Inhofe offers positive words on BRAC projects, Obama picks
BY MITCH MEADOR
STAFF WRITER MMEADOR@LAWTON-CONSTITUTION.COM
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe remains upbeat about the future of Fort Sill and the Non-Line of Sight (NLOS) Cannon after touring new construction on post Monday.
Speaking to a group of area business leaders, Inhofe said Maj. Gen. Peter M. Vangjel, commander of the Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill, took him around to see the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) construction, and he was amazed by the progress that had occurred since he was here five weeks ago.
"A couple of the big buildings weren't out of the ground ... and now they're up," said Inhofe, noting that he came at an interesting time because he got to see modular units as they were brought in and stacked up. Once the exterior goes on, they will look just like any other permanent building.
Inhofe said he tries to visit all five of the Oklahoma military installations at least every other month, because when the defense authorization bill comes up for consideration in January, "you'd be surprised how much more persuasive it is if the member of the Armed Services Committee who's making these decisions has actually been there, touched it, walked through it, as opposed to some guy who's just gotten a briefing from the staff."
"So many things are going on right now. There is no place else in America that is doing as much as Fort Sill is doing right now in terms of new missions," said Inhofe, adding that much of the work is ahead of schedule.
"And we have an ambitious program that is going to support Air Defense as well as all the other missions that are coming through, and the transitional ones, the warriors who are coming through, who are now going to get the training here as well as the transition. Good things are happening, better here than any place else," he said.
Inhofe reassured Elgin Mayor Larry Thoma that, insofar as the NLOS Cannon is concerned, "I think we're going to stay on schedule." While Inhofe said Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. have not been the strongest supporters of the Future Combat System (FCS), "this first element, which we're able to get as No. 1, before any of the other 15 elements - we're so far along now that that's not going to change. And I've talked to some of the people who will be advising them on this, and I think that's going to work out."
Inhofe went on MSNBC Monday evening to talk about the cost of FCS - somewhere between $165 billion and $200 billion - versus the bailout.
"Seventy-five of our United States senators voted to throw away $700 billion. I'm glad to see my banker nodding at that, because that's exactly what happened," said Inhofe, criticizing Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson for promising he was going to use the $700 billion to buy damaged assets and then reversing himself.
"All these senators who are complaining about the bailout of the American auto system, I'm reminding them that they're the very ones who voted to give the president that ability to go in there and do it," he said.
Retired Maj. Gen. David C. Ralston congratulated Inhofe on his re-election and praised the work he does for Oklahoma. The senator proceeded to tell it like it is, mentioning that he was one of the ranking Republican committee members who have gotten cell phone calls from Presidentelect Barack Obama, who is "very much concerned about what we're going to be doing with the transportation authorization bill that's coming up."
Inhofe said he was "surprised - pleasantly surprised" when he saw the appointments Obama made having to do with the military.
"I mean, keeping Gates on. That just blew my mind. And of course Gen. Jim Jones, (the National Security adviser). I just got back from Afghanistan a couple of weeks ago, and I spent that week with him (as) they were going around and trying to put these partnerships together to get the economy moving there, and there's no one that I have a higher regard for than Gen. Jones," Inhofe said.
Retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, whose name Obama has put in the hopper for Veterans Affairs secretary, was controversial as chief of staff of the Army, but Inhofe said he turned out to be right when he predicted the Army would have to double its troop strength in Iraq.
Not all of Obama's appointments meet with Inhofe's approval.
"There were a couple of bad ones," he said, naming two examples: Steven Chu, the nuclear physicist nominated to be energy secretary, and Carol Browner, head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Bill Clinton, tabbed for White House energy czar.
Inhofe recalled that eight years ago, when President George W. Bush came into office and the Republicans were in the majority, he was chairing a meeting on live television, and he looked at Browner and said to her, "Madam administrator, has it occurred to you that this is the last time in our lifetimes we'll have to be in the same room again?"
"And she said, ‘I don't know who is going to enjoy that more, you or me.'
"Now we're back in the same room after eight years have passed. And she's as bad as it gets," Inhofe quipped.
"Steven Chu has said we need to get rid of all coal, not tomorrow but yesterday. All coal. I mean, 53 percent of the energy to run this machine we call America is coal. And you can't do it. And hopefully they won't be quite as extreme," Inhofe said.
As the most vocal opponent of "global warming" theories, he says he can produce more than 650 scientists who have rethought their position and says he's willing to debate anybody on this issue.
"Even if CO2 and man-made gases were a major contributor to global warming ... then does it make sense that we would unilaterally, as the United States of America, punish ourselves economically - no one argues with the figure of $300 billion a year, minimum figure. At the same time, we are pushing more of our manufacturing base overseas to countries like India and Mexico and places where they don't have any restrictions, and so you have a net increase in CO2," Inhofe said.
Elsewhere in his talk, Inhofe touched on his Ethiopian granddaughter, Zegita Marie Rapert. She was three days old when he found her, almost dead, and his daughter adopted her. She spoke at the African dinner given on the same day as the National Prayer Breakfast last year, "and she brought the house down." She recently told her Ethiopian godfather on the phone she's going to give her speech again this year, "but it's going to be much longer."