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Public Statements

Regarding National Security Priorities and the Real War on Terror

Location: Washington, DC


The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Hensarling). Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 7, 2003, the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Skelton) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the minority leader.


Mr. COOPER. Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend, the gentleman from Missouri, for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, I think that the entire House of Representatives knows that our ranking member (Mr. Skelton), who there is not a more patriotic individual, there is nobody in this body who is for a stronger defense, and I think our ranking member has two of his sons serving in the United States military right now. It is just an example of the great military tradition in his family. And the ranking member as a student of history has very insightful questions that he asks at hearings, and his questioning of General Jack Keane the other day was just an example of that.

And I was struck by General Keane's testimony, when he said that if we had to put it in graphic terms, the prewar planning in Iraq was about like this, more or less a bucket full, a large bucket full, but the postwar planning in Iraq was more like this, more like a thimble full. And our ranking member has quoted General Keane when he said that he felt almost that he had been seduced by the Iraqi expatriates into believing that the postwar situation would be easy, friendly, we would be greeted as liberators, not as occupiers.

The two issues that I would like to bring up tonight have to do with the troop commitment that Tennessee is making, yet again. We are the Volunteer State and the most recent group of reservists and guardsmen to be called up. The 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, these men and women in uniform are leaving family and friends back home for their tour of duty. They are proud to serve, but almost 4,000 Tennesseans will be involved in this mobilization, and that just reminds me that in this next rotation, 43 percent of our troops in Iraq, 43 percent of the 130,000 men and women in uniform, will not be active duty personnel. They will be guardsmen and reservists who are called up to serve their country in a faraway land.

I worry that our Nation is not aware of this terrific OP TEMPO, the fact that we have the heaviest OP TEMPO since World War II. A lot of folks do not know how to put that into perspective, because they think Vietnam was a big war or Korea was a big war; but, yet, due to the rotational demands on our troops, they are facing some of the greatest strains and stresses on family life and professional life than any other men and women who have served in uniform have faced since World War II. And the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment from Tennessee is just the latest example of that in our State.

Another issue I wanted to focus on, Mr. Speaker, was the cost of the war and honesty in accounting. People have said for a long time that truth is the first casualty in war, and I am worried that when it comes to honestly and fully disclosing the cost of this war, the administration has not been forthcoming. As the gentleman from Missouri knows, the administration included no money in this year's budget for the war in Iraq or Afghanistan. That is almost too incredible to be believed by folks back home. To have a war of this magnitude go on and to have the administration put zero dollars in their budget for Iraq or Afghanistan is incredible.

Finally, after Congressional pressure, they have inserted, as the gentleman knows, $25 billion in the budget, and I think this week the defense appropriations bill will go through and it will become effective immediately. It won't wait until the beginning of the next fiscal year in October. Because why? Our troops need the money now. They are running out of money, and it is the least we can do as members of the Committee on Armed Services to fully fund our troops, our men and women in uniform, while they are serving our Nation abroad.

That $25 billion will not last for very long. As the gentleman knows, the estimates we have got on the committee indicate it might last through October, November, December, and then come January of next year, the next Congress. The gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Murtha) estimates we could be facing $50 billion then, and none of this is being disclosed to the American people as it should be. I think we should be honest with them and forthright, let them know the nature of our commitment overseas and let them know the burden that they bear as taxpayers to pay for this, because this is a very serious financial issue. These are large dollars involved.

If you add it all up, the total expenditure of the war so far is in the neighborhood of 150 and $200 billion, 150 to $200 billion. This is to wage war on a country whose annual defense budget was about $1 billion. So it is an incredible situation that we are in. And I think by being honest and straightforward with our constituents back home, being straightforward with the American taxpayer, we will come a lot closer to getting through this conflict successfully, to winning and bringing our troops back home safely.

I commend the leadership of our ranking member. He has done a great job and has done so for many years on the committee, a true patriot, a true leader, a true lover of the American military, and a true supporter of our troops. It is an honor to serve with the gentleman, and I am proud to be part of this special order.

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