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

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, I come to the floor to discuss the continuing resolution we will vote on perhaps today or tomorrow.

This bill is much more than a continuing resolution and includes five separate appropriations bills. Our country now faces a $16.6 trillion debt, which is more than $52,000 for every man, woman, and child in America. It is time for Congress to go back to the business of voting on and passing annual budget resolutions, authorization bills, and appropriations bills, instead of a huge Omnibus appropriations bill such as the one before us today.

This continuing resolution includes numerous examples of egregious porkbarrel projects as well as billions in spending that was never authorized by the appropriate committee and not requested by the administration. The American taxpayer expects more and deserves more than what we are giving them in this bill.

One unfortunate example of Congress overstepping in this CR is the ongoing inclusion of an appropriations rider that prohibits the Postal Service from moving to 5-day mail delivery. This congressional mandate was put in place in 1984, and it is a roadblock, keeping the Postal Service from transforming the way it delivers mail while still being able to provide universal service. The Postal Service lost $1.3 billion in the first quarter of this year and recorded a loss of $15.9 billion in fiscal year 2012. So what are we telling them to do? Business as usual.

With the reality that the Postal Service will continue with devastating and unsustainable losses, the Postmaster General announced last month that the Postal Service would move to 5-day mail delivery later this year, which he estimates will save $2 billion annually. However, some in Congress who have decided they know better than the leadership of the Postal Service are moving to prohibit the Postal Service from modernizing and transforming the way it does business.

Congress must accept the fact that the Postal Service's current way of doing business is no longer viable. We now correspond by e-mail. We now correspond by different methods. It was terrible when the bridle-and-saddle business went out on the advent of the automobile. Things and times have changed. A huge percentage of the mail delivered today is what we call junk mail advertising. It is no longer the primary way Americans--and people in the world, for that matter--communicate. The American public conducts business in a different way than even 5 years ago. We have to allow the Postal Service to adapt to changing times in order to have a Postal Service in the future, and this includes 5-day mail delivery.

The Postal Service loses $1.3 billion in the first quarter, $15.9 billion last year, and do we come up with a fix for it? Do we address the issue? Of course not. There is nothing in this bill that would change that debt. There is nothing in this legislation that fixes the broken Postal Service. But there is a prohibition from them going to 5-day mail delivery which would save $2 billion. Now, you still have about $13.9 billion left over, if it is like last year.

So here we are telling the Postal Service they can't go to 5-day delivery, but we have no fix for this problem. And who picks up the tab? Obviously, eventually it is the American taxpayer. No wonder they view us with certain disdain.

In addition to this rider, the bill includes porkbarrel spending for things such as--and I am not making them up. Here we are with this debt of $16.6 trillion, and we are going to spend $65 million for the Pacific Coast salmon restoration for States, including the State of Nevada. I am not making that up, $65 million for the Pacific Coast salmon restoration, including in Nevada--a program that even President Obama mocked in his 2011 State of the Union Address; $14.7 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Watershed Rehabilitation Program, which the administration has suggested eliminating for years--$993,000 in grants to dig private wells for private property owners; $10 billion for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's high energy cost grants programs that go to subsidize electricity bills in two States: Alaska and Hawaii; $5.9 million for the USDA's economic impact initiative grants.

The economic impact initiative grants have become slush funds for local governments to do such things as rehab an exercise room, renovate a museum on the Pacific Island of Palau, and buy kitchen equipment for city government offices.

Now I would like to talk a bit about defense spending. This is probably the most painful part of my comments, and I will explain why later on.

Defense spending includes over $6 billion in unrequested or unauthorized funding for programs for the Department of Defense. At a time when the Department of Defense is facing the impact of sequestration, on top of the $487 billion in cuts directed by the President, we can't afford to spend a single taxpayer dollar on programs that are not a priority for the Defense Department and our national security.

