Mr. President, first, I thank the distinguished chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee for his remarks, and also the distinguished Senator from Arizona.
I would like to start off by saying, I was elected to the other body in 1986. In 1987, a very distinguished Congressman, Dick Armey, came up with the whole idea of how to get rid of excess infrastructure, using this system that should be free of political influence, or as free as possible. I supported it and voted for it. I went through four BRAC rounds. The first one was in 1988, the second one was in 1991, the third in 1993, and the fourth was in 1995.
During that period of time, it worked very well. We closed or realigned some 300 installations but 97 specific major installations were closed. There was a lot of pain that went with that. There were probably a few people who were defeated on the basis of that. But, nonetheless, the idea he had worked.
I made the statement during that time that with regard to the installations we have in my State of Oklahoma, if they came out through this process and said they, in fact, wanted to do something, and it was necessary to close a classified, excess infrastructure in one of my installations, I would support that statement. As it turned out, it did not happen.
There are three major reasons, that even though what my colleagues have said sounds very good—and I believe most of it is true and factual; and I know they believe it—but three things are different today than were in those four BRAC rounds.
No. 1, I look across the Chamber and I can see a chart that makes reference to the fact that the threat is different since September 11. Well, I will not belabor that point because I was not on the floor and I assume that point has been made.
When you talk about the threat that is out there, you are talking about a threat that could not have been foreseen 10 years ago or even 5 years ago or even 3 years ago. It is a totally different threat.
I can remember sitting in a hearing when we had expert testimony by individuals who were saying at that time that we will no longer need ground forces in 10 years. That was 10 years ago, and we have had two major victories—primarily on the ground—in the last year. So these things were not foreseen at that time. The change in the threat is going to cause us to make other adjustments.
The second thing that I have strong feelings about is this: I was listening to the distinguished Senator from Michigan talk about the amount of money that has been saved. I would question that. There are a lot of cleanups that have not been concluded yet. We hear glowing figures about how much is going to be saved by each installation that is closed. Some installation closings have resulted in no savings whatsoever. But there is one thing that is a certainty; and that is, when you close an installation, for the first 2 or 3 or 4 years, it is going to cost a lot of money. For that reason, and that reason alone, I would want to adopt this amendment so we do not have a 2005 BRAC round because we do not have any idea how many installations will be closed and how much money that will cost us.
Right now we are in a crisis in our defense system. I know a lot of people do not like to say this. A lot of people do not believe it. But we went through the last administration, when the proper attention was not given to defending America, and a lot of people had this great euphoria that the cold war was over and thinking there was no longer a threat out there and that we could cut down the size of our military; and, as the Senator from Arizona said, we did cut it down from some 3 million troops to 1.4 million. I am certain a mistake was made.
Now we look at the problems we have in our military and they go all the way across the board. No. 1, we have inadequate troop strength. We know that. That is a fact. We can’t do what has to be done in Iraq and other places and have enough reserve for a contingency that might happen in North Korea, Syria, or any other place. This is something that has concerned us.
No. 2, force strength deficiency is resulting in a crisis in our reserve component. Our Guard and Reserves are all overworked. They are unable to carry on the responsibilities they have. We can’t expect the employers to continue with all these deployments and pay these people, hold these jobs, particularly in an economy that is not robust. This problem is serious.
A third problem that took place over the last administration was a slowing down of our modernization program. I have said in the Senate that we are sending our troops out to fight on the ground with artillery that is World War II technology. The best thing we have in artillery right now operating is called Paladin. Paladin technology came about in the 1950s. When you tell people you have to get out and swab the breach after every shot, they don’t believe you until they see that is the case. There are four countries, including South Africa, making artillery pieces better than that which we have.
Then with all of these problems out there, we find out that the threats are greater today than they were during the cold war. People don’t like to hear that, but back in the cold war, we had one great threat. That was the Soviet Union. We were the two superpowers. They were predictable. We knew what each other had. We developed a program under a Republican administration that I did not agree with. That was a program of mutual assured destruction. That is, I will make you a deal: You don’t defend yourself against us and anincoming missile; We will not defend ourselves. So if you fire on us, we will fire on you. Everybody dies and everybody is happy.
That seemed fairly reasonable at that time. Now we have a little sense of the changing threat out there and recognize it is not coming from one place. We have some 20 countries that have weapons of mass destruction or that are developing them. It is not something we can quantify now as to what kind of force structure we need.
That brings me to my second point one more time. While we don’t know how much savings will be effected, we do know it is going to cost millions and millions of dollars for every installation that is closed. We cannot afford it now. We cannot afford to leave our force structure where it is, our modernization program where it is. We cannot allow the Russians, who are selling on the open market their S.U. series that are better than our F-15s and F-16s—we want to give our troops, the most capable troops in the world, the resources and modern resources to make sure they have something that is better than the enemy has.
The third reason it is very significant is, we are going to rebuild. We have been asking the administration to give us as much detail as to what our future force structure should look like. I am not criticizing them for not being able to come back with it because this is a moving target. We have threats that are out there we didn’t have before. We have to learn how to accommodate these threats and how to combat them. Until such time as we know what the force structure is going to look like, I don’t believe we should be closing any infrastructure. If we have an inadequate force structure right now that is down to here and we have perhaps more infrastructure, it does not make sense to bring the infrastructure down to an inadequate force structure and then build that up and wonder, wait a minute, why do we have something that can’t be used.
So for that reason, until we find out what our force structure is going to look like, we don’t know what remaining installations will be needed. Let’s stop and remember, we had 97 major installations that have been closed. That is behind us. We supported that. Those were the four BRAC rounds. We are now to a point where we do not know what the threat is going to be. We don’t know how we will have to rebuild our force structure and our system. So we don’t know what kind of infrastructure it is going to take to accommodate that.
These three reasons were not present in 1989. They were not present in 1991, 1993, and 1995. But they are present today. So we have to face this crisis, which we will, and rebuild our military. And when we get to the point where we know what it is going to look like and how to adequately defend against this new threat, we had no idea it would be out there as recently as 3 or 4 years ago, then it is time to maybe look and reevaluate where we might be. It would be premature to do it at this time.
I support the amendment. These are three very good reasons that were not present in the future rounds.
Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.