tv Newsmakers Rep Adam Smith Armed Services Chair CSPAN January 25, 2019 10:20pm-10:54pm EST
address, the war of politics, is too great for many presidents. this is wilson's small constitutional presidency. it is designed for party leadership. presidents do not avoid the opportunity to use the address to try to score political points. formalfar away from that to sink address that george washington would have given. >> this weekend on american history tv on c-span3. with adamewsmakers smith, chair of the armed services committee. the interview was recorded shortly before president trump announced a deal on the government shutdown.
our guest on c-span's newsmakers is a representative adam smith of washington, a member of the armed services committee since he arrived in 1997. thank you for being with us. german adam smith. let me -- chairman adam smith. these two reporters who cover todaylitary, tom for usa and john donnelly covering the military. thank you for coming back to newsmakers. , i want toet started ask for an update on the shutdown. it is day 35 of the partial federal shutdown. it seems like there is movement but we just learned the laguardia airport and other major u.s. airports are calling for flight delays because of staffing shortages. what can you tell our audience
about if there is movement toward resolution. adam smith: the senate has made a reasonable proposal to reopen the government for three weeks and debate border security. people have to keep in mind this is a relatively new crisis in president trump's mind. president trump submitted his budget request in february of 2018. the house and senate both passed the budget request. there was 1.6 billion for a barrier. all of a sudden after democrats won in november, he decided it was a crisis and he needed more money. this is a new thought on his part. it is perfectly reasonable to say ok, you want to debate about border security and whether or not it is a wall, we are open to the debate. there is no reason to have the government shutdown for something you just decided was important. the suffering people are facing in this country right now, both
the federal employees who are not being paid, do not know if they can make mortgages, do not know if they can buy food -- they are going to food banks -- it is spreading. it is having a profound impact on lives, devastating. coast guard are being sent to the persian gulf not being paid. this is unacceptable. the president ought to end it tomorrow by saying i want to make my case on border security but to hold hostage the federal government for something that until six weeks ago, he did not think was that important, does not make sense. he should accept that the senate is putting forward. open the government. pay the people. we can have the debate. at the end of the debate if he thinks it is not fair, he has leverage, he still has the ability to do this, as a responsible as it is. we ought to open the government. i do not understand the president's thinking.
>> on to the questions. up, you said he does not have leverage by keeping the government closed, but he thinks he does. adam smith: i did not say that -- what i said was, if we open the government backup for three , pay the federal workers, three weeks from now, he has the same leverage he has now. leverage i do not think you should use. if he is worried about losing it, three weeks merely gives us a chance for the democratic process to work the way it should. >> are you seeing hard effects of the shutdown in your district? absolutely. we have a ton of federal employees. they are not able to pay rent, mortgages, not able to buy food. we are seeing the impact of airports. i spend a lot of time there.
with fewer and fewer people available, i met with air traffic controllers. they have a difficult job. i do not want air traffic controllers wondering whether or not he can pay -- he can feed his family. it is having a real impact on my district. shifting to the situation at the border, prompting the shutdown. there are thousands of active duty troops. they will be holding a hearing next week with the dod about that. who will you call as a witness and what do you want to hear from the dod about what is going on? adam smith: our witnesses -- we're working on that. commander is confirmed and we want the assistant secretary in charge of the area to come, as well. we are working on who the civilian at the pentagon will be. we want transparency. what is the purpose of active duty troops sent their?
it is a great cost to the pentagon. these troops are not doing the training they need to be prepared to meet the national security threats that are paramount. what are they doing at the border? why is it necessary to have active duty troops at the border? that has not been explained. we want to understand. there are larger concerns about the demilitarization of the border. the u.s. military is constitutionally prohibited from enforcing law in the u.s.. line,y crossed over the the white house has been in the u.s., the pentagon has not. secretary mattis was clear they will not do that. the lines make sure do not get blurred and the military is not being used as domestic law enforcement. >> you mentioned cost. do you have a sense for how much has been spent so far to deploy active duty troops? there are thousands right now. adam smith: we don't.
i heard a figure like $700 million. we would like some transparency on that. >> the president is considering to tapmergency authority some pentagon military construction funds to build the border barrier. beingot imagine congress able to legislate anything in time to stop him immediately. do you think in the longer term, there might be some bipartisan support for limiting residential authority to move money like this without being consent of congress -- without the consent of congress? adam smith: this is a legislative create a bot that empowers the president to declare a state of emergency and gives options to take money from different pots. there are a lot of areas. in my world, it is the military construction budget he could tap.
