Washington, D.C. – Today Senator John McCain released the following statement regarding the Civil Air Patrol Program in the Department of Defense:
The Civil Air Patrol performs a great service to the people of Arizona and to the nation. The primary mission of its volunteer pilots — to search for and rescue the victims of civilian plane crashes — is a necessary and noble task which I fully support. In performing its mission, the Civil Air Patrol has in the past drawn on Department of Defense funds for procuring aircraft and vehicles and paying for the training, fuel, aircraft maintenance, and many other costs associated with this mission.
The unfortunate reality of the budget situation is that the military requirements of the Department of Defense are not being met. By 1999, the defense budget will be reduced to nearly half of what it was in 1985. This has led to serious funding shortfalls which have had a negative impact on the readiness of our military forces. I am seriously concerned that lack of funds has caused training exercises to be delayed, needed munitions purchases to be deferred, and modernization programs to be canceled.
Because of these funding shortfalls, the men and women who may very soon be asked to put their lives at risk in Bosnia protecting United Nations peacekeepers may enter the conflict inadequately prepared for the dangers they will face. These are the same men and women who require food stamps to feed their families because the Department of Defense cannot afford to provide them with adequate pay.
In the face of these facts, I have instructed the staff of the Readiness Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee to identify all non-defense and lower-priority programs currently funded within the Department of Defense. One of the many programs which is currently under review is the Civil Air Patrol.
I do not intend to cut the 10 percent of the Civil Air Patrol budget that is used to reimburse the civilian pilots who volunteer their time and equipment to participate in the search and rescue mission of the CAP. It is my current intention to recommend that a small portion of DOD funding for the Civil Air Patrol overhead and administration be reduced in 1996.
This does not mean that the Senate will eliminate the Civil Air Patrol. I hope we can all explore other, more appropriate sources of funding for this important program, whether by the federal government or by financing arrangements with state and local governments. As we seek to ensure continued viability of the CAP’s search and rescue mission, it is my intention to gradually phase out the remainder of DOD’s CAP budget over a period of years.
Again, it is only the dramatic reductions in the defense budget over the past ten years which requires that we analyze the programs which receive funding from DOD. I will do everything I can to support the search and rescue mission of the Civil Air Patrol and to help in the transition to a non-defense funding source.”