Tom Carper, U.S. Senator for Delaware

Nov 15 2012

Sending a Message of Thanks to our Troops this Holiday Season

Encourages participation in "Holiday Mail for Heroes" program

Over the years, I’ve had a lot of different jobs – newspaper boy, dish washer, naval flight officer, Amtrak board member, Governor and chairman of the National Governors Association – just to name a few. But my most cherished job – and frankly my most important job for that matter – is being a father. I have been blessed with three wonderful sons who make me proud and thankful every day. As we celebrate this Father’s Day, I’ve been thinking that “father love” isn’t talked about often as “mother love” – but it is just as powerful. Like many dads I know, I’ve long been motivated in all aspects of my life by my love for my children –and my desire to make the world better a better place for them, my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren .

Unbeknownst to a lot of us, our children actually listen to just about everything we say and, even more so, watch everything we do. They notice the choices we make and the company we keep. They hear us talk about playing by the rules and about treating others the way we would like to be treated, but they watch carefully to see if we actually practice what we preach – and notice if we play fair and really do follow the Golden Rule. They hear us talk about chores, homework, and responsibility, but they watch to see if we actually pitch in and do our fair share.

It strikes me that much of our country’s ongoing efforts to clean up air pollution is about playing fair, and doing our share. In my home state of Delaware, we’ve done our homework and worked hard and, as a result, we’ve made great strides in cleaning up our own air pollution. Unfortunately, a number of the upwind states to the west of us have not made the same commitment to reducing harmful pollution by investing in cleaner air. Some of those states have even built taller smokestacks so their pollution would fall – not on them – but on downwind states like us, keeping their air clean while making our air dirty, polluting our environment and making our children sick. In fact, 90 percent of Delaware’s air pollution comes actually from our neighboring states. This pollution is not only dangerous to our hearts, lungs and brains but it costs us a great deal in hospital bills. And some of this air pollution – like poisonous mercury – settles into our streams and our fish not only for this generation, but for generations to come. That doesn’t sound much like the Golden Rule to me, because even though we’re doing our part to protect our air and public health, our neighbors are not, yet we’re the ones who end up suffering due to their actions.

Fortunately, we have federal clean air protections – established by the Clean Air Act - that were forged through a strong commitment by both Democrats and Republicans who believed that playing fair and doing our share when it comes to cleaning up America’s air was profoundly important. The Clean Air Act, signed by President Richard Nixon in 1970 and updated in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush, was approved each time by Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. This landmark law to protect public health and the environment has proven time and again to be a success. In fact, I’m told that our federal clean air law delivers $30 of health savings for every dollar our nation invests in clean air. Not a bad return on our investment. Moreover, the Clean Air Act has led to the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs in new technologies, developing clean air solutions that American businesses are exporting to other nations around the globe. And, the bipartisan vision embodied in the nation’s clean air laws has been translated into healthier, longer and more productive lives for hundreds of thousands of children in Delaware and millions more across America.

While much of the Clean Air Act has been in place protecting and improving the health of Americans for years, some key aspects of the law have never been implemented because of ongoing court battles, including requirements to reduce deadly mercury and other toxic air emissions. Last December, after decades of delay and the failure of Congress to act, the Environmental Protection Agency finally implemented Clean Air Act protections to require dirty coal power plants to clean up their mercury and deadly air toxic emissions through something called the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule. By targeting our nation’s largest sources of mercury emissions, this regulation addresses the primary source of the problem by requiring large polluters to curb mercury emissions by 90 percent. This step will reduce the mercury that contaminates our streams, lakes, and oceans, pollutes our fish and is harmful to public health, especially our children’s health. In implementing these long overdue regulations, the Environmental Protection Agency has provided a reasonable and achievable schedule for our power plants to reduce these harmful emissions. Delaware’s power plants already meet these standards and so do half of the power plants in this country. Most communities will see great benefits from these rules. In fact, nationally we will see up to $90 billion in public health benefits. As someone who has tried for years to work across the aisle to find a way to clean up our nation’s power plants, I welcomed the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to finally act to address these harmful emissions.

Regrettably, some of my colleagues don’t share my appreciation for the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to protect public health and the environment, and they want to act to prevent these efforts from moving forward – despite court orders requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to do just that. I find it amazing – as well as misguided – that some in Congress would seek to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from following through on a law passed by Congress 22 years ago. The Environmental Protection Agency is merely doing what we in Congress told them to do – over two decades ago – and their efforts will reduce harmful pollution that will improve not just our health but our children’s health and that of our children’s children.

