[Congressional Record Volume 158, Number 171 (Monday, December 31, 2012)]
[Pages H7508-H7511]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                   NAVAL VESSEL TRANSFER ACT OF 2012

  Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass 
the bill (H.R. 6649) to provide for the transfer of naval vessels to 
certain foreign recipients, as amended.
  The Clerk read the title of the bill.
  The text of the bill is as follows:

                               H.R. 6649

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,


       This Act may be cited as the ``Naval Vessel Transfer Act of 


       (a) Transfers by Grant.--The President is authorized to 
     transfer vessels to foreign countries on a grant basis under 
     section 516 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 
     2321j), as follows:
       (1) Mexico.--To the Government of Mexico, the OLIVER HAZARD 
     PERRY class guided missile frigates USS CURTS (FFG-38) and 
       (2) Thailand.--To the Government of Thailand, the OLIVER 
     HAZARD PERRY class guided missile frigates USS RENTZ (FFG-46) 
     and USS VANDEGRIFT (FFG-48).
       (3) Turkey.--To the Government of Turkey, the OLIVER HAZARD 
     PERRY class guided missile frigates USS HALYBURTON (FFG-40) 
     and USS THACH (FFG-43).
       (b) Transfer by Sale.--The President is authorized to 
     transfer the OLIVER HAZARD PERRY class guided missile 
     frigates USS TAYLOR (FFG-50), USS GARY (FFG-51), USS CARR 
     (FFG-52), and USS ELROD (FFG-55) to the Taipei Economic and 
     Cultural Representative Office of the United States (which is 
     the Taiwan instrumentality designated pursuant to section 
     10(a) of the Taiwan Relations Act (22 U.S.C. 3309(a))) on a 
     sale basis under section 21 of the Arms Export Control Act 
     (22 U.S.C. 2761).
       (c) Alternative Transfer Authority.--Notwithstanding the 
     authority provided in subsections (a) and (b) to transfer 
     specific vessels to specific countries, the President is 
     authorized, subject to the same conditions that would apply 
     for such country under this Act, to transfer any vessel named 
     in this Act to any country named in this Act such that the 
     total number of vessels transferred to such country does not 
     exceed the total number of vessels authorized for transfer to 
     such country by this Act.
       (d) Grants Not Counted in Annual Total of Transferred 
     Excess Defense Articles.--The value of a vessel transferred 
     to another country on a grant basis pursuant to authority 
     provided by subsection (a) or (c) shall not be counted 
     against the aggregate value of excess defense articles 
     transferred in any fiscal year under section 516 of the 
     Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2321j).
       (e) Costs of Transfers.--Any expense incurred by the United 
     States in connection with a transfer authorized by this 
     section shall be charged to the recipient notwithstanding 
     section 516(e) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 
     U.S.C. 2321j(e)).
       (f) Repair and Refurbishment in United States Shipyards.--
     To the maximum extent practicable, the President shall 
     require, as a condition of the transfer of a vessel under 
     this section, that the recipient to which the vessel is 
     transferred have such repair or refurbishment of the vessel 
     as is needed, before the vessel joins the naval forces of 
     that recipient, performed at a shipyard located in the United 
     States, including a United States Navy shipyard.
       (g) Expiration of Authority.--The authority to transfer a 
     vessel under this section shall expire at the end of the 3-
     year period beginning on the date of the enactment of this 

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentlewoman from 
Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen) and the gentleman from New York (Mr. Engel) 
each will control 20 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from Florida.

                             General Leave

  Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all 
Members may have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks 
and to include extraneous material in the Record on this bill.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentlewoman from Florida?

[[Page H7509]]

  There was no objection.
  Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
  I rise in support of H.R. 6649, the Naval Transfer Act of 2012, as 
  According to the Secretary of the Navy, authority to transfer surplus 
vessels is an important element of the U.S. strategy for decommissioned 
ships. It enables our Navy to manage its inventory while strengthening 
ties with our key security partners and with allies by transferring 
ships that meet key operational requirements.
  This legislation authorizes the transfer of 10 decommissioned Oliver 
Hazard Perry class guided missile frigates to Mexico, to Thailand, to 
Turkey and Taiwan. Six of the 10 vessels would be authorized for 
transfer on a grant basis as excess defense articles under section 516 
of the Foreign Assistance Act.
  Mexico, Thailand, and Turkey would each receive two frigates. With 
respect to Turkey, I remain greatly concerned with the deterioration in 
that country's relations with, and policy toward, the democratic Jewish 
state and our ally, the State of Israel.

