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Mr. McCAIN. First of all, I wish to thank the Chairman for the long years of work we have had together. This is the culmination of this year's work which is coming to the floor after great difficulty and a lot of obstacles. I want to thank the Senator again for the spirit of bipartisanship, which is a long tradition in the committee which was practiced by our predecessors. Obviously, we know on occasion that we have differences of views, and sometimes we--especially I--express those in perhaps a passionate manner. But the fact is, at the end of the day, we continue to come together and work together for the good of this Nation's security.
The reason I ask the Senator is because I think our colleagues ought to understand the context of this bill. First of all, it is a new bill, and it has a reduction of some $20 billion in authorization in order to keep with the Budget Control Act, a total now of a $27 billion reduction, which is a significant amount of money. It seems to me our colleagues should understand this $9.8 billion cut in defense procurement, $3.5 billion cut in research, development, test, and evaluation, $1.6 billion cut in military construction, $6.7 billion in overseas--these are significant reductions already in what we had originally envisioned as necessary for our Nation's defense capability.
I would ask the chairman, these are painful decisions we had to make. For those who somehow believe it is business as usual in the Department of Defense and on the Defense authorization, it simply is not correct. We have already made significant reductions, I ask my colleague.
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Mr. McCAIN. Could I ask my colleague, also, two more points. One is that we also have planned for an additional well over $400 billion reductions in the next decade, and those will again entail at some point an increase in risk. So in that context, I would appreciate again an expression of the chairman's view of a Draconian cut that would take place as a result of sequestration. The Secretary of Defense has testified before our committee of the ``devastating effects,'' as have our military leaders.
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Mr. McCAIN. Finally, I would ask the chairman, we have met the requirements of the Appropriations Committee with this additional $20 billion reduction in this ``new'' legislation. Then it seems it would be only appropriate that the Appropriations Committee meet the provisions of authorization that are in the authorization bill.
In other words, I am told there are some differences in the Appropriations Committee's bill as far as what the authorizing committee's responsibilities are. I hope the Appropriations Committee would address those differences in deference to our role as authorizers.
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Mr. McCAIN. I thank the Senator from Michigan.
I finally wish to comment. I am more than hoping. I intend to identify those areas of difference between the
authorizing committee and the Appropriations Committee, and fully expect the appropriating committee--unless there is some overriding reason--to conform with the authorization bill.
Again, I thank Senator Levin and his staff for the work we are doing. And I thank the leadership. I thank Senator Reid for bringing the bill to the floor. I know he has a lot of important priorities, but I believe it is very important that we continue an over half-century tradition of the Senate taking up, passing, and then finally seeing enacted into law the Defense authorization bill.
I think it is a valid statement to say that there is no greater priority the people's representatives have than to take every measure we can possible to ensure the security of our Nation and the men and women who serve in it. This legislation is the result of literally thousands of hours of discussion, debate, hearings, input to make sure we do the very best job we can to protect our Nation.
As I mentioned earlier, with the committee's action earlier this week we have ensured that our authorization top line of $526 billion for the base Defense budget complies with the budget allocation levels adopted by the Senate Appropriations Committee for fiscal year 2012.
We have worked with the administration over the past several weeks to address their concerns with the detainee provisions in our bill. We understand the administration is still not satisfied with the committee work. We have made many clarifications, modifications at the request of the administration to the detainee provisions as they were reported from the committee in June. As a result, we were able to report out the bill again this week with an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 26 to 0.
We will be glad to continue our discussions with the administration. I am grateful the administration reached out to us and that because of that discussion in negotiations with Mr. Brennan and others from the White House we were able to make some changes. I regret they haven't been sufficient to overcome their objections, but we will continue to work with them. This is a very important issue.
Obviously, our collective goal is to make sure that members of terrorist organizations, specifically al-Qaida, do not return to the fight, and that we make sure we are able to treat al-Qaida members who are captured in keeping with international law, but at the same time in keeping with the priority interests of America's national security. So I understand there will be an amendment on that issue or amendments. We look forward to debating and discussing that aspect.
