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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 - Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. INHOFE. Madam President, first of all, let me say I appreciate all the help the chairman has given us during the course of this very difficult time. I also suggest we have gone through this same thing other years in the past.

One of the things is there are so many people demanding or wanting to have a system where we could have more amendments. I encourage anyone who has amendments to go ahead and send them to the floor. It doesn't do any good to talk about them unless you have them down here and in front of us. Then I hope the chairman and I could get together and we could have, actually, more amendments. Those people who want to be heard on this, we have adopted this timing, so we encourage you to come down and be heard.

I yield the floor.

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Mr. INHOFE. I have been listening to the discussion. I agree wholeheartedly with everything that has been said. The amendment we are going to be voting on is part of three different amendments. I had one of them, as do my two colleagues. One thing that hasn't been said is the part I put in where I constructed a provision to prohibit transferring of detainees for emergency medical treatment, which is just another way of getting them there.

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Mr. INHOFE. The other thing is, when you transfer someone here for incarceration purposes, is it not true these are not criminals, these are terrorists, and what terrorists do for a living is train other people to be terrorists? To commingle

them in our prison system is something that would be of great danger to this country. That is something my colleagues would agree is one of the major reasons we want to keep them from the United States.

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Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, it seems we are going to have an opportunity a little later on to discuss this tonight. In the capacity of the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, I have to say that I can't imagine having a chairman with whom I cooperate and agree with on almost every issue like Chairman Levin. I really appreciate the work we have done together. We both recognize this is the most important piece of legislation each year, and we both recognize that, for 51 consecutive years, we have had this legislation. Nothing has come up to obstruct it. We also realize Republicans would prefer to have more opportunities to have amendments, and Chairman Levin has been very helpful in helping us to get that.

The area on which I don't agree is in the area of Gitmo and how it should be used. Every time I go to Gitmo, I shake my head and I say: Why in the world would we not use this resource? We don't have another resource like it. We heard the Senator from Georgia make the statement that he asked the chairman: If we don't have Gitmo to send these people, where are we going to send them? I believe it was Secretary of Defense Panetta who said: We don't know. There is not another place. We have used it successfully since 1904.

I often have said, and said yesterday, that we don't have many good deals in government. This is one that is. Since 1904, our rent on that territory has been $4,000 a year. I don't think anyone can come up with a better deal, and besides Castro doesn't collect it about half the time.

It is argued that we can use it for interrogation. The information we received which led to Osama bin Laden's demise was received from interrogation which took place at Gitmo.

When we talk about the treatment of people, the one thing that I discover every time I go down there is one of the chief problems they have in Gitmo is obesity because they are eating better than they have ever eaten at any other time in their lives. A primary care provider is there for every 450 detainees. They have never had that kind of treatment at any other time in their lives. The detainees receive age-appropriate colon cancer screening, TB screening, annual dental procedures, physical therapy, and all these things.

The idea that we would not be able to bring them to the United States for some more serious personal care I can't buy because we have the U.S. Naval Hospital at Guantanamo Bay. I have been there. They have approximately 250 personnel there who support the base's population of over 6,000.

When I look at this and I think of the options they have and this obsession the President seems to have to bring these terrorists into the United States, I have to share this one story. I know there is going to be a request here in just a moment. I can remember back 4 1/2 years ago when this President first came in office--I am going from memory now--he had 17 places in the United States where he could put these terrorists. One happened to be in my State of Oklahoma, Fort Sill. He went down to look at the facility. The major who was in charge of it told me she had several tours of duty at Guantanamo. She said: Go back and tell those people in Washington we do not need to be spreading these terrorists throughout the continental United States when we have that great facility. She said she had been there twice and it is state-of-the-art.

I have a great fear, and that is that once we get a different administration here that realizes the value of Guantanamo Bay, it will be too late to go back and get it again. That is the reason we have been holding on to it with white knuckles.

The amendment we are going to be voting on in another hour or so, whenever it is set in, is going to be an amendment that will allow us to continue to use what I consider to be one of the most valuable assets we have in the system.

I yield the floor.

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Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, during this pause, if someone comes down to talk about the two amendments that will be voted on at 5 o'clock, I will be happy to defer to them. But I think it is important that we understand we are finally making some headway in getting into this Defense authorization bill. It seems as if every year for 51 years now we have been able to get it through. While other bills become controversial, get to a point where they cannot go any further, that does not happen with the Defense authorization bill. It is one that has to take place.

