps work toward a career in the military.
Stop and think about the amount of money that could come out of, say, some of the green initiatives. How many people know that our Navy was forced to pay $29 a gallon for 450,000 gallons of fuel when you can buy it on the market for $3? All these things. Do we have any business having a biorefinery built by the Federal Government? These are all things in this budget, and any one of them would be far more than the assistance we are giving our troops for their tuition.
We are circulating a letter that draws attention to this, and we have Democrats and Republicans--just about even--saying: Mr. Secretary of Defense, go ahead and rescind that. We have a lot of waste we need to get rid of, but this is not waste. Our troops' preparation for the future is not a waste of our taxpayer money.
I yield the floor.
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