Whatever additional concerns that may remain with the detainee provisions should be dealt with, as they will be, through debate and amendment. But, importantly, all of the aspects of this bill are of such vital importance to supporting the men and women of our Armed Forces and their families. We have already started to work on amendments that we know our colleagues are preparing to offer on this bill, and I encourage all my colleagues to file their germane amendments as quickly as possible.
Obviously, I repeat, the legislation is extremely important to our Nation's defense and the men and women in uniform. I know all of my colleagues appreciate that fact.
I would hope that this year, unlike in recent previous years, we will not add to this bill policy riders that are not relevant to the bill.
The committee bill before the Senate is the culmination of 11 months of hard work conducted through 71 hearings and meetings this year on the full range of national security priorities and issues. This tradition of deliberative review and oversight is typical of what the Defense authorization bill has provided our Nation's military for over 50 years, without fail. The committee's priorities this year and every year start with our bipartisan commitment to improve the quality of life for the men and women of the all-volunteer force--active duty, National Guard, and Reserves--and their families, through fair pay, improved policies, benefits commensurate with the sacrifices of their service, and by addressing the needs of the wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers and their families.
To do these things, this bill authorizes a 1.6-percent across-the-board pay raise for all members of the uniformed services, authorizes pay incentives for recruitment and retention of our most highly skilled and highly sought-after men and women, and improves the Uniformed Code of Military Justice to more effectively respond to accusations of certain types of misconduct. This bill provides essential resources, training, technology, equipment, and force protection our military needs to succeed in their missions, including authorizing a 6-percent increase in funding for our enormously important professional and dedicated special operations forces who play such a large role in our counterterrorism operations worldwide, and over $2.4 billion for the Department of Defense counter-improvised explosive device activities. I cannot overemphasize the importance of the timely funding of these counter-IED funds given the increase in the use of this kind of attack against our troops, first in Iraq and now in Afghanistan.
The bill enhances the capability of our military and that of our allies to conduct counterinsurgency operations, including the authority to provide support to those aiding U.S. Special Operations in combating terrorism in Yemen and East Africa, authorization of $400 million for the Commanders Emergency Response Program--known as CERP--in Afghanistan, and authorization of $11.1 billion to train and equip the Afghan security forces for the security of the Afghan people.
The bill strengthens and accelerates nuclear nonproliferation programs while maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent, reducing the number of nuclear weapons, and ensuring the safety, security, and reliability of the nuclear stockpile, the delivery systems, and the nuclear infrastructure. In this regard, the bill authorizes $1.1 billion to continue development of the Ohio-class submarine replacement program to modernize the sea-based leg of the nuclear triad of delivery platforms.
It improves our ability to counter nontraditional threats, focusing on terrorism and cyber warfare; in part by requiring DOD to acquire and incorporate capabilities for discovering previously unknown cyber attacks and establishing a new Joint Urgent Operational Need Fund to allow the Department to rapidly field new systems in response to battlefield requirements. It authorizes DOD to immediately void a contract if a contractor has been determined by the commander, U.S. Center Command, to be actively opposing U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
A related provision would provide enhanced audit authority to assist in the enforcement of this provision. It authorizes over $13 billion for new construction of critical facility projects that have a direct impact on the readiness and operations of our military while also providing much needed construction jobs in a struggling economy.
In contrast to these enhancements and new authorities, the committee also had to make some very difficult decisions. The President's budget request of $553 billion was cut by nearly $27 billion in recognition of the difficult budget situation our country faces. These difficult funding reductions include: $10 billion cut in the operation and maintenance accounts for the military services used to fund readiness and training activities. This was done mainly by scaling back the growth in service contracts while also reducing certain accounts for daily operating activities and training; a $9.8 billion cut in defense procurement accounts for programs that had more money than could be efficiently put under contract this year and programs that were not able to meet production milestones; a $3.5 billion cut in the research, development, test and evaluation accounts by examining the performance of hundreds of programs and identifying those that showed excessive cost growth or a lack of performance; $1.6 billion in cuts in military construction projects, mostly at overseas locations, to allow for a review of our U.S. military force posture worldwide. In addition, the bill cuts $6.7 billion from the President's budget request of $118 billion for overseas contingency operations, known as OCO, due to a forecast of reduced operations in Afghanistan during 2012.
