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Mr. CHAMBLISS. Madam President, I thank the Senator from Connecticut for yielding time on this critically important issue.
As we have been here debating on the floor for the last 2 weeks now the respective issues relative to the priorities from a Defense authorization standpoint, we have done everything other than going from increasing pay for our military personnel to the termination of what I argued on the floor last week and this week of the latest, most technologically advanced warfighting machine that has ever been produced by mankind. But the decision was made to terminate the F-22.
The F-22, not only from a technology standpoint, was providing valuable test material for the follow-on fighter, but it also is powered by two engines, one engine of which is going to be on the F-35. And here we are now talking about the issue of whether we should continue with a competitive second engine for an airplane that now has an engine that is being flown, has been flown, has been tested by the Air Force on the F-22. It has successfully flown on the F-22 for years now, and also has flown successfully in what limited testing has been done on the F-35.
We have put all of our eggs in the F-35 basket now. As I said during the debate on the F-22, I am a big supporter of the F-35. It is a great airplane. I know it is going to succeed. But we are at a point, with respect to the cost of all weapons systems, where we have to look more toward where we are going to be in future years from a cost standpoint and with regard to what we are able to provide our men and women.
When you look at items that need to be included in the mix from a competition standpoint, there is nobody who supports competition more than I do. That is the reason I supported the second engine--up to a point in time. But when it came up again last year, it was pretty obvious we were at a point where the engine, manufactured by Pratt & Whitney--two of which fly on the F-22; only one of which is needed for the F-35--is a good engine. It is doing the job. It has passed the test. So I decided last year we needed to move away from the spending of the money on the second engine, and let's concentrate on providing, obviously, the two engines for the F-22, and the one engine on the F-35.
We have something else thrown into the mix. I did not support Senator Bayh's amendment in committee, for what I still think are all of the right reasons from the standpoint of: Do we need competition for an engine that is successful? For an engine we know is working? For an engine for which we know what the cost is today?
Why do we need the second engine? Well, I know detractors have said--and they have made the argument to me--that: Look, that engine may fail. Something may happen to that engine. I agree for a point in time that could have happened. But we have been at this with respect to the engine that is powering the F-35 for years now, and it is a success. So I reached a point in time last year when I decided we did not need the additional competition from the standpoint of the second engine and, obviously, the committee reached that same result this year.
Now we are changing horses a little bit more. Instead of using the discontinuance of the helicopters, the Marine helicopters, we are taking money from six C-130Js to fund the competitive second engine for the F-35, and the competition is going to be between the new engine we have tested and have had in production now for several years against an engine we know to be successful.
Well, the issue has gotten even more sensitive to me because I know how critically important the C-130J is to our men and women who are in combat today--not those who might be going into combat and might need this weapon system somewhere down the road. Our men and women in theater today depend every single day on the C-130J, and on the C-130Hs, even, that are old airplanes, that are in theater, that are flying our men and women. They are looking to get the new C-130Js to help them transport themselves as well as equipment from one part of the theater to the other, from outside the theater into the theater. Our special operations men and women are looking to the C-130J for the gunship operations they carry out.
Here we are going to say to those men and women: Well, we think it is more important to have competition for a second engine against an engine we know is successful than it is to provide you with the latest, most technologically advanced airlift capability we can give you. That makes no sense whatsoever to me from a national security standpoint.
All of us have been to Iraq and Afghanistan at some point or another. I have been to Iraq eight times. I have been to Afghanistan twice. When we go over there, we fly into either Kuwait or Jordan or some neighboring country. Then we are transported from that country into Iraq or into Afghanistan. What have we flown on? I would say not 99 percent of the time but 100 percent of the time when we are transported into theater, we fly on C-130s. All of us have had the experience of seeing date plates on C-130s we are flying on into theater, where rockets are being fired occasionally at those weapons systems, and we have had some issues relative to that. But the date plates on those airplanes we fly on almost consistently are in the 1960s or 1970s.
So today what we are asking our men and women to do is to fly C-130s that are 40 years old, 30 years old, or whatever it may be, that are not equipped with the latest, most technologically advanced weapons systems, and here we are saying to those men and women that we are going to take away from you the entrance of additional C-130Js into theater because we think it is important we have competition for a second engine on the F-35.
This makes absolutely no sense from either a fiscal standpoint or a national security standpoint. The C-130J is a great airplane. We have nine of them in this authorization bill. This particular amendment takes six of those nine out of the bill and pays for the funding--the remainder of the funding--on the second engine. That second engine is a great engine. It has performed magnificently. But it is competing with an engine that also is performing magnificently.
So to say we now ought to take a weapons system, such as the C-130J that our men and women depend on every single day to fly them around within Afghanistan--because they need these airplanes to land, they need an airplane that can land on a short runway; and the C-130 has that capability to fly our men and women around Iraq, to fly our men and women who carry out special operations and missions and have the gunships--the guns that are mounted on the C-130J to be transformed into a gunship--we are going to take away that capability and that need from our men and women to fund a second engine for an airplane that already has an engine on it, that is performing well, that we know is successful, for which we know how much it costs today.
It is not like we are going to see a reduction in price on the engine of the F-35 because we complete the testing and the procurement of an alternative engine. That is not going to happen, and that is not the issue. The issue comes down to the point of are we going to take, in this case, a weapon system away from our men and women to fund a second engine to compete with an engine that is already successful.
