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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HOLT. I thank the gentleman.

I just wanted to describe two amendments that I have that the chairman and the leadership were kind enough to include en bloc.

I am a member of the United States commission on research and development in the intelligence community. I won't go through the whole report--in fact, it's being declassified in part now--but we talk about the great looming threat to our technological advantage in the intelligence arena--the shortage of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians.

I have an amendment directing the Secretary of Defense to report to Congress within 60 days from this bill on whether the science, mathematics, and research transformation of the SMART scholarship program is providing adequate help to undergraduate and graduate students to meet our scientific and technical needs.

Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the Rules Committee making this amendment in order, My amendment's purpose is to ensure that the United States defense and intelligence communities have the necessary scientific and technical talent in the years ahead so that our nation maintains its ability to avoid strategic surprise and preserve our technological edge against known or potential opponents.

For the last 18 months, I have served as a member of the United States Commission on Research and Development in the Intelligence Community. Although the Commission was created in law as part of the annual Intelligence Authorization Act passed a decade ago, it was not funded and no Commissioners were appointed until the Fiscal Year 2012 budget was passed. Indeed, funding for the Commission was blocked for several years by the then chairman of HPSCI. The Commission did not formally start meeting until early 2012. My colleague from Texas, Rep. Conaway, is also a member of the Commission, as are Senators Mark Warner of Virginia and Dan Coats of Indiana. The balance of the commission is made up of former government officials with S&T expertise, a former NSC official, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, a Wall Street banker, and a university president with a deep scientific background, among others.

Our mandate was to examine the current state of the IC's R&D efforts & make recommendations for changes where necessary. Classified and unclassified versions of our report were delivered to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence just before Memorial Day, and the unclassified version will be released soon, most likely before the July 4th holiday. I encourage all Members to take the time to review the full classified report at their earliest convenience.

Because the unclassified version remains under an embargo for the moment, I cannot discuss directly our key findings. However, I can and will give you this Commissioner's view on the single greatest looming threat to our technological advantage in the intelligence arena: a potential shortage of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians.

My amendment seeks to address that potential shortage by directing the Secretary of Defense to report to Congress within 60 days of the enactment of this bill on whether the Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation or SMART scholarship program is providing the necessary number of undergraduate students to meet our scientific and technical needs, specifically in the defense and intelligence communities. If the Secretary assess that the existing SMART program will not be sufficient, he is to make recommendations to Congress on what measures would be necessary to ensure our scientific and technical talent pipeline is sufficient to meet our projected needs.

I offer this amendment because I have already seen evidence that such an assessment is overdue and urgently needed.

At a recent cyber briefing on the Hill, CYBERCOM officials told my staff that NSA is seeing a marked increase in employees asking to have resumes undergo clearance reviews so they can look for other jobs. During my own visit to some other NSA facilities in the DC metro area last year, I heard from NSA officials that some universities are now telling NSA--in writing--that their pay scales are not sufficiently competitive. These are warning signs of a potential skilled personnel shortage in the S&T components of the IC, and the Commission found others as you will see in our report. If adopted, this amendment will allow us to take a much needed step towards assessing our defense and intelligence personnel needs in the areas of science, technology, mathematics and engineering. Accordingly, I urge adoption of my amendment.

I have another amendment that grew out of a suicide tragedy in my district. This amendment would allow any State adjutant general to request information for any Individual Ready Reserve or any individual mobilization augmentee living in the State so that the adjutant general can provide suicide prevention and outrage services for such Reservists.

Mr. Chairman, I thank the Rules Committee for making this amendment in order. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that suicide outreach and prevention programs reach specific at-risk populations of Reservists.

Sergeant Coleman Bean of East Brunswick, New Jersey did two combat tours in Iraq. In between and after those tours, he sought treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Because Sgt. Bean was a member of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR)--a pool of Reserve soldiers not assigned to any unit but available for mobilization if needed--he could not get treatment for his condition because the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs refused to take ownership of Sgt. Bean and the thousands like him. Since his death in the fall of 2008, I have worked in a bipartisan way to secure additional funding for suicide prevention and outreach services for our active duty, Guard and Reserve members, and for our veterans. One component of that outreach effort must involve our state National Guard Adjutant Generals.

