tv Role of Congress in National Security Discussion at NYU School of Law CSPAN October 26, 2019 12:50pm-1:55pm EDT
and listen wherever you are using the free c-span radio app. c-span's "washington journal" live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. morning, sunday democratic pollster and republican pollster on campaign 2020 and the impeachment inquiry. will be ons harris to talk about the geopolitical fallout in the u.s. troop withdrawal from syria. join the discussion. next, three members of congress who previously served in the executive branch discuss the role of congress in national security and foreign affairs. this discussion from new york university's school of law is moderated by lisa monaco, a
former department of homeland security adviser for the obama administration. >> ok, thank you. that's exactly right. now we have to recognize the senior member here. well, it is a treat to welcome former colleagues, current colleagues. i've worked with every member of this panel in some form or another, inside and outside of government. it's a treat to welcome everyone here on behalf of the center of law and security on the nyu school of law that i am privileged to serve as a distinguished senior fellow at. welcome to this program and welcome to my colleagues. this is really a treat for me to be joined together with you once again to talk about a really important and timely subject, the issue of national security and how the executive branch and the legislative branch address some of the most critical issues of our time, and i will do some very brief introductions in a minute, but you will understand
the theme here is every single one of these distinguished public servants served in the executive branch and the national security community and the searching topic for today is how has that service informed your view as legislators? and how can we be best poised from both branches to confront some of these most thorny issues that we face? so thank you one and all for being here. very quickly, we have to my far left, no pun intended, will herd. [laughter] represents the 23rd district in texas, elected to congress in 2014. he serves on the house appropriations committee and the permanent select committee on intelligence. most importantly for this panel, before serving in congress he served as an undercover officer in the cia, the middle east, and in south asia, and, near and
dear to my heart, he's my co-chair on the aspen cyber security group. he's one of the most knowledgeable and thoughtful members on cyber security issues and the issues of emerging technology. we're very fortunate to have him here. next to congressman herd, alyssa slotkin, representing the 8th district of michigan, elected to congress in 2018. representative slotkin serves on the house homeland security committee, before being elected representative slotkin worked for the cia in the middle east and served as acting assistant security where we spent many hours around the situation room table. this will not be like that. and, last but not least, congressman kim. andy kim represents the third district of new jersey, elected to congress in 2018, representative kim serves on the house armed services committee and the house small business committee.
before being elected, representative kim worked on the national security staff, again, with yours truly, as an expert on the middle east, south asia, afghanistan. he served as a strategic adviser in afghanistan alongside generals david petraeus and general john allen and so we are very, very lucky to have all of them here with us today and the citizens of texas, michigan and new jersey are very fortunate indeed. i will be your moderator for this. i'm lisa monaco. i should have done that at the front end. in addition to my service at nyu i was president obama's homeland security and counterterrorism adviser. so let's get started and get rolling. i know some of you have to leave a little bit early to do the people's business. so crossing the divide, that's the title of our program, going from the executive branch to congress. i will lob a softball at everyone and try and get your response to this. you've all served in the executive branch.
you've all served in the national security community. you've made the pivot to the legislative branch. how has that informed your service in being a productive and effective legislator in the time of tremendous national security tumult? i'll start with you, will. rep. herd: sure, lisa, thank you. it's a pleasure to be here with my esteemed colleagues. we're lucky to have this kind of experience here in congress at an important time. as an operator within the cia, you're the collectors of last resort, and our job is to inform policymakers. we are very clear. our job was not to suggest or project policy. the transition was interesting for me because for almost a decade it was doing the things that we were not supposed to be doing. but having granular understanding of these positions, living in india and pakistan for two years looking at these issues from a different
perspective, being in new york city and understanding how these foreign issues impact and spending a year and a half in afghanistan where i managed all of our undercover operations, you have a working knowledge of the topic that's important. while isis was not a thing when i was in the cia, al qaeda obviously was. the same principles and theories in dealing with al qaeda is what you can do with isis. as a core collector, my job was to talk to a lot of different people to try to understand. the closest to find the truth, talk to enough people and where everybody overlaps, that's as close to the truth as you'll get. so i have brought that to washington.