i do not think there is an the 1976, even under law, so they would be a lawsuit. taking billions of dollars out of the pentagon's military construction budget would be a problem. there is bipartisan opposition. the other money he is looking at with enough money is the army corps of engineers. this is not dod money. i forget where it is exactly in the government. it is money for flood control projects. taking billions of product -- billions of dollars away from that would be problematic. they will be a bipartisan effort to look at the 1976 law and. see if granted the executive to much power . >> we have reported the pentagon has been tasked with developing plans for the barrier. are you aware of that and how far along is the planning? adam smith: i am not.
i have heard the same rumors, seen the same stories. we do not have anything confirmed. that is a question we would like answered. >> we will shift to the war zones, especially syria and afghanistan. to give us your overall assessment of the security situation in open of those battle zones, in terms of the threat and continuing need for u.s. troops, what are you hearing from commanders on the ground? adam smith: there is concern about the impetuous way the president made the decision to make -- to wake up and pull out of syria and afghanistan. that unilateral off-the-cuff decision undermines the alliances that are crucial to what we are doing. a case can be made for reducing
the presence in both places. the case should be made in coordination with all of the partners we are working with and should be implemented in a thoughtful way. i am worried the presidents quick decision has created instability in both places. successfule had been until after the president's --ouncement, we had checked we had suffered no caps off these. casualties. no we were supporting them. if we are not there, he was going to support the democratic government? i am concerned about protecting the kurds who have fought with us, in the leading edge of beating back crisis in syria and iraq. with thea conversation president in turkey, that drove a lot of president trump's
decision to pull us out. are not interests alignment with the kurds. we need to resolve those differences. simply pulling out will not get us there. i would like to see us reduce the number of troops. afghanistan is more complicated. we have been there a long time. always been, give us one more year, a few thousand more troops, we will stabilize the government and get a peace agreement with the taliban. truthfully, it has always been one more year. at some point, we are losing lives in afghanistan and are we achieving our objectives? i am wide open to the idea of reducing the presence of our troops in afghanistan. after 17 years, it does not seem to be achieving our objectives and has come at a great cost. that needs to be a thoughtful discussion.
we're going to discuss the situation in afghanistan and see where we are at. it is open to discussion, whether or not it makes sense to keep doing what we have been doing for 17 years or look for another course. >> i'd like to get back to syria. are you drawing connection between the president's announcement that the 2000 troops that will be withdrawn has anything to do with the casualties that occurred to the four americans killed last week? adam smith: no. were discussing this, i often said, we have not suffered casualties in syria and now we have. it is worth noting, unfortunately i served on the been gaza committee, can you imagine if president obama had announced we were going to be unilaterally withdrawing from
syria and days later a terrorist attack happened? can you imagine how the republicans would have reacted? i am not the irresponsible or partisan. i do not draw that connection. i think the president's decisions, doing so much of what he does by tweet on the spur of the moment, does undermine our ability to have the allies we need. isis has no doubt been trying to hit us. anyone who drew a connection between those two, we would be making it up. it does underline a very important point that when the president said isis is defeated so we can leave, he was clearly wrong. greatlye been diminished by a plan president obama put in place and the president trump carried out, to his credit, to really produce isis is power. they have not been deflated -- defeated.
they do not hold territory at the moment. there is still a large number of cases fighters in the region who present a threat to our allies and to us and on a transnational basis of they are ever to get ground to hold. >> 10 minutes left. >> one question on syria. december, you and chairman thornberry had a statement about how you were concerned about a precipitous withdrawal and the problems like follow. now the pentagon says it will be a re-four-month. before troops are withdrawn. will that work out ok? adam smith: that depends on the plan. what are the national security objectives? one of the most concerning looking at this shortly after the president made his announcement, secretary pompeo and elton -- and security
thesor bolton said decisions will be based on our interest. we want to commute to keep isis down, protect the kurds, and limit iranian influence. if those are the three objectives, the president must connect the dots. how does polling 2000 troops out of syria meet the policy objectives that his secretary of state and national security advisor have stated? this is part of the problem with the way president trump governance by the seat of his pants. he sent out a tech -- a tweet saying i will pull out a syria because we defeated isis. he referred to ourselves in the third person. we are not living in a reality show. we are living in the actual world.