These cuts are the first step in what will be an extremely critical debate on the right amount of defense spending over the next 10 years. We will need to make some very difficult decisions that will undoubtedly increase risk as we decide whether to continue or terminate costly and, in some cases, troubled and overdue programs. We will need an informed and honest debate on which defense requirements and capabilities most effectively and efficiently protect the full range of our Nation's interests.
As such, this committee's review and curtailment of troubled, wasteful or unnecessary programs is not only essential to ensure proper stewardship of taxpayer funds but also stays true to the intent of preserving funds for war fighter priorities. Along these lines, this bill proposes to cut: $452 million for the Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System due to program delays; $192 million from related Brigade Combat Team Modernization projects due to a program termination by the Army; $200 million for the Joint Tactical Radio System due to program delays; $406 million for the Medium Extended Air Defense Systems, known as MEADS, which is a high-risk joint program for air defense with Germany and Italy which the Army has decided not to deploy operationally; $519 million for the Joint Tactical Radio System, called JTRS, as a result of program execution and cost concerns; $244 million for Warfighter Information Network-Tactical; $173 million for Ground Soldier System-Net Warrior; $157 million for HMMWV recapitalization programs; $108 million for unnecessary postproduction funding for the C-17 Program; $233 million due to slow execution in the development of the family of Advanced Line Of Sight Terminals used in conjunction with the Advanced Extremely High Frequency Satellite System; $300 million by curtailing authority for long-term lease of a commercial satellite by the Defense Information Systems Agency due to a lack of an analysis of alternatives; $105 million in connection with delays in contract awards associated with GPS systems under development.
Even after this long list of cuts to troubled programs, I would have liked to have done more.
I wish to point out that in the days when we were increasing defense spending, it was one thing not to be in sync with the appropriations committee. In the days of reductions in defense spending, it is absolutely vital that the Appropriations Committee follow the guidance and authorization of the authorizing committee. I intend to do everything in my power to make sure that happens.
An example of what I would have liked to have seen more of is the Joint Strike Fighter or the F-35 Programs. I offered an amendment during the committee's markup that would have put the program on a 1-year probation if the costs under the fixed-price contract for the fourth lot of early production aircraft grew by more than 10 percent over their target cost by the end of the year. My goal was to send a strong, simple, and powerful message to the Pentagon and to Lockheed Martin, a message that we will no longer continue down the road of excessive cost growth and schedule slips on this program just because other alternatives are hard to come by.
We now are faced with a prospect of the first $1 trillion weapons system in history, which it certainly was not originally designed to be.
As it turned out, the amendment did not go forward as a result of a tie vote in committee. An alternative provision offered by Chairman Levin will instead require that the fifth lot of early production F-35 aircraft be procured under a fixed-price contract and that Lockheed Martin bear the entire responsibility for any cost overrun other than certain limited costs needed to make specific changes that the government requests. Because I feel it is essential to use fix-price contracts for large Pentagon weapons programs, I supported the chairman's amendment during the markup and I support it now.
Today, as we speak, the Pentagon is negotiating with Lockheed Martin on who will bear the cost of changes to the design and manufacturing of the aircraft that could come down the road as a result of thousands of hours of flight testing that lie ahead. In this sense, the excessive overlap between development and production that is called
concurrency is now coming home to roost. The Defense Department quite rightly says it will not sign any contract for the next lot until Lockheed Martin agrees to pay a reasonable share of these concurrency costs, and Lockheed Martin doesn't want to bear the risk of new discoveries.
Let me be clear. I strongly support the Department of Defense position. I think it reflects exactly the congressional view reflected in our markup. As we agree to buy more early production jets while most of the development testing has yet to be done, Lockheed Martin must be held increasingly accountable for cost overruns that come as a result of wringing out necessary changes in the design and manufacturing process for this incredibly expensive aircraft.