>> so you have to act as a case officer for any members of congress? >> well, i have had more surveillance as a member of congress than did i in the cia. at least in the cia i knew who my enemies are. when i came in, i won in '14, so starting in 2015 being a young junior member, right, the number of folks who had been around here for a while, that come and seek you out for advice and perspective, that has happened more in my time in congress than i expected when i first got in. while everybody may not understand what should we do next in syria and what should we have done, they may understand and recognize that it's a problem. >> great. >> hello, everyone, and thank you, lisa. i'm thrilled to be up here with my colleagues. the biggest thing that was a transition is that the executive
branch is a chain of command organization, and the legislative branch is 425 entrepreneurs, and nobody is each other's boss. the only people who can fire us are the people in our districts, not anyone in leadership, not any committee chair. i am still adjusting to that culture, i would say. in the executive branch, you can have vociferous debate on a policy issue, and we certainly did. i worked in the bush and obama administration, vociferous debate on what to do. if you can't work it out, it moves its way up the chain, and ultimately there are decision makers more senior than you that make a decision, and you all go on with your lives, you can say i didn't win that battle or i did, but we have a path forward when we move forward, with 435 entrepreneurs it's a huge game of consensus building.
you're constantly using your relationships to meet people and say do you want to work on something together? do you care about this issue? i'm interested in doing something for parents with autistic children. are you interested in that? it's a consensus-based thing, which can be harder and less clear. and then the culture one degree down from that, in the executive branch, you may meet some characters from time to time, but there is a real mission focus. everyone comes to the table and says, ok, we're doing this for a specific reason, i know the mission, and i'm trying to get it done. i used to say to the people at the pentagon, if i'm leading a meeting and a bunch of my staff, if i'm running a meeting and there was one person around the table who started talking about, well, i should lead because i'm really good at this, and i should have that portfolio because me, me, me, me, that would literally be a reason for me to be like if it's about the you and not the mission, you can get up out of here. but in congress --
>> then somebody else says, what about me? >> in congress that's every meeting. there's always somebody, well, i'm great at this and should lead on this. culturally it's been difficult >> culturally it's been difficult for us to transition and i think it's important and all of us have this back ground of having the mission focus and change on that mission focus. we bring it which is a good thing even if it's a cultural adjustment.
>> thank you. >> a couple things to build on. one aspect of this that was incredibly important to me and i think probably shared across this table the three of us all served in national security in nonpartisan ways. we were career public servants in our different institutions and i think that's something that i've been wondering about coming into this body of am i able to approach national security with the same lens? for me i actually feel like i have been able to more than i netly was expecting to do so. armed services committee, if you were to print out a transcript of the hearings, blot out the names and you won't know who is a democrat or a republican based on the questions that they're asking. i think there's a certain professionalism that i'm happy to be a part of, trying to find ways to broaden that out. i think coming from my background, i had a very specific expertise in iraq, afghanistan, counterterrorism
issues. so while i'm somebody who worked in the national security space, i can't claim i'm an expert on latin american issues or things i may come into contact with in congress. i have a deep network across the field of a lot i have worked with that can really help me get up to speed faster than some of my colleagues. my interests in building out this kind of catalog of experts outside of capitol hill i think is something i'm trying to build upon. also, because of my previous experience, i just -- we have, and i'm sure the three of us can all say to this point there are certain fundamental tools of national security i don't think are utilized as well as they should be on the hill. for instance, we just don't have the ability for the level of situational intel and to utilize that in the way we used to get briefed every day and have a certain amount of situational awareness to build off of. here everything is reactionary. you rarely go and read intel unless something horrible has happened in the world and you need to figure out what did we know two weeks ago. i don't feel that puts us in as strong a position in congress if everything that we're doing is much more reactionary. how are we going to be able to do our oversight efforts?
for me as lisa introduced, i worked in afghanistan eight years ago, and i was the guy that was in the room helping brief the members of congress on that front. it was very interesting for me two weeks ago to go back to afghanistan, get a briefing in my old office and sort of be on the other side of that. >> how did those people do? >> they did very well. >> more importantly, how did you do? >> it's one of those things where you have a better sense of when you're getting talking points told to you. after having written them and gone through those and delivered them and it helps me just try to figure out ways that i can get at a deeper truth, be able to expose that, and i think that gets to the final point which is a part of this job that's different we have to speak more human about national security and foreign policy. that's something i wish everybody does. cut out the acronyms, get to the point.
i did a town hall about afghanistan, how do i talk to people in south jersey, the jersey shore, on why they should focus in on what's happening after an 18 year war. and talk about it in that way. i hope it will make that dialogue richer in our country. >> that's a good pivot to current events. let's get into some of that and let's start with some news of the day, syria. you've all, i think to varying degrees spoken out against or expressed concerns about the decision to remove troops from syria. so i'm interested in your unique perspectives on that given the roles you've had and whether the reports most recently that those troops are not being removed entirely from the theater but, in fact, being moved to iraq. does that change your view at all? and is there anything congress can do about it? that's a kind of compound question. let's start with you, alyssa. >> sure.
