Monday, August 6, 2007

National Security Legislative Wrap-up, July 30-August 4 2007

Congress is now in recess until September 4. Before leaving town, the House approved the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Appropriations bill but did not vote on the Iraq war.



The House of Representatives approved the bill late August 4 by a vote of 395 - 13. A Franks (R-AZ) amendment to restore $97 million for national missile defense (ground based mid-course system) was defeated 161 - 249.

Included below is a somewhat amusing “dialogue of the deaf” between Rep. Franks (R-AZ) and Rep. Murtha (D-PA) on the missile defense amendment late Saturday night, August 4.

Mr. MURTHA. I rise in opposition to the amendment. I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. FRANKS of Arizona. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, praise is due to certain Members on the Appropriations Committee on both sides of this aisle who had the foresight and the wisdom to fund key missile defense systems in the President's budget.

We must remind ourselves that in 2006 alone there were close to 100 foreign ballistic missiles launched around the world. In an age of terrorism, when rogue states and non-State entities can acquire these dangerous missiles, we must prepare a defense for our homeland, for our deployed war fighters and for our friends and allies.

The Appropriations Committee preserved the Airborne Laser, which is a system often deemed futuristic or far-term, but as many of us know, ABL is a magnificent ballistic missile defense system that has now been built and continues to successfully meet its knowledge points. And thanks to the ingenuity and hard work of dedicated Americans, Airborne Laser will soon play a critical role in helping us to meet the evolving threat of ballistic missiles.

Mr. MURTHA. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. FRANKS of Arizona. I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania.

Mr. MURTHA. You can see the hearings we've had on this issue. We felt that the missile defense cuts we made were because of schedule more than anything else, and I appreciate your determination to put it in. We'll take another look at conference, but right now we are convinced, and you can see the hearings we've had this year. We started on January 17. We just don't feel this is necessary at this point. It was a cut made on schedule more than anything else.

Mr. FRANKS of Arizona. Mr. Chairman, are you saying that the cuts would be restored?

Mr. MURTHA. No. What I will say to you is that we'll look at it in conference, but we believe that we did the right thing. We believe we cut it because of the schedule.

Mr. FRANKS of Arizona. Mr. Chairman, you may be confused here. We're not talking about ABL here. I was just getting to the next. I was thanking you for restoring ABL.

Mr. MURTHA. No, no. We think we made the right cut because of the schedule. You understand what I'm saying? And we'll look at it in conference.

Mr. FRANKS of Arizona. Mr. Chairman, if the distinguished chairman of the appropriations committee is saying that the cuts would be restored, then I'm willing to withdraw the amendment. If that's not what he's saying, then I need to go ahead and offer the amendment.

Mr. MURTHA. They may very well be, but I can't assure you of that at this point. What I'm saying is we'll look at it in conference. We always negotiate these things. Right now, as we see it in the schedule after the hearings, the staff and the committee decided that this was a good cut.

Mr. FRANKS of Arizona. Mr. Chairman, that may be. Let me go ahead and finish here with my comments, and then I'll ask the Appropriations chairman what he feels like would be appropriate at that time.

I'm also grateful, Mr. Chairman, that we've taken vital steps for greater cooperation with Israeli ballistic missile defense because I believe that will play a critical role in future pieces of the human family.

Having said that, I'm incredibly concerned tonight that the $97.2 million that was cut from the only existing active defense system this Nation has against intercontinental ballistic missiles is a dangerous cut. This is not a far-term system. In fact, this is not a near-term system. It is a current system and the only one we have to defend this Nation against intercontinental ballistic missiles. This $97.2 million cut is inconsistent with even the Democrats' view on the House Armed Services Committee for their support for short-term programs and near-term programs, and it directly conflicts with the legislation passed in last year's National Defense Authorization advocating Department of Defense focus on near-term capabilities.

This amendment would restore the $97.2 million for ground-based, mid-course defense without increasing any dollars to the Defense bill. The offset is from research and development defense-wide, which has over $20 billion in the account.

Mr. Chairman, this country must plan on being surprised by our enemies. In 1998, intelligence experts indicated that North Korea was years away from fielding multistage rockets. That very next month they demonstrated that capability when, on July 4 of the American Independence Day, North Korea brazenly launched a long-range ballistic missile. Americans witnessed for the first time that day their country activate a missile defense system to protect our homeland against intercontinental ballistic missiles. It is clear that North Korea was using these missiles for coercion and intimidation, and I would ask that we neutralize their ability to do that and bring critical protection to Americans and our homeland by fully supporting the GMB system we currently have.

Now, I would yield to the chairman if he has any thoughts.

Mr. MURTHA. I appreciate what the gentleman is saying. We don't know where the cuts would come from, whether they're critical research or not, and I would ask the gentleman, we're just as concerned as you are about missile defense. We're trying to make sure we have the adequate amount, and in conference, we will take another look at it.

Mr. FRANKS of Arizona. Reclaiming my time, Mr. Chairman, in sincere and due respect, if the concern were as great as mine, this $97.2 million would not have been cut.

I move the amendment, Mr. Chairman.

The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman's time has expired.

Mr. MURTHA. I rise in opposition to the amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

The amendment was subsequently rejected 161 – 249.

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