and boltony pompeo have said is our goal, however he going to achieve the objectives with this new plan? that has yet to be explained. 3-4 months is better than one week but you cannot pull them out in one week logistically. it is a responsible. it would place troops and civilians at risk. the 3-4 months is better than the fantasy world of a week. it does not answer crucial policy questions that have been raised. get to aike to sensible policy that reduces military presence in the world. there are better ways to determine adversary's then always relying on military. i hope we can get there. we have a card for the horse. announce the policy and come up with justification afterwards. it is supposed to work the other way around. >> the situation in venezuela is in the news now. your mention of benghazi, a lot
of people are concerned the withdrawal of all essential u.s. diplomatic personnel from -- could could lead leave too few people there and risk a benghazi situation. do you have that concern? absolutely. we need a plan to protect these people. i do not necessarily disagree with the decision to say, we will stay, but what is the security situation? thanks to the president holding ae country hostage for nonspecific desire to build some kind of wall somewhere on the border, a lot of these people are not being paid while they are being told to stay in a dangerous part of the world. is another argument to open the government. pay these people. thised to see what
security plan is. for all of the partisan nonsense involved in the benghazi committee, it was an important function. there were numerous reports that did this. mistakes were made. there were security decisions that should have been that are thought out. when we look at the situation now, we need to make sure our personnel are adequately protected. >> i would like to shift to a decision by the supreme court to , a partialentagon ban on the service of transgender troops. you have said anyone who is willing and qualified to serve should be allowed to do so, specifically referring to transgender troops. do you have a sense for how many troops would be affected by this policy? clear what it is not the policy is going to be.
basicallye policy was -- it is thousands. there are thousands of transgender people serving in the military. i do not believe in discrimination for no reason. if you are qualified and trained and able to do the job, you ought to be able to do the job regardless of your gender status , sexual preference, or any of those things. the policy to build transgender people out of the military is wrong, it is not the correct policy. we will see how the courts decide whether or not it is a policy the president can women. we will fight it. i do not believe transgender people should be kicked out of the community. they have served for a long time and should be allowed to continue to do so. >> can we expect the houses
defense authorization bill to include a provision to overturn the president's policy? adam smith: possibly. thingsthe big picture about the armed services committee -- democrats every taken the house. the republicans still control the senate and white house. i would like to emphasize, on the armed services committee, we have a lot of priorities. we need to figure out how to get more out of the money we spend in the pentagon. i do not think we should have the bloated budgets we have. --ore efficient approach when we look at how to did sir adversaries, relying on the mistake. that is a our committee has to priorities. one, we are bipartisan. we work across the aisle, with the senate, as well.
we are trying to produce a product to support the men and woman putting their lives on the line to defend the country. that is the second, we have to pass the bill, the defense authorizing act to make sure we put in place laws and protections that the men and women who serve us need. i am not going to not pass a defense bill. i am going to push for priorities and policy objectives that we as democrats have. one of them is the transgender people ought to be allowed to serve openly in the military. >> four minutes. >> one last question. indicationard any that acting secretary shanahan is going to have a different sense or policy than secretary mattis? this is simply a policy put in place, not etched in stone. is there indication they might be ability to change some of the
policies secretary mattis -- adam smith: i have not. the president announced the policy. the pentagon has not implement it. testifiedrvice chiefs there has been no impact readiness on military , unit cohesion, anything. the transgender people are serving and it is not have a negative impact. the president's policy does not stem from any actual national security need. have not heard from secretary shanahan how he plans to in -- to interpret the latest court rulings or deal with a proposed policy change. >> one more? nuclear weapons can be a big issue. there was a report from the congressional budget office talking about 23% increase for the next couple of years.
cost, half 10 years, $1 trillion -- you have expressed concerns about these programs. i am interested in whether you think the u.s. should discontinue having land-based air continent of ballistic missiles. do we still need them? adam smith: there are two big things. one, we have a 22 trillion dollar debt. it will be $1 trillion this year. we have finite resources. there are some people who argue the deficit does not matter. i do not have time for that argument but i understand it and do not agree with it. finite resources factor in. then we look at the pentagon. -- had a report from the missile defense agency about the money they want. the air force said they need 25% more planes. the army once to get air
strength up. we want to hundred 55 ships. we do not have enough money to do that. we have to make choices. two, our nuclear weapons, we need to upgrade them. they are aging. they need to be upgraded. do we need as many as we have had? i believe there are many fallacies in place in terms of what drove us to build as many nuclear weapons as we did. a deterrenton strategy, i'm having enough nuclear weapons to make sure no adversary can threaten us with nuclear weapons, that we have enough to deter them, that is what china does. they have 250 nuclear weapons. we have 4000 or 5000. i do not think we need that many. noted, the cost is only going to get higher. we are going to have to make choices.
