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Last Updated:6/25/00
Speech by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut), June 21, 2000
Mr. DODD. Mr. President, I offer this amendment on behalf of myself and my colleague from Connecticut, Senator Lieberman, and others who may wish to join us. I will read the substance of the amendment; then I will go into the language. The substance of the amendment is as follows: We would strike the words `procurement, refurbishing, and support for UH-1H Huey II helicopters' and insert in lieu thereof the following: `procurement and support for helicopters determined by the U.S. Department of Defense, in consultation with the Colombian military, to be the most effective aircraft to support missions by elite Colombian counter narcotics battalions in eradicating the expanding cultivation and processing of illicit drugs in remote areas of Colombia.'

I begin these remarks by stating what was perhaps obvious to my colleagues but may not be obvious to all who are following this debate. My colleague and I from Connecticut represent a division of United Technologies known Sikorsky Aircraft which produces Blackhawk helicopters. I am not proposing an amendment that mandates that the Blackhawk helicopter be the helicopter of choice. I am sure that may disappoint some of my constituents that I am not fighting on behalf of a particular helicopter. Rather, my amendment provides for the helicopter to be selected on its relative merits.

As I said a moment ago, when it comes to narcotics issues, I don't claim great expertise. I don't claim to be a military expert when it comes to making decisions about which helicopters may be the best to use in a given situation. Rather than offer an amendment, which my colleague from Connecticut and I might have done, to say we replace the language here, which does call for a specific helicopter, with the one that is produced in our home State, our amendment says, let the people who have to make the assessment about what would work best in Colombia decide, not what the Senators from Connecticut want or the Senators from Texas or some other place. My amendment would allow our military experts to say what makes the most sense, in consultation with the people who will be receiving this military equipment.

Even if Senators disagree with this package in its entirety, I hope they will support this amendment so that at least Colombia will be receiving the kinds of equipment that will be necessary to get the job done.

The questions raised by our colleague from the State of Washington about whether or not this policy can work are not illegitimate. None of us have a crystal ball to determine whether or not this particular program is going to produce the desired results of those of us who support it. One way we can almost guarantee it won't is to insist that the Colombian Government accept only the hardware which we want to give them, not which may be the best in order to deal with the problem but that which we think they ought to have because of some parochial interest.

I don't want to be in a position of demanding that the Colombian Government take a helicopter made in my State. Nor should anyone else be demanding they take one from theirs. Let us let the experts decide on what works best. That is the reason I am offering this amendment with a number of my other colleagues.

The administration's primary rationale in proposing the $1.2 billion supplemental aid package in support of what is called Plan Colombia was to assist the Colombian Government in stemming the massive growth in coca cultivation in southern Colombia. Again, it is the area I described in the shaded green around the Caqueta and Putumayo region. It is not limited to those areas. There are other areas as well where the products are grown. Those are the principal ones.

In the last 2 years, Colombia's coca production has grown by 40 percent. In 1999, the estimated street value in the United States was in excess of $6 billion coming out of this region, just

in a year alone. We are talking about a billion-dollar program to deal with a supply in coca alone, in 1 year, 2 years, in excess of $6 billion.

The Colombian Government has proposed to address the explosion in coca production by going to the source, the coca-producing regions of Putumayo and Caqueta in southern Colombia. However, these coca growing areas are also strongholds of the FARC guerrilla organizations--frankly, there is a relationship between the drug cultivators and the guerrillas in these two areas. There are also right-wing paramilitary organizations which operate in these areas, but the paramilitary groups are more extensive in the northern part of the country.

To address these threat levels and logistical difficulties in mounting substantial counter narcotics programs, President Pastrana has made a central feature of his plan the so-called push into southern Colombia, where the bulk of the problem resides. The key components of the push into southern Colombia are to equip and train two additional Colombian counter narcotics battalions, the training and deployment of the first battalion having already occurred in December of last year, and to provide tactical mobility, which is airlift capacity, to these newly trained battalions so that the Colombian national police will have sufficient area security to carry out eradication and other drug law enforcement operations in southern Colombia.

The Clinton administration specifically requested almost $600 million to support that component of Plan Colombia, a request essentially met in the House-passed emergency supplemental bill. The success or failure of push into southern Colombia depends in no small measure not only on the effectiveness of these battalions but also on the effectiveness and the capacity and capability of the equipment with which we provide them. It is going to be critically important that we not jam down the throats of this government equipment that is not going to meet the test, not going to help get the job done. That is why I offer this amendment today.

President Pastrana and U.S. defense experts spent a number of months discussing how best to ensure the maximum effectiveness of these operations. Contrary to the assertion of my colleague from Washington, a lot of time has been spent discussing this issue. There has not been a lack of discussion about what is going on in Colombia. There has been a lot of discussion, a lot of hearings.

Our Pentagon and other experts have determined that the ability to transport substantial numbers of elite Army troops together with members of the national police quickly and safely to remote areas of Colombia would be absolutely critical to the overall success of the larger strategy. After reviewing a number of different options, including the possibility of non-U.S. aircraft, the Colombian Army selected the Blackhawk helicopter as their equipment of choice in dealing with this issue. According to Gen. Charles Wilhelm, Commander in Chief of the Southern Command, our top military person in the region, the ultimate decision to select the Blackhawk over other options was based on its superiority in the following areas:

range, payload, survivability, versatility, service ceiling, and other technical considerations.

Let me share a chart with you that makes the point more clearly than anything I could have just said, in very specific terms. I have here a chart that shows a comparison between the Huey II, presently demanded in this bill, and the Blackhawk. Let me go down each one of the critical areas identified by our top military people in the Southern Command.

