May 11 2011
Washington D.C. – House Armed Service Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (WA-09) made the following opening statement at today’s full committee meeting to markup the FY 2012 Nation Defense Authorization Act:
“It is an honor to be here with all of you today as we markup this important piece of legislation. I want to thank Chairman McKeon, all members of this committee and staff for their hard work and commitment to working in a bipartisan fashion.
“Before we get started, I would like to again take this opportunity to recognize former Chairman Ike Skelton. Ike was a strong, pragmatic voice on this committee and his presence is missed. This committee also misses the presence of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. In her absence, her staff has worked diligently to ensure that this legislation addresses important issues that she has championed. In this difficult time, her commitment to her district and this country has never wavered, and she is an inspiration to us all.”
“Moving forward, there will be disagreements, but we must continue to resolve our disagreements respectfully and with the same outcome in mind: provide our service men and women with the tools and resources they need to do their job and protect national security.
“Overall, this legislation represents a balanced commitment to meet the threats we face today as well as into the future. With the recent news of the death of Osama Bin Laden, I would like to specifically point out that this legislation supports our efforts to confront violent extremism head-on. As the world now knows, the United States possesses the ability to hunt down violent extremists who wish to do our country harm regardless of where they reside. A large part of that capability is due to the U.S. Special Operations Command, which is a vital part of our military. This legislation continues to build on previous efforts to support their important work.
“While there are many good aspects of this legislation, there are also provisions that concern me. I am specifically concerned with some of the language regarding how we try and detain terrorists. I agree with the Chairman that more must be done to address the problems with our current polices and that a legislative solution is needed. However, some of the proposed solutions contained in this bill are problematic. They tie the President’s hands in a time of war and weaken our values
“Some of the proposals place severe restrictions on the President’s ability to transfer detainees and it restricts the use of Article III courts. This is not just a matter of protecting our Constitution and upholding our values, it is also bad policy and a matter of national security. We must not take options for managing detainees off the table.
“The United States has tried and convicted more than 400 terrorists in Article III courts since 9/11 and removing this option would inhibit one of our strongest tools for convicting terrorists. Should he deem it necessary, the President must also have the ability to transfer detainees to foreign countries willing to accept them — the United States does not want to be in the business of warehousing low-level terrorists for an undetermined period of time. These are basic principles that this legislation does not recognize.
“I do, however, appreciate the majority’s willingness to engage on this issue. We’ve had extensive discussions and I fully expect a robust and spirited debate as we markup this bill on Wednesday.”
“I am also troubled by the way the Majority has treated the U.S. Family Health Plans issue. Eliminating funding for this might free up some funds in the Department of Defense, but really all it does is shift the cost for these retirees to Medicare. And while using the now-freed DOD funds to address the Widow’s Tax might sound good, really what we have done is pit the interests of widows against those of retirees, and that’s just not right.”
“Again, I applaud the hard work of the members of this committee and committee staff. This committee always lives up to its commitment to bipartisanship and I expect nothing less as we mark up this important piece of legislation.”