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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006

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Location: Washington, DC


NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2006 -- (House of Representatives - May 25, 2005)

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Ms. BALDWIN. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to H.R. 1815, the Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006. This legislation reflects misplaced priorities, wrong choices, excessive spending, and a failure to make hard choices. This bill also fails to assert any meaningful Congressional oversight over the war in Iraq which has been mismanaged from the very beginning.

Passage of this bill today will set our annual defense spending in Fiscal Year 2006 at $490.7 billion, including additional funding for the war in Iraq. This will account for 55 percent of all discretionary spending. In real terms, it will be 20 percent higher than the average defense budget during the Cold War. We will spend just shy of a million dollars a minute, 24 hours a day, for all 365 days next year.

Mr. Chairman, in the past, I have supported many defense authorization and defense appropriations bills. As a Member of this House, I take extremely seriously my oath of office that obligates me to provide for the protection of the American people. Providing for our common defense is critical, but like other federal government programs, we are bound to ensure that each dollar that we spend is necessary and used wisely.

Not only will this be a record defense budget, it will also be nearly as large as every other country in the world combined. Let me repeat that, this defense budget will nearly equal all other military spending in the world, including nations that are our allies and nations that are potential adversaries. According to estimates by the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, all nations except for the United States are spending a total of $527 billion. This includes our NATO allies like Britain at $49 billion and France at $40 billion, and Japan at $45 billion. Our spending dwarfs those of countries that are considered possible threats to our security: Iran at $3.5 billion, North Korea at $5.5 billion, Syria at $1.6 billion, and Sudan at $500 million.

We have already appropriated approximately $250 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. The day after we passed our latest FY 2005 supplemental, the Administration signaled that we should expect another supplemental request in the $50 billion range. It is clear that the Administration has no idea what the costs of the Iraq operations will be or is withholding that information from the Congress and the American people.

In March 2003, before the war began, I wrote to the President with 22 of our colleagues to ask him to specifically define our objectives and to provide an exit strategy. We asked the President a number of questions including: "Under what circumstances will our military occupation of (and financial commitment to) Iraq end? And how will we know when these circumstances are present." We, and the American people, never received an answer to these crucial questions. Even today, the Administration is unwilling or unable to answer. This is simply unacceptable.

Time and again, the President has requested money to fund the war in Iraq while refusing to answer our questions about this war and provide a comprehensive strategy for bringing our troops home. We must insist that the administration articulate the conditions necessary to bring our troops home, and push them to do that as soon as possible. The administration's refusal to address these is quite astounding to me and should be of great concern to all Americans who believe in principles of accountability and checks and balances.

It is absolutely essential that President Bush formulate an exit strategy. This strategy must specify our objectives clearly, benchmarks to measure our success, or lack of success, and a realistic time line for withdrawing our troops. I know that many argue that a timeline for withdrawal would encourage insurgents to "run out the clock." I disagree. A timeline would establish deadlines for us and the Iraqis to achieve our objectives. It gives us deadlines with which to hold ourselves accountable. For example, we set a date for elections, and despite the violence, we were successful in holding them on time.

My colleague from California, LYNN WOOLSEY, offered an amendment today to ask the President to develop a plan for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq. This amendment did not set a date for withdrawal, nor did it require that any plan developed by the President have a fixed timeline for withdrawal. It simply said that the President should put together a plan and share it with Congress and the American people. Yet, the House leadership only allocated 30 minutes for this crucial debate.

This legislation fails to make tough choices about our military priorities. I support transformation of our armed forces into a more mobile, flexible force that can take on a wide variety of missions, from combat to peacekeeping, from hurricane relief to securing weapons of mass destruction. Our country cannot afford to maintain our current Cold War structure and legacy weapons systems while fully transforming into the modern force we need in this century. Yet this bill fails to make the tough choices and instead tries to fund both. And it fails to fully succeed at either.

I want to focus on some of the weapons systems we are funding in this bill.

Since 1983, we have spent $100 billion on missile defense. President Bush decided to move forward with deployment of a system that has been inadequately tested. As the Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted last year, the system is "largely unproven." The GAO went on to state that tests so far have been "repetitive and scripted" and that "decision makers in the Defense Department and Congress do not have a full understanding of the overall cost of developing and fielding the Ballistic Missile System and what the system's true capabilities will be." Each year we put more and more resources into this unproven technology that does not address the most likely threats from weapons of mass destruction. Is a nuclear weapon likely to arrive on an intercontinental ballistic missile? Homeland security experts don't believe so. Moving forward with another $7.9 billion this year and plans for at least $50 billion more in coming years does not make military or fiscal sense.

I am pleased that the committee report on this bill raises serious questions about the future of the Future Combat System (FCS) program. The GAO found in March 2005 that "the FCS program faces significant challenges in setting requirements, developing systems, financing development, and managing the effort." Let me quote from the report:

The FCS has demonstrated a level of knowledge far below that suggested by best practices or DOD policy. Nearly 2 years after program launch and about $4.6 billion invested to date, requirements are not firm and only 1 of over 50 technologies are mature-activities that should have been done before the start of system development and demonstration.

If everything goes as planned, the program will attain the level of knowledge in 2008 that it should have had before it started in 2003. But things are not going as planned. Progress in critical areas, such as the network, software, and requirements has been slower than planned. Proceeding with such low levels of knowledge makes it likely that FCS will encounter problems late in development, when they are costly to correct. The relatively immature state of program knowledge at this point provides an insufficient basis for making a good cost estimate.

Despite the clear concern of the committee expressed in the committee report, FCS is funded at $3.4 billion, only $400 million less than the President's request.

The F/A-22 Raptor is the most expensive fighter ever built. Originally budgeted at $96 billion for 648 planes, it is now going to cost us $68 billion for 178 planes. Because of changing capabilities, the planes are now estimated to cost $258 million each, five times the cost of the F-15 and F-16 that they are replacing. This year, we are going to spend $3.8 billion for 24 planes while spending another $480 million for research and development. We have a plane that is way over budget and whose mission is unclear. The answer to this dilemma is to end the program, not spend more.

In December, the Defense Department proposed cutting the C-130J cargo plane, which would have saved $30 billion over the next five years. This made a lot of sense since the plane cannot complete its intended mission. Most of the planes have design flaws that prevent them from dropping paratroopers or heavy equipment. The chief weapons inspector at the Pentagon reported that it is "neither operationally effective nor operationally suitable." Unfortunately, DOD has backed off cancellation and this bill will authorize more than $1 billion for procurement in FY 2006.

I do want to mention some positive features of this legislation. I am pleased that it contains a 3.1 percent increase in military pay. Our men and women in uniform deserve our admiration and respect for their dedication and commitment. They have demonstrated again and again their professionalism when faced with incredibly difficult challenges. They truly are the best in the world. This legislation contains improvements to benefits and facilities that will help members of our armed forces and their families. It also increases hazardous duty pay, raises the caps on enlistment and reenlistment bonuses, and enhances the TRICARE Reserve Select Program (TRS). I support those provisions.

I was disappointed that expanded eligibility for TRICARE for our guard and reserve that the committee added to the bill was dropped by Chairman HUNTER. This bill should also have included full concurrent receipt and ended taxation of survivor benefits.

This bill fails to make the tough choices necessary to transform our military force for the 21st Century. This bill fails to account for the real costs of war in Iraq and fails to press the President to put together a realistic exit strategy. I therefore must vote against this legislation.

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