What is the maximum cruise speed of the Huey II? It is 100 knots. The Blackhawk is 155 knots. The maximum number of passengers at sea level is 11 persons for the Huey and 24 for the Blackhawk. The maximum passengers at 9,000 feet is 8 persons the Huey and 18 persons for the Blackhawk.

On this other chart, when you are based here in northern Colombia and you have to get to southern Colombia, you have to fly over the Andes. This is not at ground level or sea level. For those people who may be familiar with the geography of this area, to suggest somehow you are going to have an effective quick-response team, taking 8 people in a Huey helicopter over the Andes, as opposed to a Blackhawk, which can carry 18 at 9,000 feet, is to put this program in serious jeopardy.

The maximum flight time is 1.5 hours for the Huey; its 2.5 for the Blackhawk. The range of a Huey is 196 nautical miles. It is 300 nautical miles for the Blackhawk. The ceiling--how high they can go--is 16,000 feet for a Huey and 20,000 feet in a Blackhawk. The weight the Huey can carry is 10,500 pounds; the Blackhawk can carry 22,000 pounds. Fuel consumption for a Huey is 600 pounds an hour. For the Blackhawk, it is 700 pounds an hour. The sling load is 5,000 pounds for the Huey and 9,000 pounds--almost double--for the Blackhawk. The payload at 4,000 feet again is more than double for the Blackhawk as opposed to a Huey.

Mr. President, in virtually every category that our top military people have said is important, the Blackhawk outperforms the Huey. I am not offering an amendment that demands that we write in Blackhawk instead of Huey. My amendment says let our military people decide which is best. If you are going to vote for this program, then you ought to let the military people decide what is going to give it the greatest chance of success, and not have a bunch of Congressmen and Senators tell you what is going to have the greatest chance of success. We should give significant weight to what our military people think will work in this area.

If you want to condemn the Plan Colombia program to failure at the outset, then provide them with inferior equipment so that they can't get the job done. I suggest that is what is happening with the present language in this bill. In virtually every operational category--speed, maximum passengers, flight time, ceiling, weight-carrying capacity--the Blackhawk outperforms the Huey. That is not at all surprising, since the Huey is a Vietnam war vintage aircraft, which first went into production in 1959--40 years ago. The production of Hueys ended in 1976, a quarter of a century ago. The Blackhawk is newer; in fact, it is still being manufactured. Moreover, the Blackhawk was engineered specifically to address the deficiencies experienced with the Huey during the Vietnam conflict.

The so-called Huey II is a retrofitted Huey. The upgrade package that the Committee mark would fund was only developed 4 years ago and sold to the Colombian armed forces to improve the performance of Hueys currently in operation in that country. None of the U.S. services have chosen to upgrade Huey inventories using the kits the Appropriations Committee proposes to provide Colombia. In fact, the U.S. Armed Forces are in the process of phasing out current inventories of the 800 Huey aircraft and replacing them entirely with the newer model aircraft, including Blackhawks. Hueys are no longer used in combat missions by any of the U.S. Armed Forces.

The Appropriations Committee has indirectly acknowledged the differences in capability of the two aircraft by recommending a 2-for-1 substitute of Hueys for Blackhawks--60 Huey II's, instead of 30 Blackhawks. That also means that the significant cost advantages that the proponents of the Huey II have pointed to as a justification for the substitution is significantly reduced. It is even further reduced because U.S. military experts who are familiar with the conditions in Colombia in which the aircraft will be operating have stated it will actually take two-plus Hueys to accomplish what one Blackhawk could do. If that is the case, then the cost advantage argument goes out the window. The mission cost for a typical mission of transporting 88 troops from a base, at a distance of 98 miles or less, would cost essentially the same.

The committee has asserted in it's committee report that one of the rationales for substituting Hueys for Blackhawks was the more immediate availability of Huey II's. I think that is disputable, in light of the fact that the 60 Hueys would require major refurbishing. There is currently a limited capacity in the United States, or Colombia for that matter, to do that in a time frame that is much faster than the delivery schedule that Sikorsky has proposed for the 30 Blackhawks. However, setting that point aside for the moment, there is another more fundamental flaw, with all due respect, in the committee's argument. It assumes the Colombian army has trained pilots available to fly in the 60 Hueys once they arrive. Mr. President, that simply is not the case.

The expectation is that it will take between 6 to 9 months to train a pilot to fly those Hueys, or the Blackhawks for that matter. In the case of Hueys, at least double the number of pilots will need to be trained to enable the Colombian Army to have an equivalent air mobility for its elite battalions. You will need at least double the number of pilots trained to carry out the missions. Frankly, the serious questions as to whether or not that many individuals can be identified on short notice in Colombia to undergo such training in order to actually produce the necessary pilots to operate that many Hueys safely and with the capacity and efficiency that is necessary.

Again, I don't claim to be an expert on this, conversant in all the nuances of various helicopter technologies. For that reason, my amendment does not demand that the Huey be the choice. I have made a case for it here, but I have tried to point out the fallacies in the demanding choice in the bill.

Again, whether or not you agree with this policy overall, I hope you will support this amendment. In fact, if you will oppose the policy because you think it is not likely to work well, then you ought to be for this because at least this increases the chance of success of this program. So my amendment simply says let the pros make the choices--not Senators or Congressmen for a specific State, but those who are knowledgeable about this issue, the defense experts in our own country, and those in Colombia who know this terrain.

Last, I will put up a chart that shows the relative ranges of the two helicopters. If you look at the colored circles on the chart, the red line is the range of a Huey. The black line is the range of a Blackhawk. Look at the difference in terms of range capacity of these two pieces of equipment.

With that, I hope that my colleagues will support this amendment when a vote is called for on it.

As of June 25, 2000, this document was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r106:S21JN0-228:
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