The following things are beginning to happen now that the Department of Defense is under sequestration: The Navy was unable to deploy the USS Truman, an aircraft carrier, to the Middle East at a time when the centrifuges in Tehran are spinning; 80 percent of the Army's nondeploying brigades have reduced readiness; Army base operations have been reduced 30 percent; the Navy is reducing flying hours on deployed carriers in the Middle East by 55 percent and shut down all flying for four of the nine carrier air wings. If funding is restored, returning to normal readiness will take 9 to 12 months and cost two to three times as much.

The Air Force is delaying planned acquisition of satellites and aircraft, including JSF and the AC-130J, which will increase the future cost of these systems. And the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps has said:

By the end of this year, more than 50 percent of my tactical units will be below minimal acceptable levels of readiness for deployment to combat.

My friends, here we are spending money on this kind of junk, on this kind of pork, while the Commandant of the Marine Corps says by the end of this year more than 50 percent of his combat units will be below minimal acceptable levels of readiness for deployment to combat? In what kind of parallel universe are we residing?

Instead of trying to remedy these drastic reductions to our military strength, the appropriators are willing to overstep the authorizers and defense leadership and provide increased funding for nonessential programs that are clearly not a national security priority. The Armed Services Committee went to great lengths last year to authorize defense spending for the most critical national security requirements as proposed by the President and defense leadership.

Last week I offered an amendment, which was approved by a very narrow margin, that removed funding in the bill for civilian infrastructure--not military infrastructure, mind you, civilian infrastructure--for Guam. This earmark for Guam directly contravened the explicit direction provided by the Armed Services Committee of the Senate and the House of Representatives in the conference report on the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act and, in my opinion, is a clear example of abuse of the appropriations process. I say to my colleagues, we are not going to stand for it. I say to my friends on the Appropriations Committee, we will not stand for this.

Funding for the STARBASE Program. This ``nice to have but not necessary to have'' program will receive $5 million. According to its Web site, STARBASE focuses on elementary students, primarily fifth graders. The program's goal is to motivate these students to explore science, technology, engineering, and math as they continue their education. Military volunteers apply abstract principles to real-world situations by leading tours and giving lectures on the use of STEM in different settings and careers.

I am sure that is a nice thing to happen. I am sure STARBASE is nice so that fifth graders are able to hear from members in the military. Meanwhile, we can't deploy an aircraft carrier. With a war going on, a budget crisis at our doorstep, this is how we elect to spend our taxpayers' defense money.

Another example is $11.3 million in increase for the Civil Air Program or CAP. CAP is a volunteer organization that provides aerospace education to young people, runs a junior cadet program, and assists, when possible, by providing emergency services. Its members are hard working. We are grateful for their voluntarism.

This year, as in the past, the Senate Armed Services Committee authorized the President's request for CAP funding. However, CAP is an auxiliary and should not operate to the detriment of the U.S. Air Force. To succeed at their missions, the Air Force must be able to fly and train at locations such as Luke Air Force Base, which is threatened with reduced flight hours and the closure of two local control towers that could impact air safety around the base. By diverting additional funds--not the primary funding but additional funds--to the Civil Air Patrol from Air Force operations and maintenance accounts which pay for the training and flight operations that keep the Air Force in the sky, we are imposing greater risk on our men and women in uniform.

The bill includes $154 million for Army, Navy, and Air Force ``alternative energy research'' initiatives. This type of research has yielded such shining examples as the Department of the Navy's purchase of 450,000 gallons of alternative fuels for $12 million, which is over $26 per gallon. Alternative energy research might be necessary, but shouldn't the Department of Energy do it? Why should the Department of Defense do it, when we cannot fly our airplanes?

Section 1822 prohibits the retirement of the C-23 Sherpa aircraft. The Army is currently retiring or divesting the remainder of its fleet of old, limited-duty C-23s, all of which are flown by the Army National Guard. The Army neither wants nor needs these aircraft. The Air Force neither wants nor needs these aircraft. Last year the Congress granted the Army authority to give these planes to any State Governor who wanted them. Guess what. No takers. Now we prevent the Army from retiring these limited-utility aircraft.

