OPENING STATEMENT BY SENATOR BOND

Thank you Mr. Chairman, I am grateful for your holding this hearing and look forward to working with you to enact a Water Resources Bill.

Welcome Dr. Westfall. For years we have been receiving loyal and dutiful public servants from the Corps who are sent up to defend ridiculous budgets written by idealogues at the OMB that we reject on a bipartisan basis year after year. The reason we reject them is that we represent the millions of people who depend on your mission.

At no time since I have been in the Senate has the Army Corps of Engineers been in greater need for an advocate to fight off those whose proposals undermine the very mission that has saved countless lives, prevented billions of dollars of flood damage, provided competitive international trade advantages for U.S. products and provided economic development opportunities in areas where unemployment and poverty is historically prevalent. Millions of U.S. citizens are depending upon you. I have heard many reports of your strength and knowledge and look forward to working with you.

Dr. Westphal, I won't, but I am tempted to ask you this: if Congress adopted anything resembling the President's budget for water projects, would you recommend that he veto it? I won't ask you this because you shouldn't have to choose between loyalty and responsible common sense. I think the measure of your job performance will be your independence from OMB. They know the cost of everything, maybe you can explain to them the value of something.

We have a project in Kansas City which protects industries employing 12,000 workers and the Administration sent up a budget which, if adopted, would send the contractors home next May. It is not just dangerous, it is inefficient and more costly.

They didn't just decimate structural flood control but environmental programs as well and I am hearing from hundreds of constituents about park closures at Corps-operated lakes. Constituents report that rangers are blaming closures on Congressional budget cuts, which, as you know, is not true. I am sending you a letter on this subject today and I hope you can respond. We have social-security-aged locks and dams on the upper Mississippi River which must be modernized. We can all discuss how best to do it but we must do it without delay.

I have a proposal worked out with American Rivers to improve the health of Missouri waterways but under a $3.2 billion budget as proposed by the Administration, it couldn't be funded. We can't operate that way. If the Administration wants Congress to fund "Challenge 21", they shouldn't send up a $3.2 billion budget next year.

There are some in this body who oppose Congressional earmarks because they argue budgeting should be left to "professionals" who exercise care and wisdom in the absence of politics to formulate responsibly budget priorities.

As long as this budget is written by OMB, with the Corps gagged and standing on the sidelines, that argument will remain, well, laughable.

What OMB calls "savings" would cost our nation and cost the taxpayers immensely through cost-overruns, delays, contract interruptions not to mention increased flooding, property damage, transportation bottlenecks and environmental neglect.

The Senate, led by Senator Reid and Domenici has gone a long hard way toward trying to resuscitate this cadaver but we have more to do and I look forward to working with you as we move ahead and I Congratulate you on your confirmation. Many are depending upon your leadership.