>> i'm sorry, representative slotkin. >> that's quite all right. so i will be honest, i've been surprised how much this issue has resonated even in mid-michigan. the issue, i think, of the president having a conversation with the turks, with president erdogan, and then removing our forces, forcing the kurds to sort of flee the area where they had been working with us has resonated with people not because people have a ton of detail on who is involved with who and the history there but because i think there's a firm belief the american handshake has to mean something, and that loyalty has to mean something. and the pictures starting with or ending with today where we have american military vehicles being pelted with fruits and vegetables as they cross into iraq, i just don't remember a
time when i've seen that in my lifetime, and i have -- my husband was in the army for 30 years. my stepdaughter is in now. those are wrenching pictures for us. but i think the thing that concerns me the most, we have a situation right now with the kurds that is devastating, but when we've shirked our responsibility it sends a message to every future partner and ally that they should think twice about shaking the hands with the americans. and i try to remind people why was it that we were working with this kurdish group. what are the origins of it? and the origins of it are the iraq war, which i did three tours over there and americans said very clearly i think both sides of the aisle they do not want american forces on the front lines in long entrenched, expensive wars in the middle east. and so we shifted our strategy to work by, with, and through allies and that whole
proposition is that we go to these other armies, we go to these different groups and say if you fight as the infantry we will provide overhead cover, intelligence, equipment, and support. and that is the bargain that we struck with these kurds, and that is the way we keep people like my stepdaughter out of fighting again in places like syria and iraq. but if that whole concept just has a big hole punched in it, our ability to make those deals and to have those conversations in the future goes down and the likelihood that when there's a real threat, it will be american forces out there again goes up. and so i think it has been a seriously, seriously devastating week for american foreign policy or a couple of weeks. we are all talking about sanctions packages. there's a couple of different packages. i personally am in favor of humanitarian assistance for the kurds, in particular for the kurds in northern iraq who are
receiving a lot of their cousins who are coming over the border. i'm going on a codicil that is going to the middle east, that are having these conversations with senior leaders. unfortunately, in our system, unfortunately fortunately, in our system, the president has a lot of power over foreign policy. and congress can sort of come in behind and deal with the money and the sanctions, but there isn't a ton we can do, and we end up watching scenes with everybody else like we saw today. >> anything you want to add to that? >> sometimes we forget, we've got to go back to september 10th 2001. i was in the headquarters of the cia, and i remember, in august, analysts being like, something's going to happen, but we don't know what. people sleeping in their cars, their offices, trying to figure out what happened. and then we know what happened on the 11th, and a lot of people have forgotten that, right?
the reason that we've had to be in afghanistan and we've had to be in places like syria is to prevent another day like that from happening. and on september 12th, if you would have told me, and i was the fourth or fifth or sixth employee in ctcso that prosecuted the war in afghanistan, after 9/11, if you would of told me on the number 12 there would not be another attack on our homeland for 17 years i would have said you were crazy. and the reason we haven't been able to do that, while we haven't seen that, is because the men and women in our diplomatic corps, in our intelligence services, they've stop that from happening. that's why we are there. i've made it very clear, these terms of this peace deal, i thought it was more of a surrender than a peace deal. i think this is a terrible decision -- >> that's the deal between? >> between us and erdogan, right?
we still haven't seen all the details of that deal, and why is it bad -- we screwed our friends, and it's not just the u.s. handshake not counting, this is impacting all western alliances. i was in paris, the ministry of defense, 12 hours after the tweets that were sent about this deal, and i can tell you our partners in france had some opinions on this topic. >> they are part of the coalition against isis. >> they are, they have 1300 troops. they have been intimately involved. and so if your friends don't trust you, and your enemies don't fear you, it's a pretty bad situation to be in. i can make an argument that this recent announcement by the japanese to not participate in the u.s. led effort to protect ships in the middle east is
probably a bad indication that either they thought it was going to be too much of a pain in the rear, or they didn't or whether they could count on us, and is that an indication of how our allies are concerned with us? we are creating a humanitarian crisis in that part of the role -- world that has dealt with too many humanitarian crises. we have spent years in treasure building infrastructure in that part of syria, and we left it or we bombed it. that doesn't make any sense. what can we do now? unfortunately, congress has a lot of power to prevent action. congress has a lot of power to defund stuff, right? congress has power to approve stuff. but it's really hard to compel action when there is inaction. and the broader question we should be asking ourselves is not just removal of troops from that part of the region, but
what about all the inaction that led up to? it why had we never addressed the issues that turkey actually has had. they have some legitimate concerns. why did we not establish a no fly zone in that region and make sure our allies were going to be the ones responsible for making sure that that would ultimately happen? there was a lot of questions, things that had not happened until that point, which we should be talking about to ensure this doesn't happen again. and let's hope this is not a precursor to afghanistan. because if something similar were to happen in afghanistan, it would be more disastrous then this move in syria. >> so, andy kim, you served in afghanistan. you also were intimately involved in the design and planning around the counter isis campaign. and the deployment to iraq. the president of iraq now is a kurd. how should we be thinking about all of these reverberations, right? two representative slotkin's
representative slotkin's point, what is our handshake mean to the leadership in iraq? >> that's right. i think for me, five years ago, we were working on this, we were working with those early phone calls with erdogan, we were saying we were going to work with the kurds, we knew that this was going to be an issue that we'd have to come to reckon with at some point. i never imagined that it would unfold in the way that it has. i was in turkey just literally days before those tweets came out, and i think one thing that struck me in hindsight is that it just felt very clear afterwards that our ambassador, and other professionals working on this, had no idea this was coming. and i think that begs this question, where are the professionals in this process of deliberation and policymaking? that's something that worries me. we had the national security council, it was set up for a reason.
