EMERGENCY SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2005--Continued -- (Senate - April 21, 2005)
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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, the Supplemental Appropriations bill includes a provision, Section 6023, which allows the Department of Energy to count subcontracts towards their small business prime contracting goal and caps the total agency small business goal at 23 percent.
Section 6023 amends the Small Business Act, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship but neither Senator SNOWE, the chairwoman of the committee, nor I, the ranking member, were consulted about this language prior to its introduction.
The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship has a longstanding position opposing the counting of subcontracts towards small business prime contracting goals at the Department of Energy. And for good reason, doing it this way is faking. It's saying that you are awarding prime Federal contracts to small business when you really aren't.
This language will essentially cut small businesses out of contracts at the Department of Energy across the Nation by removing all incentives for the agency to create prime contracting opportunities for these firms. This provision would reduce the amount of contracts available for small firms, shrinking their revenue stream, reducing jobs and hurting the economy. Also, by reducing competition in the marketplace this language would prevent the Federal Government from benefiting from the billions of dollars in savings that come from that competition.
Even more problematic is the precedent this would set for government contracts. It would open the door for any agency with management and operations contractors, facilities managers, or systems integrators to seek an exemption from Federal acquisition law with regard to prime contract awards to small firms.
Mr. President, I recognize the concern that Senator DOMENICI has for his firms in New Mexico and for the two DOE laboratories located in his State. The loss of contracts by local businesses is a concern that Senator SNOWE and I would be happy to address with Senators DOMENICI and BINGAMAN. However, this language does nothing to guarantee that contracts stay local; instead it simply shifts the authority to award Government prime contracts away from a Federal agency and gives that authority to private, for-profit corporate entities. The availability of prime and subcontracting opportunities for small firms at the DOE is a complicated issue that needs a thorough investigation and analysis before adopting legislation that could irreparably harm small businesses throughout the Nation. An emergency supplemental bill is not the place for this language.
Finally, I have received a draft copy of the GAO report requested by Senators DOMENICI, BINGAMAN, SNOWE and myself on this very subject--DOE small business contracting. The draft report has a number of disturbing findings including: the complete lack of oversight in M&O subcontracting by the Department of Energy, falsified reporting data, and the mismanagement of subcontracts by large prime contractors. Given the serious nature of the problems with these M&O contractors, it is highly inappropriate for the Congress to now exempt the Agency from its oversight duties and hand over all control to these companies.
I have worked diligently with Senators SNOWE, BINGAMAN, and DOMENICI to find compromise language that would address Senator DOMENICI's concerns without causing irreparable damage to the small business community. Unfortunately, we ran out of time before this bill was adopted. However, I hope that we can continue to work on finding a real solution and correct this harmful provision in the conference to ensure that small businesses receive their fair share of DOE contracts. I believe we can do that without adversely affecting the agency's ability to successfully permit its core duties.
Mr. President, the emergency supplemental appropriations bill before the Senate is a vitally important piece of legislation. It provides $81 billion in immediate funds for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to meet critical needs for other important national priorities, including tsunami relief.
The war in Iraq has been a divisive issue in our country. People have passionate views on the subject--a passion that is matched by our concern for the welfare of the men and women of the American military. It is that concern and a real desire for them to succeed that has driven us all to push the administration toward adopting a better approach to the mission in Iraq.
In recent months, President Bush has made progress in drawing additional international support to the training of Iraqi security forces. We can wonder what took so long and hope that their efforts in recent months were just the beginning, but we all recognize that the Iraqi election was an important milestone and success--a success made possible by the courage of the Iraqi people and the dedication of the men and women of the American military.
But the mission there is not complete. Even this week Iraq has been struck by deadly violence against innocent civilians. And the nascent government, even after the first election, can only be described as fragile. The Iraqi people are in the midst of an experiment with democracy--an experiment that must succeed. This supplemental bill will give them the tools and resources they need to succeed.
The legislation also provides critical funds for the mission in Afghanistan. The war against al-Qaida and international terrorism is not yet won, and our forces need these funds to continue the fight, to support the emergence of a free Afghanistan, and to bring Osama bin Laden to justice.
Last week, the Senate adopted two amendments I offered to improve benefits for surviving military families. One amendment extends the length of time surviving families may stay in military housing free of charge to one year. Military families suffer in unique ways when a loved one is lost in the line of duty. In the midst of grieving they must almost immediately plan to move and change their entire life. For those with children in school, the loss is compounded by the disruption in school and friends that moving in the midst of the school year may bring. The amendment the Senate accepted last week gives surviving military families the opportunity to get their affairs in order, to finish the school year, and to better cope with the loss of a loved one before having to move. I thank my colleagues for their support in this effort.
The second amendment I offered increases to $100,000 the death gratuity paid to survivors of service members who die on active duty. The current law provides a miserly sum of $12,400. I began talking about the need to increase the death gratuity more than a year ago. When the administration announced its proposal earlier this year, it sought to limit the increase to those who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. No one thought that was a good idea, including the uniformed leadership of the United States military. The Senate Appropriations Committee addressed part of the problem in its mark of this bill, but avoided the simple solution of changing U.S. Code to read ``$100,000'' instead of the current $12,000. My amendment did just that. And I thank my colleagues for their overwhelming support of it.
Our missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are not yet done. Until they are, the administration must continue to build international support for our efforts and ensure that the men and women of the American military have everything they need to succeed and that their families have the support they need and deserve.
The Congress has an important responsibility to pass this legislation swiftly. Any effort to unnecessarily burden this legislation with immigration provisions in conference will unnecessarily delay the passage of this vital legislation to the detriment of the men and women in the field today. I strongly urge the conferees to reject any effort to attach the REAL ID Act to this legislation. Let's pass a clean bill that provides our forces with the tools they need and the resources they need to succeed.
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