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Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. POLIS. Mr. Chairman, you know, the funding priorities of this bill are simply upside down. This bill prioritizes nuclear weapons funding over research for innovative technologies that will lead to energy independence and launch a future for sustainable energy and job growth in our country.

This bill before us underfunds programs that not only will grow our Nation's clean energy sources but also will promote jobs and emerging technologies and maintain critical infrastructure. At the same time it makes the cut in the ARPA-E program that you've heard so much about here today, the bill increases weapons activities by $97.7 million above the 2013 enacted level.

As I mentioned earlier in my Rules Committee discussion time, this past February I had the privilege of meeting with an ARPA-E project team from my district in Colorado, a joint project between the University of Colorado at Boulder and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which demonstrated significant energy yield improvements and cost reduction potential in solar photovoltaic power systems.

The team leaders were very excited about the challenges in clean energy, and there are examples of projects like this which ARPA-E has helped fund, and would not even exist without ARPA-E, across our country that are leading and will lead to countless benefits for consumers and for our national energy security.

But despite the success of ARPA-E, which was even acknowledged by the subcommittee chair and ranking committee member before our Rules Committee yesterday, the underlying bill disproportionately cuts from clean energy programs, 81 percent cuts, while bolstering wasteful spending for weapons.

We need to restore the ARPA-E funding to the President's budget levels. That's why Mr. Garamendi and I are offering this amendment to provide $329 million in funding to ARPA-E. This amendment is offset with a corresponding cut to the NNSA Weapons Activities account.

This amendment provides an amount of support that ARPA-E needs to ensure that our country keeps moving towards energy independence and can sustain job growth.


Mr. POLIS. Mr. Chairman, I'm offering an amendment that will reduce the funding level for the W76 by $13 million, back down to what the agency requested.

The W76 is a 1970s-era submarine-launched ballistic missile that was first introduced into the stockpile by the Navy in 1978. This bill actually increases funding by $13 million to increase funding levels above those required by the New START Treaty.

If the New START Treaty levels are in effect, it requires us to have 1,550 nuclear weapons--plenty to deter any nuclear threat, plenty to obliterate any enemy, plenty to end life on Earth as we know it. Even if we were to reduce our stockpile to 1,000 nuclear weapons, the Arms Control Association stated that it would save over $39 billion. Now, this amendment doesn't even come close to going that far, but this puts that in perspective. If we reduced our number of nuclear weapons from 1,500, enough to obliterate any enemy and destroy life as we know it on Earth, to 1,000, enough to obliterate any enemy and end life as we know it on Earth, it would save $39 billion. This amendment very simply reduces funding by $13 million, back to what the agency itself requested. It doesn't detract from nuclear preparedness at all.

These missiles are a continuing relic of Cold War policies that spend billions of taxpayer dollars every year. And it's a great opportunity for Congress to save taxpayer money while maintaining our national security. In fact, the current bill actually spends millions more than the military needs, and passage of my amendment will encourage a focused, agile, lean military policy.

In fact, a total of $1.8 billion is projected to be spent on W76 by 2016. That's a lot of money to support a very dated set of preparedness. My amendment makes a small dent in that by reducing the funding back to what the agency itself has requested.

When we have these kinds of opportunities to maintain our national security and create savings for our country and reduce our budget deficit, we need to take it.

Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists has argued that while the W76 is important for national security, we could ``probably reduce the refurbishment production by half and still retain enough W76 warheads on the submarines for a credible retaliatory capability.'' Again, my amendment doesn't even come close to the marker that was set by Hans Kristensen. It simply returns funding to the level that the agency itself has asked for and reduces funding by $13 million.

The GAO has been critical of the cost, schedule, and risk involved with the W76 program. It is an area that is ripe for a relatively minor cut like this, which will help reduce our budget deficit by $13 million.

My amendment would create $13 million in savings for taxpayers while maintaining our national security. I strongly urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support it.

The primary goals of the extension program extends the life of the original warheads from 20 to 60 years, addresses the aging issues, and refurbishes the system in a managed fashion. However, all these goals are accomplished under the funding levels that have been requested by the agency. And yet here in Congress, we're second-guessing the agency's own funding requirements and saying let's give you more money, take a few million more, take a few million more--a few million more while we cut ARPA-E, a few million more while we cut science programs, a few million more while we shortcut our own Nation's renewable energy future. And yet here's a few million more, $13 million more than an agency is even requesting, to maintain nuclear deterrents at the level of 1,550 nuclear weapons, and maintaining these particular W76 warheads from the 1970s, deployed by submarines, that we don't even need the $13 million to accomplish.

So, again, I think this is some commonsense savings. I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this smart cut, and I yield back the balance of my time.

I strongly encourage my colleague on both sides of the aisle to support the Garamendi-Polis amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. POLIS. I know my colleague from Georgia will be speaking on this shortly. I appreciate him and Representative Schiff working on this amendment, and I will be very brief to voice my support for Congressman Woodall and Congressman Schiff in their efforts to restore some of the funds in ARPA-E.

As we discussed, the underlying bill cuts ARPA-E by 81 percent. We live in times of fiscal austerity. We have the sequestration. We know it's time for cuts. Eighty-one percent is clearly singling it out.

What this amendment does is restores $20 million in funding to ARPA-E. Even $20 million goes a long way when we're talking about ARPA-E. We're talking about early-stage investments. It could be $500,000, $1 million, $2 million--very high leverage, very high return. And $70 million is not enough to fund the program. But, yes, it will make great strides even at this funding level, because investment in early-stage companies is all about risk-taking. That's why the government has a critical role in promoting innovation and making sure that we do the basic research to even get it ready for tech transfer, to get it ready for venture capital, to get it ready for the private sector to commercialize it. In order for ARPA-E to be successful, investors need to see that the government is willing to invest in risky, but high-reward, projects that can truly alter the course of energy independence for our country.

So I strongly salute Representatives Woodall and Schiff for bringing forward this amendment. I encourage my colleagues to adopt this as a step forward, and I deeply appreciate everybody on both sides of the aisle who said great things about the ARPA-E project and how it can help lead to energy independence.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. POLIS. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank Mr. Quigley for bringing forward this important amendment. There has been growing concerns, in fact, raised by the Air Force's 2008 Blue Ribbon Review regarding the effectiveness and vulnerabilities of the B61s.

The B61 bomb was originally developed and placed in Europe during the Cold War for Cold War-era threats. Today, according to General James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the military utility of the B61 is ``practically nil.'' Let me repeat that: According to General James Cartwright, the military utility of the B61 is practically nil.

Despite the lack of utility, the price tag continues to rise. As it rises, some of our allies, like Germany, have called for the B61s to be removed from their borders. There is no reason that we should spend more and more taxpayer dollars on programs that aren't even needed or wanted by our NATO allies and don't contribute to our national security.

These missiles are a kind of saving opportunity that we need to take advantage of. Given our fiscal restraints, we need to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not wasted on programs that don't protect our national security.

This amendment is simple: it cuts the B61 program back to the agency's own request level, saving $23.7 million. To me, this is about as much of a no-brainer of a cut that we can find. Let's do it.

I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to vote ``yes'' on the Quigley-Polis amendment.


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