Another provision provides $15 million for an ``incentive program'' that directs the Department of Defense to overpay on contracts by an additional 5 percent if the contractor is a Native Hawaiian-owned company. If there were ever an example of the special interest pork barrel spending that goes on in this body and infuriates the American people, it is this--$15 million of Americans' tax dollars is going to any Native Hawaiian-owned company to give them an additional 5 percent if they are a contractor. Here we are, spending all our time trying to eliminate the waste and inefficiency in defense contracting, and we are now spending $15 million to overpay them if--if they are a Native Hawaiian-owned company.

It will make it easier for the Department of Defense to enter into no-bid contracts for studies, analysis, and unsolicited proposals. The language in the bill makes it ripe for wasteful spending and earmarks for pet projects. For example, the Department of Defense may eliminate competition and use a no-bid contract for a ``product of original thinking and was submitted in confidence by one source.'' If there were ever an example of how pork barrel and earmark spending begins--``for a product of original thinking and was submitted in confidence by one source.''

Another section requires the Secretary of the Air Force to continue procuring C-27J Spartan aircraft despite the Air Force's intent to end production and divest these aircraft, and $24 million to continue development on ACS, which was a canceled Army reconnaissance aircraft program.

Another goody for defense contractors: There is a recurring provision in the bill that allows Alaska Native corporations to circumvent the rules of the Office of Management and Budget that would otherwise require them to follow an open and fair competition process in order to obtain Department of Defense contracts.

The Department of Defense has a history of awarding billions of dollars in large, sole-source, no-bid contracts to Alaska Native corporations abusively. This matter has been well documented by the Senate subcommittee on contracting, the inspectors general of the Department of Defense and the Small Business Administration. The Washington Post ran a series on the Alaska Native corporation contracting. Last year the Government Accountability Office found that the Department of Defense expeditiously awarded two $500 million, 10-year contracts using this same provision in a past appropriations bill.

Several of us on the Armed Services Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee have been trying to ensure that contracts to ANCs undergo extra scrutiny. It does not help that this bill is working against the American taxpayer while Congress should be working to make sure the Department of Defense acquires what it truly needs as economically as possible through competition.

There is $48 million in funding for the Defense Department to do research dealing with Parkinson's disease, neurofibromatosis, and HIV/AIDS research. This research is important. It has no place in a Department of Defense bill. It should be funded by the National Institutes of Health, not the Department of Defense.

I ask unanimous consent to have a long list of unspecified and unauthorized and unnecessary and wasteful pork printed in the Record.


Mr. McCAIN. It is disgraceful. I see that my colleague from Texas is waiting to talk. This is absolutely unbelievable. All of this long list of billions of dollars of spending can only be considered as how obscene it is by listening to what the impacts of sequester have already been on the men and women in the military.

Sequester so far canceled four brigade exercises of training of the Army--that has been canceled. It reduces the base operations, the normal day-to-day operations of the base, by 30 percent; cancels half a year of helicopter and ground vehicle depot maintenance; stops postwar repair of 1,300 vehicles and 17,000 weapons. It reduces the readiness of the Army's nondeploying brigades and stops tuition assistance for all Active-Duty and Reserve men and women in the Army.

In the Navy, it cancels several submarine deployments; reduces flying hours on deployed carriers in the Middle East by 55 percent--and believe me, my friends, unless they are able to operate and train, they are not safe and they are not capable. It reduces the western Pacific deployed operations by 35 percent; nondeployed Pacific ships lose 40 percent of their steaming days; reduces Middle East, Atlantic, and Mediterranean ballistic missile defense patrols. It shuts down all flying of four of our nine carrier air wings--that has been shut down 9 to 12 months. It will take 9 to 12 months to restore normal readiness at two to three times the cost. It cuts all major exercises that are going on and defers emergent repairs; the USS Truman deployment to the Middle East delayed indefinitely; the Eisenhower carrier deployment extended indefinitely; the USS Nimitz and Bush carrier strike force will not be ready for scheduled 2013 deployments.

