Homeland Security

Setting the record straight on border crime

Officeholders and candidates in Arizona who support the state’s draconian new immigration law have justified it with hyperbole, exaggeration and falsehoods about Arizona’s crime rate. For example, Gov. Jan Brewer has colored recent speeches with images of "murder, terror and mayhem" and "drop houses, kidnappings and violence." Now let’s be clear: The recent surge of violence in Mexico is real, as are the fears of Arizonans. But that is why it is so important to separate fact from fiction and to avoid false claims and baseless rhetoric that inflames those fears.


Hearing on what START treaty means for missile defense

Yesterday Obama officials made the case before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the new START treaty will not have a negative effect on their plans to field a system to protect the United States from rogue regimes that are building ballistic missiles. No one seemed to need much convincing that the Obama administration doesn’t plan to make our missile defenses strong enough to bother the Russians, but treaties live on long after presidential administrations, so Senators rightly continue to probe the White House on how the treaty might restrict future defense planning. 


SBInet: has it passed the border security test? (Rep. Cueller)

The nation’s borders need cutting-edge solutions to combat a spectrum of 21st century threats. This requires continuous oversight to ensure our tools are getting the job done. This spring, the Department of Homeland Security did just that when it learned a virtual fencing program wasn’t meeting its objectives in Arizona. Virtual fencing is a critical means of securing the nation’s southern border.


Fighting the epidemic of prescription drug abuse (Rep. Hal Rogers)

Ten years ago, my rural Kentucky district became the epicenter for prescription drug abuse, namely the diversion and addiction of Oxycontin. Local hospitals were facing weekly overdoses to pills issued by pain clinics only a few blocks away. Today, this epidemic is reaching every community across state lines, socio-economic groups, and geographic boundaries. Solutions need to be found and alarm raised at all levels of government to tackle this problem. With the critical help of Representative Mary Bono Mack, we’re getting organized to do just that through the Prescription Drug Abuse Caucus.


Untimely rush to repeal (Rep. Duncan Hunter)

America's military is locked in combat against a dangerous enemy in Afghanistan, facing the constant threat of ambush and roadside bombs. The last thing our soldiers and Marines need is any unnecessary or harmful distractions.


Our nation needs a serious and honest debate on immigration

The Russian proverb observes, “history tends to repeat itself, sometimes as tragedy, sometimes as farce.”  As the country begins to analyze, scrutinize and fantasize about immigration reform as a result of the recently enacted Arizona legislation, I am afraid our initial  days of commentary and those taking to the streets demonstrate we are about to exceed the bounds of history  and create both   tragedy and  farce at the same time.

In that vein, I had a moment  of clarity recently while watching a rebroadcast of "The Gangs of New York" which depicts an ugly, if fictitious, conflict between nativists and immigrants during the time of the U.S. Civil War.  The film has at its core a fanciful, bloody and barbaric immigration battle running alongside the actual draft riots that seized New York in 1863, and brought that city  , and almost the entire nation, to its knees.

 If we are not careful with the current immigration debate, and don’t tone down the rhetoric and irresponsible claims of racism and xenophobia being hurled about at those who simply want our porous borders repaired, we almost certainly will find ourselves in an uncivil war with each in a way that will impel those among us who can’t limit themselves to control their emotions to take to the streets as did the characters in Scorsese’s movie.

 Of course, the real gangs of New York were actually nothing more than political thugs whose main objective was more in line with the Tammany Hall politicians of the day -- get their folks elected so that each could get its share of the City’s political plunder.  As I watched first one side and then the other in the past week take to the airwaves to denounce anyone who did not share their limited view of how to resolve these complex immigration and border security problems, I feared that our nation is once more headed for the intemperate verbal abuse we heaped on each other in the 1960’s.


Time to pull the plug on the Joint Strike Fighter alternative engine

Over the last few years, both the Bush and Obama Administrations have sought to remove funding for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s alternate engine program. As a leader in veterans’ advocacy for more than half a century, AMVETS supports this year’s latest efforts to kill funding for the alternate engine, meeting the needs of today’s military and relieving an unnecessary burden on the American taxpayer.

The alternate engine for the Pentagon’s F35 Joint Strike Fighter program is a glaring example of a program that wastes funding desperately needed by our military men and women serving in harm’s way. Billions have already been spent on a wasteful extra engine that is yet to leave the ground, even though the current engine is already in production and performing well.