making that type of investment nuclear weapons as opposed to other areas of national security -- we are not spending enough money on artificial intelligence, cyber, and information campaigns. there are new systems that factor into warfare. space. all of these areas we need to be looking at. i do not think we can afford what the nuclear board is calling for and i do not think it is necessary for the defense of the country. >> what about ground-based icbms? there is no valid reason for the triad. the triad grew up because every service wanted their own piece. not because of a national security reason. i am open to a discussion about whether or not it makes sense to have ground-based nuclear
weapons. i do not propose we get rid of it. sacrosanct,t it is that the triad is not to be touched because it is crucial to u.s. national security, does not bear scrutiny. i want to bring scrutiny to it and spur a debate about whether we can have a wiser policy on nuclear weapons. >> you mentioned priorities and costs. ? where do you stand on the proposal for the space force ? >> this is our last minute. adam smith: it must be cost effective. we have not done a good job in terms of space. i worked a lot on the launch of our satellites. it is unbelievably costly. should have ane emphasis on space, i agree. i do not agree with a separate space department. even the white house and pentagon have backed off. they propose to have a space corps under the air force. i want to emphasize space but do
not want to create more bureaucracy. the former chairman of the theymmittee, mike rogers, have done a ton of great work on this, on what we need to do to properly emphasize space without wasting money. i am going to follow their lead. our bill will have specific instructions about the right way to increase emphasis on space but not waste money. >> services committee chairman adam smith. so many issues and not enough time. please come back. adam smith: thank you. >> let me start with expectations for this committee under his gavel. there were so many issues he is interested in. he has a military presence in his home district. it is home to fort lewis and an air force base. washington state has many defense contractors.
what can people expect under his watch? >> the first hearing he is calling is about the border. he is going to emphasize his differences with the president on how that should be handled. we heard him speak about his concerns about cost and appropriate usage of the military. it sounds like it will be an aggressive oversight function that we have not seen for a while. >> we were talking before about the fact that president trump is a skeptic on some of the spending and troop deployment. are there areas for compromise between the democratic congress and the president? absolutely. it was noteworthy talking about syria and afghanistan. he is on the same page as president trump kind of but he would never say it that way. he is opposed to precipitously doing this, doing it in not a smart way.
he is four pulling troops out. there is an area for compromise. he is correct to say let's do this the right way. there are a lot of implications. not only announcing it in the right way after consultation with allies, but to implement it in the right way. president trump has slowed down a withdrawal in syria. he has not announced a withdrawal in afghanistan. it has just been reported they are considering a cut in afghanistan troop levels. >> two issues he promised would be in court, if the president used emergency powers. can you talk about how that could play out? beone of the issues will eminent domain among the border. they are going to face lawsuits from landowners about having the barrier there. that will be an issue. he only has two years left in his term, less.
will anything be constructed the between now and then? that will be an issue that we will have to watch closely. >> but he would have the political wing of his supporters. said wouldlawsuit he be if the president used emergency power to shift money. my nonlawyer reed is the president has the authority to shift money in the way he is talking about because congress gave it to him. that is why you asked, has congress given the president to much authority? might congress consider reining in an? maybe after this political moment has passed. there are a lot of republicans who did not like president obama's executive orders. they have wariness about executive authority. it will be top for congress to do. i can see the debate unfolding. a lot of people did not realize
the president could declare an emergency without specifics and whether it is true or not and move unlimited amounts of money, as far as i know, even though he knows lawmakers are opposed to it. as opposed to reprogramming money. >> transgender troops. we know democrats do not agree with the direction of the turbine ministration. -- of the trump administration. >> it will probably get hung up in the courts when you have people who are removed from the military court capable of serving. on what basis are you getting rid of them? they are starving -- they are serving in the gender they were not assigned at birth, we have documentation from the american medical association that says they should be allowed to serve. they are going to challenge this immediately. on what ther
authorizing committee might do was interesting. he said they will fight the good fight but do not expect to win and he will not go to the mat and jeopardize passage of the defense authorization law. >> that is it for a time. interesting conversation. thank you for being part of it. >> thank you. >> the legend was that he was a bad kid running amok on the waterfront of baltimore. he never lived on the waterfront of baltimore. internalized -- i do not want to do too much psychobabble -- he internalized the idea he must be bad. why else would neither of his parents have wanted him? >> sunday on q&a, author and journalist with her book the big fellow on the life of legendary
baseball player babe ruth. >> 1932 world series. babe ruth gets into a back and forth with charlie ruth, the picture for the chicago cubs. it becomes a legend. he is standing at home plate and the cubs are yelling at him and the yankees are yelling back at the cubs and he raises one finger for one strike, two strikes and then he points out allegedly to the bleachers, pointing and saying, that is where i will hit the next one. >> sunday night at it a cut eastern on c-span's monday -- q&a. >> president trump announced an agreement to end the partial shutdown. this announcement is about 20 minutes. >> ladies and gentlemen.