By Debbie Stevenson
and Natalie Younts
Killeen Daily Herald
The areas congressman vowed Friday to press the Defense Department for the information the Killeen area will need to fight a Pentagon proposal to roll back Fort Hoods troop levels.
The information is not being made available that we need in order to effectively make our argument, U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, told Killeen-Heights Rotarians. We are going to be pressing the Department of Defense to make that information available.
The Pentagon this week began releasing more information to communities about how it reached its recommendations, announced May 13, that the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission shutter or reduce 62 major bases and 73 smaller facilities.
The controversy over the lack of public information forced the postponement of the first of 16 regional hearings about the Pentagons list that was set for Tuesday in St. Louis. Responding to pressure from senators, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Wednesday that the remaining information will be available by today.
However, critical information used to assess each installations military value remains classified and only open to a select few congressman and their staffers with secret clearances in a reading room at the Pentagon.
Carter said the community currently has until July 11 to prepare a 20-minute presentation for the commission when it meets in San Antonio.
He said plans are to show the commission that the use of 2003 to assess Fort Hood is not providing an accurate picture of the post, which had 6,000 fewer troops than its current 47,000 and 37,000 acres still off-limits to training that year.
Basically, were going to lose those soldiers to Fort Bliss and Fort Carson, Carter said about the planned troop movements.
Moving them to Fort Carson, Colo., does not make sense, he added.
At Fort Carson, you have to load on a train, they cant fire heavy weapons, he said. How is this better than cranking the engine and driving across the street (at Fort Hood)?
Fielding questions from the crowd of nearly 200 at the Plaza Hotel, Carter drew applause when said he could not support President Bushs plan to grant amnesty to illegal aliens.
I would not support, and I will not support, any type of amnesty for people who enter this country illegally, the former judge said. I am not opposed to having a worker program. ... I cannot just blanketly bless illegal behavior.
The address to the breakfast group was the first of several stops for Carter on Friday. Plans included a luncheon address to members of the Greater Killeen Area Chamber of Commerce before attending the official opening of Kouma Village, a privatized housing project at Fort Hood.
On other legislative issues, Carter said he believes an energy bill will be passed.
ANWAR is not a killer this year, he said about the Alaska wildlife refuge. Plans to drill in the refuge have drawn fierce opposition from conservation groups and Democrats, effectively killing energy bills in the formerly evenly divided Senate.
Carter said he also was hopeful that a transportation bill, now in conference committee, will pass.
This year, we have the best chance to get a transportation bill, he said. I think we will honestly work this out at a number that the president will not veto.
At the GKCC luncheon Friday, Carter told the audience that the Social Security system needs to be changed, although he did not back a specific plan. Carter said he would consider any plan proposed by the Democrats, although they have not suggested any yet.
Anybody that you know thats between the ages of 28 and 18 or below, chances are theyre not going to get any Social Security benefits unless we spend $30 (trillion) to $40 trillion, he said.
When Social Security was created in the late 1930s, 50 workers paid into the system for every one worker who drew out, he said. People were predicted to die at 62 years of age.
Today, he said, three workers pay in for every one worker who draws out, and males die at the average age of 78.
In 2008, when the first crop of Baby Boomers starts retiring under Social Security, there will be two workers paying in for every one worker drawing out of the system, he said.
Carter said there have been five plans proposed to try to fix the system.
We would like to see 50 plans proposed, he said.
He said employees pay 6.25 percent of their income to the system, while their employer pays an additional 6.25 percent on their behalf.
Right now, everybody pays, in reality, 12 percent of their income, he said.
However, employers would not pay 6.25 percent under personal account plan it would stay in the existing Social Security system, if the person chose that option.
Carter said three different personal accounts options would offer different types of investment bonds and level of risks.
He said personal accounts plans would take a younger generation out of the system.
Carter said some people are afraid that changing the system will cause benefits to the elderly to be reduced.
It would be political suicide for anybody to propose cutting or harming the elderly by reducing their Social Security, he said.
Contact Debbie Stevenson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Natalie Younts at email@example.com