As the Republican ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, let me say, as I have said before, I thank my friend and colleague the chairman Carl Levin for his leadership in marking up this bill. It has always been difficult. In most cases we agree with each other. We happen to be looking at an amendment now where we disagree. But I always consider the NDAA bill as the most important piece of legislation in Congress every year. It contains authorizations that support our men and women serving in harm's way, all the way in Afghanistan and around the world. It supports the training of our servicemembers and maintenance and modernization of their equipment. It authorizes research and development; that is, R&D efforts that will ensure that we maintain technological superiority over our enemies and can defeat the threats of tomorrow. Most important, it provides for the pay and benefits for the brave men and women who have made their sacrifices and are putting their lives at risk for our benefit. However, it is important to note this year--and this has not happened before, in my memory--the bill provides all of these vitally important efforts only as the reduced spending levels would allow.

In an era increasingly defined by bipartisan gridlock, the NDAA is one of the rare occasions where Members of both parties can come together. This enduring commitment was exemplified again this year by the overwhelming bipartisan support we had for the bill that came out of our committee--bipartisan support. We want, of course, to have that same bipartisan support here on the floor. Hopefully we will be able to get this done by the end of this week.

Consideration of this year's NDAA comes at a time in our national security when we face more volatile and dangerous times than we ever have in the history of this country. Chaos and violence are on the rise in the Middle East and north Africa. Al Qaeda is growing and establishing new safe havens from which to plan and launch attacks against the United States. We have rogue nations, such as Iran and North Korea. It is not the way it was in the old days--I have often said the good old days--of the Cold War where we had an enemy and that enemy was predictable. We knew that enemy.

Remember, we used to have this thing called mutual assured destruction. That meant something then, but it doesn't mean anything now because our potential enemies out there want to be destroyed. They have a different mentality than they used to.

Iran and North Korea are developing their nuclear capability and delivery systems. Our intelligence has told us that Iran will have a weapon and a delivery system. All the way back in 2007 they said they would have it by 2015. That is a year and a half from right now. I tell the Chair that they are going to have that capability. The threats are much more serious to us now.

When I say this is the first time we have faced the crisis we are facing now, it is not just because the enemy is out there. I am talking about an enemy who will have the capability of sending a weapon over and delivering it to the United States, but at the same time over the last 5 years of this administration the military has already endured a $487 billion cut. That is $487 billion out of the defense budget. That is before sequestration.

Now we have sequestration--an outcome once thought to be so egregious, I can remember that as recently as less than a year ago, we thought: We are not going to have this. After $487 billion being pulled out of the military, we cannot also have sequestration, which will be the $ 1/2 trillion that will come out in the next period of time. So we didn't think it would happen, but it did happen.

We are now into what, our seventh or eighth month of sequestration. In total, our military men and women stand to endure over a $1 trillion slash from their budget. These cuts are forcing a dramatic decline in military readiness and capabilities.

I talked to General Odierno yesterday. He is Chief of Staff of the Army. He recently said that his forces are at the--I am going to quote now--``lowest readiness levels I have seen within our Army since I've been serving for the last 37 years'' and that only two brigades are ready for combat. That is our U.S. Army. We have never had that confession made. It is a level of desperation where they are willing to come out and talk of it. We cannot sustain another $ 1/2 trillion in cuts.

Admiral Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, said that ``because of fiscal limitations and the situation we're in, we don't have another strike group trained and ready to respond on short notice in case of emergencies. We're tapped out.'' That is the CNO of the Navy.

Our top military leaders now warn of being unable to protect America's interests around the world. Keep in mind, Admiral Winnefeld is the No. 2 person in line. He is the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Admiral Winnefeld, who has been there nearly 40 years, stated earlier this year that ``there could be, for the first time in my career, instances where we may be asked to respond to a crisis and we will have to say we cannot.''

General Dempsey, the No. 1 guy, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has warned that continued national security cuts will ``severely limit our ability to implement our defense strategy. It will put the nation at greater risk of coercion, and it will break faith with men and women in uniform.''

This is why I am so troubled by the disastrous path we are on. In the face of mounting threats to America, we are crippling the very people who are vital to our security--the men and women in uniform.

To be clear, our military was facing readiness shortfalls even before sequestration took effect. Nearly 12 years of sustained combat operations have really worn down our forces and their equipment. In order to meet the spending caps mandated by sequestration, the military services are being forced to starve the accounts necessary to repair and reset their forces.

