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Remarks at the Senate Armed Service Committee Hearing on Sequestration


Location: Unknown

Thanks to you, Chairman, and likewise thanks to you all for being here today, gentlemen. In my 20 years serving in the House Armed Services Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee we have never had four finer leaders of our respective branches then you, so thank you for what you do every day.

As we look at what we are going to do relative to Defense spending, I'm one of those who thinks that we need to spend more money; that sequestration, as each of you have said, is going to be a bigger and bigger problem. I also feel very strong about the fact that whatever we are able to add to DoD spending, we have to offset it somehow. We have got to get our fiscal house in order and if we are going to do that the first place we need to look for offsets is at the Department of Defense itself.

We asked at a hearing, that Sen. Ayotte and Sen. Shaheen called on Tuesday of this week, for a list of programs or expenditures that the Department does not want to spend money on that had been mandated by Congress. We thought we would have that list by today. I understand now that we will not see it until next week, but I think one item that will be on that list, General Odierno, is the purchase of Abrams tanks that you have been somewhat vocal on, that congress keep demanding that you buy, that you don't need. My understanding is that you were requesting a delay or a halt in production until 2017 and the savings of that would be somewhere between $436 million and $3 billion over three years - I don't know what the exact number is but either of those is pretty significant. Now is that still the case, that you would prefer to spend that money somewhere else?

Ok, well as we go into the authorization bill rest assured that it's issues like this that are going to be addressed. As we talk about sequestration, I know that a lot of these programs have taken years to develop and produce, so these programs that I am going to mention were not necessarily created or authorized on the watch of the four of you but they are significant. General Welch, I understand that twelve brand new C27-J Spartans that were rolled right off the assembly line and immediately mothballed. Since 2007 DoD has spent $567 million on 21 of these airplanes, but only sixteen of them have been delivered and the majority of those are sitting in storage somewhere. Also there were 20 C27-A's that cost the taxpayers $596 million and they are sitting unused in Afghanistan and are slated to be destroyed although there may be some movement to try to send those to another agency or entity, but the maintenance contract on those airplanes, I understand, was cancelled in March of this year and therefore they are unusable. General Odierno, the Army spent $297 million to develop the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle, which is a blimp-like aircraft that would hover over the battlefield that was cancelled after one test flight and sold back to the contactor for $301,000. The Army and the Marine Corps are moving ahead, as I understand it, to purchase 55,000 trucks known as the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle to replace your current fleet of Humvees, which is probably understandable, but it's also my understanding that the committed cost of these vehicles was $250,000 and now it's gone to something like $400,000 per vehicle, not unlike what Sen. McCain alluded to earlier. General Welch, also a recent audit by the DoD Inspector General found that a contractor had overcharged the DLA for spare aircraft parts. There was one part in particular, an aluminum bearing sleeve that should have cost $10, the DLA paid $2,286 per item and it resulted in a $10 million overcharge. Now again, as I said, those are items that weren't necessarily created on your watch, but you're in the process right now of looking forward with respect to weapons systems and I just hope you will keep that in mind. There's one other area that I just want to mention and that's in the area of medical research. Now I'm a beneficiary of the research that has been done in this country on prostate cancer and I am very thankful for that. They do a great job at NIH on prostate cancer research and any other kind of cancer research. What I don't understand is why the Military is spending $80 million a year on prostate cancer research, why we're spending $25 million a year on ovarian cancer research, and $150 million on breast cancer research, were also doing lung cancer research. Now if there are particular needs that the military has regarding particular research, and there are some because if the casualties that we have seen recently, I can understand it, but these are types of research that simply have no place, in my opinion, at DoD. They ought to be done at NIH. I understand further that there is not real coordination between the medical research done at NIH and what is done at DoD. So, Mr. Chairman, that's not an item that these gentlemen have a lot of control over but it is certainly an item that we need to look at and the money would be better spent as a replacement for sequestration. My good friend, a good friend of a lot of us, Sen. Ted Stevens, was one of the ones that first asked for prostate cancer research money to go to DoD. Several years later on the floor of the Senate he announced that he had made a mistake, he should never have done that and that money ought to be spent on research but it ought to be spent at NIH and not at the Department of Defense.

So as we go forward, gentlemen, with the Defense Authorization Bill in the next couple of weeks I look forward to seeing that list that General Dempsey gives to us, with respect to items that come out of each of your budgets that we can have the spine to stand up to, irrespective our parochial interests, we got to look after our men and women and they need this money to be spent in other areas rather than in areas where the military themselves say we don't need to spend it.

Thank you very much.

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