tv Newsmakers Rep Adam Smith Armed Services Chair CSPAN January 27, 2019 10:02am-10:37am EST
of his parents wanted him? >> tonight on q&a, journalist jane levy with her book on the life of legendary baseball player babe ruth. this and gets into forth with the pitcher for the chicago cubs. it becomes a legend that he is standing at home plate and the cubs are yelling at him and the yankees are yelling back at the cubs. he raises one finger for one strike and two for two stripes and he allegedly pointed to the glitches and grandstands and allegedly saying i am going to hit the next one. >> jane levy tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span's q&a. >> next, "newsmakers" with adam smith, chair of the armed services committee.
this interview was recorded shortly before president trump announced a deal to end 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 congress in 1997. he is the new chairman. thank you for being with us. chairman adam smith. chairman smith: thank you very much. these two reporters who cover the military, tom for usa today and john donnelly covering the military. thank you for coming back to "newsmakers." before we get started, i want to ask for an update on the shutdown. we are now at 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 42019. for 2019. 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 at the border 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 individual lives, devastating impact. 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 and all the impact for something that until six weeks ago, he did not think was that important, does not make sense. they ought to accept what 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
-- as irresponsible as it is. we ought to open the government. i do not understand the president's thinking. >> gentlemen, on to your questions. >> to follow 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 back up for three weeks, 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 ought to. >> are you seeing hard effects of the shutdown in your district? adam smith: absolutely. we have a ton of federal employees. i met with a number of them last weekend when i was at home. they are not able to pay rent, mortgages, not able to buy food.
you are starting to certainly see the impact at the airports, as i spend a lot of time there. with fewer and fewer people available, i met with air traffic controllers. they have a very important and difficult job. i do not want air traffic controllers wondering whether or not he can feed his family. it is having a real impact on my district. >> let's shift 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 down there? adam smith: our witnesses -- we're working on that. the north com 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 that are sent there? 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? i don't think that has 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. if they crossed over the line, the white house has been in the -- ambiguous, the pentagon has not. secretary mattis was clear they will not do that. we want to make sure the lines 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 duty troops there? there are thousands right now. adam smith: we don't. i heard a figure like $700 million. that is something we would like to have some transparency on. >> the president is considering using emergency authority to tap some pentagon military construction funds to build the border barrier. i cannot imagine congress being 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 -- presidential authority to move money like this without the consent of congress? adam smith: this is a legislative creative law 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 for this type of purpose. i do not think there is an emergency, even under the 1976 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 pot of money he is looking at, the only other place where there is enough money that he is talking about -- 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 dollars away from that would be problematic. i think there is going to be a bipartisan effort to look at the 1976 law and see if we granted the executive too much power . >> we have reported the pentagon has been tasked with developing for this 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 by the folks over at the pentagon. >> we will shift to the war zones, especially syria and afghanistan. i thought i would start by asking you just 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 wake up one morning and say we are pulling 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 our 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 president's quick decision has created instability in both places. in syria, we had been successful until after the president's announcement, we had suffered no casualties. we were working with the curd and air forces that were working to fight isis in that region and we were supporting them. if we're not there, who is going to support them? i am concerned about protecting the kurds who have fought with us, in the leading edge of beating back crisis in syria and iraq.
based on a conversation with the -- with president erdogan in turkey, that drove a lot of president trump's decision to pull us out. turkey's interests are not in alignment with the kurds. we need to work on how we can 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. the answer has always been, give us one more year, a few thousand more troops, we will stabilize the afghan 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 is coming at a great cost. that needs to be a thoughtful discussion. we will have a classified briefing for our committee 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 any connection between the president's announcement that the 2000 troops that will be withdrawn has anything to do with the casualties that occurred, the four americans killed last week? adam smith: no. as we were discussing this, i often said, we have not suffered any casualties in syria and now we have. it is worth noting, having been unfortunately i was one who suffered through serving
on the and ghazi committee -- benghazi 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 do 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. isis have been greatly diminished by a plan president obama put in place and the president trump carried out, to his credit, to really produce
isis' power and influence. they have not been defeated. they do not hold territory at the moment. there is still a large number of isis fighters in the region who present a threat to our allies and to us and on a transnational basis if they are ever to get ground to hold for a while to plot and plan those attacks. >> 10 minutes left. >> one question on syria. in december, you and chairman thornberry had a statement about how you were concerned about a precipitous withdrawal and the problems that could follow or flow from that now the pentagon . three toill be a four-month plan. 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 national security advisor the decisionsying we make in syria will be based on our interests. we want to continue 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 lling 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 governs, by the seat of his pants. he sent out a tweet saying i will pull out a syria because we defeated isis. i think he referred to ourselves in the third person. that is the only reason trump wanted us there.
we are not living in a reality show. we are living in the actual world. if what secretary pompeo and bolton have said is our goal, how are we 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 fantasy world where you can do it in a week. it does not answer crucial policy questions that have been raised. all that said, i would like to get to a sensible policy that reduces military presence in the world. i think there are other, better ways to determine adversary's then always relying on military. adversaries then always
relying on military. i hope we can get there. we put the cart announce the before the horse. 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 venezuela could leave too few people there and risk a benghazi situation. do you have that concern? adam smith: absolutely. we need a plan to protect these people. i do not necessarily disagree with the decision to say, we are going to state because our presence is important, but what is the security situation? thanks to the president holding the country hostage for a rather 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. that is another argument to open the government.
