I speak today in support of America's most capable long-range-strike aircraft, the B-2 bomber. The B-2 is not just a bomber. When most people think of bombers, they think of World War II airpower films, with scores of bombers flying in tight formation, dropping strings of iron bombs on rail lines and oil refineries. The B-2 is more than a bomber. It is a long-range-strike aircraft, capable of reaching anywhere in the world and releasing highly sophisticated, explosive weapons with uncommon precision on specific targets. Unlike the bombers of old, which often missed their targets by miles, the B-2 strike aircraft can hit as many as 16 separate aim points, with deadly accuracy, in a single pass.
Mr. President, it defies convention to think of the B-2, with its high sticker cost, as a cost-effective weapon. Only when we stop thinking of the B-2 as a bomber, and instead think of it as a long-range-strike weapons system, do we realize that it is, indeed, the most cost-effective weapons system in our Nation's arsenal which can realistically be used to protect our citizens, our interests, and our allies around the world. It is the only weapons system that combines long-range, large payload, modern precision weapons, and stealth--a revolutionary and powerful combination.
Since the end of the cold war, we have come to recognize that we no longer live in a bipolar world. Threats to our national security have taken on both familiar and unfamiliar forms: renewed territorial aggression, simmering regional and ethnic conflicts, state-sponsored terrorism, and now, for the first time since the Middle Ages, stateless terrorism. We send our forces abroad to protect air bases and oil fields and our sons and daughters are attacked by religious zealots. We all vividly recall the loss of life at our military barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. It was attacked, not by the Iraqi forces we seek to deter, but by nameless terrorists from Iran, or from Lebanon, or from internal Saudi opposition groups, or from God knows where. With the B-2, the forward air bases would not be needed; the oil fields could be protected from afar.
What happened when Saddam Hussein attacked the U.N.-protected Kurdish safe zone in northern Iraq? We attacked Baghdad and southern Iraq. Because the leadership in Jordan, in Saudi Arabia, in Turkey, and in other countries, where we have shorter range aircraft, was concerned with stirring up public opinion, United States forces were denied the freedom to launch counter strikes from air bases on their territory. With the B-2, we could have struck Saddam Hussein's forces in the North, from bases in the United States.
The Secretary of Defense stated in his annual report for fiscal year 1996: `Because potential regional adversaries may be able to mount military threats against their neighbors with little or no warning, American forces must be postured to project power rapidly to support United States interests and allies.' Clearly, the most appropriate weapon in our arsenal for rapid power projection is the B-2 long-range-strike aircraft. Yet, because of legislation--which has now been repealed--we currently have only two squadrons of B-2's. In order to meet effectively our basic strategic objectives, just nine more B-2's, bringing the total to three squadrons, are essential. Mr. President, we must restart this program; we must provide funding for the B-2 this year.
The B-2--a long-range, precision-strike aircraft--is the best, and perhaps only, option available to us to counter emerging threats in our security environment. We are not able to spend as much for defense as we have in the past, causing us to decrease our presence abroad and base more of our forces here at home. This, in turn, limits our forward presence
and ability to rapidly respond to a crisis elsewhere in the world. In addition, access to foreign bases, closer to theaters of conflict, has become more and more uncertain. And above all, weapons of mass destruction and accurate delivery systems are becoming more prolific, possibly held by rogue states and organized terrorists alike. These chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons could be used with devastation to attack American ground, naval, and air forces based within a theater of conflict.
How does the B-2 respond to these challenges? The B-2 uses stealth technology, technology more effective than that employed on F-117 fighter bombers in the gulf war. As you recall, these planes were the key to securing the advantage immediately in the air war and remained impossible for the Iraqis to stop. However, the B-2 is a more powerful and flexible weapon, and offers several advantages over the F-117.
First, it is a long-range system. The B-2 can fly anywhere in the world, from bases in the United States, with only one refueling. These factors also make the B-2 an important tool for deterrence, allowing the President the ability to strike anywhere in the world immediately. Thus, a counterstrike can be launched from the United States, as soon as the threat is apparent, without reliance on foreign bases, or troop buildup.
Second, the B-2 carries a bigger, more accurate payload than the F-117. The precision bombs carried by the B-2 use GPS-aided targeting systems, and GPS-aided munitions [GATS/GAM], which enables up to 16 independent points to be targeted with extreme accuracy, in 1 pass. This precision is an important counter to the mobile and relocatable nature of many of our new potential enemies, such as scud missiles or terrorist encampments. The local release of a strike allows last minute adjustments to account for local conditions, or target movement. This is not possible with cruise missiles. In addition, delivering a strike via bomber also allows difficult targets, like the dark side of a mountain, or underground bunkers, to be attacked and destroyed.