it was set up to help institutionalize a process to think through very big issues, and do great challenges that we face. and it's meant to try and make sure that we are aware of the the consequences and thinking through the scenarios, hopefully with people who are experts. when we have the ambassador out in turkey, an extraordinary talent, just decades of service to our country, and it felt like he and others, not that they were in the process, but their expertise was not being utilized to help our country decide through these steps. that's one aspect of it. to get it closer to the point you were referencing, this is something that's deeply personal to me. i wrote my doctoral dissertation in large part on u.s. policy to the kurds during the eighties and nineties. documenting the abject failures that we had with the massacre period in the eighties, and then the post 91 gulf war, where for
a while we allowed the use -- the hussein gunships to mow down our kurdish partners in the north. i also outlined in detail the decision-making process that went into operation provide comfort, which was one of these moments where the u.s. did step up for the kurds and really put ourselves in a position to try and help them. to see a situation of our own making that really feels similar to that period in some ways is frustrating, and deeply disappointing. and i think it very much gets back to our kurdish partners in iraq, and elsewhere, just about how, in many ways, it's how far they've come in terms of setting this up, and the fact that there is a kurd that is the president of iraq, i think they understand how fragile that is. and how dependent that is, that status is, upon what the united states is going to do.
i just feel like we've set back that relationship right back to the eighties and nineties, that i studied before, and it's so deeply disappointing to see that. >> i'm going to shift the current event conversations back to something more domestic, and that's election security. representative slotkin, you serve on the homeland security committee, one of the biggest issues we have a cybersecurity, and will hurd, as mentioned, you've been focusing on these issues for many years. what's the most important thing that congress can do and that we as a country should be doing now some nearly one year out from 2020, and to address what the intelligence professionals and national security professionals all agree is an ongoing complaint interfere in our democracy and to make sure that we are best poised to respond to that and protect ourselves?
>> i'd love to start. it's how do you handle this -- disinformation. so i held the first hearings on 2016 election security before the 2016 elections were over, in the summer before the elections, i was calling for ambassador kyslyak, the ambassador, to be -- the russian ambassador to be kicked out of the country, because what people had already known at that point what the russians were trying to do, and robert mueller, in the hearings said, i asked the question, was this a one-time event? he said, it's happening right now. >> you are the only person during that hearing to actually ask him that. >> well, look, you go back to the classically trained case officer, and that's what you do. and so, how do you handle this information? handling disinformation overseas is a lot easier because this information is about part of covert action, counted covert action, and covert actions responsibility to the cia, but the cia cannot conduct covert action in the united states of
america because the national security act of 1947. so who is responsible for dealing with that? now social media companies you can look at the tactics , techniques and procedures that some people are using in order disinformation, to highlight people that are promoting this information, but you want the media to know that this is wrong, bad speech, or disinformation? we media plays a role and know how to do it from a countering violent extremism perspective. way you handle it is slightly difference but who is responsible for that? yes we can and defend the infrastructure and prior to 2016, none of the secretary of state's wanted to have election infrastructure be identified as
critical infrastructure. jay johnston made that decision, he took a whole lot of heat and then guess what, a couple of months later everyone was like ok. that was probably a good move. everyone thought the federal government was going to take over this issue. >> i know, i lived. it >> you know, it you know it, so -- you know it, you know it. so we can hard in those types of things we can make sure that the most vulnerable types of machines are not used but i can make an argument that is going into one county that is going to make or break an election all seats, you going heavy, not try to be sneaky about it, and people will freak out. so how do you deal with that aftermath and to be frank i don't think we've had enough conversation on who should be playing the lead, dhs has a role, local folks have a role, the media has a role, that's how
you counter disinformation. it's hard in the u.s.. >> yes i was one of the people that was very happy that they asked the questions of the bob mueller hearing because there was a group of us watching, who were watching this unfold and obviously had read the report and while the media and everybody else was so focused on what the report said and what the details were there was just painfully few people saying what did we learn? and how are we putting forward a bill that will keep us safe in 2020? i think it is important to realize that we actually, we have not passed any laws that make us safer in 2020, our election system in 2020, safer than 2016. so a group of us came together and started task force century. it was designed to do just that and to identify the legislation that would be needed to make a
-- us safer. we learned a lot of lessons, a lot of this is very difficult because of free speech issues but what we could all agree on regardless of political affiliation is that foreigners should not play a role in our political process, so while the content of messages and what one side, democratic or republicans want to say is difficult to regulate, going back and looking at the originator, the purchaser of the content is the way we got to this problem. so a bunch of us cosponsored the paid ads act, which makes it illegal for foreigner to buy an advertisement for or against a political candidate in american election, it is very basic, but we have a suite of legislation, a lot of it has been taken up in -- is being taken up in the next 10 days through the shield act. some of it is bipartisan, some of it is not.
