Mr. FLAKE. Mr. Chairman, when I saw this earmark, which is $1 million for research at the environmental center at Mystic Aquarium, Connecticut, I thought I was experiencing deja vu. We had a similar amendment in the Energy and Water bill just last week, or 2 weeks ago. Now we are looking at the defense bill, and the only difference is the amount of the earmark. I believe it was $400,000 then; this defense bill earmark is for $1 million. My amendment would remove this earmark from the bill.
Now, during our debate a few weeks ago on this subject, we learned that the aquarium has been in operation for over 20 years, that it is an educational and research institution with expertise in ocean environmental studies and in deep sea exploration. We learned that it provides activities and learning for boys and girls clubs. All of these are worthy activities, certainly.
We learned that the world's foremost deep sea explorer collocates his operation at the aquarium. That is Dr. Robert Ballard, I believe.
What we didn't learn was why this aquarium gets favorable treatment over aquariums in Arizona or Massachusetts or Kansas. We didn't learn what enumerated Federal function the aquarium fills. We certainly did not learn, and we haven't learned yet today, and I hope to learn in the next 5 minutes, how the aquarium contributes to the most basic and critical function of defending our country.
We just heard a great discussion about how we need to free up more funding for helmets for our military. I would suggest this is a great place to start. It is often said you can't vote for the Flake amendments because the money will simply be spent anyway by the agency. In this case the agency is the Department of Defense, and I think it would be hard to believe that they could make a case for a program less wise than this on their own, that they have something that fitters away more dollars
than spending on an aquarium.
I like the Boys and Girls Club, but they aren't fighting for us and defending our country. Maybe they have programs that benefit them at this aquarium, but I would submit that it is no way to spend our defense dollars.
By voting against this amendment, you are saying that we place more value in the defense bill for funding aquariums than we do in funding defense.
Now we were trying to find out when we were researching this amendment, and we were not told much by the Appropriations Committee, so we tried to find out what this is, if it really is Connecticut, and I was told today, no, I think it is in Ohio on Lake Erie. I don't know what the aquarium does. I am anxious to learn what it does and how it contributes to defense.
In this process without a unanimous consent agreement on this bill, I am unable to ask questions and then speak later. I hope whoever is sponsoring this legislation or supporting this will please tell us how it is more vital to fund aquariums in the defense bill than funding helmets for our troops, for example, or anything else the Defense Department can do.
I would ask, please, for the sponsor of the amendment or whoever is defending it to tell us why we should be funding aquariums in the defense bill.
Ms. KAPTUR. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment and oppose the gentleman's effort to try to eliminate the funding for this program.
Let me first begin by saying that the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO supports this effort as one that is strategic. Many of us on the committee also support it because it is educational.
Let me explain to the gentleman that the organizations that will carry out the undersea exploration in the Black Sea and in the eastern Mediterranean will do this working under the authority of NATO. There are very preeminent scholars who are involved in this, including Mr. Bob Ballard, best known for finding the wreckage of the Titanic.
The efforts in the Black Sea and the eastern Mediterranean will be to explore underwater in a cooperative effort with our friends in both Ukraine and in Russia. The Government of Greece will be involved as well, but the instrumentalities that you talked about in this country are only locations through which some of our talented people have been selected and will be coupled with those of Ukraine, Russia and Greece.
As you may or may not know, Russia has a base in Crimea, and as both Russia and Ukraine move towards NATO, I think it is important for the United States to find ways to work with them together so we can achieve a very progressive maturation and a set of relationships that include underwater exploration in which everyone feels they have a stake.
One of the side benefits of this particular effort, so you know, is that there will be educational programs relating to math and science. This particular scientific endeavor will be [Page: H4288]
broadcast through a live network of museums, science centers, Boys and Girls Clubs, and aquariums, perhaps the one the gentleman mentioned. There are literally hundreds of them, including Department of Defense schools in all of the NATO countries. So there is also a benefit
One of the goals is to take and broadcast through Ukraine and Russia so we work on this together. There is actually a term that they use, I might not have it exactly right, but it is like an instantaneous televideo connect where as they film underwater and begin to identify various undersea artifacts and conditions, and the oceanographers and the scientists involved will make this information available globally.
So the Institute for Exploration Project is designed not only to help our strategic relationships in the region, but it has a benefit for children across the world. And by working on a project focused on exploration of the maritime conditions in those locations, we engage strategically with countries where we need to develop friendships and a common agenda without engaging in any kind of overt military activity. That is a bit of an explanation.
Mr. Chairman, I yield to the gentleman from Connecticut (Mr. Simmons), who has been such a great colleague in helping the Ukrainian Caucus move this project forward.
Mr. SIMMONS. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding, and I also rise in opposition to the amendment.
If the logic of the amendment is to be understood, the Department of Defense should not engage in any funding of academic research. I think we know that the Department of Defense expends incredible dollars on academic research, especially applied research, that has application to some of their varied missions.
The United States since World War II has enjoyed subsurface dominance. Just a few minutes ago we talked about the issue of our submarines and our Submarine Center of Excellence in Groton-New London. Well, that Submarine Center of Excellence in Groton-New London is collocated with the Institute for Exploration. We are not talking about funding for fish food and cleaning the tanks. My colleague from Arizona keeps saying it is an aquarium as if we have goldfish in this place, or something like that.
That is to trivialize some of the activities that take place there.
Ms. KAPTUR. Mr. Chairman, I just wanted to mention to the gentleman from Arizona that some of the following school districts in your State will benefit directly, including the Mesa Unified School District, and schools in Phoenix, Tucson, Scottsdale, Glendale, Yuma, Prescott and the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix is also involved in the dissemination of materials.
Mr. FLAKE. Mr. Chairman, the gentlewoman mentioned school districts in my State that would benefit. I would say again, this is the exact point we are making. This is not the Labor-HHS bill. This is the defense bill, for crying out loud. We are trying to fund our defense, and we are bleeding off dollars to aquariums. This is the wrong place to have this debate. It should be on Labor-HHS.