One of the most important points to make about the B-2 is that it will reduce the number of American soldiers put in harm's way, and ultimately reduce casualties. Because the President can choose to respond immediately, or preemptively, engagement in a conflict or its escalation, may be avoided. Because the aircraft is launched from outside the theater, all support personnel and equipment are also outside the theater of conflict. Because the B-2 utilizes stealth, the need for escort aircraft, which are also theater-based, is eliminated. I have read several estimates about the value of stealth and precision weapons, and one that sticks in my mind is that one B-2 bomber has the combat power of 75 non-Stealth aircraft.
This last statistic illustrates another important factor in our consideration to build nine additional B-2's: the program will provide cost savings in the long run. This may be hard to believe, when we are talking about aircraft that cost $850 million each to build, but as I have explained--the B-2 requires less support; is more precise, requiring fewer sorties to accomplish the task; and, may reduce the need for further massive troop and aircraft involvement. Air Force analysis shows that, operating independently, free of the requirement for fighter escorts, electronic jamming aircraft, and tankers, a single B-2 with two crew members can accomplish missions currently requiring 75 tactical aircraft and 147 crew members. The B-2's ability to penetrate air defenses, without the usual armada of support aircraft, means that we can, in some mission areas, replace dozens of aircraft with one bomber, potentially saving billions of dollars over the long run.
Mr. President, the American bomber force currently relies most heavily on two aging conventional bomber aircraft--the B-52 and the B-1. In order to maintain mission safety while attacking specific, above ground targets, these bombers must use cruise missiles. These missiles are more expensive--the 44 cruise missiles fired against Iraq during the gulf war cost more than $100 million--over 100 times more expensive than what an equivalent number of precision, direct-attack weapons, delivered by the B-2, would cost. Moreover, these missiles are
less effective--current-generation cruise missiles cannot be used against mobile or heavily hardened targets. The B-2 long-range-strike aircraft is cost effective.
Mr. President, the last B-52 was built 35 years ago. It has been a very successful aircraft, but it will not last forever. As we look to the future, with the retirement of B-52's and the withdrawal of the B-1 from active service, the B-2 will be the only long-range aircraft in the Air Force inventory. That is why the B-2 program also represents an important opportunity for the United States to maintain superiority in a critical field of production. This program is the only remaining component of the combat aircraft manufacturing industry in California. By building the remainder of the third squadron, the production lines would stay open another 10 years. Not only would this sustain American know-how in this important industry, but would also save tens of thousands of jobs within aerospace and related industries. When we buy the B-2 we are not only buying the best long-range-strike aircraft in the world, we are also investing in the industrial capacity to produce them. We preserve the industrial base, while preserving the ability to project power anywhere in the world to protect American interests.
Another important cost factor to consider is what we have already invested in this revolutionary weapons system. If we do not have the foresight to approve the remaining nine bombers now, the costs to restart this program will be much greater in the future, as the need becomes more critical. Planning ahead will allow us to get more value from the money and effort already committed to this project.
Mr. President, earlier, I mentioned Saddam Hussein's aggression against the Kurds last fall, as an example of new threats to our national security. This is especially true since administration officials have stated that we should expect to contend with Saddam on a yearly basis from now on. In response to Saddam's movements against the Kurds, on September 3, 1996, we attacked targets in the southern regions of Iraq. It would have been more effective to strike the Republican Guard, which was the actual threat to the Kurds in the north, or the hardened command and control centers of the Iraqi leadership in Baghdad. However, our insufficient response to Saddam's assault resulted from a lack of options available to us.
Because Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Turkey each indicated that they would not permit American aircraft from launching air strikes from bases in their countries, we were forced to use other options not dependent on foreign governments: carrier airpower, bombers, and cruise missiles. The inherent limitations of each of these options imposed constraints on where and what we could attack--the northern targets were out of range of carrier-launched missions and, because the targets were mobile, cruise missiles could not be used. The most important targets in Baghdad were too heavily protected for conventional, non-Stealth aircraft delivering cruise missiles that, in any event, could not penetrate underground bunkers. Thus, we had to choose targets that were easier to attack: fixed targets, which were above ground and not hardened and, therefore, vulnerable to cruise missile attacks within range of carrier-based aircraft in the southern no-fly zone.