                              {time}  1310

  Since the 2010 flotilla incident--a crisis on the high seas that 
triggered a tailspin in Turkish-Israeli relations--we have witnessed a 
Turkey that is increasingly hostile toward Israel.
  From its recall of its Ambassador to Israel, its attempts to 
marginalize Israel in other international fora, and its continued 
occupation of Cyprus to the embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood and its 
offshoots, current Turkish policy is unacceptable. I will continue to 
challenge those and take steps to ensure, for example, that Turkey is 
sanctioned for its activities regarding the Iranian regime.
  But, Mr. Speaker, the proposed transfer that we're talking about 
today is not validation of the current Turkish policy in the region. It 
is about our Nation's long-term national security interests. That is 
what this bill is all about. Turkey is a NATO ally that we need to 
continue participating in joint anti-piracy operations, for which they 
would use these frigates. It has even commanded the Combined Joint Task 
Force 151, fighting piracy in the Gulf of Aden and along the Somali 
coast, protecting American citizens who are traveling in that volatile 
  Additionally, in light of the deteriorating security environment in 
Syria and Turkey's critical role in that arena, the Department of 
Defense feels that it was necessary for our foreign policy priorities 
and security objectives that Turkey receive these transfers.
  Finally, Mr. Speaker, in 2010, the last time that Congress authorized 
such naval transfers, we approved the grant transfer of three OSPREY 
class mine-hunter coastal ships to Greece, but no transfers to Turkey.
  Lastly, these transfers are job creators here at home. Each frigate 
transferred will require 40 to $80 million of repair and refurbishment. 
This represents economic benefit to the United States through labor and 
services during the transfer process, as well as the potential for 
millions more in follow-on services, equipment, and training. According 
to estimates from U.S. sources, each frigate transfer creates or 
sustains approximately 100 shipyard jobs and 50 services jobs in the 
U.S. for approximately 6 months. Performing this ship transfer work in 
domestic shipyards that perform U.S. Navy overhauls and repairs lowers 
the cost of U.S. Navy maintenance by spreading costs over a wider base. 
The end result is an overall lower cost to our U.S. Navy and thus for 
the American taxpayer.
  The alternative to foreign ship transfers for ships no longer 
required by the U.S. Navy is to place the decommissioned ships into 
cold storage or have them be sunk. Navy funding is required for both 
the storage and the sinking option.
  Turning to the other four frigates, Mr. Speaker, these would be 
authorized for transfer to our close friends and ally, Taiwan. The 
transfer of these four frigates is not only a symbol of our enduring 
commitment to a secure and democratic Taiwan but will also provide the 
island with additional capabilities to conduct maritime security 
operations in the Taiwan Strait.
  The legislation also requires that any expense incurred by the U.S. 
in connection with a transfer authorized by this bill shall be charged 
to the recipient.
  Mr. Speaker, passage of this bill will help advance United States 
foreign policy interests and our broader national security 
requirements. Therefore, I urge adoption, and I reserve the balance of 
my time.
  Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this bill, H.R. 6649, 
as amended, and yield myself as much time as I may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, this bill authorizes the transfer of decommissioned 
frigates to four foreign countries. The governments of Turkey, Mexico, 
and Thailand would each receive by grant two Perry class frigates. That 
means for free. Taiwan would be authorized to purchase four of the same 
class of frigates, which they clearly need to protect their territorial 
  I object to this bill primarily because of Turkey. While I recognize 
that Turkey is an important NATO ally, I regret that I have to oppose 
this bill in light of Turkey's problematic behavior and disturbing 
rhetoric regarding Israel and Cyprus over the past year and a half. For 
example, in May, with no apparent justification, Turkey sent combat 
aircraft to intercept an Israeli aircraft that was flying near Cyprus. 
This could have turned into a significant confrontation between a U.S. 
NATO ally and the United States' closest ally in the Middle East. 
Fortunately, it did not.
  In September 2011, Turkey announced that it would send warships to 
escort aid convoys to Gaza. It has not followed through with this 
threat, but nor has it rescinded it.
  Prime Minister Erdogan and Foreign Minister Davutoglu have been 
famously competing to see who can issue the most vile denunciations of 
Israel, as we saw, once again, during the recent Gaza crisis. Indeed, 
their allegations of ``ethnic cleansing'' and ``crimes against 
humanity,'' quotes from them, topped even the claims of Hamas for 
stridency and falsehood. Of course, the prime minister called Israel a 
``terrorist state.'' Is that the kind of rhetoric we should expect from 
a NATO ally?

