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Last Updated:6/25/00
Speech by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut), June 21, 2000
Mr. DODD. Mr. President, in one minute: The amendment I am proposing along with my colleague from Connecticut and others merely says the decision on which type of equipment will be used in the Colombian effort ought to be determined by the U.S. military in conjunction with the Colombian military. The present language requires specifically a Huey helicopter. I do not think that decision ought to be made by Members of Congress, necessarily.

The military categorically, in a 24-member review of what was needed to make the program in Colombia successful, requests that it be the Blackhawk helicopter.

In a letter from the Colombian Ministry of Defense they specifically request it. They would have to change their entire infrastructure to handle a Huey helicopter. The cost is excessive--more than the Blackhawk. The amendment doesn't say buy Blackhawks, it says let the military make the decision. Congress ought not be mandating the kind of equipment that is going to help best to make this work. Our amendment allows for the experts to make the decision, not Members of Congress.

I urge adoption of the amendment and ask unanimous consent the letter be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the letter was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:
REPUBLICA DE COLOMBIA,

Ministerio De Defensa Nacional,
Santa Fe De Bogota, June 21, 2000.

Hon. Ted Stevens,
Chairman, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.

Hon. C.W. Young,
Chairman, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC.


[Page: S5529]
Dear Chairmen: We wish to thank the U.S. Congress for its support of Plan Colombia and the U.S. Administration's aid package to assist the people of Colombia in our fight against the explosive cultivation of coca. With your support, this aid will reverse the trend of increased drug production, violence and instability that we are all too familiar with.

While we are grateful for your consideration of the aid package, we are concerned with the Senate's proposal to replace the 30 UH-60L, Blackhawks with 60 `Huey II' helicopters. The decision to provide the Colombian Military with UH-60 helicopters was determined jointly by Colombian and US Military experts to be the best aircraft for the mission.

The Blackhawk is our clear choice given the austere environment in which our security forces must operate. First, it has redundant systems and protections that not only make it much more difficult to shoot down, but more importantly, affords our soldiers and crew increased survivability in a crash. Second, the Blackhawk is 50% faster than the Huey II allowing a quicker response time for our security forces to reach remote, inaccessible drug producing areas. Third, it has much greater range. Therefore, the need for forward arming and refueling stations is significantly reduced. Fourth, the Blackhawk flies and operates better at higher altitudes, an important consideration given that the Andes mountain range runs the entire length of Colombia. Lastly, it carries three times the number of soldiers at high altitudes and twice as much at sea level, inserting more troops and security forces on the ground sooner. Optimal maneuverability at high altitudes and troop carrying capacity is crucial in counter narcotics operations, specially taking in consideration the areas where poppy cultivation takes place.

While the Huey II helicopter may be less expensive to purchase and operate, there are considerable indirect expenses not being factored in by the Huey II advocates. For example, 60 Huey IIs require twice the number of trained pilots as 30 Blackhawks. In addition to more trained pilots, they require more trained mechanics, maintenance facilities, spare parts, equipment, force protection, and hangar space at airfields. Any initial savings in acquiring the Huey II's would be offset by these associated logistics and support costs.

Blackhawk is the backbone of our military's helicopter combat fleet. Therefore our infrastructure is being standardized around it and more important, our force structure planning for the future is based in this type of aircraft. As for today, our government has already acquired Blackhawks with our own resources and has the appropriate logistic facilities to operate and maintain up to 30 additional UH-60L Blackhawks.

Some members of the US Congress have proposed a combination of Blackhawks and Huey's. Given our force structure planning stated above, introducing new Huey II's into our fleet would require separate pilot training, spare parts and supplementary maintenance facilities, not to mention the delays or changes in the projection of the force. This will pose a major logistic problem and extra efforts, since the fleet must be jointly operated increasing tactical, technical and administrative costs. The Ministry does believe that the UH-1Ns will be vitally important for a successful transition to the more advanced UH-60 Blackhawk. We also believe there will be a continuing need to retain some of the UH-INs after the integration of the UH-60 fleet into the Colombian counternarcotics program.

If the Congress of the United States considers that additionally to the 30 Blackhawks initially requested, based on our needs and operative and logistical capabilities, the government of Colombia should receive a number of Bell helicopters, we suggest that the U.S. Government give consideration on? supporting our extensive pilot training requirements by starting a program to acquire 20 Bell 206 training helicopters. These aircraft would enable our armed forces to establish a joint pilot training school that would meet our existing and future pilot training requirements.

We appreciate the efforts and kind support you have given the aid pack in this process. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

MAYOR GENERAL LUIS ERNESTO GILBERT VARGAS,

Director of National Police.

GENERAL FABIO VELASCO CHAVEZ,

Commander in Chief of the Air Force.

ADMIRAL SERGIO GARCIA TORRES,

Commander in Chief of the Navy.

GENERAL JORGE ENRIQUE MORA RANGEL,

Commander in Chief of the Army.

GENERAL FERNANDO TAPIAS STAHELIN,

Commander in Chief of the Military Forces.

LUIS FERNANDO RAMIREZ ACUNÿAE6A,

Minister of National Defense.

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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