How does this legislation affect pending negotiations? It means on the next production lot, Congress expects the Department to negotiate a fixed-price contract that requires Lockheed Martin to assume an increased share of any cost overruns. It requires a ceiling price for that lot that is lower than the previous contract for the last lot purchased. It ensures a shared responsibility for reasonable concurrency cost increases.
In other words, the deal we negotiate on this next production lot must be at least as good, if not better, than the deal we negotiated under the previous one. Otherwise, we are moving in the wrong direction and it will only be a matter of time before the American people and the U.S. Congress lose faith in the F-35 Program, which is already the most expensive weapons program in the history of this country.
I look forward to having the opportunity to address this and other significant national security policies related to detainee policies, cyber operations, Iranian aggression, Pakistan, acquisition reform, and the way we buy space programs and launch services, further limiting the use of fixed-price contracts for procurement, reducing the cost of military health care, counterfeit parts, and the future of our military in the face of major budget reductions.
On the issue of counterfeit parts, I commend the initiative of the chairman to address this critical issue. The proliferation of counterfeit parts threatens the safety of our men and women in uniform, our national security, and our economy. We cannot risk a ballistic missile interceptor missing its target or a helicopter pilot unable to fire his or her weapons or display units failing in aircraft cockpits or any other system failure, all because of a counterfeit electronic part. Nor can we keep affording the hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars to fix the systems they penetrate.
Our committee has been conducting an investigation for the past year, and we will have an amendment--there is one already pending--as a result of this outstanding work.
I also plan to offer amendments that will start us on the course of an updated plan for U.S. military forces in the Pacific theater. The current plan to move 8,700 marines, 9,000 family members from their current bases on Okinawa to Guam is now estimated to require spending between $18 and $23 billion on Guam to build up its capabilities as a permanent base. This is an increase of well over $10 billion from the original estimate. I believe the pricetag will continue to rise. As a result, I, along with Chairman Levin and Senator Webb and other colleagues, view this program as unworkable, unaffordable, and an unnecessary strain on the relations between our government and the Government of Japan. Recognizing this strain, both the Armed Services Committee and the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs' Committee of the Appropriations Committee have stopped funding Guam military construction projects until the Department of Defense provides a master plan and considers alternatives that may provide the needed Marine forward presence at much less expense.
Let's face it, we simply are at a level we cannot afford under the present plan. I also understand our relations with Japan are very important in this whole move. We cannot send a signal that America is leaving the area. In fact, I was very pleased to see the agreement the President of the United States signed with the Prime Minister of Australia just yesterday that provides for a joint operating base in Australia. But we must understand the delicacy of our relations with the Government and people of Japan, especially in the time of rising concern about some of the behavior that has been exhibited by the Chinese.
I believe we need to take advantage of this pause to convene a congressional commission of experts in Asian affairs, with multilateral input, to review our national security interests in the Pacific region over the next 30 years and charter that commission to propose a posture for our military forces that will both strengthen our traditional alliances while offering opportunities for cooperative efforts with emerging partners and allies to solidify our mutual interests in the region.
In the face of the doubt about the scope and timing of the Pacific realignments, we also need to ensure that this pause in potentially unnecessary spending is extended in 2012 to the use of defense funds to activities that have no direct impact on military functions or missions on Guam, such as the purchase of civilian school buses and an artifact repository and a mental health clinic on Guam. While these projects may have legitimate value to the Government of Guam to address current needs for citizens of Guam, they simply are not my idea of top defense priorities in the fiscal environment we face.
In addition, despite the efforts of Congress to ban earmarks and special interest projects, this bill contains almost $850 million in authorizations of funding for items and programs not requested by the administration. The full Senate needs to consider the merits of these unrequested spending items and to determine whether they are top defense priorities in today's fiscal environment.
The bill also cuts $330 million for private sector care under the Defense Health Program, based on an assessment of historical underexecution rates.
This is the first step in an important progress in helping the Department of Defense control spiralling health care costs. It is the other challenges we face in this bill where we could have and should have done more.
