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Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 - Resumed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I rise in opposition to the amendment offered by the Senator from Pennsylvania, and at the appropriate moment I will offer a budget point of order which will require an extraordinary vote on the floor of the Senate, but I first want to address the merits of Senator Toomey's amendment.

Senator Toomey's amendment proposes to cut $60 million from the Advanced Drop-In Biofuels Production Program in the procurement defense fund and move these funds to the operations and maintenance account. The Senator has, unfortunately, an error in his amendment, and he cuts funding from the wrong account. He has rewritten it several times. Unfortunately, he is still cutting funding from the wrong account.

That is an error which he may be able to resolve.

The appropriations account that would be cut by this amendment has nothing to do with alternative energy or biofuels. The account provides for funds for Special Operations Command equipment, DOD communications infrastructure, and the Chemical and Biological Defense Program. This is a very serious mistake in the creation of this amendment.

New language added to this version tries to correct an additional problem with outlays but does not. The amendment still violates the budget cap on outlays and is subject to a point of order, which I will make at a later time.

This amendment, which is being offered by the Senator from Pennsylvania, is opposed not only by me but also by Senator Levin, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and of course Senator Mikulski, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Let's address the substance of the amendment if it were drafted properly. The Senate has already made it clear it supports biofuels and ending our Nation's dependence on foreign oil. We look at the challenge of foreign oil every time we drive by a gas station and we think to ourselves: How high can these prices go? They were knocking on the door of $5 a gallon in Chicago just a couple weeks ago. They have come down a little bit, but they are worse in other parts of the country, and we think to ourselves: When is this country going to reach the point where we are not held captive by OPEC nations and other suppliers of oil? That is the frustration we feel. That is the impact we have as consumers in America.

Now take this into a theater of war. Now it is a different story. We cannot manage and run our professional military without energy and fuel. The price we have paid to transfer fuel to the field of battle is dramatic, hundreds of dollars a gallon--not $5 a gallon, hundreds of dollars a gallon--because, unfortunately, if we are going to keep our men and women safe, we have to fuel the vehicles, the vehicles they rely on, whether it is the humvees or the tanks, airplanes or whatever they are using, and we have to move the fuel to where they need it and we have to move it now.

Let me also tell you something. Moving that fuel is not without danger. The first National Guard unit I visited in Iraq from my State of Illinois was a transport unit. They were driving these tanker trucks. Well, you think, these are soldiers driving trucks? They risked their lives every time they did it. That is where the roadside bombs were planted.

So when we start talking about moving energy to the military, we are talking about a life-and-death challenge. Unfortunately, many Americans have lost their lives moving that fuel to the field of battle.

So what do the generals and secretaries in the Pentagon tell us? We have to take a look at our energy consumption and find ways to have more fuel-efficient vehicles for our troops to reduce the need to keep moving this fuel, and we have to find better sources for fuel--fuel that might work better in one theater of battle than in another. That is what they have asked for, and that is what the Senator from Pennsylvania says--no, we can't afford that. We shouldn't do that. We ought to cut the $60 million involved in this research.

The Senate voted twice on Senator Toomey's proposal, and it voted both times in support of the Department of Defense initiative biofuels program. That was during the debate of the Senate Armed Services authorization bill. But no ideas ever go away in the Senate. This one is back again for the third try by Senator Toomey. I hope it reaches the same fate as the other two tries.

The conference agreement that was reached after the Department's authorization bill said that the Departments of Energy and Agriculture had to provide matching funds, and due to budget constraints they are not going to go that this year. However, the money that is appropriated for this purpose is going to continue to be able to be spent in other years and the research can continue.

Why would we stop this? Why would we say we are not going to do the research necessary to find more efficient fuels? Why are we going to try to stop the research in more efficient vehicles that keep our troops safe and reduce the likelihood that the men and women in uniform transporting these fuels are risking their lives to do so? Why in the world do we want to subject them to roadside bombs for the transport of fuels if we are told by the military they want to look at other options? Why wouldn't we do that? Sadly, the Senator from Pennsylvania just thinks we shouldn't do it, and that is why he has offered this amendment.

The funds appropriated for this project are available until expended. When other agencies are able to meet their own cost shares, they will certainly be used. The chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Carl Levin, agrees with me on this. There is no conflict between the Defense Appropriations and the Defense Authorization committees.

Keeping the funds in this bill supports the Senate's clear position on giving to our military the authority they need to protect our troops and to lessen their need for using these energy sources. Reducing DOD energy costs and reducing the volatility of gasoline supplies is critical--critical to making sure the best military in the world is the safest military in the world.

The Defense Department is the Federal Government's largest energy consumer by far. The events of the Arab Spring and Iran's continued threats to deny access to the Strait of Hormuz demonstrate the security risk of relying on foreign oil sources. That is why this is a critical decision--it is a life-and-death decision--to look to other energy sources.

The Senator may say we can move $60 million to operations and maintenance. I am sure they need it. But they literally need much more than that. It is better we keep this research moving forward.

A 2012 report from the Congressional Research Service noted that since the early 1990s, the cost of buying fuel has increased faster than any other major Department of Defense budget category. That includes health care and military personnel. Between fiscal years 2005 and 2011, the Department's petroleum use decreased by 4 percent, but the Department's spending on petroleum rose 381 percent over that same period of time. Recall that we paid for our wars under the previous administration on a credit card. Part of that credit card charge related to the cost of fuel--a dramatic cost--which we are still paying off.

The Department of Defense estimates that every 25-cent increase in the price of a gallon of oil means an additional $1 billion a year in fuel costs. The $60 million in this bill for biofuels is such a small investment of the Navy's annual cost for petroleum-based fuel, approximately $4.5 billion in fiscal year 2011, and an even smaller fraction of the Navy's total budget of $173 billion. Sixty million dollars in research against the Navy's fuel costs of $4.5 billion--penny wise and pound foolish with this Toomey amendment.

This modest investment is worth the potential of being able to provide a secure alternative to the national security risk of petroleum dependence.

For the sake of reducing the cost of protecting America, for the sake of protecting the lives of men and women who serve our Nation and risk their lives every day and depend on this energy and fuel, for the sake of at least being thoughtful enough to put money into research to find ways for more fuel efficiency and better sources of fuel, please vote no on the Toomey amendment.


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