In the next week or so, I expect my colleagues in the Senate who disagree with the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to reduce harmful mercury and toxic air emissions will insist on holding a vote to prevent the Agency from moving forward with this clean air provision. I will strongly oppose this last ditch effort to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from doing its job and moving forward to reduce these deadly emissions. My decision to oppose this effort isn’t solely based on the fact that I’m a father, but knowing that the implementation of this rule at long last will positively impact the lives and health of my sons and that of their children weighs heavily on my mind.

This weekend as we’re celebrating Father’s Day, I’m sure a number of us will ask: ‘What is father love?’ For me, ‘father love’ means not having to say to the next generation of Americans, “We’re sorry. We let you down.” Instead, it means leaving a legacy that ensures my sons, their children, and their children’s children will have cleaner water to drink, cleaner air to breathe and a healthier environment in which to enjoy the blessings of our liberty.

Our children really do hear us talk to them and to others but, more importantly, they’re watching us to see if we also walk the walk. Whether we are Democrats, Independents, or Republicans, we’re still fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers. So let us continue to lead the way by following that Golden Rule every day -- treating our neighbors as we would want to be treated -- and let us work together across our nation to keep the Clean Air Act resilient and strong. Our children – and their children -- are counting on us.

You may have read a Letter to the Editor in the May 17, 2012, edition of the Delaware State News entitled "Should veterans support Carper?" In order to set the record straight, below I have provided a copy of my Letter to the Editor in response to the concerns raised in Mr. Gallagher’s Letter, as well as a copy of the questions Mr. Gallagher submitted to me and the detailed responses I sent to Mr. Gallagher before his letter was printed in the newspaper.

Sen. Carper's Letter to the Editor

As a former naval flight officer who served our nation for five years during a hot war in Southeast Asia and for another 18 years until the end of the Cold War, and as a life member of the American Legion, I deeply appreciate the sacrifices our servicemembers have made for our country, and I have fought for three decades to improve benefits for our veterans. That is why I want to respond directly to the May 17, 2012, Letter to the Editor by Mr. James H. Gallagher, “Should veterans support Carper?”

First, let me clarify that after Mr. Gallagher requested an interview for the Delaware American Legion newsletter, Delaware Family Legionnaire, my staff scheduled time for an interview the next day that I would be in Sussex County, so Mr. Gallagher and I could meet in person. On April 6, I sat down with Mr. Gallagher prepared to discuss issues important to veterans for his article. I had to start the 30-minute interview by phone and ended it in person in my Georgetown office. The only questions asked during this time were: “Why haven’t you voted for the flag amendment to the U.S Constitution?,” “Why do we continue to raise the cost of healthcare for older veterans?,” and “Why do we continue to give money to fund renewable energy resources instead of giving more money to support veterans?” I soon realized that not enough time had been allocated to fully respond to Mr. Gallagher’s questions. After the time allocated for the interview had expired, that same day, my staff provided him with additional facts and information for those questions he raised, and we asked if he would like me to answer any additional questions for his story. On April 25, Mr. Gallagher responded to my staff’s multiple requests for follow-up by providing the seven questions listed in his May 17, 2012, letter to the editor. My staff and I spent the next several weeks working with Mr. Gallagher to answer his questions and to address his concerns about the original interview. On May 16, my staff provided Mr. Gallagher with my detailed responses to all of his additional questions.

I could not disagree more strongly with, Mr. Gallagher’s assertions and I want to set the record straight. Supporting our veterans and strengthening veterans’ benefits have been among my top priorities for 30 years. I work tirelessly to ensure that veterans and their families get the benefits that they deserve, including access to high quality healthcare, education, and job training services. For example, two beautiful veterans’ cemeteries at either end of Delaware now serve as the final resting place for 16,700 of our fallen heroes in a state that previously had none. An attractive new veteran’s home serves as a safe and comfortable home for 122 veterans near Milford. A WWII relic of a VA hospital in Elsmere has been transformed into a hospital that is a gold standard for healthcare delivery in America. First-rate VA primary health clinics in Dover and Georgetown are now open and serving veterans. Veterans with three years of service returning home today from serving in Afghanistan or Iraq are eligible for a G.I. Bill that enables them to attend universities like the University of Delaware, Delaware State and Wilmington University at little or no cost. Those of us who served in Southeast Asia received a G.I. Bill benefit that barely covered books and came home to a society that did not give us a whole lot of respect. I felt that we could do better than that in America, and I’ve spent the better part of 30 years to ensure that we do, both in Delaware and across the nation.

Those interested in reading the responses I provided to Mr. Gallagher’s questions can find them on my website,

Full Q&A, with Sen. Carper's Responses

1) Where do you stand on the reduction in troop levels to 400,000?