  Some people say this should continue because, after all, Turkey is an 
ally and we need to help them. Well, I look at it the other way. 
They're a NATO ally, so they have responsibility. And the way they're 
acting has been anything but responsible. This is not an 
inconsequential or trivial matter. As many public opinion surveys show, 
and as is widely acknowledged, Turkey wields enormous influence among 
Middle Easterners, with the sway to exacerbate or tamp down tensions as 
it sees fit. For too long, it has been exacerbating these tensions, 
particularly since the new government--well, it's not new anymore--a 
government for several years with an Islamist bent has been in.
  Moreover, Turkey's longstanding recognition of Hamas has done nothing 
to moderate that group. It has merely lent legitimacy to a terrorist 
group and undermined the standing of the Palestinian Authority in 
Ramallah. Indeed, in the aftermath of the Gaza hostilities, Turkey's 
extreme rhetoric and one-sided approach to Israel's conflict with Hamas 
disqualified it from playing the useful mediating role which should be 
its natural vocation.
  Turkey's unnecessarily harsh anti-Israel rhetoric over the last 
several years actually did cost the Turks the support of Congress to 
authorize the transfer of two decommissioned U.S. frigates in the last 
Congress. It should have that result again in this Congress, and it 
should be denied.
  But Turkey's poisonous rhetoric and menacing behavior towards Israel 
is not the only reason to oppose this ship transfer, and perhaps not 
even the most potentially explosive. To cite the other important 
reason: Turkey has repeatedly threatened Cyprus and its energy 
explorations. One year ago, Turkey used its naval forces--and, by the 
way, the very naval forces this bill would enhance--in an effort to 
harass and intimidate Cyprus and workers employed by the Houston-based 
Noble Energy company as they sought to explore for offshore natural gas 
in Cyprus' exclusive economic zone. Prime Minister Erdogan also 
threatened that Turkey would use force to stop these explorations. 
Probably because of U.S. opposition, it has not done so, but, again, 
Turkey has never rescinded the threat. Almost exactly 1 year ago, 
Turkey conducted a dangerous live-fire

[[Page H7510]]

naval exercise in the vicinity of both the Cypriot and Israeli offshore 
natural gas explorations, which Cyprus and Israel are doing jointly.
  The Turkish attitude is epitomized by Turkey's Minister for European 
Union Affairs, Egemen Bagis, who addressed the issue of Cypriot natural 
gas exploration last year. This was his warning, and I quote:
  This is what we have a navy for. We have trained our marines for 
this. We have equipped the navy for this. All options are on the table. 
Anything can be done.
  And I want to remind my colleagues that Turkey has continued to 
occupy the northern part of Cyprus since the 1970s. It's just 