Secretary Panetta, speaking at the Woodrow Wilson Center, said:
The fiscal reality facing us means we also have to look at the growth in personnel costs, which are a major driver of budget growth and are, simply put, on an unsustainable course.
The Secretary concludes:
If we fail to address [these costs], then we won't be able to afford the training and equipment our troops need in order to succeed on the battlefield.
Providing the Department with the authority to adjust Tricare PRIME enrollment fees based on a realistic index of national health expenditures per capita, as the administration requested, would have been the right thing to do. Instead, this bill limits all future enrollment fee increases to the cost-of-living adjustment for military retired pay.
Military retirees and their families deserve the best possible care and nothing less in return for a career of military service. But we cannot ignore the fact that health care costs will undermine the combat capability and training and readiness of our military if we don't begin to control the cost growth now. Our committee report reflects the desire of the committee to review options for phasing in more realistic future adjustments beginning in fiscal year 2014, and that is exactly what we must do.
I wish to emphasize a point here. I am solemnly aware of the commitment this Nation has made to the men and women who have served in the military regarding health care and benefits. This Nation has made promises for many years and has endeavored to keep those promises. But we are faced with a set of dire circumstances regarding the long-term viability of entitlement programs that threatens to undermine a whole range of promises we have made to every American.
I am also keenly aware that in this unprecedented fiscal crisis facing this country, providing for our national defense is the most important responsibility that our or any government has. It is our Nation's insurance policy. And in a world that is more complex and threatening than I have ever seen, we cannot allow arbitrary budget arithmetic to drive our defense strategy in spending. We have to look at every program to determine what risks we can afford to take without risking the lives and welfare of those brave young Americans who volunteered to serve in the military.
As such, some of the defense cuts being discussed--particularly as a result of sequestration--would do grave harm to our military and our Nation's security. The immediate impact of a sequester, according to Secretary Panetta, who previously served as chairman of the House Budget Committee and Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton, could be a 23-percent across-the-board cut to our Nation's defense programs. Shipbuilding and construction contracts would have to be curtailed. Civilian personnel and contractors would have to be furloughed. The end results of these cuts after 10 years would be ``the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest number of ships since 1915, and the smallest Air Force in its history.'' The United States would face ``substantial risk of not being able to meet our defense needs.''
Defense spending is not what is sinking this country into fiscal crisis, and if the Congress and the President act on that flawed assumption, they will create a situation that is truly unaffordable--the decline of U.S. military power and a hollow military. We cannot let this happen. Despite a significant decline in defense spending, the growing threats we face around the world demand a strong and resolute U.S. military that continues as the first line of protection for peace, freedom, justice, and democracy around the world.
I have had the privilege of a long career in public service, but in all my years I don't think I have ever seen a geopolitical environment as complex and as multidimensional as the one we face today. This will only increase in the years to come. The rise of China is one of the most seminal events in world history, but it is not an isolated occurrence. Other nations across the Asia-Pacific--most notably India--are also growing rapidly and using their newfound wealth to enhance their comprehensive national power, especially new military capabilities.
The challenge for the United States is this: How do we, as a historic Pacific power, use the next few years--despite the necessary cuts that will have to be made in our defense spending--to make smart, strategic investments that set us up to shape the future of the coming Pacific century? That means a more geographically dispersed and operationally resilient regional force posture. It means developing new operational concepts, such as the Defense Department's AirSea Battle concept, which aims to enable us to operate effectively in an anti-access and area-denial environment. It means taking advantage of the many opportunities we face to enhance the capabilities and interoperability of our alliances and partnerships. And perhaps most of all, it means making some difficult and at times painful choices about where we can go, what we do, and what we can do without. We all must take responsibility for these choices.
When we talk about our increasing focus on the Asia-Pacific region, what this does not mean and cannot mean is a lack of commitment to the broader Middle East. After all, the United States still has a capacity to do at least two things at once, and we cannot afford to allow that to change.
