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Hearing of the House Armed Services Committee Budget Request for the Army

Location: Washington, DC

Federal News Service February 25, 2004 Wednesday






REP. JOHN LARSON (D-CT): (Audio difficulties.)

REP. SAXTON: Sir, we can't hear you.

REP. LARSON: (In progress) -- outstanding service to the nation. I have two questions, and I would like to get the questions out there and then have you respond to them. One of the questions has-has to do with the Reservists and the National Guard, and the other has to do with transformation, and specifically the Cherokee.

First, with the National Guard and Reservists, I've been to the theater both in August and then back again in January-in August traveling with Mr. Murtha, and focusing on a need that he articulated, I think, to the entire Congress about the need for ceramic vests, up- armored Humvees and jammers. We went back again in this past January and can say that, obviously that there was clear progress that was made, but still alarming concern over up-armored Humvees. I just recently met with an American hero, Steve Warbeck (sp) from New Hartford, in my district, whose leg was blow up because he was traveling in an unarmored Humvee where this could have been prevented.

And while it's great that we may achieve these goals by July, I think that it's an absolute travesty, and including in the planning, that the-our Reservists and National Guard seems to be the ones that suffer. We were traveling with the adjutant general from Pennsylvania, and they were in long convoy lines with no armored vehicles, and in many instances they're trying to jury-rig all of these things themselves so they can protect themselves, and then they are told by their command not to do that because there would be other liabilities that they-that might occur.

Lastly, with respect to the Reservists and National Guard, a young woman from East Hartford, Penny Polafka (sp), stood up and talked about how she went online, put $1,100 out of her own pocket to get the ceramic vest that we needed to protect her son.

Mr. Murtha assured me that he's contacted the Army and that they've indicated that all individuals-previously it was only the soldier who could be reimbursed, and any individual, whether it be mother, father, spouse, loved one, who purchases this kind of equipment will be reimbursed, given as much as we have allocated $300 million. So, that's the question I would like to see, is when can we anticipate that coming down from the Army, and what do people like Mrs. Polafka (sp) have to do to get-to get reimbursed? That's my question with respect to the Reservists.

With regard to the Cherokee, my concern here, and again, this piggybacks on something that Mr. Simmons said, and more specifically on what Mr. Everett and what Mr. Hunter has said. Our chairman has stuck his collective and political neck out on the line when he talks about "buy American." And my question as it relates to transformation deals with my ongoing concern of potential for further outsourcing as we look out towards the future, especially as we're going through transformation, looking at next generation, looking at the technology, the critical mass of highly skilled employees that we're going to need to retain in this effort, the report that was given by the GAO and the Department of Defense's inspector general on the status of-of the Cherokee, which seemed to be fine, and the concern that I have is that you have told the-this committee that the-as part of the restructure of the Army's aviation plan, that you will leverage the technology base, and the technology base and knowledge base of the Comanche for future joint aviation programs. Mr. Hunter again said, yes, and we want to make sure that those are produced here.

You have further stated that this, as a part of this effort, the Army will begin an estimated $2 billion development effort for a new joint, multi-role helicopter. My question is, describe for us what that will be. And given the platform concern that the chairman has, and I have specifically, will these platforms be made and produced with American parts, American know-how and ideas, and American labor, and not part of some international coalition or partnership that will look at this thing jointly? That's my concern. My concern is that as we project out into the future that we're talking again here about outsourcing, or potentially outsourcing, this next generation of technology. And I'd like to know your response to that.

SEC. BROWNLEE: Sir, I-I don't know. This is a joint program. It's not an Army program. We'll be participants in it. I don't know what the restrictions are with respect to the source of any of these. I just couldn't give you an answer. It's a very-it's a program that's in the very early stages of development, and I just don't know. With-of course, whatever laws apply, we'll comply with the law.

REP. LARSON: Well, it's been an ongoing concern of this committee and our chairman specifically, that as we look out, and in protecting the country's security and interests, that the parts and the-that are developed, the machines that are needed and required for our national defense, that they be procured and made here in America. And what I'm concerned about is we project out, however valued some of our other allies may be, who also happen to be in similar, like and type businesses, that we don't find ourselves in the situation where we're again exporting American jobs in this critical-this critical base of highly skilled, highly technologically focused employees, and providing that to some foreign nation to do the work for our country.

GEN. SCHOOMAKER: Sir, I-I'm like Secretary Brownlee, I don't think that we have any insights right now on exactly the way this thing will promulgate itself. But I-I would tell you that it just seems common sense to me that the more healthy our helicopter industry is in this country, the more likely it is that it will be the source of whatever we do in the future. And that one of the things that-that we think, our of our Comanche decision here, is that it should support revitalizing the industry, in the-in the rotary wing industry. And we certainly have an intent of-of making sure that what we're going to do in the future is going to be relevant in the future, both in the Army context and in the joint context, and I don't think we can give you any other assurance.

In terms of reimbursing somebody for something they purchased, I know of no motion whatsoever to do such a thing. I don't know of any effort to do that. It's the first time I've ever heard of it. We're doing the-the very best we can --

REP. LARSON: I-excuse me, sir, I don't mean to interrupt you again --

GEN. SCHOOMAKER: -- to provide --

REP. LARSON: -- but are you saying that these people would not be reimbursed for the money that they've laid out for these vests?

GEN. SCHOOMAKER: I'm telling you I don't know anything about any effort to reimburse anybody for purchasing something on their own.

REP. SAXTON (?): Thank you very much.

SEC. BROWNLEE: If we can just take it for the record, we'll go back and see if there's such a program, sir. We're just unaware of one to reimburse.

REP. LARSON: Well, I know that-I know that there was no program, but I know in talking to Mr. Murtha when we came back, and I relayed this story to him personally, and he said that he contacted the Army, and that they acknowledged the fact that this was a concern and a problem, and that anyone who went into their pocket to protect their sons or daughter would be reimbursed. I said I have a bill that I was-would have gladly dropped last year, and they said, "That won't be necessary. Drop the bill."

REP. SAXTON (?): Thank you --

REP. LARSON: If you could --

SEC. BROWNLEE: Well, I don't know if there's a program, but I'm not aware of it. We'll find out and get back to you.

REP. LARSON: Thank you.

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