Defense Budget Again a Case of Misplaced Prioritites

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gentleman's courtesy in permitting me to speak on this rule and the underlying bill. I think there is much that is desirable to be found in it. Certainly it is important to meet the needs of our Armed Forces in this difficult time, especially in Iraq.

However, the bill continues to spend too much money on the wrong things. One of the most graphic examples is an 11 percent increase for missile defense, over $10 billion, that is critically needed now in areas of homeland security and defense activities.

There are also important elements for protecting our communities that are underserved in this legislation. With almost $446 billion, we ought to be able to have the Department of Defense clean up after itself. What this bill does not address is literally a ticking time bomb.

I have come to the floor in the past talking about the millions of acres around the country that are contaminated with military contamination, unexploded ordnance, or UXO, the military waste and unexploded bombs left over from former military sites. The estimates range from 10 million to 40 million contaminated acres. I noted a moment ago my colleague, the gentleman from Colorado, was here. They are having subdivisions creeping out to the Lowry Air Force Base, a former bombing range, where soon people will be living near areas where we fear there are unexploded ordnance. I note the gentleman from Texas is here. He is near an area in Arlington where there were people out Rototilling their backyards in a new subdivision literally turning up an unexploded bomb.

The Department of Defense estimates that identifying, assessing, and cleaning up contamination from military munitions will cost in the area of $8 billion to $35 billion, but most experts say it is going to cost far more. But we are spending at a rate of only $106 million annually. According to GAO, it will take 75 to 330 years to clean up these unexploded ordnance on already closed sites, and it does not include all the new contamination that we are creating.

Leaving this toxic legacy does no favor to the Department of Defense. In the long run it is going to cost more to clean it up, because clean it up we must. It is going to threaten the environment, and we have seen situations like the Massachusetts military reservation that is creating serious ground water pollution; it endangers our military and their families.

I sincerely hope this is the last such piece of legislation that does not appropriately address the problem of unexploded ordnance and military contamination.

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