The Middle East and north Africa are undergoing perhaps the most consequential period of upheaval since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Governments with long patterns of authoritarian control--some of them our partners--are falling under the popular pressure of millions of citizens who desire dignity, freedom, and opportunity. Our old and dear ally Israel faces a more tumultuous and potentially threatening position than it has in decades. At the same time, new regional leaders, such as Turkey and Qatar and the UAE, are playing a more confident and assertive role in shaping the events of the region despite the failure of leadership that led us to the full withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq. The success of that country remains a critical national security interest of the United States. We must remain committed to Iraq's success and stability. And all the while, the Iranian regime continues to threaten the security of the region and that of the United States.
Amid all of these complicated and important global trends, it is absolutely vital that the Members of this body be allowed to engage in a fulsome and serious debate about the vital national security interests contained in this bill. I hope there will be a generous opportunity to offer amendments and debate them. I am confident we can do this while still moving diligently and quickly along.
We have given the majority leader the commitment that we will work to ensure Senate consideration of this bill on an expedited basis. This Chamber must have the opportunity to complete this bill and then send it to the conference with the House. We need to have a conference report before the end of the year.
We cannot continue to place critical authorizations in appropriations bills or continuing resolutions because we cannot get the Defense authorization bill done in a timely manner. As an example, this bill includes extensions for several important counternarcotics authorities that expired at the end of fiscal year 2011. The expiration of these authorities has had a direct impact on DOD efforts to combat illicit trafficking networks where proceeds often directly fund the activities of terrorists and other criminal organizations that pose a significant threat to U.S. security interests. Timely passage of the Defense authorization bill will ensure that these counternarcotics missions can continue in places such as Afghanistan, Colombia, and along our southern border.
I, for one, am not proud of the 9-percent approval rating in the performance of Congress determined by various polls. They are right--we need to do more for the American people. I hope we can reverse this downward trend in our approval by tackling the critical national security challenges facing this country in an efficient and effective manner.
I look forward to working with Senator Levin to pass this bill as quickly as possible and get it into law for the benefit of our military and our country. I would ask our colleagues--as we usually do--to get their amendments to us so we can have them considered and have as prompt action as possible on them.
I yield the floor.
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Mr. McCAIN. I would like to discuss that amendment. This amendment is a result of the effort made by our committee staff and other members of the committee to identify a very serious problem that can affect our Nation's security; that is, the counterfeiting of critical components that end up in our defense systems--in some cases, helicopters; in some cases, aircraft; in some cases, missiles--literally every high-tech aspect of our Nation's defense systems.
We traced, in hearings under Senator Levin's leadership, the way in which, through different shell companies, these parts that originate in China that are counterfeit end up, through various establishments and then by our major parts suppliers, in our weapons systems. There already have been occasions where there have been system failures, and there have also been situations which have inhibited or reduced readiness and further capabilities. So far, thank God, it has not resulted in any casualties or deaths, but there is very little doubt that this counterfeiting poses a serious threat. According to our findings, some 70 percent of these counterfeit parts come from China.
It has to be stopped. We don't know, to tell my colleagues the truth, if all the parts of this amendment will stop it because it is a huge money-making business, but I think this initial amendment will move us in the right direction to try to bring at least under some control the flow of these counterfeit parts into our Nation's defense.
So I hope that with the help of my colleagues we could adopt this amendment as rapidly as possible and move on to the next one. I know of no one who objects to it. I know there are other members of the committee who were involved in the examination of this situation, and perhaps they would like to come and speak on it. But I would recommend to the chairman that we move on this amendment as quickly as possible.
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Mr. McCAIN. Is it not also true that as the Senator mentioned, and I wish to emphasize, that Senator Whitehouse's Combating Counterfeiting Military Act is a part of this bill, so that would hopefully satisfy at least the Judiciary Committee? I see the distinguished Senator from Iowa here. He does not intend to address this issue, but I hope we can get the committees of jurisdiction involved in this as quickly as possible. I think this is an issue we should not delay too much longer.
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Mr. McCAIN. Is it correct that the U.S. Air Force not only supports this but considers it one of their very high priorities?
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Mr. McCAIN. In these times of very difficult budgetary decisions that are having to be made, is it not true also the President's budget in 2011 had included a plan to retire 17 C-5As in 2011 and 5 in 2012?
