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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 - Resumed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WICKER. Madam President, I thank my colleagues for allowing me to breeze in here at the last moment.

I would like to speak today about a Department of Defense policy that has an impact on American jobs and is in urgent need of greater transparency. Until recently, this policy picked industry winners and losers. We must ensure that the Federal Government's adopted standards for green buildings are consensus-based, fair, and established by sound science.

Before last year's Defense authorization bill was signed into law, the Department of Defense exclusively recognized or showed preference for a single green building rating system.

The U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design--or LEED--became DOD's adopted benchmark for green building.

This raised concerns, primarily because LEED standards are not developed in a transparent manner and do not allow meaningful input from all affected stakeholders.

For example, for some reason LEED standards are unreasonably biased against American timber.

Obtaining the highest LEED certifications often requires green buildings to exclude domestic wood. Instead, the use of bamboo, often shipped from overseas, is favored over more cost-efficient local timber.

The next version of LEED threatens to eliminate the use of other approved materials and proven products that are currently used to achieve true energy savings.

It makes sense to anticipate that a blanket adoption of LEED by the Department of Defense would have a significant impact on American industry.

To put the scope of DOD's green building policies into perspective: DOD has more than 500,000 facilities, covering more than 2 billion square feet. If we combined all of the nearly 5,000 Wal-Mart buildings in America, it would make up about a third of DOD's real estate.

That is why I fought for language--included in the 2012 Defense authorization conference report--requiring DOD to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of various green building rating systems.

Last year's Defense authorization conference report prohibited the use of funds to implement LEED standards.

This year, the Armed Services Committee accepted language I offered to extend the prohibition of funds for LEED until 6 months after the cost-benefit study is reported to Congress.

I look forward to the findings of this study but remain concerned about DOD's adoption of any green building standards that are not transparent and consensus-based.

I have yet another amendment that would direct DOD to utilize green building standards that are driven by consensus as determined by the American National Standards Institute, and include sufficient input from all affected stakeholders.

My amendment also would support green building standards that consider the full environmental benefits provided by a building material throughout its lifetime. Life Cycle Assessment is a science-based approach used to measure these benefits.

Together, I believe these provisions would create a level playing field for materials to compete for green building and energy savings in DOD construction.

The Federal Government should be in the business of choosing winners and losers, Adoption of LEED only--or/any other green building standard not developed by consensus--would discriminate against American-made products, reduce transparency, impact jobs, and ultimately undermine energy savings and sustainability sought using taxpayer dollars.

Although I am going to withhold my amendment, I will continue to closely monitor this issue to ensure that fair competition is part of DOD's construction of green buildings.

I want to thank the chairman, ranking member, and all the members of the committee.

In conclusion, as we have learned, there is more than one way to have green building standards. The Defense Department has tilted toward the LEED standards in the past. I think we have authorized now a scientific analysis of other methods that is proceeding apace. I had planned to offer yet another amendment which would be withdrawn directing that the Department of Defense utilize green building standards that are driven by consensus as determined by the American National Standards Institute. As I say, I am withholding that amendment.

I do appreciate the language that is in the bill now, and I think we will end up with green building standards that save energy and serve the purposes of national defense and do not tilt toward one industry over the other.

I thank the Presiding Officer for her indulgence, I thank my colleagues on the committee, and I yield the floor.


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