but there are a bunch of good pieces in there that i think any american regardless of affiliation should feel it's the -- it is our responsibility to push forward. we are seeing even in the headlines, foreigners should not be able to donate to political campaigns, it's illegal to do that, there are a lot of things that it all starts with the originator we just can't have foreigners involved in our elections. asterisk onut an that, there was more money for ehc, dhs, for election infrastructure. it was not a law that changed this which is crazy that vladimir putin ran an ad saying x is a dirtessman bag, he can do that, which is wild. but the funding -- the money was there. out aould like to zoom
little bit, specific to the election side of things. i think my two colleagues laid it out but in general i think what we are seeing is a real need to get a grasp as a country and a national security infrastructure on how the -- what the cybersecurity threats are going forward. this is something that as the congressman was mentioning this is spread out over so many different agencies and departments as the armed services committee, one aspect of it that i have dug in to his on cyber calms, and it shows how complicated the partnership is. a lot of these issues really blur across. there are some aspects that they were doing for election security that certainly has been good for me to see how engaged they have been and getting more so. but in general, how we approach
the cyber threats is something that i think folks are really struggling with. in my district when you say cybersecurity they are thinking of antivirus, fraud, things of that nature. but the level in which these threats are occurring, and the speed, i think it's alarming when you see the bigger picture. that we cannot have a sense of how much is actually happening, there's no radar system or defend system that can help us understand the multitude of tasks happening across the board. this is something that requires, in my opinion, a paradigm shift in how we approach national security. in the same way that the advent of artillery and aircraft added a third dimension to our warfare. this is adding another dimension that is really different. it collapses time and space. we are as close to russia in cyberspace as we are to canada. the time is something that doesn't exist in the same
property to be able to do that. it requires a lot of innovative ways in which we can try to understand the threat, as well as how quickly we can build a response, and we are just not there yet as a whole. i think we are going to continue to do with the different things we are doing on election security, but we have to wrap our heads around what it is that's going to be our posture at large on cybersecurity before we start to have a meaningful impact, in my opinion. >> let's add on one thing and he said, he talked about the complexity. we can do some very basic things. we all knew growing up as kids, don't get into a car with a stranger. asterisk, unless it's uber or lift. why are we sharing stuff on social media for people that we have no clue who they are? right? so that is what is allowing some of these messages to have the velocity, right? i don't know who said, it alike
-- a lie can travel across half a world before the truth puts its shoes on. those are some cultural issues and education issues of just society, in that we have to focus on these as well. sometimes, that's even more difficult and trying to design that radar system for cybersecurity. >> there is a civics education piece to this that's sometimes getting lost. >> i would love to have representative hurd on my bill for digital literacy, teaching digital literacy to our young people. >> absolutely! >> (laughs) >> representative hurd will have to leave in a few minutes due to a prior commitment, but i want to ask a question and get all your perspectives on this. i want to switch gears a little bit -- we've been talking about the institutions involved, the executive branch of congress, on these issues. as we know, sometimes the executive branch acts and
debates -- chooses the best of many bad options, right? that's oftentimes what many of the executive branch decision-making is, sometimes it's a failure to act or refusal to act or enacted by congress. -- in action by congress. i think that's a fair statement, in some instances. the question is, what can congress do, what should be the role in asserting itself in foreign affairs. you can make the argument that congress has retreated in some degree, certainly in war powers issues and a planning -- opining on the president's power to use force abroad, etc, kind of not weighing in. the syria discussion is a nice little role reversal on that. so what can congress do to reassert itself, if in fact you believe it should be reasserting itself? >> i will answer this and run. it's a weak branch of government, and i think it should be in every area, and i think unfortunately, previous congress is before any of us probably thought about going
into congress, has ceded a lot of that authority to the executive branch. i think, one of the important things we should be doing is passing a budget, right? passing appropriation, to be more specific. i think we should be doing two years appropriations, so you can use those out years to do the true oversight that is required in making sure these things are happening. but we alluded to this at the beginning, and alyssa was, right there are too many people in in charge -- in charge and think their idea is the best idea out there. it's difficult, but i have seen, since my class, the 2014 class, and the last, two both on republican and democratic sides, you have people that have a bias towards action, because they've had other careers, right? you don't have people that are professional politicians coming in, and so the newer members are that way.
