TRANSPORTATION EQUITY ACT: A LEGACY FOR USERS -- (Senate - May 09, 2005)
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I thank the floor manager. This is very important legislation, enormously important to my State as other States. We need the kinds of investments in our roads and bridges to ensure their safety and security and that they will continue to be the vital avenues for an expanding and growing economy. I look forward to working with the committee.
I appreciate having the opportunity to address the Senate on what I anticipate will be the matter that will be before the Senate later this evening and through tomorrow, and that is the Iraq supplemental conference report. As I mentioned, I expect that it will be laid down in the next few hours, and I expect there will be a final resolution of this sometime tomorrow.
I welcome the opportunity to address some of the important provisions that are included in the conference report and bring them to the attention of our colleagues and to the American people.
I intend to support the Iraq spending bill. Although I disagree strongly with some of the bill's provisions, these funds are clearly needed for our troops. All of us support our troops. We obviously want to do all we can to see that they have proper equipment, vehicles, and everything else they need to protect their lives as they carry out their missions. It is scandalous that the administration has kept sending them into battle in Iraq without proper equipment. No soldier should be sent into battle unprotected. No parent should have to go in desperation to the local Wal-Mart to buy armor plates and mail them to their sons and daughters serving in Iraq.
Our military is performing brilliantly under enormously difficult circumstances, and we need to give them our support-not just from our words but from our pockets, too. One aspect of this bill that I am particularly proud of is the increased funding for humvees for our troops on patrol in Iraq. The Bayh-Kennedy amendment adds additional funds to keep production at increased levels. Some opponents claim that the Army already had enough armed humvees and objected to any further increase. But a front-page article in the New York Times, on April 25, told us the troop side of the real need for more armor and the difference it can make.
Company E, a Marine Corps unit based at Camp Pendleton, returned from 6 months in Ramadi last year, and its members were so frustrated with this problem that they decided to tell their story. They did not have enough armored vehicles. Thirteen of the twenty-one marines from Company E who were killed in Iraq had been riding in humvees that failed to protect them from bullets or bombs. They saw problems up close.
A year ago, eight of them were killed when their humvees were ambushed on the way to aid another unit under fire. The cargo section of the humvee where the troops were riding did not even have hillbilly armor to protect them from the blast. They were totally unprotected. As one marine described the attack: All I saw was sandbags, blood, and dead bodies. There was no protection in the back.
Captain Kelly Royer, Company E's unit commander, asked his superiors when he would be getting more armored humvees. He was told that additional armor had not been requested and that there were production constraints.
Another marine says they complained about the shortages every day to anybody we could. They told us they were listening, but we did not see it.
These marines on the front line knew the armor meant the difference between life and death, the difference between an essential mission and a suicide mission. They were desperate to get more armor. Day after day they saw the brutal
consequences of the Pentagon's incompetence and delay.
The lessons learned from the war in Iraq are said to help us in future conflicts, but for all forces facing death every day, the future was yesterday. In fact, the Marines are requesting funds for the coming fiscal year to develop and produce new armored vehicles to avoid these deadly threats.
The need is so clear that the request was submitted under the Marine Corps Urgent Universal Needs Statement which was created to streamline the acquisition process and get equipment to the field faster. They have a plan to meet the future need, but what about the urgent need today?
We do not have the luxury of time to wait for these new vehicles to roll off a future assembly line. The need for armored humvees is now. The hillbilly armor they scavenge for and add to their unprotected humvees does not provide adequate protection.
The Army says of the new requirement approved this month, none of it is designated for the Marine Corps. The Pentagon refuses to make this a top priority. They continue to drag their feet.
In a report to Congress this month, the Government Accounting Office describes month after month of mismanagement by the Pentagon in supplying the armored humvees our troops urgently need to carry out their missions and stay alive.
The GAO report found the Army still had no long-term plan to increase the number of armored humvees. The war in Iraq has been going on for 2 full years. Our troops are under fire every day, and the Pentagon still does not have a plan to protect them.
I have in my hand an April 2005 GAO report, "Defense Logistics Agency, Actions Needed to Improve Availability of Critical Items during Current and Future Operations." On page 123, it states that there two primary causes for the shortages of uparmored vehicles and add-on armor kits. First, a decision was made to pace production rather than use the maximum available capacity.
This is the General Accounting Office in their report of April of this year.
Second, the funding allocations did not keep up with rapidly increasing requirements.
That is the General Accounting Office about whether we need to have more uparmored humvees and whether we have to give it a higher priority and whether there is a need in Iraq today. Our troops are under fire every day, and the Pentagon still does not have a plan to protect them.
In a briefing prepared by marines for Congress, they specifically state, in their vehicle hardening strategy, that "funding assistance is required to achieve optimum levels of armor protection."
