The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

July 19, 2013

Inhofe talks GITMO, environment, BRAC and Egypt

By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Associated Press

ENID, Okla. — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe was in Enid Friday following confirmation hearings and continuing debates in Washington the day before.

Inhofe spoke to Enid News & Eagle about issues ranging from the international to the hyper-local, speaking about the country’s support for the Egyptian military to Oklahoma’s past success in Base Closure an Realignment Commission hearings.

The Republican senator also spoke about the impact of President Barack Obama’s cap and trade regulations on the economy and cutbacks to national defense.

Inhofe serves as the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and is a former chairman and ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Following hearings Thursday in Washington, Inhofe said the Obama administration was “disarming America” with budget cuts to defense.

“As of our hearing yesterday, we are a hollow force,” the senator said. “That’s then most serious problem in our country.”

He said defense makes up only 18 percent of the federal budget but is expected to take a 50 percent cut to save funds.

Other problems created by the Obama administration are the removal of a missile defense system in Poland that would protect the eastern United States from a missile attack from Iran and the closure of Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Inhofe said intelligence reports show Iran could be able to fire a missile capable of hitting the eastern United States by 2015.

On the subject of Cuba, Inhofe called Guantanamo Bay Naval Base “the crown jewel” for operations in the area.

“We can’t close it just because some people in the Middle East don’t like it,” he said. “There is no other place to incarcerate combatants.”

When the topic of closure was front-burner, several locations in the United States, including close to home at Fort Sill in Lawton, were discussed as locations for detainees.

The senator was clear those being detained in Cuba are not prisoners. He said, “They are combatants, not prisoners.”

American support for Egypt following the coup of President Mohamed Morsi is misunderstood by many, Inhofe said.

“The military has been our friend. Israel will tell you they could not exist without the Egyptian military,” he said. “Over 11,000 of their top officers have been trained in the United States.”

The senator said aiding Egypt provides much-needed stability to the region.

“It was a coup,” Inhofe said. “It was a coup that should have happened.”

He said the issues with Egypt are closely tied with issues of U.S. involvement in Syria. He said Egypt is a key player in the Middle East region

“We have allies over there, and we have to keep those together and the cornerstone of that happened to be Egypt,” he said. With Iran the biggest threat to the United State, Inhofe said he was reticent to send forces into Syria without solidified leadership.

“It’s hard to say who the opposition is,” he said. “My inclination is not to do it. I’m opposed to a no-fly zone because you have to send our pilots in there.”

He said if the Syrian government had chemical weapons capabilities or surface-to-air missiles, it would endanger American lives to send troops. He said there are three to four opposition groups in Syria, and it’s not clear which ones can be trusted.

“We don’t have a dependable ally like we have in Egypt in the military. We have all these opposition groups, and I’m not sure we can trust them,” he said. “We’re waiting for the president to come out with a plan, and he had not done it.”

Regarding Iran, which exports oil to sustain its economy, Inhofe said the U.S. needs to open up oil exportation as a means to keep the country at bay.

“Iran has money because they export oil,” he said. “If we were to open up our federal lands, we would be able to produce enough so those who import from Iran would import from us.”

He also warned of the impact of implementation of cap and trade on U.S. energy producers. If restrictions are too stringent, manufacturers will head for countries with less regulation, such as China and Mexico.

He said experts project cap and trade regulations costing Americans $3 to $4 billion a year.

“Here in Oklahoma, that means about $3,000 a family in taxes,” Inhofe said. The senator noted most environmental issues discussed Thursday in Washington were down party lines.

The senator also took to task the current state of the Farm Bill.

“The Farm Bill is not a Farm Bill — it’s a welfare bill,” Inhofe said. “It’s 80 percent food stamps.”

He said the number of recipients of food stamps has doubled under Obama administration. Inhofe said he couldn’t support the bill in its current state.

“If they reduce that, as much as from 80 to 60 percent, that’s kind of the benchmark where I’d support it.”

Inhofe said Oklahoma military bases and installations have fared well in the past five rounds of BRAC, but he doesn’t believe there will be another round of closures.

The only consideration for closing Vance Air Force Base could be the strike that occurred four years ago.

“They say, well, there’s that political influence, and I say no, it’s community support,” Inhofe said of what would save Oklahoma bases. “One high thing is community support, (but) when you’ve had a strike that can hurt you.”

He noted the benefits Enid has given the base such as the runway extensions at Enid Woodring Regional Airport and land for perimeter roads near the base.

“I don’t think we’re going to have a BRAC round and keep in mind if we do, we have benefited in every round,” he said. “We’ve done it because we’ve done a better job.”