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Solemn Duty of Congress to Provide for Military Needs

Location: Washington, DC

SOLEMN DUTY OF CONGRESS TO PROVIDE FOR MILITARY NEEDS -- (House of Representatives - April 12, 2005)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the order of the House of January 4, 2005, the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Butterfield) is recognized during morning hour debates for 5 minutes.

Mr. BUTTERFIELD. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to join my colleague, the gentleman from Rhode Island (Mr. Langevin), to talk about the position of House Democrats, particularly those of us on the Committee on Armed Services, regarding an issue of importance to our national defense.

As a new member of the Subcommittee on Readiness, I have been privy to briefings from our combatant commanders and from the Department of Defense. The testimonies provided by these great Americans have led me to the conclusion that our military equipment located in Iraq and Afghanistan has become severely worn and damaged.

The Congress of the United States has a solemn constitutional duty to provide for our military, and the Democratic Members of the Congress take this responsibility very seriously. A sufficient part of our duty is to make sure that our troops have the equipment they need to be successful when they are engaged in war. Whether it is MREs or canteens or desert uniforms or personal protective vests or up-armored Humvees, our troops deserve to have enough equipment in good working condition to get the job done. Mr. Speaker, I am concerned that our troops are on the verge of not having the equipment they need to win these wars, and that is not good.

Many of our briefings, Mr. Speaker, are top secret, and I would not dare to breach that confidence. But, Mr. Speaker, it is not classified that the pace of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan is taking its toll on our equipment. We are simply wearing out the equipment at a fast pace.

By the Army's own estimates, trucks are wearing out at three to five times the rate as they would during peacetime operations. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the truck usage is as much as 10 times higher than average during the last 7 years. Our aircraft are aging and wearing out at twice the rate as in peacetime. The Marine Corps reports its CH-46 helicopters are being used at 230 percent of the peacetime rate.

It is not just that our equipment is wearing out, Mr. Speaker; it is that so much of our equipment is wearing out.

Forty percent of the Army's equipment has been deployed since the start of Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Thirty percent of the Marine Corps' equipment is deployed, and 2,300 items require depot maintenance. Twelve percent of the wheeled vehicles in Iraq are so broken down that they will have to be replaced.

We have also depleted a high percentage of our prepositioned equipment. The Army says that our stocks will not be reset for at least 3 years after the end of the conflicts.

Equipment casualties are significant. During the war in Iraq, the Army has lost 503 pieces of major equipment, including 51 helicopters, 76 heavy trucks, 217 Humvees, and 97 combat vehicle-like tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and Strykers.

The Marine Corps reports that 1,800 pieces of equipment valued at over $94 million have been destroyed.

Why do I mention all of these statistics? I want my colleagues and the American people to understand that we are coming dangerously close to weakening our military, and we must understand the enormity of the problem. And it must be known that it is going to take a lot of money to fix the problem.

The 2005 supplemental appropriation passed by the House earlier this year includes $554 million to replace 800 worn out or damaged pieces of equipment. The CBO estimates that the Department of Defense already needs between $13 billion and $18 billion to fund maintenance costs not covered in the budget. And the Army will require at least 2 years of supplemental appropriations after the end of the conflict in order to reset the force. I regret that the President's 2006 budget request does not include the money we need to replace and modernize our worn and lost equipment.

Mr. Speaker, the Democratic Members of the Committee on Armed Services deeply care about our troops and about our military. We must fulfill our constitutional duty to ensure that our troops have what they need to succeed wherever they are deployed. They can only succeed and we can only carry out our duty if we provide them sufficient equipment to complete their mission. That is going to be a long and expensive process.

Congress, therefore, needs to take prompt action, and I call on all of my colleagues to provide the needed support to make that happen.

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