when newer members start getting into these leadership positions, i think that's when you start seeing the body as a whole change. and i also think that structurally, we need people that get reelected for solving problems, rather than talking to the edges. so if more districts were like mine, which is truly 50/50, then you will get a certain kind of person up here who knows how to try to be focused on getting things done. this election cycle, about 40 seats are going to be competitive. 17 years ago, that number was close to 80. ten years before that, that number was in the mid one hundreds. so, structurally, how our elections are set up is influencing the broader behavior of this body. i think it's important, and you are seeing over the last couple of years, congress exerting more of a role in foreign policy, in advocating with our allies. we sometimes forget, and and he
said it when he first started, we have to educate our constituents on why these constituents are important, why a mother who is worried about putting her kids through school, or worried about an elderly father who has dementia, why should you care about syria or yemen? and making that case so that more people get involved. it's tricky, it's not going to get solved in the next month, but this is, again, i feel good about the number of people in rd d's coming into office that are frustrated with the status quo and want to get things done. thank you very much. >> thank you. [applause] >> in terms of congress's role,
i have a brother, his name is jonathan, i have three brothers, and he was the much mischievous one, and the one who was always getting into trouble. when we were kids, from the very beginning, ten years old, if he was in trouble, and everyone was saying, jonathan, why did you do that? we need you to come up here and clean it up. he would just casually dance backwards out of the room. that was his move. and i feel like that's what congress has done on their constitutional responsibilities, specifically around the authorization of military force. he would dance right out of the room. and he looked so funny doing it that you couldn't be totally mad at him. in this case, i would say, congress's role should be a, to go back to basics, and do the things that you are constitutionally authorized and required to do. so authorizing our countries -- country's wars, and appropriating our budgets in a timely fashion so that we can plan appropriately.
and, certainly, the idea that and we know why they dance out of the room, they do so because of the iraq war. they dance out of the room because they had a vote, and some people lost their seats. and they had a vote, and some people are still paying for that vote today. and some people are still campaigning on that vote back in 2003. and since then, when politicians realize it was politically controversial to have to vote on war, they just gave up that responsibility. so that's deeply disturbing, and one of the things in the armed services committee that andy think about and work on all the time. then there's category b, which is maybe not the things that are written into the constitution, but there are things that congress should have a voice on. so, the conduct of our wars, the strategy of our wars, are we succeeding? how many troops are we positioning overseas, and are they effective? we have a responsibility for oversight not just of war but of
any type of military action certainly military exercises certainly, but also i would argue, any large foreign policy initiative, we should be exerting ourselves. and then, politicians should, the legislative branch should actually educate themselves on these things and have some sort of facility with these issues if they are going to be a leader, there are a ton of our peers where this is extremely new to, them the whole foreign policy world and just like i have to learn a ton about the inner workings of the pharmaceutical market, they need to learn a ton about our wars and the places we are engaged. i do think it speaks to a point that will raised, that andy mentioned, in a certain way and i feel always obligated to say as a midwesterner sitting in a room full of foreign policy wonks, and i am one of those wonks.
we have had the luxury for seven years since world war ii where the national security elite in washington, whether you are a democrat or republican had basically had the arrangement where this foreign policy group makes the decisions on what the united states of america is going to do in the world and i -- in the world. and i am telling you after the iraq war and certainly after of afghanistan after afghanistan, at least my part of the world is , at least my part of the world is no longer willing to sit down and accept whatever foreign policy adventure one administration or another can can come up with. we have to shift our thinking as a foreign policy community, the question is not how come people in michigan do not care about what is going on in afghanistan or some part of the world, the question it should be is what have you all done to make all you do and care about relevant to the country, who are sending, for the vast majority,
the soldiers, the marines, the sailors, so you have to think how many times have you gotten in a midwestern college, how many times a year have you thought about communicating you are important issue that you care about to people who have never, ever, engaged on foreign policy and seeing how your approach works, have you ever translated that paper or that article that you wrote into something that makes sense for people who literally wake up in the middle of the night because they cannot pay for their sons -- son's insulin, that is what i would challenge this group to do . as one foreign policy walk who happens to be from a part of the country where people are much more focused on other issues entering why the foreign policy elite keeps screwing it up, democrat and republican over and over again. >> going off of something alyssa said earlier, i don't think i ever heard someone say describe congress as 435 entrepreneurs. >> i guess she was being charitable. >> i do think that a lot of the
challenges i see it come down to infrastructure and coronation we could be doing better, just to start. i agree with alyssa in terms of how things have gone, i always have this line i like to say, let's not play peewee soccer where we all just chase the ball. you don't need 400 35 responses to everything the president does, or every issue out there. let's find some ways to break down based off of portfolios, based off of expertise, things of that nature that we can draw upon, so when there's a situation, like when a couple of months ago the crisis in iran was heating up. this was a situation that i had worked on a lot, with elissa and lisa. i was just trying to figure out who asked the pentagon what they are doing, who asked the state department, who has the information we can share, i just don't think that all of us need to be reinventing the wheel and