                              {time}  1320

  Mr. Speaker, I realize that Turkey is an important member of NATO. It 
accepted radar emplacements for NATO's missile defense initiative, and 
it is an important element of the solution to several regional 
problems--notably, Syria--but it has become a major problem for U.S. 
interests in terms of its relations with Israel and the inflammatory 
and distinctly unhelpful role it has assumed in the Palestinian issue, 
as well as its threats against Cyprus.
  In the last several years, the once warm relationship between Israel 
and Turkey has unfortunately frozen over. We would truly like to see a 
thaw in that relationship, just as we would like to see Turkey respect 
the sovereign right of every country in the region, like Cyprus, to 
utilize their natural resources. Until then, I believe we should hold 
off on sending powerful warships to Turkey and encourage the government 
in Ankara to take a less belligerent approach to their neighbors.
  Early in the next Congress, I would look forward to working with my 
colleagues on a new ship transfer bill that excludes Turkey, if we can 
defeat this bill, or appropriately conditions our ship transfer so that 
the government in Ankara gets the right message.
  So I urge my colleagues to reject this bill, and I reserve the 
balance of my time.
  Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from 
Florida, my colleague, Mr. Bilirakis, an esteemed member on our 
Committee of Foreign Affairs.
  Mr. BILIRAKIS. Thank you, Madam Chairwoman. I appreciate it very 
  Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to H.R. 6649, the Naval Vessel 
Transfer Act of 2012. As part of this legislation before us, the United 
States would transfer two Oliver Hazard Perry class guided missile 
frigates to the Government of Turkey.
  I have serious concerns, and I oppose this military transfer, Mr. 
Speaker, because the Turkish navy, as recently as last year, held naval 
live-fire exercises in the eastern Mediterranean. These provocative 
exercises took place near the natural gas fields of Israel and the 
Republic of Cyprus and threatened to disrupt peaceful and productive 
economic activity. Instead, Mr. Speaker, it is my hope that, in the 
eastern Mediterranean, Congress will continue to work to foster the 
relationships between the United States, Greece, Israel, and Cyprus in 
order to promote and foster issues of mutual, economic, and diplomatic 
  For those reasons, Mr. Speaker, I oppose the bill.
  Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, may I inquire as to how much time I have 
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from New York has 13\1/2\ 
minutes remaining.
  Mr. ENGEL. I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from California (Mr. 
  Mr. SHERMAN. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
  Woodrow Wilson noted that Congress in committee is Congress at work. 
Congress ignoring the committee process is a Congress that doesn't 
  This bill has not been the subject of hearing and, more importantly, 
a markup in the Foreign Affairs Committee. And in the dead of night, 
provisions to transfer two frigates to Turkey, a controversial 
provision, was added to this otherwise innocuous bill.
  There are arguments on both sides of the issue: Should we transfer 
the frigates to Turkey at no cost, a gift from the American taxpayer? 
Should we condition that transfer? Should we limit it to perhaps only 
one ship?
  I'd like to have hearings. I'd like Congress to work its will. 
Instead, a bill is brought to the floor on a day we were not scheduled 
to be in session for a last-minute discussion and a last-minute vote.
  In prior discussions in our committee dealing with providing frigates 
to Turkey, we've been told that Turkey lives in a dangerous 
neighborhood, that it shares a border with Iran. I would ask: Where on 
the Turkish-Iranian border will these frigates be deployed? The last 
time an oceangoing vessel has been seen in eastern Anatolia, it was 
Noah's Ark.
  Now these frigates will be deployed in the Mediterranean, and we've 
seen what the Turkish navy does in the Mediterranean. In 1974, there 
was the invasion of Cyprus. More recently, there are the actions taken 
against Israel and in support of Hamas. In June of 2010, after a Gaza 
flotilla attempted to aid the terrorist group Hamas with supplies, 
Turkey threatened to send armed naval escorts to back another aid 
convoy to Hamas. The Turkish Prime Minister, Erdogan, called for Israel 
to be punished for interfering with the previous effort to aid Hamas 
with the flotilla. In September 2011, after a U.N. report on the Gaza 
flotilla was released, Turkey threatened to send an armed naval 
presence to the eastern Mediterranean to confront Israel, and Prime 
Minister Erdogan said that Israel should expect more naval presence 
from Turkey in the area, and I quote:

       ``Turkish warships will be tasked with protecting the 
     Turkish boats'' bringing aid to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

  The gentleman from New York pointed out how the Turkish navy has 
interfered with both the Cypriot and Israeli efforts to exploit natural 
gas deposits on the seabed between those two countries. This is 
particularly outrageous when you realize that the Cypriot natural gas 
fields are off the shores of South Cyprus, an area where Turkey has not 
tried to assert its military presence. And they've gone further and 
even interfered with Israel exploiting its own natural gas fields off 
of its coast.
  This is the action of the Turkish navy in the Mediterranean. Is this 
something that we should be furthering by two free frigates? I don't 
know. We haven't had hearings. We haven't had a markup. We haven't had 
a discussion on what limitations, what conditions, and what quantity of 
ships should be transferred.
  I've come to this floor on over 100 occasions to vote on suspension 
bills renaming post offices. Most of those bills were subject to a 
markup in the appropriate committee. Shouldn't we give that same level 
of attention to the transfer of frigates to Turkey?
  Send this bill back to committee. Let us have a real discussion. Let 
us follow the rules, not suspend the rules, when we're dealing with a 
matter of this importance to our foreign policy in the eastern 
  Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. I continue to reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I now yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from 
Maryland (Mr. Sarbanes).
  Mr. SARBANES. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the soon-to-be ranking 
member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Engel, for 
yielding this time, and I want to thank him for his eloquent opposition 
to H.R. 6649.
  This is not a noncontroversial bill. I know it's being brought here 
on suspension as though it is, and I'm sure in the past when we've had 
these transfers of vessels, excess defense materials and so forth, 
often that is a noncontroversial action to take. In this case, it's 
anything but noncontroversial, and I'm surprised, frankly, that the 
majority would bring the bill to the floor in this form.
  Turkey is the problem here. There are vessels that are being 
transferred to Turkey. These are vessels that apparently are obsolete 
from our standpoint, surplus material that can go to them. And, yes, 
Turkey is a NATO ally, but it's a problematic ally at best.
  At critical moments over a period of many years, when the United 
States has looked to its ally Turkey for assistance for some critical 
support, Turkey has been absent. You've heard already, discussed at 
length here, the unlawful occupation of Cyprus. We're

[[Page H7511]]

talking about 38 years of unlawful occupation of our ally Cyprus. The 
adventurism of Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean and its recent 
conduct towards Israel has been detailed here at length.