Our nation’s top military minds have consistently voiced their opposition to the alternate engine, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm.  Mike Mullen, and the service chiefs for the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, the services set to receive the Joint Strike Fighter.

Sadly, even though the Pentagon insists it will never field the new engine, Congressional leaders have continued to approve funding for the program year after year. Supporters say that the alternate engine would save money, but independent Congressional studies clearly refute this assertion.

This money must be spent on the needs of our soldiers and veterans today—not wasted on a program the Pentagon neither wants nor has the capacity to use. Congress has earmarked more than a billion dollars on this project since President Bush first tried to cancel it. Should Congress continue financing the program each year, taxpayers stand to lose another $2.9 billion on further development and testing alone. The price tag only continues to balloon exponentially should the alternate engine actually go into production.


Echoes of Ike: Making the most of our defense dollars (Rep. Phil Gingrey)

As President Dwight Eisenhower prepared to leave the White House in early 1961, he used his farewell address to warn against wasteful defense spending. The World War II hero cautioned that bad choices today would turn the United States into “the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.”

The wisdom of his words is even more apparent nearly 50 years later. The federal debt was just under $289 billion in 1961. It’s almost $13 trillion today.

Given the historical context, it was fitting that Defense Secretary Robert Gates traveled to the Eisenhower Library earlier this month to update Eisenhower’s warning. The defense secretary was blunt and to the point.

“Given America’s difficult economic circumstances and perilous fiscal condition, military spending on things large and small can and should expect closer, harsher scrutiny,” Gates said. “The gusher has been turned off, and will stay off for a good period of time.”

Gates challenged the Defense Department bureaucracy to do “everything possible to make every dollar count.” In practical terms, the new reality means that the Pentagon should make the most of the assets it already has before acquiring new weapons systems.

Among other items that deserve the budget axe, Gates specifically targeted the C-17 cargo plane, which is used to ferry war-fighting material to hot spots around the world.

“The leadership of the Air Force is clear: they do not need and cannot afford more C-17s,” Gates said. Yet Congress added $3 billion for 10 additional C-17s in last year’s defense budget.

Even worse, there are indications from Capitol Hill that lawmakers will ignore the Air Force’s advice again this year and buy more C-17s. Gates said he would urge President Obama to veto the unwanted congressional giveaway.

The C-17 is a particularly good example of Gates’ point about making the most of defense dollars because there is a clear alternative to buying new cargo planes.

The C-5 transport aircraft has been an airlift workhorse for four decades, and it is serving our troops today in Iraq and Afghanistan. It can carry more cargo over greater distances than any U.S. Air Force aircraft in the fleet.

To put it in terms that matter to troops in the field, the C-5 can carry more twice as many loaded pallets, twice as many tanks, twice as many Bradley fighting vehicles, twice as many helicopters and twice as many armored vehicles as the C-17.

Although the earliest C-5s saw action in Vietnam, several studies show that the aircraft can easily remain in service through 2040. A modernization program that is already underway is bringing substantial improvements in performance and reliability — shorter takeoffs, more cargo carrying capability, and even longer range.

Because the upgraded planes require significantly lower operations and maintenance costs, the modernization program pays for itself. The upgraded C-5s are also more environmentally friendly and fuel efficient.

In recent tests that delivered 3.8 million pounds of cargo in 33 missions, the upgraded C-5 saved nearly $900,000 in fuel costs compared to earlier models. The savings compared to a C-17 would exceed $4 million, mainly because it would take two C-17s to deliver the same amount of cargo at the same rate.

That is an example of making every dollar count.

Secretary Gates is right. The world and our financial circumstances have changed. We can’t afford to satisfy our wants, we have to focus on meeting our needs. We should make the most of what we have before we buy something new.

Making the most of every dollar does not mean neglecting America’s security. We are reminded almost daily that we live in a very dangerous world.

Eisenhower, who served as president during the transition from World War II to the Cold War, saw the dangers in his time, too. No one questioned his commitment to national security or his patriotism.

But Eisenhower also recognized that wasting defense dollars does not make us stronger or offer more protection. In fact, a dollar misspent on an unneeded defense program is a dollar taken from national security. What was true then is even truer now.


The Big Question: Troops on the Mexican border a good call?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer their insight into the biggest news of the day. ...

Today's question:

What do you think of President Barack Obama's decision to send 1,200 troops to the border with Mexico?