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National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2010

Floor Speech

Date: July 23, 2009
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Defense



Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, I rise today in strong support of the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act. Let me begin by thanking the committee's distinguished chairman, Senator Levin, and ranking member, Senator McCain, for their leadership in crafting this bill and for their strong commitment to our Nation's Armed Forces.

This legislation will provide essential training, equipment, and support to our troops as they engage in combat overseas and in exercises at home. The legislation will provide critical force protection to our men and women in uniform; help restore our military's readiness; and continue the development of technologies to counter existing and emerging threats. This is a critical time in our nation's history and the committee has, once again, demonstrated its strong support of our soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines and their families.

It also offers an important opportunity for continued debate as to our Nation's strategy in Afghanistan. The legislation we are now debating contains an amendment that Senator Ben Nelson and I offered during committee markup to express the sense of Congress that the administration should review any previously established measures of progress and establish further measures of progress for both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Our proposal was approved unanimously by the Senate Armed Services Committee. It represents a significant bipartisan call for the administration to establish clearly defined policy objectives for Afghanistan as our nation sends more troops and billions of additional dollars to the region.

Time and again, I have expressed serious reservations about sending more troops to Afghanistan without clear, specific benchmarks. The President needs to provide clear, measurable goals for Afghanistan and the region. I have raised my concerns with top Pentagon officials, including Commander of U.S. Central Command General David Petreaus and Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal about the risks in sending additional troops to Afghanistan. I have no doubts at all about the courage and skill of our men and women in uniform. They are simply the best in the world. I have considerable doubts about whether the President's strategy can succeed.

The legislation before us also includes a strong commitment to strengthening Navy shipbuilding. A robust Navy budget is of critical importance. Our nation needs a strong and modern naval fleet in order to counter existing and emerging threats.

For several years, military leaders have documented a minimum national requirement for 313 ships to support our Navy and Marine Corps. Unfortunately, however, the Navy's fleet has declined to 283 ships. I am deeply concerned by the decreasing size of the Navy fleet and have worked to increase the funding allocated to shipbuilding. This legislation is an important step toward reversing that troubling decline.

As the threats from around the world continue to grow, it is vitally important that the Navy have the best fleet available to counter those threats, keep the sealanes open, and to defend our Nation. Bath Iron Works and the shipyards of this country are ready to build whatever ships the Navy needs. It is vitally important that there not be a gap in shipbuilding that jeopardizes our industrial base. That is what this legislation works to accomplish.

The instability and inadequacy of previous naval shipbuilding budgets have had a troubling impact on our shipbuilding industrial base and has contributed to significant cost growth in the Navy's shipbuilding programs. The 313-ship plan, combined with more robust funding by Congress, will begin to reverse the decline in Navy shipbuilding.

This bill authorizes $1 billion in funding for construction of the third DDG-1000 and honors the agreement the Navy negotiated to build all three ships at Bath Iron Works, BIW. The Pentagon's preference to have BIW build all three of the DDG-1000s demonstrates confidence in BIW, should ensure stable work for the shipyard, and should also help to stabilize production costs for the Navy.

That same confidence was also demonstrated this May when Defense Secretary Robert Gates toured BIW, the first official tour of our shipyard by a Defense Secretary since the 1950s. Secretary Gates said that what impressed him most during his tour was BIW's ability to innovate and the pride and professionalism of its workforce. Maine has a long and proud history of innovation and creativity, and BIW represents Maine ingenuity at its best. Secretary Gates's statement that the men and women of BIW will have consistent work for years into the future was a very welcome acknowledgement of the yard's accomplishments.

In addition, this legislation authorizes $2.2 billion for continued DDG-51 procurement and nearly $150 million for the DDG-51 modernization program.

Our bill also includes a provision that repeals a requirement enacted in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 that would require all future surface combatants to have nuclear propulsion systems. The provision allows the Navy to conduct analyses of requirements capabilities for new ship classes without biasing the analyses in favor of one propulsion option or another. Continuing this requirement would dramatically increase the costs of large surface combatants, reduce the overall number of ships that could be built at a time when the Navy is seeking to revitalize and modernize its fleet, and would undermine the Chief of Naval Operations 313-ship plan.

Our Senate bill also includes funding for additional littoral combat ships.
While this program has suffered a number of setbacks, the Navy, with the help of Congress, has taken significant steps in order to better oversee this program. These ships are important for the Navy in order to counter new, asymmetric threats, and the Navy needs to get these ships to the fleet soon.

The Senate's fiscal 2010 Defense authorization bill also includes funding for other defense-related projects that benefit Maine and our national security.

The bill authorizes $28 million for a new aircraft hangar at the Bangor Air National Guard base in Bangor, ME. This new hangar is essential for the Maine Air National Guard and will replace the 55-year-old building the guard now uses. With the construction of a new hangar, the Maine Air Guard will be able to better maintain its aircraft.

The bill also authorizes $7.1 million for Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to be used for security improvements at Gate No. 2. The money will be used to install new antiterrorism and protection measures at the guard house that will improve security.

Funding also is provided for machine guns and grenade launchers, both of which are manufactured by the highly skilled workers at Saco Defense in Saco, ME.

In addition, the legislation authorizes $10.5 million for the University of Maine. This funding would support continued research and development of light weight modular ballistic tent insert panels designed by the University of Maine's Army Center of Excellence in Orono. These panels provide crucial protection to servicemembers in temporary dining and housing facilities in mobile forward operating bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The funding would also support continued research and development of high temperature sensors for health monitoring of aerospace components. These sensors are capable of sensing physical properties such as temperature, pressure, corrosion and vibration in critical aerospace components.

And, the bill would also support continued research and development of cellulose nanocomposites panels for enhanced blast and ballistic protection as well as provide for woody biomass conversion to JP-8 Fuel.

Finally, I am pleased that this bipartisan Defense bill also authorizes a 3.4- percent across-the-board pay increase for servicemembers, half a percent above the President's budget request.

This bill provides the vital resources to our troops and our nation and recognizes the enormous contributions made by the State of Maine to our national security. The bill provides the necessary funding for our troops, and I offer it my full support.