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Mr. McCAIN. May I ask if any State where these aircraft are presently stationed would lose that mission or whether the older C-5s would convert to new C-17s? Is that pretty much the conclusion the Senator would draw from the Air Force plan?
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Mr. McCAIN. I thank the Senator from New Hampshire, and I hope we can dispose of this amendment. I don't know if a recorded vote would be required by any of the Members, but I hope we can voice vote it.
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Mr. McCAIN. I thank my friend from Michigan. I do that for the convenience of my colleagues because I know there will also be others coming to speak on this important issue.
I wish to point out that the Senator from South Carolina--a member of the National Guard, one of the major authors of the Detainee Treatment Act, and a person who has tried hundreds of cases in military courts--brings a degree of knowledge and expertise on this issue.
The Senator from New Hampshire served as attorney general of her State for a number of years. She understands the Miranda rights. She has been a student and leader on this issue of detainee treatment.
Also, of course, Senator Chambliss, in his role as the Republican leader on the Intelligence Committee, has a deep and longstanding involvement on detainee issues and the requirements for making our Nation safe.
I will be fairly brief except to say that by any judgment, the President's policy, the President's strategy, the President's movements concerning detainees have been a total and abysmal failure. If the President of the United States would have had a coherent policy that made any sense whatsoever to anyone, we would not have had to act in the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Let me point out a couple of facts. The President of the United States campaigned saying that he would close Guantanamo Bay. Guantanamo Bay remains open. The President of the United States also said we would have detainees tried in civilian as well as military courts, and that was a position he has held.
So they had a great idea: Let's take Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to New York City. That was a great idea. Let's have $300 million in security costs while they have a trial of one of the most notorious international criminals. Obviously, that one got the support it deserved.
Thanks to the release policy of Guantanamo, 27 percent of the detainees of Guantanamo who have been released are back in the fight, trying to kill Americans--only this time they have a red badge of courage and a degree of legitimacy because they spent time in Guantanamo Bay.
Leaders of al-Qaida have been released from Guantanamo Bay under this administration. They were released under the Bush administration as well, to be fair, but we didn't know at that time how many of them would return to the fight. Some of the leaders in Yemen whom we are speaking about who are now doing everything they can to kill Americans were released from Guantanamo Bay. That can't be viewed as a successful policy. Thirty individuals in Guantanamo today are citizens of Yemen. We can't release them, obviously, back to Yemen.
So now what do we do in order not to have people go to Guantanamo Bay? We are now using U.S. naval ships to detain suspected terrorists. For 60 days, they kept a suspected al-Qaida member on board a ship. Now, when I support the construction of more Navy ships, I have a lot of missions in mind. Serving as a detainment facility for suspected terrorists is not one of them.
The Underwear Bomber was Mirandized 50 minutes into custody, and the Senator from Illinois forgot to mention that several weeks went by before the Underwear Bomber's family came and convinced him to cooperate. Suppose there had been an impending attack on the United States of America during the 50 minutes in captivity before he was Mirandized. Most Americans don't believe al-Qaida members should be Mirandized, as the Senator from New Hampshire, who has had a lot of experience with individuals who have exercised their Miranda rights, will point out.
So the administration policy has been a complete failure. What we are trying to do in this legislation--and we have tried and tried again to satisfy many of the concerns the administration has, including, I would point out, doing certain things such as making this legislation only for 1 year--not permanent but only for 1 year--and we have put into this legislation a national security waiver which is a mile wide. If the President of the United States decides that an individual should be given a trial in civilian court, he has a waiver that all he has to do is exercise. So I am not exactly sure why the administration feels so strongly about a 1-year restriction, with a national security waiver that is a mile wide. We made a couple of other changes at the request of the administration. So I can only assume that somehow this has some sort of political implications--and I don't say that lightly--as most of the actions concerning this whole detainee issue seem to be driven by.
So there were hearings held in the Senate Armed Services Committee. There was input from different sources. The Senator from Michigan has been fair and objective on this issue, and I am very appreciative of that. The vote in the Senate Armed Services Committee was, I believe, 26 to 0.
