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Public Statements

Our Nation is at a Historic Crossroad

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. QUIGLEY. Madam Speaker, I rise today because our Nation is at a crossroads. We are emerging from a deep recession but face a deficit topping $1 trillion for the 4th straight year.

And while we all agree that we must reduce our deficit, the real question, of course, is: How? How we decide to reduce our deficit will not only define our budget, it will define who we are as a Nation. Will we be a Nation that cuts vital programs like food and Medicaid in order to not only preserve but grow an outsized defense budget? Or will we choose a middle ground that is balanced, bipartisan, big, and leaves nothing off the table, including defense?

Sadly, the National Defense Authorization Act before us offers no middle ground and is not bipartisan. It is not balanced. At a time when we are being asked to cut education, infrastructure, and health care, this defense bill increases spending $4 billion over the President's request.

Let me be clear. We all want to cut spending. In fact, I, myself, introduced a bipartisan budget that mirrored the Simpson-Bowles plan and would have reduced the deficit with two-thirds cuts and one-third revenue. But the key to developing a bipartisan, balanced plan is to put everything on the table, including defense.

Military spending has more than doubled in the last 10 years and now comprises close to 20 percent of our overall budget. We spend almost four times more on defense than China and more than the next 10 largest military spenders combined. We spend $500 million a year on military bands alone.

But it's not just about what we spend; it's also how we spend. Former Secretary of Defense Gates called for billions in cuts, saying, ``what had been a culture of endless money'' at DOD must ``become a culture of savings and restraint.''

Admiral Mike Mullen once called our debt the ``greatest threat to our national security.''

The Sustainable Defense Task Force and the Bipartisan Policy Center have also outlined close to $1 trillion in defense cuts that can still keep us safe.

But this defense budget doesn't reflect the expertise of our military leaders, defense experts, or the American people.

It ignores our military leaders by including a new east coast missile interceptor the Pentagon doesn't want, and it rolls back efforts by the DOD to be more energy efficient because the commanders on the ground know that lives are lost transporting fuel to troops abroad.

It ignores military experts by funding the deadly V 22 Osprey, which is 186 percent over budget, it is not safe to fly in extreme heat or excessive sand, has killed 36 servicemembers, and can be replaced with cheaper helicopters.

It also ignores experts such as Henry Kissinger, who promote drastically reducing our nuclear stockpile by including a huge funding increase for nuclear upgrades.

Finally, perhaps more importantly, it ignores the American people, who want a smaller military footprint and want our troops home from Afghanistan. According to a recent report released at the Stimson Center, the public supports cutting the defense budget by 18 percent. And according to the latest opinion polls, close to seven in 10 Americans oppose the war in Afghanistan, yet this defense bill includes language aimed at slowing down the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

We aren't fighting the Cold War anymore, yet this budget continues to invest billions in nuclear weapons and thousands of troops stationed in Europe and Asia.

Today our greatest threat is a global network of extremists who find safe haven in ungoverned spaces across the world. There have been at least 45 terrorist attacks plotted against the U.S. since 9/11, and each one of them was foiled, not by our mass ground forces in Afghanistan, but through intelligence, policing, and citizen engagement.

According to terrorism expert Erik Dahl of the Naval Postgraduate School, when it comes to domestic attacks and securing the homeland, what works is really good, old-fashioned policing, law enforcement, tips from the public, and police informants. Our enemy today must be caught with less costly policing, intelligence gathering, and special operations, not multibillion dollar tanks and nukes.

The real ramification of overspending on defense is not simply that we have too many unneeded nukes or planes, but that we don't have enough resources to support vital domestic investments such as health care, education, and infrastructure needed to remain a superpower.

Military power is not simply about spending more than our adversaries. Real military power, argues Kori Schake, a former MCCAIN advisor, is ``premised on the solvency of the American Government and the vibrancy of the U.S. economy.'' In order to maintain that vibrancy, we must get our fiscal house in order and do so by reexamining our defense spending, and making cuts and reforming where necessary.

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