My amendment would allow any state AG to request contact information for any IRR or Individual Mobilization Augmentee (IMA) living in their state so that the AG can provide suicide prevention and outreach services to such Reservists.

Within my own state, our extremely successful Vet2Vet and the national Vets4Warriors program have been providing peer-to-peer counseling services for years. Its success was so great--no servicemember who used the program took his or her life--that the 2010 DoD Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces recommended that Vet2Vet should be examined as a potential national model. In December 2011, the National Guard Bureau decided to support a parallel, national program to Vet2Vet, named Vets4Warriors to denote its national character, and designated it as the program of record for Guard personnel nationwide who were seeking counseling services.

The key reason these programs work so well is that every person who takes a call from a servicemember or veteran is also a former servicemember. This peer-to-peer connection is vital in building the trust necessary to get a soldier or veteran with a problem to open up about their experiences, fears, needs and hopes. Both Vet2Vet and Vets4Warriors work in direct partnership with the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and thus passing this amendment would allow all Adjutant Generals, including New Jersey's, to conduct targeted suicide prevention and outreach to IRR and IMA members in their states.

Mr. Chairman, the suicide epidemic sweeping our armed forces can only eliminated if we utilize every tool at our disposal to reach every servicemember or veteran who may be at risk. Passing this amendment would give us one more such tool, I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.


Mr. HOLT. I thank the Chair, and I thank the Rules Committee and the leadership of the Armed Services Committee for making this amendment in order.

Mr. Chairman, the amendment's purpose is simple: to eliminate the missile defense-related portions of the bill with the exception of the relatively successful Iron Dome program.

As some of you may know, I have been involved with arms control issues for decades, since I was a part of the U.S. Geneva delegation sent to investigate the then-Soviet phased array radar in Krasnoyarsk in the early 1980s. My training as a physicist, as well as the decades I've spent dealing with these issues, long ago led me to conclude a couple of things: effective strategic ballistic missile defense systems have not been and are not likely to be technically feasible; and, second, attempting to build them only fuels the international arms race.

If you don't believe the latter point, let me quote from a Russian Television story on June 8 of this year:

Russia's Strategic Missile Forces have reported a successful launch of a next-generation ICBM that can supposedly pierce any antiballistic missile system. The test came after the U.S. announced it would resume its ABM program in Europe.

That is a description of the arms race that should have ended years ago.

The article goes on to quote Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin who says that the new Russian ICBM was a ``missile defense killer. Neither current nor future American missile defense systems will be able to prevent that missile from hitting the target dead on.''

Yes, arms race.

Just as it has for over 30 years, our continued pursuit of a strategic ballistic missile defense system is perpetuating the arms race, in this case between the United States and Russia, and would perpetuate arms races between the United States and China or others. It is also an expense we cannot afford.

The Missile Defense Agency itself estimates that since fiscal year 1985, Congress has appropriated $149.5 billion for strategic ballistic missile defense programs, and the system has still never been tested successfully against any of the kind of real-world threats offered by missiles equipped with decoys, jammers, and so on.

This bill proposes to continue throwing good money after bad, with one exception: the tactical Iron Dome missile defense system. Our Israeli allies, with funding approved by this Congress and that I have supported, and many here have supported, have developed what is arguably the best, and certainly most well-tested, tactical missile defense system in the world. It is not perfect, and the missile defense experts, both here and in Israel, continue to debate the exact kill rate, which Israeli officials claim is 84 percent. What is clear is that this system is more practical and more immediately useful for the defense of Israel than our strategic defense system is for us.

What my amendment would do is stop the United States from throwing more money at a failed, politically destabilizing strategic missile defense system and instead would allow continuing funding for further development of efforts for Iron Dome and tactical systems like that--the kind of systems that may help save lives in Israel and save lives of deployed American troops should they face opponents like North Korea or Iran.

Accordingly, I urge my colleagues to support this, and I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. HOLT. I thank the Chair.

I will just quickly say then, in closing, that the desire for a strategic missile defense system may be as strong as it ever has been; but the demonstrations, the accomplishments of the work towards such a system are no further along than they have been for decades.

We can repeal legislation--we could repeal, perhaps, ObamaCare if the other side had its way--but we cannot repeal the laws of physics, and long experience with this tells me this is a wasteful program. The Iron Dome tactical system and systems like that, on the other hand, are worth pursuing, and I propose keeping that funding intact.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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