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Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. TOOMEY. Mr. President, I rise to discuss briefly an amendment I have that is going to be voted

on later today, but I wish to begin by completely agreeing with the Senator from Kansas. It is extremely unfortunate, to say the very least, that the majority party is so afraid of casting votes, they are now disallowing the most ordinary, sensible, germane amendments that transfer modest sums of money from one account to another account. I am not suggesting that everybody needs to agree with it. I am not sure I agree with the amendment of the Senator from Kansas. But the idea that an amendment such as that shouldn't even have an opportunity to be debated on the Senate floor is amazing.

Let me address the amendment I have introduced. I will start by observing that the bill under consideration today significantly underfunds the Defense Department's operations and maintenance accounts. The Army's subset of this category of funding is underfunded by $2 billion. That is just the Army alone. This has implications for the safety and readiness of our troops. I am not suggesting that my amendment solves that whole problem--it doesn't, but it makes a modest step in the right direction.

Just quickly, some of the things the operations and maintenance account funds--it is a lot. It is maintenance of ships and tanks and aircrafts. It is avionics and engines and navigation systems. It is artillery. It is all kinds of things our service men and women use to fight and to win and to protect themselves. It gets funded through the operations and maintenance account, and it is not only maintenance of this important equipment, it is also training--training such as unit training when an Army battalion, for instance, trains in an exercise against an opposition force that is modeled after a real-world potential enemy. That kind of training is very important. It gets funded out of this account, the operations and maintenance account, and that account is underfunded. So I would suggest that this is a very important account, and I think there is almost universal acknowledgment that it is being underfunded.

Meanwhile, in the same bill, while we are underfunding our operations and maintenance account, we have a bill that would spend $60 million forcing the Defense Department to build biofuels refineries. This forces our Defense Department to build these expensive refineries to make very expensive fuel. How do we know it will be very expensive fuel? How many of us fill up our gas tanks with biofuels? The component we are forced to buy--the ethanol--is part of what drives up the cost of gasoline. The fact is that conventional fuel is much cheaper than these biofuels, but we are going to force the Defense Department to spend a whole lot of money building a refinery, the purpose of which is to produce extremely expensive and inefficient fuel. I would suggest that is a waste of precious resources we can't afford to waste.

Now, the House Defense appropriations bill did not include this, and the Senate Armed Services Committee--these are our experts who analyze this--opposed wasting money this way when they reported the bill out of committee. Unfortunately, when it got to the floor, it got put in, and this is our opportunity to correct it.

Now, some have suggested these biofuel refineries are somehow a solution to the expensive cost of moving fuel to combat zones. The only problem is this item is going to fund the construction of refineries in the United States. They are not going to be in combat zones. So that is just not true.

I would suggest if anyone thinks this is a good idea--to force taxpayers to build expensive, inefficient refineries to produce very expensive fuel--shouldn't it at least happen through the Department of Energy or some other experimental research-oriented institution?

Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, will the Senator yield?

Mr. TOOMEY. I will be happy to yield to the Senator from Oklahoma.

Mr. INHOFE. I know something about this being the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee. We went through this.

Is the Senator aware that in one purchase the administration--now, I am talking about the White House--forced the Navy to buy 450,000 gallons of fuel at $29 a gallon? You can buy it on the open market for $3 a gallon.

Secondly, I think the Senator does know this because I heard him mention the Department of Energy, when we formed the Department of Energy, they were supposed to do all this stuff.

But I would have to make one observation. We have a President, an administration, that has been cutting dramatically, and we are all concerned about what has happened to our military, our ability to defend ourselves. They do it in three ways. No. 1, they cut; No. 2, they delay; but, No. 3--and this is what we are getting to now--they take the agenda, and in this case this green agenda, and put it not where it should be but under the defense budget. So for every dollar that goes to the green energy programs, the Senator and I would like--since I am cosponsoring the Senator's amendment--every dollar is something we cannot spend for our fighters in the field.

Mr. TOOMEY. Well, reclaiming my time, I completely agree with the Senator from Oklahoma. We already force our Defense Department to waste enormous amounts of money purchasing fuel that is much more expensive than readily available alternatives. I think that is a very bad idea. And I think it is a bad idea to do even more of that in the form of building these biofuel refinery plants that would further propagate this ill-conceived process.

If you think it is somehow a good idea to do this then, as the Senator from Oklahoma suggests, wouldn't it make sense to at least do this in the Department of Energy rather than wasting precious Defense Department resources at a time when we know we are underfunding the operations and maintenance account? This is the reason for my amendment.

My amendment transfers $60 million out of the biofuel refinery account in the Defense Department appropriations bill and moves money--the amount permissible under the budget rules--into the operations and maintenance account. This is not a complete solution, I understand that, but it is a modest step in the right direction of providing a little bit more resources to an area that is badly underfunded.

I urge my colleagues to support my amendment.

I yield the floor.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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Mr. TOOMEY. Mr. President, I rise to make the case for this amendment. I think we all know that this bill funds the Defense Operations and Maintenance Account to a very large degree. This is a very important account from which we fund the maintenance of all kinds of military equipment, from trains to tanks to avionics--you name it, it gets funded from this account. So too does a whole lot of training come from this account.

Meanwhile, we have $60 million going to build a biorefinery that would force the Defense Department to pay too much for fuel. This is about priorities, and it is my suggestion and my amendment to take $60 million out of this account that would force us to build an inefficient, expensive refinery to make too-expensive fuel and transfer it into this Operations and Maintenance Account that we need.

I appreciate the support of the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee for this amendment, Senator Inhofe, and I urge my colleagues to vote in its favor.

I ask for the yeas and nays.

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