The Air Force--likely to prevent the Air Force's ability to achieve the 2017 goal of being fully auditable; over 420 projects at 140 installations across the Air Force are canceled; affects runway repairs and critical sustainment projects; delays planned acquisition of satellites and aircraft; reduces flying hours for cargo, fighter, and bomber aircraft.

In the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps is unable to complete the rebalancing of Marine Corps forces to the Asia Pacific region. It will cause 55 percent of the U.S. Marine Corps aviation squad to fall below ready-to-deploy status. Over half of the aviation squadrons in the U.S. Marine Corps are not ready to deploy. The U.S. Marine Corps will not be able to accomplish planned reset of equipment returning from overseas. Depot-level maintenance will be reduced, delaying reset ability by 18 months and reducing readiness of nondeployed forces. Facilities will be funded at 71 percent of the requirement.

Most important--maybe Members of Congress do not have a lot of credibility. Maybe that is understandable. I will leave that up to the American people to judge. I do think we respect the Commandant of the Marine Corps and what he had to say. I repeat:

By the end of this year, more than 50 percent of my combat units will be below minimum acceptable levels of readiness for deployment to combat.

Over the weekend, there was a gathering in our Nation's Washington, DC, area of a group of our conservative Americans and members of the Republican Party, and references were made to people who were too old and moss-covered, that we need new and fresh individuals and ideas and thoughts. I agree with all of those--every bit of those recommendations and comments that were made.

But there is a little bit of benefit of having been around for a while. My friends, I will tell you right now, I have seen this movie before. I saw it after the Vietnam war. When the Vietnam war was over, Americans were war-weary. We had been driven apart in a way that was almost unprecedented in our history--certainly maybe as far back as our Civil War. America was torn apart.

The first casualty of that was our military. Our military was cut and cut and cut, to the point where, in 1979, I believe it was, the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army came before Congress and testified. It was kind of a seminal moment. He told the Congress and the American people that we had a ``hollow Army'' that would be unable to defend this Nation adequately.

It also happened to coincide with when a group of brave Americans were being held hostage in the Embassy in Tehran, made famous by a fantastic movie called ``Argo.'' Along came a guy named Ronald Reagan who promised that we would restore our military, that we would restore our capability, that we would make America the leader in the world again, and a simple phrase called ``peace through strength.''

I want to tell you what we are doing with this sequestration. What we are doing with this sequestration is an exact replay of what we did after the Vietnam war. I understand that the American people are war-weary. I understand that there are savings that can be made--large savings made in our defense spending. But to do it like this puts the security of this Nation in jeopardy.

We are blessed with the finest military ever in our history. I say that with great respect to my predecessors who fought in previous wars. Our All-Volunteer Force is the best this Nation has ever produced. It is the best of America. We all know that. Do you know what is happening to them right now? I will tell you what is happening to them right now because I talk to them all the time. They don't know where their next deployment is going to be. They don't know if they are going to be adequately trained to defend this Nation. They have lost confidence--they have lost confidence in the leadership of this Nation. And the good ones, the really good ones, are getting out. They are not going to stay in a military in which they believe there is no future and they are unable to defend this Nation. I tell my colleagues that. Ask anyone in the military today--junior officer, senior officer, senior enlisted person--and they will tell you they are disgusted with what is going on.

The least we can do is give them the ability to train and to operate to defend this Nation. This sequester and this legislation we are considering is a direct contradiction to everything we have said and promised them that we would do for them when they agreed as a volunteer to serve this Nation. It is a shameful period in the history of this Congress, the Presidency, and the way we have gone about this business. We will maybe--very likely--pay a very heavy price.


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