In order to more effectively attack Saddam and punish his aggressive actions, we would have had to use a stealth weapon to elude detection by Iraqi air defense; a long-range weapon, not based in a foreign country; and a precise weapon to strike the mobile and hardened targets presented in Iraq. Our B-2 is this weapon. It is the only tool in our arsenal that allows us to respond to the new threats we face in an unequivocal and decisive fashion.
What about those who say we don't need any more B-2 bombers? The issue of our bomber capacity was addressed in the Department of Defense Heavy Bomber Force Study. This study concluded that our current force would be sufficient through sometime around 2015. I was very disappointed with the conclusions of this study, not only because I believe the
study was fundamentally flawed and based on unrealistic assumptions, but also because I believe the B-2 is the most vital weapon of our future.
The study utilizes a scenario of two regional conflicts, but assumes that our enemies would be incredibly considerate of our needs. It was assumed that we would have a 14-day advanced warning of an enemy attack, allowing time to deploy our forces; that the two regional conflicts would not be simultaneous, so our bombers could be used in both conflicts; and that no weapons of mass destruction would be used to poison the ground and air in the area where we would intend to deploy our troops. These were the assumptions.
I ask my colleagues, with the furor aroused in the American populace by the gulf war syndrome and the conflicting stories which have emerged from the Pentagon, is there anyone who still believes that we would deploy forces into an area where we suspect the enemy has released chemical or biological weapons? What is to prevent an enemy from discharging chemical or biological agents in an area prior to the initiation of open hostilities? Would our troops be able to deploy into the theater of conflict without interference? Could they set up and operate air bases and troop reception centers while under the threat of chemical or biological weapons? I am confident that the answers point to the urgent need for long-range-strike aircraft and support the acquisition of nine more B-2 aircraft.
The heavy bomber study also made some broad assumptions about other factors that may or may not be in our control. The study assumes that we will be able to move our troops and equipment faster than we ever have before; that all of our allies will be on board and welcome foreign troops into their bases and ports; that our forward locations will also be conveniently located near the regional conflicts; and that our current equipment, including bombers built in the 1950's and 1960's, will be available and fully functional. Altogether, these are awfully big leaps of faith to make about uncertain enemies and unlikely conditions in the future.
If any one of the unrealistic assumptions does not hold true, the B-2 becomes our primary weapon and our only practical option. It is the only system that is not vulnerable to surprise attack. It is the only system that is independent of support aircraft based in the theater of conflict. It is the only system that is capable of operating beyond the range of weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. President, we have also learned that our allies do not always cooperate readily with our requests to use bases in their countries, or fly through their airspace, when answering aggression--again, examples are the United States raid on Libya in 1986 in response to terrorist bombings and the attack on Iraq last year when organized Iraqi forces attacked Kurds in northern Iraq. To give the President the best option to protect American interests and citizens, while reducing to a minimum the risk to American soldiers, we need to have the most effective tool available--an independent, global, precision strike system. We need to give him this option and take advantage of the most advanced technology available; we must approve funding in order to complete the third squadron of B-2's.
Mr. President, I am no military expert. But those whom I know and trust, men such as retired Air Force General Charles Horner, who ran the air campaign in the gulf war, have determined that three squadrons of B-2's represent the minimum operational capacity required to meet our basic military objectives. In order to halt an invasion from bases at home, and to conduct a strategic air campaign, like that of the gulf war, from bases at home, the Air Force needs three squadrons of B-2's. These three squadrons are also critical to neutralizing weapons of mass destruction and theater ballistic missiles; establishing air superiority and attacking enemy airfields; and suppressing enemy air defenses; all of which then enable the deployment of forces to the theater when necessary.
Mr. President, history shows us that surprise attacks, both strategic and terrorist, do happen and are very effective--Pearl Harbor and Korea, as well as the attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut, and on our installation in Dhahran--are poignant examples of our past failures. We dare not fail again. We need to plan for surprise--to equip our military forces with the ability to blunt or defeat an attack anywhere, at any time, and with weapons that we will actually use and which others believe we will actually use. That means conventional explosives delivered with great accuracy and with immediacy and with little risk of U.S. casualties. That means the B-2 long-range-strike aircraft.
Mr. President, with the B-2, our ability to respond effectively to diffuse global threats, through the projection of American power, is secure; without it, our foreign policy is one of dependence on others, our interests are hostage to public opinion in foreign countries, and our soldiers, whom we send to defend our interests abroad, are needlessly imperiled.
Mr. President, I call upon my colleagues to support the acquisition of nine more B-2 aircraft, to establish the minimal, militarily effective force of three squadrons.