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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005 - Continued

Location: Washington DC


Mr. BIDEN. I would like to take a moment to engage the Senator from Michigan in a discussion about information operations in the Air National Guard. Before we begin, I would also like to thank my colleague for his willingness to have this discussion on an issue of great importance to national security and to many of the Air National Guard personnel in my State.

Let me start by saying that I think most of my colleagues understand that while the world today has changed, some things have stayed the same. When you are trying to stop terrorists, just like organized crime, you have to follow the money. These days, in order to follow the money, you have to have the very best in information operations skills. You have to understand the computerized financial networks and security systems used by financial institutions. In addition, you have to be able to protect your own information. This is a critical aspect of the war on terrorism and one where the Government needs more capability.

Last year, the Defense Authorization Conference Report provided 30 additional Air Guard personnel that we had hoped would be used to stand up a new unit in Delaware to do this mission. This year, Senator Carper and I had hoped to finish that work by providing a total of 60 personnel for that unit. Unfortunately, we are not able to do that because the Department of Defense has not evaluated this proposal to determine whether it is a mission that should be assigned to the Air National Guard.

We understand that the Department of Defense has an established process for assigning missions and determining the manning necessary to support those missions. Expanding the information operations capability of a unit or units within the Air National Guard has not been considered through this process.

Mr. BIDEN. I hope that we can agree that the Department's review should include an examination of using the Air National Guard for emerging missions like information operations.

Mr. LEVIN. I can commit to the Senator from Delaware that I will do all that I can to ensure that this area is included in the Department's review and given full consideration.

Mr. BIDEN. I also hope that we will have their input regarding the mission and its suitability for the Air Guard before we take up next year's Defense Authorization bill. I would also like to make sure that the consideration of this particular mission takes into account the unique skills present in the Delaware Air National Guard and the work that they have already done in this area.

Mr. LEVIN. Again, I commit to my colleague that we will work with him and the Department of Defense to get that thorough and timely consideration.

Mr. BIDEN. I thank my colleague for those assurances and look forward to working with him over the next year to make sure our information operations needs are met.
Now, let me explain why I think it is so important to stand this unit up in Delaware.

Delaware is uniquely situated to provide the skills needed for information assurance and financial tracking. Delaware is host to 7 of the top 10 banking institutions in the U.S. Delaware also has the highest amount of computer networking per capita of any State. In addition, major research companies like DuPont and Astra-Zeneca make their headquarters in Delaware. Last, Delaware has the highest number of scientists and engineers per capita in the U.S.

All of those statistics mean that many members of Delaware's Air National Guard have civilian employment in banks or other institutions. They understand what is required to protect financial information and to track it. They are on the cutting-edge of information protection today.

Their skills cannot be used by the Government, however, because banks and financial institutions are very sensitive about the employees of other banks reviewing their financial transactions. To do this type of work, a person must be a Government employee. One of the best ways to provide the benefit of these private sector skills to Government agencies fighting terror is through the National Guard. Guard personnel stay on the cutting edge of these skills because of their private sector jobs. They can then provide that knowledge to the Government, something that a civilian government employee cannot do.

In 2003, the National Security Agency and the Air Intelligence Agency recognized their shortfalls in information assurance and tracking skills and started asking some of these Delaware Guardsmen and women to help them meet their requirements. NSA will have spent $945,000 between 2003 and 2004 to make use of the Delaware Air Guard's expertise. They would like to spend an additional $900,000 in 2005. AIA is spending $150,000 in 2004 on these missions. They are spending this money because a real need exists.

Last year, the Senate, and then the full Congress, agreed that this mission needed support and a full-time unit. Thirty personnel were added to the Air National Guard's end-strength to create this new information operations unit. This year, we had hoped to finish the job by providing the full complement of 60 personnel needed for the mission and the $3.997 million needed to fully fund this unit. That is $2.75 million for personnel costs and $1.247 million for operations and maintenance. Unfortunately that will not be possible.

Some may wonder why we sought an amendment to add the personnel and funding needed. The reason is simple. The Delaware Air National Guard is too small to move people to this mission and still do their primary tactical airlift mission. The 166th tactical airlift wing has had its C-130s fully tasked to support operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. When I wrote Lieutenant General James at the Guard Bureau about standing up this new unit, he replied that he thought Delaware's Guard was well-postured for the mission, but his "end strength cap makes it challenging to resource new initiatives." Our amendment would have taken care of that challenge.

Up to now, the personnel who have been working with NSA and AIA so far have been working three jobs. Let me say that again, three jobs. It is simply not sustainable. They cannot continue to do their regular Air Guard mission in the 166th tactical airlift wing, their civilian job, and the third job of helping NSA and AIA. With a new unit, we can provide the critical information operations skills needed to fight terrorism without harming the on-going tactical airlift mission that is supporting troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I know end strength increases are controversial, but we need to look at the big picture. Remember, Congress agreed that a new unit was needed to do these missions last year. The facts on the ground have not changed. This is exactly the type of new mission the Air Guard should be doing. Only with the Guard can you get the commercial expertise and cutting edge knowledge needed to protect information systems and to track financial transactions. I look forward to hearing the Pentagon's thoughts about this new mission.

Again, I think it's important to stress that information assurance and financial information operations are critical to the war on terrorism and to a transformed military. This is a growing area, not a shrinking one. We have looked carefully at all of our opportunities to provide the needed highly-skilled personnel to the fight. It is my belief that we can only do this if we create a unit to take advantage of the experienced and knowledgeable personnel available. No matter how patriotic people are, they cannot continue to work three jobs for years on end. Creating the new 166th information operations unit in the Delaware Air National Guard will enhance national security. It was the right thing to do last year and it's still the right thing to do. I hope that the Air Force will recognize that as we move forward in the war on terrorism.

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