I would say that, obviously, I felt very strongly and was very emotional about the discontinuance of the F-22 for all of the right reasons, but this is one of those issues that makes even less sense than the discontinuance of the F-22. We need to make sure we spend tax money wisely. We have had the competition on the F-35. It is time we move down the road of building and procuring as many of those as we can. With the ramp-up this bill calls for, under the direction of the chairman, we are going to be buying a lot of F-35s in a short period of time. They have a great engine on them today. It works. It is successful. That is where we need to concentrate. That is where we need to spend our money. We don't need to spend the money on the second engine, nor do we need to take six C-130 airplanes out of this budget to pay for an engine we are probably never going to buy.
So I would simply urge my colleagues to vote in support of the Lieberman amendment and to vote against the Bayh second-degree amendment.
I yield the floor.
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Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I rise to express my strong support for amendment No. 1764 offered by the Senator from New York, Mr. Schumer. With the leadership of Senator Schumer and Senator Bennett, we have crafted one of the most substantive and comprehensive military and overseas voting reforms we have seen in years. This amendment tackles some very tough issues while taking States rights into account.
In May of this year, Senator Bennett was consumed with another issue, and he asked me to cochair a hearing with Senator Schumer on military and overseas voting. We heard testimony from numerous witnesses regarding the difficulty of military and overseas voting. This amendment addresses some of those concerns and is a significant step toward ensuring that military and overseas voters are not disenfranchised.
The amendment establishes uniform standards for the request and delivery of blank balloting material that takes into account all available technologies. It makes sure all overseas voters have time to vote by requiring States to send out ballots to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before election day. It utilizes expedited mail delivery services for our uniformed members serving overseas, ensuring a timely delivery of completed ballots. It establishes a requirement for service Secretaries to designate voter registration agencies at military installations to assist with voter registration and aid our voting assistance officers. It lays the groundwork to gather needed information to continue to improve the overseas absentee voting process and will help existing voting oversight organizations gather key voting metrics to help make key decisions ahead of future elections.
Not since the passage of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act in 1986 have we proposed such significant legislation designed to help the men and women of the military who time and time again are called upon to defend the rights and freedoms we Americans hold so sacred.
Unfortunately, our military is one of the most disenfranchised voting blocks we have. Today we have the opportunity to correct this problem. I am extremely pleased with this legislation and proud to have been a part of the team that put this amendment together.
There are 57 other cosponsors which is representative of the strong support for this amendment and significant concern around the country regarding this issue. I thank Senator Schumer and his staff for leading this effort and helping make this legislation become a reality. I thank Senator Ben Nelson, my good friend and colleague, on the Armed Services Committee, for his efforts in this matter. It would not have happened without his strong leadership.
I also thank Senator Bennett and his staff for their strong efforts in putting this bill in the proper perspective and making sure that all issues were properly addressed. I also thank Senator Cornyn for his leadership over the years on this issue. Senator Cornyn is not a member of the Rules Committee, but he has been very engaged on this issue over the last several years. His input was valuable. There is no question that his support for the amendment and contributions he and his staff have made to the amendment have made what was a good amendment a much better one.
Lastly, I thank the secretary of state of the State of Georgia, Karen Handel, also a very valuable asset to us as we went through the process of putting this bill together. She and her staff responded very timely and were honest in the feedback we got from them. Their contributions helped make sensible changes that make the amendment better. Their partnership on this effort will move us forward in the right direction toward ensuring every overseas voter wishing to vote will be able to do so.
Again, to my colleague from New York, it has been a pleasure to work on this. It is one other asset that we can give to our men and women in uniform; that is, to make sure they have the ability to participate in what we all take for granted but a very precious right, that being the right to vote.
I yield the floor.
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Mr. CHAMBLISS. I rise very quickly in support of the Isakson amendment. There is currently a waiver to the Berry amendment in place which allows companies to import the fire-resistant rayon from foreign countries.
Let me be very clear. The jobs that go with the manufacture of these uniforms for the Army and Marines are U.S. jobs. All of these uniforms are made in the United States. But this fabric is used by TenCate, Incorporated, to make its Defender M fabric to produce fire-resistant uniforms for both the Army and the Marines.
The material is not made in the United States due to EPA standards. This is a classic example of where EPA standards can be too stringent to allow U.S. manufacturers to operate. And, the reason is, it is cost prohibitive to do so.
The current waiver, which includes a 5-year sunset clause, was included in the 2008 Defense authorization bill after a tremendous effort by my colleague, Senator Isakson, and obviously is set to expire.
The Army's PEO Soldier expressed very strongly that FR rayon is the superior fabric based upon key selection criteria. The criteria were cost, comfort, durability, and length of time before receiving third-degree burns. We have had some very serious situations, obviously, that have occurred with burns in both Iraq and Afghanistan. That is why the Army and the Marines like this uniform.
We buy 115,000 new FR uniforms every month. This uniform is superior because of the fact that we have been able to import this fabric with the Berry amendment waiver. It is, in my opinion, imperative that we continue for the competition. The uniforms are still competitively bid. So it is not like we are taking anybody out of the marketplace.
I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of the Isakson amendment.
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