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Last Updated:6/25/00
Speech by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut), June 21, 2000
Mr. DODD. Mr. President, I will join my good friend from Alaska shortly, but this amendment I have offered says to let the people we are going to get into the situation decide. Some people think we ought not be involved with this. I respect their position, but I disagree. If we are going to get involved with narcotraffickers who are as well heeled and financed as any military group in the world, if we are going to do the job right and properly, we ought to let the military people decide what they need. My amendment says to let the military people decide what works best.

Let me read what 24 of our aviation experts sent to Colombia specifically for the purpose of trying to determine what equipment would work best had to say on the impact of substituting 60 Hueys for 30 Blackhawks, as originally proposed:

The superior troop-carrying capacity and range of the Blackhawk versus the Huey, coupled with the combat nature of the operations, the requirement to operate at high altitude areas and the increased survivability of both aircrew and troops, clearly indicate that the Blackhawk is the helicopter that should be fielded to Colombia in supporting the counterdrug effort.

Additionally, the number of acquired pilots, crew chiefs, gunners, and mechanics to operate and maintain the Hueys is twice that of the Blackhawks. Infrastructure requirements, maintenance, building, parking, and refueling areas, as well as other associated building requirements, are essentially double to support the 60 Hueys as opposed to the 30 Blackhawks.

If this issue were to be decided strictly on dollars and cents--put aside the issue of whether or not one piece of equipment is better than the next--the 18 Hueys that are there, plus the 60 they talk about sending, those numbers exceed what it would cost in order to have the equipment that the military says they need to do the job. These are the numbers from the military.

I am not suggesting you blindly follow the military in every case. But my amendment says at least let them make a recommendation as to what they think is right. It doesn't say you have to take the Blackhawk. It says make the proper, intelligent decision.

We heard from my colleague from Rhode Island, a graduate of West Point Academy, who served with distinction in the U.S. military for a career. He was just in Colombia, along with others, going down to assess what makes the best sense. He comes back with the same conclusion: We ought to let the military people decide.

I have been to Colombia many times. I know that terrain,

where the flatlands are, where most of this problem exists. If I can get that chart here which shows the map of Colombia? Let me make the point again.

When you get down to the area where most of the narcotraffickers operate, that is jungle. That is down along that Ecuadorian border, the Putumayo River. There are no roads here at all. The roads end up here in the highlands.

The idea that you are going to have the capacity to handle 90 helicopters--they do not have the personnel in Colombia to do that. If you want to condemn this program to failure, then demand this language be in this amendment. The change we are offering at least offers this program a much higher chance of success down the road by allowing 60 Blackhawks, which every military expert who has looked at this says is what you ought to have to deal with the altitude of the Andes because of its lift capacity, personnel capacity to be able to move into this area, and the speed to move in and out.

Again, it seems to me, if you look at the charts, on all the comparisons here, using 1976 equipment--the last year the Huey was made--as opposed to a modern piece of equipment is wrong. Unless you think this is not an issue worth fighting over, if you think you want to have these narcotraffickers control this country and take over this place and ship on an hourly basis to this country the drugs that are killing 50,000 people a year, we ought not support it at all. But if you are going to do it and you think it is worthy of doing, then do it right. Do it with the kind of equipment that will guarantee at least a higher possibility of success, or we will end up doing it ourselves down the road, which I don't welcome at all.

We now have Colombians who can fly these helicopters or can be trained to do so. Let them do the job. If we send in inferior equipment that can't get the job done, the problem gets worse, the situation gets worse, and then we will be regretting the day we made a political decision about the Hueys rather than a military decision about what works best.

I urge colleagues, regardless of their position on whether or not this is a program they want to support, to support this amendment which says this decision ought to be left to the people who make the calculated determinations of what works best. That is all this amendment does. It does not demand a Blackhawk. It just says make the decision about what makes the best sense. I will live with whatever decision that is. But I don't want to have a political decision, I don't want to be told I have to accept 60 or 90 Hueys, when I know in Colombia you don't have the personnel to support it. It will take too long, you will never get it done, and you don't have the capacity to get the job accomplished.

I urge my colleagues to support the amendment when it comes to a vote. I think my colleague from Connecticut wants to be heard on this issue.

I don't know how the chairman of the committee wants to handle this. I would like to be excused for about an hour to attend a very important medal ceremony for one of our colleagues.

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