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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005 - Continued

Location: Washington DC

June 2, 2004

Mr. INHOFE. I appreciate the time.

I think one thing the last three speakers, including myself, have in common is no one has been more highly supportive of the Guard and the Reserve than Senator Nickles, Senator Sessions, and myself. In fact, I daresay I probably have spent more time talking about the dilemma of the Reserve component in all of the deployments as we continue this, and the reason we are having to do it is because we are, of course, at war.

During the 1990s, we saw what happened to the military. It went down and consequently we had an end-strength problem. We are now talking about maybe 30,000 more troops and we are going to have to do something to help the Reserve component. Most of these people are gainfully employed. They have occupations. We cannot expect them to continuously be deployed while at the same time the employer is letting them go. That is the whole idea of a Reserve component.

So although I oppose this amendment, I have to qualify it by saying how much I have always supported the Guard and the Reserve. I think all members of the Guard and Reserve, certainly in my State of Oklahoma, are aware of that.

I just returned from Afghanistan where the 45th is stationed. They are doing a great job training the ANA to fight their own battles. They are doing a tremendous job. The problem is this does not have to happen in a vacuum. If it happened in a vacuum and we were able to give them full-time TRICARE, I would vote to do it in spite of the fact there would be, as my senior Senator from Oklahoma stated, many people who would go ahead and drop their coverage, saying the Government already supplies it, and that would be a problem.

They talk about the costs being $11 billion, $12 billion, and as high as $18 billion. That is because we have yet to have any kind of a study to see how many people are out there who already have coverage or how many people are out there who actually would want to even have this coverage.

Our chairman and our committee did a great job-it has not been said on the floor enough-because in this area of TRICARE, 90 days prior to deployment they have coverage. For 6 months after coming back, they have coverage. So it is not something we have not already looked at and decided to be very fair. I think we have a good compromise that is in the mark that is up for consideration on the floor today.

I say to my good friend from South Carolina, he has another amendment that frankly I am very much for. It is one having to do with the movement of nuclear waste. I think he is dead right on it. That was a good policy until the National Resource Defense Council came in and filed a lawsuit against the DOE. Before then, everything was going fine. This would rectify that problem. This amendment is being offered by Senator Graham of South Carolina. I am a strong supporter of that particular amendment, but on this amendment one cannot assume this is going to happen and it is going to come out of nowhere.

We have to come up with $11 billion, $12 billion, $14 billion, or $18 billion somewhere. It has to come out of Defense. This is the problem we have. I served as the chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee all during the 1990s, and I saw what was happening to our military, knowing one day this day would come and we would have to make some decisions regarding end strength, modernization, and all of the other programs that are bleeding today.

Now if the Senator from South Carolina wants that money to come out of the MOX, mixed oxide, fuel facility in South Carolina, $368 million is authorized in this bill, maybe he feels strongly enough about it he would like to do that, or the waste incidental to reprocessing the WIR program, $350 million. These programs I am sure are worthwhile, but the money has to come from somewhere.

My fear is it will come out of the modernization account, and right now I think we all know some of our potential enemies and adversaries out in the field are better equipped than we are. We have to correct this thing. So the money has to come out of somewhere. It is going to have to come out of some of the Defense accounts.

I feel sorry for our chairman, Senator Warner, who is going to have to lead us in making some decisions on where to make cuts if this amendment passes. It is very serious.

Again, there is no stronger supporter of the Guard and Reserve than I am, but this is something that is more money spent and not directed properly and it has to come out of some place where we have a very serious problem. There is nothing free in this bill. I do not know of any Guard and Reserve members from my State of Oklahoma who have talked to me about this and have offered places it should come out of or even called me up to support it.

It is an amendment that is going to have to be defeated. We need to save all the money we can in order to keep our current authorization program. There is nothing we can cut, that I can think of right now, that would be appropriate.

I yield the floor.

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