Mr. BINGAMAN. Mr. President, I will make some comments on the defense bill that we are considering.
This defense authorization bill, as reported by the Armed Services Committee, contains essential elements to ensure that our military men and women and the equipment that we have are prepared to respond when and if needed for our national security. Funds are included in the bill that continue to modernize the force and continue to improve the quality of life for our military personnel and families.
The bill remains within the limits of last year's budget agreement. It cuts spending by about 1 percent in real terms from last year. The committee approved a budget of $270.6 billion in budget authority.
The bill represents a number of very difficult choices--choices that we had to make when we proposed increases in funding for the programs that the committee wanted to increase. For every dollar of increase, of course, we had to find funds elsewhere and, accordingly, there are some cuts in the budget that came from the administration. There are a few significant departures from funding levels in programs that were in the budget last year. In my view, it is a more `responsible' budget than we have had here on the Senate floor in several years with regard to our defense spending.
That said, the relative stability in the bill can be a good thing. It can also prevent us from moving swiftly in important directions that require a timely response. I want to speak to some of those in a moment.
At its best, the bill takes good care of the military personnel and their families. It contains a 3.1 percent pay raise, effective January 1, and three health care demonstration projects for retired military personnel, who are over 65, and for their families. These projects are designed to meet the concerns voiced by retirees who have served their country and seek equitable and quality health care services. There is a provision to enhance cooperation between the Veterans' Administration and the Department of Defense in providing health care to dual-eligible beneficiaries. There is a continuation of pilot and nuclear personnel bonuses and increased limits on certain bonuses to enhance recruitment and retention. There is increased funding for construction and upgrades of family housing. There are provisions to make it easier for military families to move when they are required to move.
For my home State of New Mexico, the bill includes significant funding for our military bases and our National Laboratories that will benefit not only my State but the Nation. It includes funds for the High Energy Laser Test Facility and the Tactical High Energy Laser Program at White Sands Missile Range. It includes funding for the high-tech research being conducted at Phillips Laboratory in Albuquerque. It includes substantial funding for the defense programs at Los Alamos and Sandia to support their work in the stockpile stewardship program, nonproliferation research and development, and nuclear security assistance programs. It includes funds for military construction projects that we have been seeking--a new support facility for National Guard in Taos, NM, refurbishment of facilities and new family housing at Kirtland Air Force Base, a new war readiness facility at Holloman Air Force Base, and a badly needed runway repair project at Cannon Air Force Base.
Mr. President, for all the good things that this bill provides for our military personnel and to the facilities in my State and to the Nation, there are still some aspects of the bill that I find troubling.
The bill continues to place relatively greater emphasis on programs that address potential, rather than actual, long-term threats for which there is no current deployment requirement. Increased spending in those areas has come at the expense of programs designed to meet near-term threats which are actual and for which validated requirements exist.
For example, the bill contains $1.1 billion for strategic missile defense programs, including national missile defense and space-based laser programs; that is an increase of $100 million over the President's request. That $1.1 billion is compared to $675 million for programs designed to reduce the threat of
proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. The committee approved cuts in funding to proliferation prevention programs at a time when India's actions, and now Pakistan's actions, remind us of the immediacy of such threats.
Information provided to the committee indicates that the intercontinental ballistic missile threat for which the national missile defense is intended is limited. The Intelligence people told our committee that such threats from rogue nations are not likely to occur for many years in the future.
The tradeoff seems clear to me. The committee prefers to allocate the lion's share of resources to meet a poorly defined threat that lies somewhere in the distant future, rather than allocating resources to meet the near-term, real world threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Particularly, the bill does not fully fund programs intended to meet the threat of proliferation of weapons grade fissile materials, highly enriched uranium, and plutonium. A small amount of any of these materials in knowledgeable hands could wreak havoc upon our cities.
It is extremely important that we continue to work cooperatively with Russia and with other former Soviet States to account for and secure former Soviet nuclear weapons and related nuclear materials.
Despite the clear and present danger of that threat, the committee chose to reduce funding for the DOD's cooperative threat reduction program, also known as the Nunn-Lugar program, by $2 million after considering much deeper cuts.
The committee cut similar programs managed by the Department of Energy by $20 million. Those programs are designed to improve the security of Russian nuclear weapons and materials and to provide protection against their theft, unauthorized use, or accidental misuse.
The Department of Energy's materials protection control and accounting program provides those security measures to a small portion of Russia's nuclear arsenal. With more funding, that program could provide greater security against the threat of smuggling dangerous materials to terrorists or rogue nations.
Instead, if the bill is passed as it stands, funding for this program--an essential program for our Nation's security now and in the future--is going to be cut. Efforts to secure hundreds of tons of nuclear materials at 53 sites will be delayed.
Mr. President, I spoke of India and Pakistan a moment ago. I would like to take a few more minutes to relate that problem to this defense bill. Shocking as India and Pakistan's nuclear tests have been, they should serve as a wakeup call to this country and to the Senate. The proliferation clock ticks on, while the Senate defers debate and consideration of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Other nonnuclear States could be reconsidering their positions on nuclear weapons in light of events in south Asia.
China, who is a signatory to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, may now choose not to ratify. The U.S: the first to sign the treaty--should have led the effort to implement a comprehensive testing ban before now. Perhaps our leadership in that area could have forestalled the tests in south Asia. Instead, the Senate has chosen not to step forward. Now we see ourselves more as a follower than as a leader in this area.
One element that could support a leadership role in ratifying a comprehensive test ban is an effective nuclear stockpile stewardship program. That program is an essential element for ensuring the safety and reliability of our nuclear weapons in the absence of testing. The directors of our National Laboratories at Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia have testified about the effectiveness of that program in the absence of nuclear testing. In spite of that testimony, this bill reduces funding by $145 million in prior year balances that, according to the DOE, no longer exist.
Without sufficient funding for the stockpile stewardship program, this bill threatens the likelihood of ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Failure to ratify that treaty plays into the hands of the Indian and Pakistani Governments and could encourage other nonnuclear nations to follow their lead. The result will be a far more dangerous world than the one we live in today.
Mr. President, I am concerned that while many of my colleagues are focused on the long-term future security issues, they may have their focus in the wrong place. Funding for basic research and development and building, the building blocks for future technological advances, continues to receive low priority in this defense budget.
It is not anticipated to increase for the foreseeable future under current Department of Defense plans.
My colleagues acknowledged when considering this bill that funding for basic research and development has often been and remains a bill payer for other programs.
Efforts to identify this problem and establish long-term spending goals for basic research were rejected during the deliberations in the committee on this bill.
I believe that the high-tech future so many of us in the Senate consider an axiom of America's future security is unlikely to become a reality in the defense area unless we make the investment that is needed in the future today.
In addition, funding for the Nation's test and evaluation facilities and their operations lags behind efforts to modernize our weapons.
I have seen this with personnel cuts, neglect of infrastructure, and aging instrumentation at White Sands Missile Range in my State. These cuts reflect a low priority that has been given to the testing activities across the Department of Defense in this budget.
These cuts suggest that even if our technical genius continues to provide new technological opportunities, we may not be able to adequately evaluate whether they will actually work as intended.
Mr. President, I am concerned about the inertia contained in this bill. I believe that in many ways it fails to meet our most immediate high priority security concerns. It may also fail to lay a sound scientific foundation for the long-term security needs of our country.
I urge my colleagues to consider these large issues as we consider the bill this week. We have an opportunity to fix some of these problems. I hope we are able to do so. I intend to have one or more amendments to offer later in the week which will help us to accomplish that.
Mr. President, let me yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum at this point.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so ordered.