The GAO report clearly points out that the Pentagon's bureaucratic mentality infected its decisions. They tried to solve the problem in a slow and gradual manner instead of solving it quickly. As the GAO report states, there were two primary causes for the shortages: "First, a decision was made to pace production." Translated into layman's language, that means there was not a sense of urgency by the Pentagon. That is what "pace production" means. And then "rather than use the maximum available capacity" means they didn't get off their tail and increase production. And "Second, funding allocations did not keep up with rapidly increasing requirements."
I am going to come to the statements by the responsible DOD officials before the Armed Services Committee on which I serve.
It is equally obvious that in addition to the bureaucratic mentality of the Pentagon, their cakewalk mentality is also a major part of the problem. Week after week, month after month they refuse to believe that the insurgency will continue. They want to believe it will soon be over. They do not feel they need to waste dollars on armored humvees that soon will not be needed in Iraq. So month after month, our troops keep paying with their lives. The light the Pentagon sees at the end of the tunnel turns out to be the blinding flash of another roadside bomb exploding under another unprotected humvee in Iraq.
They cannot even get their story right. Armor Holdings, the company that makes the armored humvee, told my office recently that its current contract with the Army will actually mean sharp cutbacks in production. Right now, they produce 550 armored humvees a month. Their contract reduces that number to 239 in June, zero in July and then back to 40 in August and 71 in September. The company is now negotiating for slightly higher levels of production in June, July, and August, but it still expects to decrease production to 71 by September.
What possible justification can there be for the Pentagon to slow down current production so drastically in the months ahead when armored humvees are so urgently needed? The Pentagon keeps saying: We will work it out. On nine different occasions, we have asked the Pentagon for their requirements for humvees, and nine times they have been wrong. Nine times they have made their presentation before the Armed Services Committee, and nine times they have been wrong in underestimating the importance of needs, and American service men and women have been paying with their lives.
This bill tells the Department of Defense that we will not let them get it wrong for a tenth time. For the sake of our troops, Congress acted and the Pentagon should not ignore it. The contract should be amended immediately to obtain the maximum possible production of armored humvees for the months ahead. Our troops are waiting for an answer, and their lives depend on it.
Another important part of this bill will be the periodic report it requires on the progress our forces are making in Iraq. Our military is performing brilliantly under enormously difficult circumstances, but they do not want, and the American people do not want, an open-ended commitment. After all the blunders that took us into war, we need to be certain that the President has a strategy for success.
The $5.7 billion in this bill for training Iraqi security forces is a key element of a successful strategy to stabilize Iraq and withdraw American forces. The report will provide the straight answer that we have not had before about how many Iraqi security forces are adequately trained and equipped.
We are obviously making progress, but it is far from clear how much. The American people deserve an honest assessment that provides the basic facts, but that is not what we have been given so far.
According to a GAO report in March, U.S. Government agencies do not report reliable data on the extent to which Iraqi security forces are trained and equipped. There it is, March: The General Accounting Office says U.S. Government agencies do not report reliable data on the extent to which the Iraqi security forces are trained and equipped.
The American people do not know the answer. When they do not know, it means pretty clearly that they are not getting the kind of training and priority they should, and the longer it takes to train them the longer American servicemen are going to be over there risking their lives.
The report goes on to say that the Departments of State and Defense no longer report on the extent to which Iraqi security forces are equipped with their required weapons, vehicles, communications, equipment, and body armor. Imagine that. According to the General Accounting Office, the Departments of State and Defense no longer report on the extent to which the Iraqi security forces are equipped with their required weapons, vehicles, communications, equipment, and body armor.
It is clear from the administration's own statements that they are using the notorious fuzzy math tactic to avoid an honest appraisal.
On February 4, 2004, Secretary Rumsfeld said:
We have accelerated the training of Iraqi security forces, now more than 200,000 strong.
A year later, on January 19, 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said:
We think the number right now is somewhere over 120,000.
On February 3, 2005, in response to questions from Senator Levin at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, GEN Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conceded that only 40,000 Iraqi security forces are actually capable. He said:
48 deployable (battalions) around the country, equals about 40,000, which is a number that can go anywhere and do anything.
Obviously, we need a better accounting of how much progress is being made to train and equip effective Iraqi security forces.
The President's commitment to keep American troops in Iraq as long as it takes and not a day longer is not enough for our soldiers and their loved ones. They deserve a clearer indication of what lies ahead, and so do the American people. I am encouraged that the administration is finally being required by this bill to tell Congress how many U.S. troops will be necessary in Iraq through the end of 2006. The American people, and especially our men and women in uniform, and their families, deserve to know how much real progress is being made in training Iraqi troops and how long our forces will be in Iraq. Hopefully, the administration will submit these reports in good faith and not attempt to classify this vital information.
Those are two of the major provisions that I think require support for this legislation. There was an additional provision that I support that I will mention briefly, and then I will conclude in mentioning a provision which I find very unacceptable, troublesome, and unworkable.