Rather than rebuilding the ability of our military to defend the country, we are digging ourselves deeper into a hole. The longer we allow military readiness and capabilities to decline, the more money and time it will take to rebuild.

We already know this is the case based on what happened in fiscal year 2013. For example, General Welsh, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, said that because of the first round of sequestration cuts he was ``forced to ground 33 squadrons''--he's talking about fighter squadrons--``including 13 combat-coded squadrons and an additional seven squadrons were reduced to basic `takeoff and land' training. It will now cost a minimum of 10 percent more flying hours to fully retrain the grounded squadrons ..... '' What he is saying is that when it was mandated that he take down 33 squadrons--which happened around April--then in July, 3 months later, they said, you can start working the squadrons again--he is saying that it costs more to retrain and bring these people back up in these proficiencies than it saved during that 3-month period of time.

He specifically said that it will now cost a minimum of 10 percent more flying hours to fully retrain the grounded squadrons than it would have to simply keep them trained all along. We heard that from several other top people as well.

I talked to General Amos yesterday. He is with the Marine Corps. He said he has approximately $800 million in critical military construction funding that they will be unable to execute under sequestration--assuming they go through with sequestration. By the way, I have not given up on stopping the military sequestration that is damaging our ability to defend ourselves.

General Amos said that the military construction funding will be unable to execute under sequestration and will need to be deferred. Further, it will cost over $6.5 billion to buy back orders of the V-22s, joint strike fighters, Hughes, and Cobras. Those are four platforms we would have to bring back at the additional cost of $6.5 billion that we otherwise would not have spent.

On Monday Admiral Greenert told me that under the current budget environment he will be forced to defer much-needed ship maintenance, costing a 15- to 20-percent increase in total costs.

In other words, the things they are doing now to meet these line-by-line mandates of reductions are not saving money but costing money. Under sequestration, we will lose one Virginia-class submarine, one littoral combat ship, one afloat forward staging base, development of an Ohio-class replacement submarine program. They will all be delayed, which again will result in an increased price.

So not only is sequestration gutting our military capabilities, it ends up costing American taxpayers more than it will save. We are falling victim to the misguided belief that as the wars of today wind down, we can afford to gut investments in our Nation's defenses. It is irresponsible and makes America less safe.

I remember going through the same thing back in the 1990s when the chant at that time was the cold war is over, so we no longer need that strong of a defense. We heard it from both sides, and now we are going through the same thing. History reminds us we cannot dictate when and where the next conflict is going to arise. Instead, if we allow the continued dismantling of our military, we will be less safe and less prepared to defend our country. If our military men and women are called upon, their ability to accomplish the mission will be undermined, and tragically, more will lose their lives unnecessarily.

We had the top military people in our Armed Services Committee, and I asked them about this issue. They talked about the loss of readiness--risk equals lives. When you take on more risks, you lose more American lives.

General Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, testified that if he is tasked to respond to a contingency in the current budget environment:

We would have fewer forces, arriving less trained, arriving later to the fight. This would delay the build-up of combat power, allow the enemy more time to build up their defenses, and likely prolong combat operations altogether. This is a formula for more U.S. casualties.

Such an outcome would be immoral and a dereliction of duty. If we expect the men and women in our military to go in harm's way to protect America, we have an obligation to provide them with the training, technology, and capabilities that is required to decisively overwhelm any adversary at any time and return safely to home and their loved ones.

I can remember when they used to use a different term than they use today. Today they call it nature of military operations. It used to be defending America on how many fronts. Since World War II, there were always two fronts, and now we are down to where it would be hard to do it on one front, and that is why this bill is so important and why protecting the readiness of our military men and women remains my top priority. However, something has to be done to mitigate any devastating impact of readiness, so we must find long-term solutions. Every day that goes by without action will only increase the damage.

I do have an amendment that would phase sequester in a way that would allow our senior military leaders to enact reforms without disproportionately degrading our military so we can continue to train and prepare our military women and men.

My good friend the Senator from Alabama and I are joining forces. We have an amendment that is going to allow some degree of latitude and flexibility. So while we are living under the same budget constraints we are under today, they can make some decisions where it is not just an online reduction. I have just finished talking about how much more that will end up costing us.

I see now we have someone else who has come to the floor to be heard. I want to repeat how much I appreciate the chairman of the committee Carl Levin for his cooperation with our side. He is trying to get this to become a reality and get this bill passed hopefully this week.

I yield the floor.

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