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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


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

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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for offering this amendment, and I rise in support of it.

We could go through a list of all of the problems that will be created, but let me just paint a picture here. At Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, there are really the best people in the world, mostly civilians, engineers, scientists, procurement specialists, providing communications, surveillance, tracking friendly forces and unfriendly forces, providing equipment, services, software that men and women in the field in Iraq and Afghanistan need and use every day. Thousands of jobs will be sent elsewhere.

Now picture this: A commander in Iraq places an emergency call back to the U.S. The insurgents have changed the electronics in the roadside bombs, the IED devices, and they need new electronics to detect and disarm them. The reply, ``I am sorry, that guy does not work here anymore. We are in the middle of realignment and we have not hired his replacement yet.''

Repeated 5,000 times, ``That guy does not work here anymore,'' that is what is at stake here. The gentleman from Arkansas says there is never a good time, there are no bad bases; this is a terrible time.

I can talk about the economic impact of moving jobs away from Fort Monmouth or to some other place. That is not the point. There are soldiers in the field. We are to look after their safety and effectiveness. The Secretary of the Army himself said before the BRAC Commission this past week that they have concerns whether those civilians, those experts with security clearance, with advanced degrees, with specialties, will make the move. How many years of reduced capability can we tolerate while we have men and women in the field?

This is a terrible time to proceed. Let us admit that we have gotten off on the wrong track, slow it down and look after the interests of the people in the field.

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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in strong support of the amendment to the Fiscal Year 2006 Defense Authorization bill offered by the gentleman from New Hampshire, Mr. Bradley. Like my friend from New Hampshire, I believe that the current BRAC round should be delayed and the process re-evaluated. Let me explain why.

At the BRAC hearing on May 4, BRAC Commission Chairman Anthony Principi and several other Commissioners asked Defense Department witnesses whether they had taken into account the need to house troops returning from Europe and other overseas locations as part of the BRAC evaluation. The Pentagon's witnesses assured the Commission that, yes, the department had indeed factored the returning troops into the equation, and that the proposed BRAC list would reflect those planning assumptions.

The next day--the very next day--Mr. Al Cornella, Chairman of the Overseas Basing Commission, issued a statement in which he said in part:

Our review leads us to conclude that the timing and synchronization of such a massive realignment of forces... requires that the proposed pace of events for our overseas basing posture be slowed and re-ordered. Such a step is of paramount importance in addressing quality of life issues for 70,000 returning American military personnel plus their families. Schools, health care and housing need to be in place at domestic receiving bases on the first day troops and their families arrive home.

Mr. Cornella went on to note that ``The interagency process has not been fully used in the development of the Department's plan'' and that ``The Commission notes there has been almost no public discussion of this multi-billion dollar process that affects the security of every American.''

In other words, DoD had failed to truly factor in the return of American forces from overseas into the BRAC equation ..... and the Overseas Basing Commission isn't the only independent body to question the Pentagon's BRAC criteria.

On May 3, the Government Accountability Office issued a report on the methodology used by the Pentagon in the BRAC process that states the Defense Department ``did not fully consider the impact of force structure changes underway and the planned restationing of thousands of forces from overseas bases.''

Mr. Chairman, we know the day is coming--and I pray that it's sooner rather than later--that those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan will be coming home. The Overseas Basing Commission and GAO are warning DoD and the Congress that we must ensure that any

changes in our domestic basing structure do not leave these troops and their families with no place to call home. That's reason enough to delay the current BRAC round, but there are others.

The Defense Department will not submit its report on the Quadrennial Defense Review--the QDR, as it's known, is the Department's method of examining of America's defense needs from 1997 to 2015--until at least the first quarter of 2006, after the current BRAC round has run its course. Several BRAC Commissioners have questioned the wisdom of proceeding with the current BRAC round before the QDR report has been delivered to Congress. I would argue, as others have, that this is another example of putting the proverbial cart before the horse. How can DoD restructure its forces for the future--including its domestic and overseas bases--when its primary blueprint for the future is still a work in progress?

For my part, I've also discovered a BRAC-related planning issue that the Pentagon does not appear to have addressed. Nowhere in the hundreds of pages of BRAC reports that DoD has thus far made public will you find a single reference to the difficulty in getting properly qualified scientists and engineers the security clearances they need in a timely fashion.

Why is this important? At the May 18 BRAC hearing on the Army's portion of the proposed BRAC list, Army Secretary Francis Harvey said, ``I won't sit here and tell you that we expect all the people from Fort Monmouth to move to Aberdeen Proving Ground ..... I won't sit here and tell you that that's not a concern.'' Mr. Speaker, the bottom line is that the vast majority of the skilled scientists and engineers who have current security clearances won't move to Aberdeen Proving Ground or anywhere else. Their lives, their families, their research centers are all in New Jersey--and we can say the same thing about any other community with a military installation that employs a large number of skilled civilian specialists with security clearances anywhere in the country.

Every day at Ft. Monmouth, the talented engineers, scientists and technicians--working in secrecy--are providing the latest intelligence and communications technologies to our troops in the field, including the roadside bomb jammers that have become so very important in our struggle against the insurgents in Iraq. If we allow the Pentagon to play the BRAC equivalent of musical chairs with our critical research and development assets in wartime, we will lose thousands of skilled, trained, and cleared intelligence and communications specialists that we will not be able to replace for years. That's an unacceptable risk in wartime, Mr. Speaker, and for that reason and the other, strategic reasons cited by the Overseas Basing Commission and GAO, we need to terminate the current BRAC round. Let's restructure our military for the 21st century, but let's do it right, and minimize the risk to our warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan. Again, I urge adoption of the Bradley amendment.

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