The provision that was added by Senator Mikulski, the H-2B visas for seasonal workers, which I had the opportunity to join with her, remains in this legislation, and it will make a great deal of difference. It will be a lifeline for small family businesses in my State on Cape Cod and many other firms that rely overwhelmingly on seasonal workers to meet their heavy summer needs. Many use the programs year after year because it is the only way to legally fill temporary and seasonal positions when no American workers are available. Without this amendment, they would be out of luck this summer, and many will be out of business.
This is a short-term solution to the current visa crisis. The bill is a 2-year fix, and without it many businesses will be forced to shut their doors. I appreciate the support of our colleagues on this issue. It will help many hard-working small businesses and industries across the country.
Unfortunately, not all the immigration provisions included in the bill have this kind of broad support. Included in the conference agreement are the so-called REAL ID immigration provisions that are highly controversial, harmful, and unnecessary. The Intelligence Reform Act we approved overwhelmingly last year provides real border security solutions. The so-called REAL ID bill added by the House to this spending bill contains controversial provisions we rejected last year and likely would have rejected again if we had had a chance to debate them on the Senate floor. They are a false solution on border security, and they serve no purpose except to push an anti-immigrant agenda. More than ever we need to take the time to get border security reform right as opposed to pushing through legislation to meet the demands of anti-immigrant extremists. The stakes are simply too great.
In addition to the numerous substantive problems with the REAL ID, the process through which they have been forced into this conference report is flawed and unacceptable. The Republican leadership in the House and Senate shut Democrats out of the conference negotiations. Why? Because the House bill has controversial provisions that have questionable support in the Senate and with the American people. Strongarm tactics are offensive and do a great deal of disservice to the important issues of our time. The White House too, once rejected these provisions, yet, they now support them. What important issues will the White House flip-flop on next?
Those who pushed through these REAL ID provisions continue to say that loopholes exist in our immigration and asylum laws that are being exploited by terrorists. They claim these provisions will close them. In fact, they do nothing to improve national security and leave other big issues unresolved.
They want us to believe that its changes will keep terrorists from being granted asylum. But current immigration laws already bar persons engaged in terrorist activity from asylum. Before they receive asylum, all applicants must also undergo extensive security checks, covering all terrorist and criminal databases at the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the CIA.
Asylum seekers will find no refuge. Battered women and victims of stalking will be forced to divulge their addresses in order to get driver's licenses, potentially endangering their lives. Many Americans will have other problems with their driver's license. All legal requirements, including labor laws, can now be waived to build a wall. For the first time since the Civil War, habeas corpus will be prohibited. The REAL ID provisions contain other broad and sweeping changes to laws that go to the core of our national identity.
Each year, countless refugees are forced to leave their countries, fleeing persecution. America has always been a haven for those desperate for such protection. At the very beginning of our history, the refugee Pilgrims seeking religious freedom landed on Plymouth Rock. Ever since, we have welcomed refugees, and it has made us a better Nation. Refugees represent the best of American values. They have stood alone, at great personal cost, against hostile governments for fundamental principles like freedom of speech and religion. We have a responsibility to examine our asylum policies carefully, to see that they are fair and just.
But, the REAL ID bill tramples this noble tradition and will be devastating for legitimate asylum-seekers fleeing persecution. It will make it more difficult for victims fleeing serious human rights abuses to obtain asylum and safety, and could easily lead to their return to their persecutors.
Another section of conference report contains a provision that would complete the U.S.-Mexico border fence in San Diego. But it goes much farther than that. It gives the Department of Homeland security unprecedented and unchecked authority to waive all legal requirements necessary to build such fences, not only in San Diego, but anywhere else along our 2,000 mile border with Mexico and our 4,000 mile border with Canada. Building such fences will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and they still will not stop illegal immigration. What we need are safe and legal avenues for immigrants to come here and work, not more walls.
A major additional problem in the REAL ID provisions is that it could result in the deportation even of long-time legal permanent residents, for lawful speech or associations that occurred 20 years ago or more. It raises the burden of proof to nearly impossible levels in numerous cases.
A person who made a donation to a humanitarian organization involved in tsunami relief could be deported if the organization or any of its affiliates was ever involved in violence. The burden would be on the donor to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he knew nothing about any of these activities. The spouse and children of a legal permanent resident could also be deported too based on such an accusation, because of their relationship to the donor.
The provision could be applied retroactively, so that a permanent resident who had once supported the lawful, nonviolent work of the African National Congress in South Africa, Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, or the Contras in Nicaragua would be deportable. It would be no defense to show that the only support was for lawful nonviolent activity. It would be no defense to show that the United States itself supported some of these groups.