-- on every single aspect of this. i know that this is something people have tried before but certainly something i'm trying to take on board. i was recently named the co-chair of the national security task force for the house democrats, and trying to figure out what we can do there to coordinate messaging and information that is out there. also to what alyssa said, the tool box that we have, what are some things we can be doing? for instance i think a lot with the trade war, it is a perfect example where our congress has authorities there that they are not utilizing. things that we can do to really try to take back the congress is -- congress's role in dealing with tariffs and taxes these are the types of things that are important. the last thing i would say is that having worked at the pentagon, the state department and at the white house national security council in certain roles especially at the white house, i did see something i hadn't seen in a lot of other
jobs when i was more junior in my career which was a real , constant communication between high-level officials at the white house and pentagon and elsewhere and then members of congress and senior staff on the hill. i think that was really important. so even when it's not about passing this piece of legislation or taking this i could see how conversations with feel howi could conversations were shaping the discussion. having that daily contact in building those relationships were important. when we are not able to stay on top of the intel, did not have that level of situational awareness, i think it put this at a disadvantage. if we are only calling the pentagon after some type of attack, the state department after some kind of failure in the diplomatic channels we are just not doing our job, so we need to think of how to front and that. -- front-end --.
-- front end that. >> it is interesting you were both on the front tenth of oversight request and the pentagon, and white house has your review and also just talked about this, they need that congress needs to be engaged in needs to be engaged on how the policy is getting executed. has your perspective changed since you switched ends of the pennsylvania avenue? >> i don't know that it has changed, i just know the game, you know? i came up and i think i testified 40 times in front of the armed services, committee and i feel the difference. i remember coming up and saying i really prepared, i knew my stuff and you would get these left-field parochial questions from members of congress, and you say i have to get back to you. i don't know exactly where the apaches were made fighting in
iraq, i'm the rack policy person but i can find that out for you. >> procurements in the other. -- the other office. >> you had some very parochial questions and i think the freshman class has really helped brought in an deep in the questions on national security in our committees because we come from different backgrounds. my perspective is just better informed, so when we read a letter to the head of the task force, the guy the pentagon whose in charge of figuring out what to do with environmental cleanup, i know what they are doing when that letter comes over. it's taking a while to come from the executive secretary and moved to someone else's office. by the time the assistant secretary gets a hold of it of it, it might be three weeks later.
they have to figure out how to answer it and put it in the system. i know the system so i'm not willing to wait for that so you follow up with a phone call to the boss, saying fyi i sent you a formal letter and you know the tricks of the trade on oversight, which helps. of course, i remember being on the others, oh my gosh are they asking for more information and now i am one of those people. [laughter] >> i agree with a lot of that. that we bring a certain amount of -- that we have a fair amount of fluency in the bureaucratic languages helps us understand where to put our energy, for instance, i don't put so much energy in terms of having questions for the record because i have been on the receiving end and i know that it's not necessarily the best way to get the answers we want. trying to figure out what are the places we can try to have an
impact and try to be able to draw that out. that is something i am still thinking through. process was fascinating on the congressional side having been on the others. >> now that we have learned how it works, the pentagon's budget is drawn up and edited in a 21 hour hearing where we stay up all night. 21 hour straight. ,ou have access to a restroom your team brings you snacks, and you do it all in one night. are you guys at your best at 3:00 in the morning? a.m., andted at 10:00 we finished at 7:30 the next morning. about having a discussion
low yield nuclear weapons at 2:00 in the morning. the pentagonat secretary, the budget is everything, the language in that budget dictates your whole life. and to think it was being done in a 21 hour hearing when we were not at our best was a shock for me. >> it was, i think that knowing both sides of this has been really helpful. one thing i did want to say , because alyssa did a lot of it but because we are here, one aspect -- it is necessarily fit to every aspect for one aspect of this that i really wanted to figure out going forward, what role, whether from a congressional side or elsewhere, are we talking to our international partners as well? i think it is something that i haven't quite gotten a sense of yet. i meet with ambassadors and some delegations coming in, but for instance i have a lot of folks and i've worked with in syria and iraq and i've been hearing
them for the last couple of weeks. seeing what ideas are out there , i think there are some avenues in which we need to make sure that as members of congress and people in the positions that we are at that we are being part of that broader discussion, not only in our country but internationally as well. there is so much that is being looked upon right now from the rest of the world and big questions and they're asking like, does this, president does -- does this president, does this administration speak for america? i think it is important that they hear other voices in the midst as well, i think that the congressional delegations is one aspect of that. but i know that these are highly choreographed in often exercises in those types of ways but one thing that is different going out to afghanistan, turkey and some other engagements i've had is there is a difference in which i can approach things where i am no longer speaking on behalf of the state department
