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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. GABBARD. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

The U.S. Navy has acknowledged a growing problem that threatens its dominance at sea. It's strike reach is shrinking and aging, while potential enemies' attack reach is growing and modernizing. We recognize this most specifically within the Asia-Pacific region. It's because of this growing recognition that the Navy is exploring new weapons in order to successfully execute our strategic rebalance of military assets to the Asia-Pacific region.

A longstanding Navy urgent operational needs statement and related intelligence estimates detail a troubling capability and readiness gap that have compelled the Secretary of Defense to direct accelerated development of an over-the-horizon surface warfare missile that can be launched from aircraft or surface vessels and strike well-defended moving maritime targets.

Currently, surface-launched anti-ship missiles face the growing challenge of penetrating sophisticated enemy air defense systems from long range and present the potential for large no-go zones, which deny the Navy access in key conflict areas.

The military expects our adversaries will continue their development of increasingly sophisticated anti-access area denial capabilities that are able to jam or destroy GPS systems which guide our missiles. This clearly highlights the need for the offensive anti-surface warfare weapon, as well as the long-range anti-ship missile, which has a requirement of independently detecting and validating the target that it was shot at.

In authorizing the full request in the President's budget, the House Armed Services Committee noted the need for a new generation of anti-ship weapons capable of penetrating sophisticated enemy air defense systems from long range and said such a capability is even more relevant today and is critical to meeting national security objectives and rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region. By providing these new capabilities, we allow our Navy to safely engage and destroy high-value targets well beyond the potential counterfire range of the adversaries that they may face.

I recently received a letter from Admiral Locklear, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, who's at the forefront of this rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, noting the importance of these two weapons. He expressed deep concern about the reductions proposed by the Defense Appropriation Subcommittee and said that such reductions will derail the efforts of Pacific Command to outpace an expanding threat, increasingly degrade our regional response options, and potentially erode regional confidence in our commitment to the rebalance. We can and must do all that we can to correct the significant strategic and operational risks that these budget cuts present at this critical juncture.

I urge you to support the President's budget request, as well as the authorization that the House Armed Services Committee approved, in order to keep this essential element of our Asia-Pacific rebalance on track for fielding.

I look forward to working with my colleagues and ask for their support as I reserve the balance of my time.

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Ms. GABBARD. Madam Chair, due to its strategic location in the Pacific, my home of Hawaii has long been at the forefront of our Nation's conflicts. We have more than 100 Formerly Used Defense Sites just as a result of a defensive buildup pre-World War I and, later, in the massive rush to mobilize in World War II. These sites, often also referred to as FUDS, can be littered with dangerous unexploded bombs and shells, in addition to harmful chemicals.

As in Hawaii, Formerly Used Sites across the country--in every State and congressional district--can serve as housing developments, schools, parks, and playgrounds, areas that can be used productively. The Army Corps of Engineers has been working diligently to clean up unexploded ordnance from many sites in Hawaii, many of which I visited myself, including 135,000-acre Waikoloa Maneuver Area on the Big Island of Hawaii. During World War II, this area was home to some 50,000 U.S. servicemembers who trained and prepared for many of the historic battles that were fought in the Pacific.

One of the places that I visited and met with many elementary and middle school students was Waimea Middle School, where unexploded ordnance has been found within the last few years by these students themselves. You are talking about 9-, 10-, 11-, 12-year-old students who have to be trained in this day and age to identify what an unexploded ordnance looks like and how to report it. This is not something that we should be facing in our society today.

The effort to clean up these Formerly Used Defense Sites not only makes our communities safer, but has a significant and positive economic impact. There have been substantial investments in the training of local people in Hawaii to do this highly skilled and often dangerous work. By training these local people, we're actually saving taxpayer dollars because we're not having to import talent, pay per diem and all these other exorbitant costs, and we're providing jobs to the local community.

I sponsor this amendment because Congress has a responsibility to ensure that the Department of Defense has the resources it needs to clean up these dangerous unexploded munitions.

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