A reduction in troop levels to 400,000 is simply a bad idea. Currently, there are 1.4 million men and women serving on active duty in our nation’s armed forces. More than 200,000 of them are serving outside the U.S. in more than 150 countries. With the withdrawal of most American troops from Iraq and the drawdown now underway in Afghanistan, the President has proposed to reduce our active duty forces by 21,600 in 2013 and by a total of 102,400 by the end of 2017. Reductions beyond those numbers in the near future should be preceded by close consultation with our nation’s top military commanders, the leaders of our intelligence agencies, the State department and the bipartisan leadership of Congress. To suddenly reduce our active-duty military to 400,000 troops would raise serious questions about our nation’s ability and our willingness to respond to a wide range of threats in a dangerous world.

Having said that, too many of the dollars spent at the Department of Defense (DOD) do little to enhance our national security. Mismanagement and wasteful spending still occur at unacceptable levels despite growing efforts at DOD and in Congress to rein them in. For example, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported last year that major weapon systems cost overruns reached $400 billion. Too often, we see instances where the management of our inventory of spare parts is abysmal. For example, in one case, DOD paid $240 last year for helicopter door parts that actually cost $8, and in another instance paid five times too much for a $1,500 helicopter rotor part when the Army already had plenty of them in military warehouses. More recently, USA Today reported that the Department of Defense racked up $720 million in late fees for shipping container leases by not returning the containers on time. This $720 million in late fees was on top of the cost of the actual leases. That’s an expense we could’ve easily avoided.

As chairman of the Senate’s Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, this type of wasteful spending is simply unacceptable to me. It’s also unacceptable to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. We have joined forces to implement a series of major recommendations from GAO to finally put the Pentagon on a more fiscally responsible course and to better ensure that our warfighters have the resources they need to defend our country even when budgets are tight. How? In part by making certain that the DOD meets its statutory mandate to produce auditable finances for the entire department before 2017 so that its managers can more effectively manage personnel systems, inventory systems, weapons systems, information systems and accounting systems. You can’t manage what you can’t measure. The time for excuses is long gone. Our troops deserve better. So do American taxpayers.

2) Why at the same time is the government growing at an alarming rate, why aren't we cutting government as promised?

I’ve always had little patience for wasteful federal government spending and uninformed decision-making. Our mind-boggling budget deficits demand that we take a number of steps to rein in federal spending and to use our limited resources in a way that provides better results for less money. I have continuously worked with the Administration, as well as with Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, to move Washington from a "culture of spendthrift" to a "culture of thrift."

I also think it’s important to explain a little bit of recent history when it comes to our current budget situation: After America had gone 30 years without a balanced budget, President Bill Clinton directed his chief of staff, Erskine Bowles, to try to negotiate a balanced budget agreement with a Republican House and Senate in 1997. Subsequent negotiations that year led to a deal in which 50 percent of the deficit reduction would come on the spending side, while another 50 percent of the deficit reduction would come from additional revenues. This agreement produced balanced budgets in 1999, 2000 and 2001. Eight years later, two wars, major tax cuts without spending restraint, and the worst recession since the Great Depression led to a trillion dollar deficit which ballooned to $1.4 trillion in 2009. That year, President Obama asked Erskine Bowles and former Senator Alan Simpson (R-Wyoming) to lead a bipartisan deficit reduction commission of 18 people in an effort to forge another comprehensive, bipartisan deficit reduction plan. About 10 months later, a majority of its members endorsed a plan that would reduce deficit spending by between $4-5 trillion over a ten-year period. Three-quarters of that amount would come from reduced spending, and another quarter would come from increased revenues achieved by lowering both individual and corporate income tax rates while eliminating roughly half of all tax expenditures – tax breaks, tax deductions, tax credits and tax loopholes – that permeate the federal tax code. Opposed by both Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, and never enthusiastically embraced by the President, nearly half of the Senate – including both of Delaware’s senators – nonetheless has endorsed the Bowles-Simpson blueprint.

As a potential default on our nation’s debt loomed large last summer, President Obama and House Speaker Boehner came close to agreeing on a roadmap resembling Bowles-Simpson. When the Speaker was unable to rally the support of the House Republican caucus for it, Congress and the President opted for a different course, enacting a two-year budget called the Budget Control Act. Covering Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013, it initiated last October $600 billion in defense spending cuts over the next ten years, as well as another $600 billion in domestic spending cuts. If we do not agree to comprehensive deficit reduction measures by the end of this calendar year, another $600 billion in both defense and non-defense cuts, along with reductions in entitlement program spending, will be implemented early next year in a process called sequestration. Between now and January 1, I will continue to push hard for the adoption of the Bowles-Simpson plan.