The driver's license provisions do not make us safer either. Let me explain what these provisions really do. They repeal a section of the Intelligence Reform Act which sets up a process for States and the Federal Government to work together to establish Federal standards for driver's licenses and identification cards. Progress is already being made to implement these important measures, but this bill replaces them with highly problematic and burdensome requirements. The National Conference of State Legislatures says that these provisions are "unworkable, unproven, costly mandates that compel States to enforce Federal immigration policy rather than advance the paramount objective of making State-issued identity documents more secure and verifiable."
Indeed, it is a costly unfunded mandate on the States. The CBO estimate on the implementation of the driver's license provisions is $20 million over a 5-year period to reimburse States for complying with the legislation. But, that is not all; the provisions require States to participate in an interstate database that would share information at a cost of $80 million over 3 years.
The driver's license provisions do nothing to address the threat of terrorists or to address legitimate security concerns. It would not have prevented a single 9/11 hijacker from obtaining a driver's license, or a single terrorist from boarding a plane. All 13 hijackers could have obtained licenses or IDs under this proposal, and foreign terrorists can always use their passports to travel.
The result of these restrictive driver's license provisions will be raised insurance rates, higher numbers of fatalities on America's roadways, and an increased black market for false and fraudulent documents. The REAL ID actually undercuts the original purpose of traffic safety. It is better to have licensed, insured, and trained drivers on our roads.
Preventing immigrants from obtaining driver's licenses undermines national security by pushing people into the shadows and fueling the black market for fraudulent identification documents.
The REAL ID provisions do nothing to combat the threat of terrorists or to deal with legitimate security concerns. They have taken away precious time that could have been used to address genuine pressing issues.
Hundreds of organizations across the political spectrum continue to oppose this legislation. A broad coalition of religious, immigrant, human rights, civil liberties and state groups have expressed their own strong opposition.
In these difficult times for our country, we know that the threat of terrorism has not ended, and we must do all we can to enact genuine measures to stop terrorists before they act, and to see that law enforcement officials have the full support they need. The provisions of the REAL ID bill in the conference report today will not improve these efforts. They will not make us safer or prevent terrorism. They are an invitation to gross abuses, and a false solution to national and border security.
The REAL ID bill with its controversial provisions should have been considered by the Senate through debate and discussion, not attached to a critical piece of legislation needed by our troops.
I urge the Senate to get serious about immigration reform that will make genuine improvements where they are needed, and not in the piecemeal fashion that is contained in this report.
This bill also provides nearly $12 million to remedy a crisis in off-site judicial security for our Federal judges. With this bill, we have taken a small, but necessary step toward increasing security for the distinguished men and women of our country who have been appointed to the courts. In the wake of the recent murders of the husband and mother of Federal Judge Joan Lefkow at her home in Chicago, and the courtroom killings in Atlanta, it is clear we must do more to enhance judicial security. This is a matter of the highest urgency.
The tragic deaths of Judge Lefkow's family demonstrate that judges may be safe inside the walls of our wellguarded courthouses, but they are vulnerable to disgruntled litigants in other places, even in their own homes. In, fact, security in the homes of judges has long been a concern for the Judicial Conference, the principal decision-making group for the Federal courts. Sadly, three judges had previously been killed in their homes: Judge John Wood of Texas, in 1979; Judge Richard Daronco of New York, in 1988; and Judge Robert Vance, of Alabama, in 1989.
The vast majority of threats are received from people who are angry with the outcome of a case in court. In the 10 years since the first world trade center bombing, the Federal judiciary has handled an increasing number of "high threat" matters.
Judge Lefkow was the victim of an act of domestic terrorism stemming from what should have been a routine civil matter. Matthew Hale, the leader of a White Supremacist group known as the World Church of the Creator, was convicted in April 2004 of soliciting an undercover FBI informant to murder Judge Lefkow in retaliation for her ruling against him in a trademark dispute. This example highlights the environment in which our Federal judges toil every day.
The Marshals Service, underfunded and understaffed as it is, struggles to keep up with security needs in the new high-risk age, but there is no reason why our judges should continue to remain so vulnerable 16 years after Judge Vance was killed in his home. We need to stand up for an independent judiciary. We can do so by providing the funds to make their homes safe.
There were provisions in this legislation to do that. It says something about the nature of our dialog here when we have to provide the kind of extraordinary additional security to judges because of the nature of the political dialog. Words have consequences. Words have results. Words have meanings. The idea that individuals in responsible positions continue to threaten members of the judiciary too often can result in serious consequences to those judicial members. We have attempted to provide some additional security to protect those individuals. The best protection would be for more restraint on the part of those who talk about an independent judiciary.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that an article dated April 25, 2005, from the New York Times be printed in the RECORD.
[From the New York Times, Apr. 25, 2005]
Bloodied Marines Sound Off About Want of Armor and Men
(By Michael Moss)
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I yield the remainder of my time.