pay these people, and then you can have your policy discussion. we need to see what this security plan is. for all of the partisan nonsense that was involved in the benghazi committee, it was an important function. before the committee was formed there were numerous reports that , did this. mistakes were made. there were security decisions that should have been that are -- should have been better 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 allow the pentagon's partial 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?
adam smith: it is not clear what the policy is going to be. i think the policy was basically -- 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 -- to boot 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. -- can implement. i don't make it should be. 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 house's defense authorization bill to include a provision to overturn the president's policy? adam smith: quite possibly. one of the big picture things about the armed services committee -- democrats have 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. personally, i think 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. a more efficient approach -- when we look at how to did our -- deter our adversaries, relying on the military, that is -- relying on that military solely, that is a mistake.
our committee has to priorities. one, we are bipartisan. we work across the aisle, with the senate, as well. we work together because 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 our 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 because the senate is in one place and we are in another. 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. have you heard any indication that acting secretary shanahan is going to have a different sense or policy than secretary mattis? after all, 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 implemented it. they have not kicked transgender people out of the military. all four service chiefs testified there has been no impact whatsoever on military readiness, unit cohesion, anything. the transgender people are serving and it is not have a -- having a negative impact at all. the president's policy does not stem from any actual national security need. i have not heard from secretary shanahan how he plans to interpret the latest court rulings or deal with a proposed policy change. >> can we squeeze in one more? >> sure.
>> nuclear weapons can be a big issue. there was a report from the congressional budget office talking about 23% increase for last couple of years. in the next 10 years, cost, half of $1 trillion -- you have expressed concerns about these programs. i am interested in whether you think the u.s. should discontinue having land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles. do you still think we need them given the cost? adam smith: there are two big things. one, we have a 22 training dollar debt -- $22 trillion debt . 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 needs of the pentagon. we had had a report from the missile defense agency about the
money they want. the air force said they need 25% more planes. the army wants to get air strength up. we want to hundred 55 ships. -- 225 ships. we do not have enough money to do that. we have to make choices. point number 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. if we focus on a deterrent strategy on 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. china has 250 nuclear weapons. we have 4000 or 5000. i do not think we need that many. i am not saying we don't need a nuclear deterrence, we
absolutely do. we don't need as many as we are talking about. as you noted, the cost is only going to get higher. we are going to have to make choices. making that type of investment in nuclear weapons as opposed to other areas of national security -- and forget all the things i just said -- we are not spending enough money on artificial intelligence, cyber, and information campaigns. there are new systems that factor into warfare. when you look at space, and how important it is. all of these areas we need to be looking at. i do not think we can afford what the nuclear posture review is calling for and i do not think it is necessary for the defense of the country. >> what about ground-based icbms? adam smith: 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 am not proposing at this point that we get rid of it. the idea that it is sacrosanct, 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 or not we can have a wiser policy on nuclear weapons. >> you mentioned priorities and costs. where d stand on the proposal for the space force? stand on theou 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. we are getting better and headed in the right direction. the idea that we should have an emphasis on space, i agree. i do not agree with a separate space department. even the white house and pentagon have backed off. they are now proposing 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 strategic subcommittee, mike cooper, they 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. >> armed 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. he listed so many issues he is interested in. i should tell people that he has a military presence in his home district.
it is home to fort lewis and an mccordaccord -- 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 for pulling troops out. there is an area for compromise. he is correct to say let's do this in the right way. there are a lot of implications. not only announcing it in the right way after consultation with allies and other stakeholders, but let's 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 end up in court, the first would be if the president used emergency powers. can you talk about what you know from your reporting how that could play out? >> one of the issues will be eminent domain among the border. they are going to face lawsuits immediately from landowners
about putting the barrier right 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 if he makes this order? that will be an issue that we will have to watch closely. >> but he would have the political wing of his supporters for making the decisions. >> another lawsuit he said would be if the president used emergency power to shift money. read of it 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 raining re some oft in --
that inining? reining some of that in? 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. >> we have one minute left. let's02 another topic, -- go to another topic, transgender troops. we know democrats do not agree with the direction 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? if they are capable of serving but not 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. >> i thought his answer on what the authorizing committee might do was interesting. he said they will fight the good fight but do not expect to win and i will not go to the mat and jeopardize passage of the defense authorization law. because of the republican senate. >> yes. >> that is it for time. interesting conversation. thank you for being part of it. >> thank you. >> for the 1/16 congress, voters 116t congress, voters electedh rick scott. he was running a company that operated hospitals around the country and later he was a .enture capitalist
former health and human services secretary was elected to the house. since serving in the clinton administration, she has been the president of the university of miami and the clinton foundation. was --essman her father was shot and killed in ecuador. after graduate school, she worked in a number of local nonprofits before joining the administration of florida international university. does go florida republicans joined the house, one previously served in the florida house of representatives and was an attorney in private practice. congressman greg steube started his law career in the judge advocate general core, serving three years in iraq. new congress, new leaders. watch it all on c-span. law afternoon, senator, jrris -- senator kemal --
kamala announced -- harris announced her run for presidency. c-span's was engine journal, live every day on issues that impact you. monday morning, talk about the week ahead in washington. freshmaniscussion of democratic congresswoman alexandria a causey are cortez's ocasio-cortez. events recap of friday's ending the 35 day government shutdown.
first, president trump's rose garden announcement to reopen portions of the government while negotiators continue working on border security. later, reaction from senators, including mitch mcconnell in charles schumer. house speaker nancy pelosi and senator schumer speak with reporters about the agreement. a congressional reporter talks about what is in the agreement and what to expect in the next three weeks we start with the president's announcement. >> ladies and gentlemen. the president of the united states. [applause] president trump: thank you very much, my fellow american