Lame-Ducks Favor "Fact-Finding" Missions
It is no big news that members of the House Armed Services Committee
and their staffs often travel to foreign destinations on "fact-finding"
missions. But these trips happen to be particularly popular among
members who are on their way out.
For example, in January 2000, now-retired Rep. Tillie Fowler, R-Fla.,
went on an Armed Services Committee-sponsored trip to Colombia,
Peru, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. Costs–not including
food or lodging– totaled $4,145.
Fowler and fellow lame-duck Rep. Owen Pickett, R-Va., went on a
fast-paced trip to Europe and the Middle East during the August
recess. In two weeks, they visited Scotland, Germany, Italy, Qatar
and Jordan. The government reimbursed them each about $2,000 for
There are few set rules for what must be accomplished during "fact-finding"
missions. As long as the schedule is approved by the chairman of
the committee, members of Congress are relatively free to do as
they please when they travel out of the country.
Ship Defense Is ‘Not a Simple Problem’
The Navy’s policies to protect U.S. sailors from terrorist
attacks have been revised since last October’s bombing of
the USS Cole in Yemen, said Adm. Vernon Clark, chief of naval operations.
But he vowed to guard the secrecy of these policy changes.
"There are a lot of security measures that are in place today
that weren’t in place October 12," he told a conference
on naval surface warfare in Arlington, Va. "I am not going
to say one thing about those in a public forum, ever. I am not going
to broadcast those things we have done. A potential enemy is going
to have to figure that out for himself."
Despite the lessons learned from the investigation on the attack,
seaboard security "is not a simple problem," said Adm.
Robert J. Natter, commander of the U.S. Navy Atlantic Fleet.
"We’ve got some very dicey issues," he said. Naval
commanders, for example, must worry about things like the sovereignty
[of other countries], Natter said. "When we enter another nation’s
waters, ... you cannot start whipping out your weapons and threaten
every boat that approaches," he asserted. "I don’t
think anyone in this nation would be very happy if we shot a Greenpeace
[environmental activist ship]."
One measure that could be implemented immediately, he said, is
the establishment of a "demarcation line" so that Navy
personnel on board a ship can determine whether an approaching boat
may be a terrorist threat. "We need a demarcation line between
the tourists, the drunks, those who are just curious or trying to
make a public statement and the terrorists," said Natter. "The
ability to distinguish a terrorist from a Greenpeace activist is
very difficult. I don’t think the United States would be willing
to accept another nation’s warship coming to our ports and
saying that any ship or boat that approaches will be shot."
Maintenance Woes Worsen at Navy Atlantic Fleet
When it comes to force structure, the Navy’s biggest problem
is not how many ships it has, but its ability to maintain the current
fleet, said Adm. Robert J. Natter, commander of the U.S. Navy Atlantic
The Navy today has 315 ships. Natter believes the number should
be higher. "It should be more than 315 if we are to have the
mission we are required to carry out today. My number is roughly
But more important than the number of ships is their "inadequate"
maintenance, Natter said. "During the past decade, we have
been under-funded in ship and aircraft maintenance." For the
past five years, the Atlantic Fleet has been $153 million short
each year in the ship maintenance accounts, he added. "Last
year, Congress provided $200 million in a supplemental to the Atlantic
Fleet. They have done [plus-ups] during the past few years. The
problem is that [supplemental appropriations] happen toward the
middle to the end of the fiscal year, so you can’t change
ship schedules, maintenance availabilities."
Rumsfeld Endorses Robust Science Funding
During Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s confirmation
hearing, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., asked about the new Pentagon
chief’s stance on defense-related science and technology programs.
Bingaman, whose state is home to the Sandia and Los Alamos national
laboratories, believes that there is not enough funding in the current
defense budget for basic research and science. "It always loses
out as compared to procurement, as compared to readiness,"
Rumsfeld agreed. He noted President Bush’s campaign pledge
to increase research and development spending by $20 billion. Rumsfeld,
who worked in the pharmaceutical and the electronics industries,
said that in the private sector, "we invest in research and
development that is not guaranteed to produce anything in the next
five minutes. If you’re not investing for the future, you’re
going to die," Rumsfeld said.
Defense Is ‘Top Priority’ for Freshman Congressman
I consider national defense to be the top single priority of the
federal government," said Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., a freshman
member of the House Armed Services Committee. "I think my job
is to make sure we are doing what we need to be supportive of our
armed services. It’s kind of a two-way street: They’re
protecting my freedom, and it’s my job politically to make
sure there is a favorable environment for good decision-making."
Akin served as an officer in the Army Corps of Engineers, and worked
in the computer and steel industries after he completed his military
service. He spent 12 years as a member of the Missouri House of
Representatives, until he entered the race to succeed the chairman
of the House Small Business Committee, Rep. James Talent, R-Mo.
During a recent lunch with President Bush, they shared their visions
for the military, Akin said. "He wants to be very careful at
defining what the mission is of the modern military. He doesn’t
want to just throw dollars at every hardware solution that comes
along, but wants to make sure the mission fits well with wise use
of money. He indicated that he wants to take a close look at some
advanced technologies which in the long run could give us the edge
Simple Tastes for New Secretary of State
Secretary of State Colin Powell made it clear that, unlike his predecessor
Madeleine Albright, he prefers Holiday Inns over luxury hotels and
"I’m an easy visitor. ... I have no food preferences,
I have no drink preferences," Powell told a town-hall meeting
with the State Department staff. "A cheeseburger will be fine.
I like Holiday Inns," he reminded State officers who are charged
with arranging meals and lodging on short notice in remote international
locations. "I don’t want to be a burden when I come to
visit," Powell said.
Space Commission Urges ‘More Investment’
The creation of the Commission to Assess U.S. National Security
Space Management and Organization initially made waves in the upper
echelons of the Air Force, said the service’s former chief,
Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman, who also was a member of the Commission.
The commission sought to address "questions about the Air
Force’s stewardship of space," he told reporters.
Fogleman said the commission’s belief was that investment
in space is vital to U.S. security. "Space must be recognized
as a top national security priority," he said. "The U.S.
government currently is not arranged to meet the space needs of
the 21st century," Fogleman explained.
Further, the relationship between the office of the secretary of
defense and the Central Intelligence Agency needs to improve, he
More investments, he said, are needed in the areas of science and
technology, launch capabilities and personnel. Fogleman said the
commission also believes that space is likely to be a medium for
conflict in the future.