We feel very strongly that these provisions in this bill are necessary to keep Americans secure. We want to stop more than one out of every four of these detainees going back into the fight. We want to make sure the military court system applies here to people who are noncitizens and known members of al-Qaida. All of it seems to me to make perfect sense.
So obviously the administration ratcheted up the stakes today with a threat of a veto. I hope they are not serious about it. There is too much in this bill that is important to this Nation's defense.
I yield the floor.
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Mr. McCAIN. I would argue especially in the United States since that poses the greatest threat. However, with our assumption that that person should be held under military custody, we still give a very wide waiver in case there are extenuating circumstances.
In other words, we are saying that we assume an al-Qaida operative, or a suspected al-Qaida operative, is an enemy combatant wherever they are on Earth and, therefore, they should be under military custody unless there is some reason that the President determines otherwise.
The counterargument we are hearing, in summary, is that because that al-Qaida operative is apprehended in the United States, therefore, they should fall under civil authority, thereby negating the assumption that he is an enemy combatant; he is a common criminal. This is a very important principle in this discussion we are having.
How do you treat a suspected al-Qaida terrorist who wants to, in the case of the Underwear Bomber, blow up a plane with 100 some-odd passengers on it? Shouldn't that person be treated as an enemy combatant and, therefore, subject to all of the rules of military people who are under the supervision of the military? Isn't that what we are debating here? The ACLU and the left, with all due respect, feel that person should be--first of all, that al-Qaida operatives should be treated under our criminal system
rather than treated as an enemy combatant who wants to do great harm to the United States of America. Is that an accurate description of what we are talking about here?
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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I see the Senator from Illinois on the Senate floor, whom I know is very heavily involved in this issue. I think we have been debating this amendment now for about 3 hours, at least, and we have had a number of speakers from both sides.
I hope that perhaps we can go ahead and vote on this amendment. I was informed and the chairman was informed by Senator Reid that there is a limited amount of time that can be spent on this bill. I realize how important it is to him, but we have no further speakers right now. I know the Senator from Illinois wishes to speak on it. But would it be agreeable that after we have exhausted the number of speakers that we could go ahead and vote on the amendment?
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Mr. McCAIN. It is too bad. Let me just say to the Senator from Illinois, this is an important issue, and I understand how important it is to him. But this legislation has a lot to do with defending this country. For the Senator to hold up the entire bill because he doesn't think it has been discussed enough is a disservice to the men and women in the military whose concerns and needs this bill addresses, as well as the needs of the Nation's security.
So we took up this amendment in the belief that we were going to go ahead and debate it and vote on it. So the Senator from Illinois, if we are forced to not be able to complete work on this legislation, I think bears a pretty heavy burden because we have a lot of other provisions in this bill that are also vitally important to the security of this Nation.
We have had spirited debate. I have been involved in this legislation of the national defense authorization bill for a quarter of a century. We have moved forward and we have had debate and we have had votes. I hope we can do that now so we can move forward to other issues.
The Senator from Kentucky is on the Senate floor with an amendment he would like to have debated and voted on, and we have about 100 more. So I say to the Senator from Illinois that after we have had sufficient debate, I hope we can go ahead and vote on the amendment.
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Mr. McCAIN. I thank the Presiding Officer.
AMENDMENT NO. 1064
I would just like to say a couple words about the Paul amendment. I would just like to point out, we will still have 16,500 Americans in Iraq for an extended period of time. Now, whether they should be there is the subject of another debate on another day. But to then not be able to do whatever is necessary to protect the lives and safety of those men and women who will continue to serve the country, sometimes in variously difficult circumstances--I think this amendment is unwarranted.
Finally, I would like to ask my colleagues who have further views on the detainee issue if they would come over and add their voices to the debate and discussion because we would like to dispose of this amendment. I respect the desire of the Senator from Illinois that everybody be allowed to speak. We have been now speaking on this single amendment for, I believe, well over 3 hours.
So if there is further discussion on the Udall amendment, I would very much like to have a vote on it so we can bring other important issues before the body.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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