3) Government needs to be cut and streamlined, needs to get out of the private lives of the citizens, how do you feel about this?

Let me answer this question by paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln who essentially said a long time ago, “The role of government is to do for the people what they cannot do for themselves.” He was right then, and he’s still right today. American philosopher Henry David Thoreau also said, "That government is best which governs least." While Article 1 of the Constitution makes clear that our federal government has an obligation to defend our citizens and promote their general welfare, it is imperative that, in doing so, we also protect the civil liberties of all Americans to the best of our ability.

When my sister and I were growing up, our father, who served for 35 years as a chief petty officer in the Navy, oftentimes implored us to “just use some common sense.” Over time, I took that advice to heart. Not only is it sound advice for all of us in our personal lives, it’s also sound advice for those of us who are entrusted with the leadership of our states and nation. My father also frequently told my sister and me, “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” As a result, we learned to do all things well. Years later, I’m reminded almost every day that everything I do, I can do better. The same is true of most of us. It’s also true of our government. As a result, my attitude toward all kinds of government programs is, “If it isn’t perfect, make it better.”

My mother, a deeply religious woman, also instilled values in us that shape my views on the role of government in our lives. Dragging my sister and me to church several times each week, she sought to make sure that we felt an obligation to figure out the right thing to do in all situations – not the easy or expedient thing – and then to do it. She also wanted to make sure that we internalized the Golden Rule – to treat other people the way we want to be treated. To this day, I believe that’s the most important rule of all and it guides me in almost everything I do and in the way I view the role of government.

If I can use an example from the Navy, I believe that the role of government is to steer the boat, not row the boat. While setting the course for our country in pursuit of our goals in the 21st Century, our government – where feasible – should largely rely on the private sector, on the non-profit community, and on market forces to reach those goals.

4) Tourism is a big business in Delaware, with the high gas prices and probably 95 % of them driving to our beaches, why haven't you done something about this gas situation?

After topping out at $4/gallon earlier this year, the price of gas generally has trended downward in recent months, largely because of supply and demand. In 2007, I coauthored the first update in vehicle fuel efficiency standards – called CAFÉ – in over three decades. That law calls for the overall fleet average of the cars, light trucks and minivans sold in the U.S. to rise to 35 mpg by 2016 and to continue rising to 54 mpg by 2025. Fortunately, as more fuel-efficient vehicles have come into the market place, fuel consumption in America has begun dropping. It’s down 6 percent thus far in 2012. At the same time, the availability of cheap, abundant natural gas has made feasible the conversion of a growing number of large diesel engines to run on natural gas.

The United States has long been the Saudi Arabia of coal. We are now becoming the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. With my support, we are also well on our way to becoming a net exporter of oil as hundreds of oil leases have been granted off the coast of Alaska, in the Gulf of Mexico and across America. In fact, we are drilling for oil in this country more than we have in 8 years.

One of the best ways we can reduce our dependence on oil is to make investments in alternative sources of energy. After not building any new nuclear power plants in 25 years, we’ve broken ground – with my encouragement – on four new plants already this year, using a safer, modern design that will protect those plants and the communities around them from the kind of natural disasters that struck Japan last year. By the end of this decade, it’s likely that wind mill farms will have been deployed on the Outer Continental Shelf from Maryland to Maine, generating electricity for the millions of hybrid-electric vehicles that automakers are planning to build in the coming years. Some of those new vehicles can also be powered by cellulosic ethanol and by advanced biofuels like biobutanol developed in a joint venture by DuPont and BP. Unlike corn ethanol, biobutanol has better energy density than corn ethanol, mixes better with gasoline, and travels better in pipelines than corn ethanol. Along with clean coal technology, I support all of these initiatives. Together, they are lessening – and will eventually eliminate – our dependence on foreign oil and on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).  

5) Where do you stand on drilling oil in America??

As I stated in the earlier question, I support an all of the above energy approach – which includes supporting more drilling here at home. Not only have I supported onshore drilling production, I have also been open to some expansion of offshore drilling as part of comprehensive energy legislation, as long as drilling could be done in an environmentally responsible manner and states and neighboring states had a say if drilling occurred near their shores. For further explanation, please refer to question No. 4 above.  

6) Do you support the Keystone pipeline if not why and if you do what are your plans to try and push it??