or the white house national security council, things of that nature. it is much more a position of where my coming from, my expertise, my experience, what it is that i know. but really it's putting me in a position that pushes me beyond some of those decision points that we had before, where we would say that's above our pay grade and i'm not going to weigh in on that. we no longer have that luxury. and if you hear people trying to use those words, it means they are trying to duck away from a tough question. we need to be able to make sure we are taking those steps. that, glad you raised that's a role -- a question i wanted to ask. i'm going to take the moderators prerogative by taking a compound final question because i know you guys have to get to a vote
at 6:30. my last question is this. you have both served in the executive branch, we've talked about those institutions, some of which you directly have served in have been under attack . the phrase deep state used to only be used in relation to foreign military intelligence services and authoritarian regimes. now it's being used as an epithet against career national security professionals. i would love to get your formerns to that as career national security professionals. is is there piece anything congress can do, any area of reform. and is there a hope of returning to a level of bipartisanship on national security which seems to be dwindling? in. will jump this is something that is very
personal to me in terms of how i came about my career. in being ap believer career public servant, having worked under the bush and obama administration. the last place that partisan politics belongs is in the situation room and national security. i deeply believe in that. i have colleagues that i worked together at the state department , i still don't know if they are democrats or republicans. that's the way it should be. because we were measuring ideas based on the merits of the policy. based on our assessments of the consequences and the risk that were out there. that's a foreign policy i still believe in and i deeply believe that that is not an old fashion way that's no longer possible. that's why i was responding about the role of career public servants, who in my opinion are
the steady hand at the wheel that help us navigate between pendulum swings on the political front. as i said, i feel like i have been able to work here on capitol hill with a greater level of being able to do that. which i'm grateful for. but i see the pressures of the politicization of the national security across the board. that's one of the bigger existential threats that we have to our national security, the worry that it's moving in that direction. when we feel like our professionals are not being looked after, when their advices not being heard, when they are not part of the process, that could potentially have a huge impact going forward in terms of our ability to bring in professionals to have folks be willing to take on some of these jobs. somebody asked me about this at a town hall and i said i don't necessarily think the impact is going to be felt immediately
necessarily. but i worry about five years from now when we see a young generation of national security officials decide that they were going to go into the private sector, or elsewhere. which they are welcome to do but i want people to feel like this is a place where they can be heard and this is a place where you can build a robust career without having to delve into the politics. that is something i hope we can continue on. >> i think we have had a tough couple of weeks for our civil servants and our intelligence officers. we have also had an amazing month. of ambassador masha ivanovich answering question seriously and honestly and her sunglasses, to me that is something that we should hope to emulate.
she is taking a real risk and she did what she thought was right. the whistleblower, whoever that person is. i knew when i read that missile blower report that that was a cia analyst. immediately. because that is how we are trained to write. writing style of that document is how we were trained in our four month training program when you come out as a baby cia analyst. whoever that person is, it took enormous and continues to take in norma's professional risk to come forward and say something. so while it has been a tough couple of months, i think it's also been an example to young people that being in the civil service, being in the intelligence community is a place where you can be a patriot who cares about the values of the country. at least i hope so. what i would say is that as soon as we started hearing these reports early on in the trump administration of large numbers of civil servants and foreign servants leaving the government, undersecretaryer
from the state department and said what is the mechanism to bring these people back if under a new administration they want to come back. the good news is there is already a legal authority, you don't need a new law, you just need a new secretary of state. to call that these people and offer them back their same job at the same grade. that's extremely important. we are going to want to bring the some of our best and brightest back. we are also going to want to get those young people who maybe have been at the state department for five years and decided to take that job somewhere else because they did not want to be a part of things going on, we cannot allow the hollowing out of our civil service. the good news is whenever we have a new administration, whether it's next year or in five years we are going to have a mechanism to bring people back in a way that is efficient.
>> you have just witnessed the total value of having somebody with this type of experience for both andy and alyssa, who have served in the executive branch and have now come here to continue their public service to .e practical and have foresight and really think about the national interest first and foremost. thank you very much for your public service. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
[indistinct conversations] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] is susan, looking ahead at the week in congress, we had the house considering i partisan legislation, while the senate is blocking. can you tell me about the senate's response to the president's decision to withdraw u.s. troops from syria? >> at this point