Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, today we had a very interesting hearing where we had General Casey and Secretary Geren and others before the Armed Services Committee. I want to make sure that before we leave on this recess we have one more chance to talk about the significance of the McConnell-Stevens emergency supplemental appropriations bill. It is vital to our troops overseas, and it is important to the future of our Armed Forces.
As Senator McConnell stated earlier today--and I am quoting now--he said:
Because we have a responsibility to provide this funding to our men and women in uniform as they attempt to protect the American people, we need to get a clean troop funding bill to the President.
I would like to associate myself with these words and these remarks and also express my support for the supplemental he has sponsored.
The emergency supplemental offered by the Democrats, on the other hand, is the epitome of everything that is wrong with the 110th Congress. It is a bill we all know does not have the 60 votes needed to pass. This is not new to this Congress. We have had 61 votes related to Iraq measures; 29 of those votes were here in the Senate. If those on the other side of the aisle want to continue to play politics, now is not the time to do it.
The current war supplemental expires in 2 days--now, the reason I know that is true is that happens to be expiring on my birthday--which I hope I don't--and the Department of Defense will be required to start pulling from their non-wartime budget to pay for ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I understand that some of my colleagues want us out of Iraq regardless of what the facts on the ground may be, but not sending a clean supplemental bill to the President before we go home for the Thanksgiving recess is an absolute travesty. Forcing the Department of Defense to start reprogramming funds to keep our brave men and women fully equipped in Iraq and Afghanistan will jeopardize our efforts to maintain, sustain, and transform our Armed Forces, not to mention create an accounting nightmare. We went through this once before and we saw the trauma that resulted from it.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, in a November 8 letter, stated that a delay in war funding would force us in December to begin preparing to close facilities, laying off Department of Defense civilian employees, and delaying contracts. According to England, it would completely drain the Army's operations and maintenance accounts by the end of January, and the training of the Iraqi security forces will be delayed without this supplemental.
While fighting the war on terror, we cannot forget about our efforts to sustain and transform our Armed Forces. Pulling money away from such projects will cost us dividends in the future. We talked about that this morning, that we have a lot of things that are happening for our ground forces. We have the future combat systems we are involved in right now, and we cannot allow FCS to keep sliding as it does.
Other countries that are potential adversaries would be in a position actually to have better equipment than we do. A good case in point would be our best artillery piece happens to be called a Paladin. It is World War II technology. It is actually one where, after every round, you have to get out and swab the breech. People do not realize that. There is an assumption out there in America that America has the best of everything--the best strike vehicles, the best lift vehicles--and it is just not true. We do not. But this is one of the problems we will have if we do not continue to fund these efforts.
I have a hard time understanding why now, of all times, we would withhold funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why now, when we are turning the corner in Iraq and our troops are making remarkable progress under the leadership of General Petraeus, would we hand the enemy off, tell them to lay low until December of 2008, and you can have the country then?
This proposed emergency supplemental by the Democrats sends the wrong message to our troops fighting in Iraq and in Afghanistan. It tells them: We will give you the funding to fight your war, but we don't believe in what you are doing.
I do not presume to speak for every American service man and woman fighting overseas, but I have met with a great many of them and have spoken with many of the families back home. It is kind of interesting that I have had the opportunity--and I say opportunity in a very sincere way--to have visited the area of responsibility of Iraq more than any other Member; actually, some 15 times, and I will be returning there in 2 more weeks. So when I talk about the military, these are the ones whom I have talked to on the ground. I watched Ramadi change from the al-Qaida declared capital to Iraqi control. That was a year ago right now when they declared Ramadi would become the terrorist capital of the world. I can remember Fallujah, when we were going from door to door, our marines, who were doing a great job. It is now completely secure, but not by Americans. It is secure by the Iraqi security forces.
I visited the Patrol Base Murray south of Baghdad and met with local Iraqis who came forward and established provisional units of neighborhood security volunteers. These individuals heard that the Americans were coming and were waiting to greet them when they arrived.
I watched these Neighborhood Watch and Concerned Citizens groups take root in Anbar Province--I think everyone realizes now that Anbar Province is kind of the success story over there--local civilians who were willing to take back their cities and their provinces. These citizens actually go out and paint circles around un-detonated IEDs and RPGs, and it is something they are doing so we don't have to do it. Now in Iraq, in visiting the joint security stations, you see that our kids, instead of going back to the green zone in Baghdad, for example, go out and actually live with the Iraqi security forces and develop intimate relationships with them. When you see these operations take place, it is very gratifying.
We had the report yesterday up in 407 in a security environment about the successes in Iraq, and while that was a classified briefing, the information they gave is not classified. When you look, you can compare, as shown here--and I wish I had a chart so it could be shown--October of 2005, the Iraqi security forces had 1 division headquarters, 4 brigade headquarters, and 23 battalions they were leading in their own areas of responsibility. Now, 2 years later, in October of 2007, the Iraqi security forces have 10 division headquarters, 33 brigade headquarters, and 85 battalions. It shows that two-thirds of the entire area we have in Baghdad is now under control and under security. More than 67,000 Iraqis are serving as the concerned local citizens assisting coalitions and Iraqi security forces to secure their own neighborhoods.
Locals in Baghdad's east Rashid district are helping secure forces and locate IEDs. All of these things are going on right now.
I want to wind up. I know the majority leader has time he wants to share with us. But I have to say that Lieutenant General Odierno stated on November 1:
Over the past four months, attacks and security incidents have continued to decline. This trend represents the longest continuous decline in attacks on record.
None of this is to say the war is over. We understand that. But I would have to say this: When I listened to my very good friend, the senior Senator from Massachusetts, talk about the doom and gloom, the facts that he cited just flat aren't true. We are winning. We are aggressively winning. Good things are happening. I have to say you don't get that from reading reports. You need to go over there and look for yourself.
The senior Senator from Massachusetts and I agree on a lot of things. He has been very active with me on doing something about the Western Sahara problem. He is concerned about what Joseph Coney is doing in northern Uganda. We are together on a lot of things. But as far as Iraq is concerned, he has never made a trip--not one. I have been to A.O.R. 15 times. You have to go over there. I see it as our responsibility as Members of this Senate body. We are encouraged to go over by the military because this encourages our troops who are over there. When you go, they look at you in the eyes and they say: Why is it a lot of the American people don't agree with what we are doing over here? They know there were actually several terrorist training camps in Iraq prior to the time we were over there. In one they were teaching people how to hijack airplanes. All of those are closed down now. It has been a very significant thing. Nothing is more important than continuing along the lines of victory as we are today and finishing the job we have been carrying on in Iraq.
I applaud all of the young people over there. I said today in this hearing that I was a product of the draft and I always felt we would never be able to conduct this type of activity unless we had compulsory service. I have always supported compulsory service. But when I go over and I see these young volunteers, all of them total volunteers who are over there, the dedication they have, the commitment they have, I get very excited and I realize I was wrong. Those guys are doing a great job and we don't need to have compulsory service because we have great, dedicated Americans who are volunteering on a daily basis. The retention rates have never been higher than they are right now. Those individuals who come to the end of their term are re-upping in numbers and in statistics we have never seen before. So good things are happening. We need to get this supplemental finished so we can have the continuity of funding over there and not have to rob other areas of our defense system. I am hoping we will be able to do this.
I thank you very much for the time.
I yield the floor.