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Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I wish to thank the chairman for his willingness to enter into this colloquy. We had a discussion, as Senator Inhofe said, during the conference meeting last week in which it now is apparent that the process through which the depot language was inserted was not proper. Senator Levin has been very up front and straight forward with us, and I appreciate his willingness to do this today. I know the chairman has already acknowledged there are problems, and I appreciate his commitment to not only discuss it today but to revisit these issues as soon as the next Senate session convenes and address this issue through a truly inclusive process during which all Members and stakeholders can express their views.
Clearly, there was a process problem related to how these provisions wound up in the bill, and I think we can all agree that for issues that are as central to so many Members as the definitions of ``depot maintenance'' and ``core,'' the process needs to be inclusive and extensive and both Houses of Congress need to be equally involved. That simply did not happen in this case.
Specifically, related to the substance of the provisions, I am extremely concerned the rewrite of the 10 USC 2464 ``core'' statute replaces all references to ``core logistics'' functions in the original statute with ``depot maintenance and repair'' functions. This basically redefines ``core'' to be depot maintenance only, to exclude other logistics functions such as supply chain management and product support. This does constitute a very significant change, and I would argue that it is exactly in these areas of logistics functions beyond simple depot maintenance where the government has the greatest interest in protecting their own capabilities. Yet the bill defines these activities out of the core definition. This could very easily result in the government's ability to employ and therefore maintain expertise in areas such as program management, supply chain management, and product support management atrophying.
I have no doubt that private industry applauds this change because they would be the ones to presumably pick up this work. However, we should not kid ourselves into thinking industry would be cheaper. If the government loses this or any other depot-related capability, they will have an extremely hard time rebuilding that expertise, and this will only incentivize industry to charge more for their efforts. This is clearly a problem and one of the issues we need to address next year.
Secondly, the waiver in the 2464 rewrite is much broader than previously and allows for a waiver for military equipment that is not an enduring element of the national defense strategy. Perhaps this could make sense at some level if we knew what this meant, but we don't. What an ``enduring element of the national defense strategy'' is has never been defined; hence, we will be at the mercy of the subjective interpretation of the Department of Defense. That is not the way it should be, and we need to fix that.
The current ``core'' waiver in 2464 is much narrower and more defined. The presumption and philosophy in the current waiver is that work, other than work on commercial items, will be considered core, and only considered not core when it is clear it no longer needs to be. The committee's rewrite changes that presumption based on new standards which are unclear.
In addition to the two specific issues I have raised,
there may be other unintended consequences to these changes of which we are unaware since we have had limited time, as Senator Inhofe said, to vet them and are just now receiving feedback from some of the stakeholders.
During the chairman's remarks and in response, I would appreciate his commitment to revisit these issues as soon as we can next year. I encourage DOD to go slowly in implementing any changes since there is a good chance we will make additional changes next year. I appreciate as well his commitment to include a legislative package in next year's national defense authorization bill that gets it right.
Again, I thank both Senator Levin and Senator McCain for allowing us to address this issue and for their willingness to cooperate as we move forward next year to clear this matter up.
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