I believe that, with some modification to the original permit application, the Keystone XL pipeline can be built and will be built. Although the original Keystone XL pipeline permit application was denied, the project is far from dead. The project is actually in 2 parts: a northern section, which crosses our border into Canada, and a southern section. TransCanada recently resubmitted a formal permit application to the Department of State for the Keystone XL pipeline, with an alternative route that goes around the environmentally sensitive Nebraska Sand Hills region. While these concerns are being worked out, TransCanada recently announced that it will move forward now with the southern portion of the pipeline connecting Cushing, Oklahoma to Texas refineries. Since this section does not cross national borders, the Department of State does not have to review it. This part of the pipeline will deliver oil already being pumped out of the ground by surrounding states to refineries in the Gulf Coast. Construction of this portion of the pipeline is expected to begin without delay this summer, and it is anticipated to be in service by mid-to-late 2013. The Department of State is now reviewing the new application. TransCanada is projecting the entire project to be completed by 2015 if the project is approved. I believe it will be.

7) Recently, you and Senator Coons voted yes on a bill that allows the government to imprison an American citizen without due process for as long as the government feels necessary. This is a violation of our Constitutional rights, why do you support this?

I do not support any violation of civil liberties expressly granted to American citizens through the U.S. Constitution. I share your concerns about detainee policies and will work to ensure that the Constitutional rights granted to all U.S. citizens are protected. Our country must have appropriate prosecution and detainment policies that reflect our national values while ensuring that U.S. security officials have the tools they need to fight terrorism and defend our country.

The FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act contained several controversial provisions related to the detainment of suspected terrorists. In response to concerns by the Obama Administration and other Members of Congress that Americans’ civil liberties could be violated based on the language of those controversial provisions, a Conference Committee – formed to bridge the differences between the two versions of the House and Senate bills – further modified the detainee language of both bills to address the concerns of the Obama Administration and reaffirmed that the bill does not change existing law or extend new authorities to detain U.S. citizens. I supported the final Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law by President Obama on December 31, 2011.

Earth Day has been an important and joyful day for me for many years. As a young naval flight officer stationed near San Francisco, I joined tens of thousands of people in the City by the Bay to celebrate our nation’s very first Earth Day. Today, 42 years later, I still honor and celebrate the commitment to protecting our planet that inspired that first Earth Day celebration.

As we observe Earth Day this year, we recognize the progress we have made to help clean up our nation’s air and water and preserve its natural resources, but we also recognize there’s still plenty of work to do. Fortunately, some of the best ways to clean up our air and protect our earth can also bring new jobs and help strengthen our economic recovery.

At the top of the list is the need to support advancements in alternative energy sources and energy efficiency. Investments in home-grown, clean energy can put America on a path to free us of our dependence on foreign oil, reduce air pollution, create jobs and help ease the strain that energy and oil costs put on Americans’ wallets every day.

Promoting the manufacturing of energy technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines, fuel cells, and advanced batteries is helping to stimulate our economy, create jobs, and save us money on energy costs. We’ve already seen the success driven by the growing energy technology sector in Delaware with companies like Solardeck and DuPont.

In addition to making these investments, we must also take steps to reduce our dependence on oil. Since transportation accounts for nearly three-quarters of our oil consumption, we can significantly reduce this dependence by driving more fuel efficient vehicles. As it turns out, there are a lot more of them for sale today than any other time in our nation’s history.

In 2010, President Obama announced the next phase in the Administration’s program to increase fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas pollution, which stemmed in part from my work in the Senate in 2007 negotiating the first increase in fuel economy standards in more than 30 years. In the coming decade, these new standards for cars and light trucks will help American families save thousands of dollars in fuel costs and significantly reduce oil consumption.

American car companies are helping with the effort, too. For years, when I visited the Detroit Auto Show, company after company unveiled their newest truck or sport-utility vehicle with great fanfare – many of which had horrible gas mileage. Today, it’s a different story. Over the past five years, car companies have showcased the latest in cutting edge, efficient automobiles that get 30, 40 – even up to 100 miles per gallon.

It is also important that we develop the technologies that will power our cars on something other than gasoline. Right now, Americans can choose between oil and oil. That’s not a real choice. Whether through natural gas, electricity from clean energy or advanced biofuels, making sure that there is competition for our consumer dollars will help drive prices down and give Americans a real choice between gasoline or fuels that are better for our environment, our health, and our pocketbook.

Those of us in government need to create a nurturing environment for businesses and Americans to invest in these new technologies, but all of us can do our part to make a real difference for our environment, our health and our economic prosperity. By working together to support alternative energy sources and energy efficiency, we can build on the progress we’ve made over the past four decades. I hope that this Earth Day inspires you to join me in treating every day like it is Earth Day.