                              {time}  1330

  So what you have is, yes, an American ally but one that has created 
some real problems for us and is a destabilizing actor in the eastern 
  You can only characterize Turkey's behavior in that region as gunboat 
diplomacy. When you look at its conduct towards Cyprus, towards Israel, 
its interference with American commercial interests that are trying to 
operate in the exclusive economic zone of these two nations that are 
critical to U.S. national security, Turkey has threatened to use force 
to stop Texas-based Noble Energy from drilling for oil and gas off the 
shores of Cyprus and Israel. Texas-based Noble Energy is an American 
company, and yet we are now going to transfer these vessels to Turkey 
for further adventurism on the high seas. You've heard this now 
detailed on both sides. At one point in the last year and a half, 
Turkey threatened to mobilize its air and naval assets to escort ships 
to Gaza.
  As Congressman Engel says, we're about to enhance those naval assets, 
with high anxiety on my part and, I think, on the part of other Members 
that they'll be used in furtherance of this same kind of provocative 
behavior. If we are going transfer these things, at the very least we 
ought to be putting some conditions on this transfer--that no offensive 
use of these vessels can be made and that they can't be used to 
traverse these exclusive economic zones that we've talked about. But 
this is going free of any conditions, and it's why I have severe 
reservations about it.
  This could be an opportunity to step back and think about how we 
conduct our foreign policy. Every bill we pass here matters. It all 
makes a difference. This may be on suspension, and it may be getting 
rid of excess material, but it's a chance for us to send a powerful 
message in terms of the kind of foreign policy that the United States 
is going to exercise. Frankly, I don't think that Turkey should be a 
beneficiary of this bill given its conduct over many years, but 
particularly over the last couple of years. It sends the wrong message. 
It rewards bad behavior. For that reason, I oppose it.
  Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
  Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, in a snapshot, this is the background to this bill and 
the inclusion of Turkey. I'd like to explain this.
  These are DOD requests for our U.S. national security interests. 
Turkey is a NATO ally that DOD needs to continue participating in joint 
anti-piracy operations for which they would use these frigates. In 
light of the deteriorating situation regarding Syria and Turkey's 
critical role, DOD insisted that it was timely to do this transfer. 
Now, just a few years ago, in 2010, Congress authorized the grant 
transfer of three Osprey class minehunter coastal ships to Greece--
Osprey MHC-51, Blackhawk MHC-58, and Shrike MHC-62.
  So today's bill, Mr. Speaker, maintains the Turkey-Greece balance. 
This lowers costs to our U.S. Navy, as they won't have to deal with 
decommissioned frigates. This bill creates U.S. jobs, as the mammoth 
portion of maintenance work is done here in the United States.
  On the issue of granting to Thailand, to Mexico, to Turkey versus the 
selling of the ships to Taiwan, this is what our U.S. Navy says:

       The determining factor on the grant or sale of extra 
     defense articles is always what is in the best interest of 
     the United States. Granting the hull does not make it free to 
     the receiving nation. Among the types of extra defense 
     articles that are granted to partner nations, ships are 
     unique in that there is always a significant refurbishment 
     cost paid by the receiving nation. The current legislation 
     requires the refurbishment of the hulls here in the United 
     States. This is approximately $60 million per hull; though 
     with Turkey our experience has been that they will spend even 
     more. Because of the high cost of refurbishment, we always 
     try to grant the hulls.

  Both Armed Services Committee Chairman McKeon and Intelligence 
Committee Chairman Rogers support this bill with the inclusion of 
  Mr. Speaker, when our military officials tell me that they need these 
specific transfers, including to Turkey, because it is in our Nation's 
security interests and it advances our priorities, I believe that all 
of us here should take note. I trust our U.S. military when it comes to 
the operational needs and joint military and anti-piracy activities. 
This is why Turkey was included--and not at the last minute under the 
cover of night.
  No, quite the contrary. For almost 2 weeks, the text of this bill has 
been posted not just for our fellow colleagues to review but for all of 
the American people to review at their leisure. This bill is a standard 
bill that is done at the end of each Congress. Two years ago, as I 
stated, under a different majority, a similar annual transfer bill was 
considered at the end of the session.
  So, in short, Mr. Speaker, this bill helps our ally Taiwan. It 
advances our U.S. national security interests, and it reduces costs to 
our Navy. It creates jobs for Americans right here at home, and I hope 
that our colleagues see it as such.
  With that, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the 
gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen) that the House suspend the 
rules and pass the bill, H.R. 6649, as amended.
  The question was taken; and (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the 
rules were suspended and the bill, as amended, was passed.
  A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.