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Shallow-water drilling is critical to Gulf economy

While policymakers have debated the merits of a deepwater drilling moratorium for months, far less attention has been paid to a much bigger problem: the Interior Department’s undeclared moratorium on drilling in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

After the Macando spill occurred in April, the Interior Department imposed a blanket moratorium on all drilling in the Gulf. Then in June, the department reversed itself and lifted the ban on shallow-water drilling. 

{mosads}Yet the number of shallow-water permits granted since June has slowed to a trickle. Just four permits have been issued, compared to 15 during the same period in 2009. At least 14 applications remain mired in the bureaucracy.

Shallow-water wells dominate drilling in the Gulf, where 98 percent of the more than 3,000 drilling platforms operate in shallow water. They are particularly important in producing natural gas. About 11 percent of the natural gas that the United States uses every year, or 1.5 trillion cubic feet, comes from the Gulf of Mexico. More than half of that gas is extracted from shallow water.

The Obama administration says it’s just being careful and deliberate, and new requirements have added to the amount of time it takes drillers to fill out applications and the Interior Department to process them. But drillers support the new requirements and understand the need to make drilling at any depth safer and more secure. They’ve spent millions to comply with the requirements. And still, no action.

The moratoria on deepwater and shallow-water drilling are having a destructive impact on the Gulf economy. Before the spill, the oil-and-natural-gas industry supported more than 170,000 jobs in the Gulf region. The White House and the industry agree about 12,000 jobs have been lost, though the White House says most of these are “temporary.” Certainly, billions of dollars in economic activity are lost forever.

The situation will only get worse the longer the moratoria stay in place. Two deepwater rigs have left the Gulf for more productive fields elsewhere in the world, and others could follow. As a nation, we are fortunate to have diverse, abundant supplies of clean-burning natural gas. 

The time has come to lift not only the declared moratorium on deepwater drilling, but also the de facto moratorium on drilling in shallow water.

Washington, D.C.

Competition is best for defense procurement

Rick Kennedy, manager of 

Media Relations for GE Aviation

Gordon England correctly assesses that more accountability is necessary for each federal dollar spent (“Gates is right about Defense efficiency,” Sept. 28), but the way to accomplish this is not by handing a $100 billion sole-source monopoly to one contractor for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) engine.

Competition is the best cost-control mechanism for defense procurement. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates that competing JSF engines would save taxpayers $20 billion over the life of the program. Moreover, the GAO recently concluded the Department of Defense’s (DoD) cost projection for the GE/Rolls-Royce F136 engine development will likely be significantly less. Two weeks ago, the Senate Appropriations Committee for Defense called the F136 development a “near model” program.

There was never a competition for the JSF engines. Gen. Mike Hough, former JSF head in the late 1990s, has repeatedly confirmed this. Both of Pratt & Whitney’s F135 development contracts with the DoD clearly state “not competitively procured.”

The JSF is the largest procurement in Pentagon history and will ultimately make up about 90 percent of our military’s fleet. Continuing to fund the GE/Rolls-Royce engine — which is already 75 percent complete — benefits both taxpayers and our troops.

Cincinnati, Ohio

It would be dangerous to not cut Pentagon budget

Carl Conetta, co-director of Project on Defense Alternatives at the Commonwealth Institute

Adm. Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made news this week by saying it would be “dangerous” to cut the Pentagon’s budget. I say that in an age of unprecedented national debt, it’s dangerous if we don’t. And given his past comments, Adm. Mullen should agree with me. 

Adm. Mullen once said, “The most significant threat to our national security is our debt.” The reason is this: As America’s debt grows beyond 100 percent of GDP, our economy might founder, weakening our security.

Why should the Pentagon be held accountable for reducing our national debt? Because by spending more than $700 billion a year, it is responsible for so much of the problem.

Yes, our nation’s defense is critical and investing in the safety of our troops during this time of war is imperative. But since 1998, the non-war portion of the Pentagon’s budget has jumped nearly 50 percent in real terms. Why are we spending this money if it’s not being used to fight terrorism? Is it to keep up with the rest of the world’s militaries? No. Our military allies are adjusting their spending to fit the times and are spending less while we spend more and more.

Excessive defense spending is sapping the foundation of American strength. To rebuild that strength, a bipartisan coalition of national defense experts formed the Sustainable Defense Task Force. They recently released a report pointing to the ways America can safely rein in our runaway Defense budget by nearly $1 trillion in the next 10 years.

It’s time for Adm. Mullen to show real leadership and commit to a more cost-effective and less expensive means of truly securing our nation.

Cambridge, Mass.

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