Sen. Levin tribute to Sen. Joe Lieberman

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mr. President, in a few days, the Senate will no longer benefit from the service of a member who has left an indelible mark on national security policy and on the Senate. Senator Joe Lieberman has been my colleague and friend for more than two decades. We have shared triumphs and challenges, agreed and disagreed with one another, and each of us has served as a member of a committee the other chaired.

One challenge we have shared is the need to strengthen our nation’s manufacturing sector, the economic backbone of our two states and indeed of the nation. Senator Lieberman has served as chairman of the Senate Manufacturing Caucus, which has benefitted greatly from his energy and leadership. He has been a dedicated supporter of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which helps U.S. manufacturers strengthen and grow in the face of international competition. In this work, Senator Lieberman has been an ally of Michigan working families.

Of course, Senator Lieberman and I have worked together on the Armed Services Committee, where he has been an active, thoughtful, principled and energetic member and subcommittee chairman. Senator Lieberman joined the committee in 1993, and from the start, he made an impact. He was the author of what came to be known as the Lieberman Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997, directing the Department of Defense to conduct a Quadrennial Defense Review. This review has become an integral part of our nation’s defense planning, encouraging the Pentagon, Congress and all who contribute to defense strategy to confront tough questions about strategy, capabilities and resources.

Over several years as chairman or ranking member of the Airland Subcommittee, Senator Lieberman has played an influential role in oversight of important modernization programs. His constant attention and leadership has helped the Army push through the challenges of acquiring and fielding the truly networked tactical force our nation needs, and of modernizing its helicopter force. He has provided close oversight of aircraft programs such as the F/A-18E and F, F-22, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the new KC-46 aerial refueling tanker.

Of course, the committee has grappled with a number of difficult policy questions over the last two decades, from the need to repeal "don’t ask, don’t tell" to the conduct of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Senator Lieberman was the original sponsor of the legislation that repealed "don’t ask, don’t tell" and he played an important role in shepherding this legislation through the Armed Services Committee and the Senate. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Senator Lieberman on these issues, it’s impossible to doubt his thoughtfulness and his dedication to finding the right solutions for our nation.

Senator Lieberman is my chairman on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. I’m privileged to chair that committee’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, where a small but incredibly talented and dedicated staff has made immense contributions to consumer protections, government oversight and our defenses against financial wrongdoing. I am deeply grateful for Senator Lieberman’s support for our subcommittee’s work.

We also have worked closely on the committee’s efforts to protect Americans from potentially catastrophic releases from chemical facilities. I was a co-sponsor on legislation he authored with Senator Collins to address that threat, and I am thankful for his leadership in putting in place these vital protective standards. Senator Lieberman’s work has also included badly needed reform of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster; improving our cybersecurity protections; and improving our defenses against disease pandemics.

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is also where Senator Lieberman has accomplished what is likely his most lasting work: reform of our homeland security and intelligence communities in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Reforms of this scope by necessity have many authors, but certainly Senator Lieberman’s role was at the forefront. His leadership was instrumental in passage of legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security, and in achieving vital reforms to the structure and practices of our intelligence agencies in the wake of the 9-11 attacks. These were sweeping, once-in-a-generation reforms, and Senator Lieberman was tireless in his advocacy for them.

In these and so many other ways, Senator Lieberman leaves an important and lasting legacy as he prepares to leave the Senate. He is a trustworthy confidant and I shall miss him. Barbara and I wish Joe and Hadassah every happiness as they embark on their next adventure together.