tv Newsmakers CSPAN July 22, 2012 10:00am-10:30am EDT
congressman adam smith, the ranking democrat on the armed services committee. thank you for being with us. joining us with the questions in the studio, jeremy hill from "the hill." congressman, let's begin with some of the news of the week. senator murray indicated that the bush tax cuts should essentially expire. how likely is that to happen? >> what senator murray said was the choice was between extending all of them are letting all of them expire. she would choose to let all of them expire, and i would agree with her on that. the pervert position is to let the of them expire -- - preferred position is to let most of them expire. if it is all or nothing, she said the better policy position is nothing. keep in mind it would give us the tax rates we had in the late 1990's under president
clinton and their public and congress. we had the strongest economy we had since world war ii. the tax rate prior to the bush tax cuts can sustain a strong economy. >> a follow-up from frank. >> do you feel the same way about the sequestered? are you prepared to cross that line if you do not get the concessions from republicans that you hope? >> it depends what options are put on the table to deal with the sequester. i did not vote for it in the first place. i thought it was a terrible idea. we heard testimony in the armed services committee that this is built off of the sequestered from the 1980's. everyone that has ever supports this says they do not think should happen. it is a forcing mechanism. it's so bad we feel it will force people to mac. unfortunately, they have underestimated the current situation and now we have something where the people who
supported say it is so bad it should not happen. we are reaching the point where one of the wisest course of action will be to say no. we still have to deal with the deficit, but we will not put a gun to the head of the economy in this fragile state forcing that. the sequester is a big problem. there's no clear way out right now. >> if you were to set odds, what would you set the odds out for a sequester actually taking place? >> i would not set odds. that's not my responsibility, fortunately. it's hard to say. i would still say that it's less likely than likely, the you have to find a way out of this, because it is set to be the law on lost the house, the senate, on the president can agree the change. that will be a tall order given the perspective. let's remember that we normally hear because the republicans did not want to raise the debt
ceiling. this will the price to the united states of america to continue to meet its obligations. that insistence on not raising the debt ceiling for the faction which is put us in a very, very bad spot. i hope we can find a way out. >> jeremy from "the hill." >> they have accused democrats of using the military as a weapon. why have we not seen a plan other than tax increases have to occur? >> the president put out a budget at the start of this year which was an action to get the deficit under control and avoid sequestration. in the democratic caucus, we put forward a bill and voted on that. max baucus put out a bill in the super committee to put out a long-term plan. there have been things but on the table. every single one of those plants has been rejected by the republicans because they're still in the position that there
is no revenue. we have been advocating a balanced approach and we have put out plans, but they have all been rejected by the republicans. >> you have said in the past you think the sequester is " a dumb way" to make cuts, that is just a hair cut across the top. if the did -- is the defense budget too big? you feel like there are places to make cuts? >> absolutely. >> can be specific about where you think the best cuts are to be made? what the defense budget has doubled in the last 10 years. at the height of the iraq war, we had 200,000 troops deployed between iraq and afghanistan. we now have zero in iraq and we're getting the 68,000 deployed. we're going to see a reduction in the size of the force. that is appropriate and in. to save a lot of money. when we look at our nuclear policy, it was built based on
deterrence and mutually assured destruction with the then soviet union and there is clearly savings to be found in that area as well. there are plenty of areas to find savings in the defense budget. keep in mind that there is a classic reduction in the increase. it is not a cut, but a cut in what we projected to spend 18 months ago. that essentially flat line the the budget and, as a percentage of our economy and of our spending, it is roughly equivalent to what we were spending during the height of the reagan defense boom. it still a big number. >> congressman, do you think things will be different after the election for deficit, debt reduction, taxes and revenue? regardless of who is elected to the white house and to control the house and senate, will the
atmosphere the difference in november, december, january? >> it will be different, but will it be different enough to force the issue one way or another? the main issue will be the january deadline that are coming on all the tax cuts expiring, on sequestration kicking in, and what began for the proposed medicare cuts which is about $300 billion over 10 years. they will no longer be two, three, six months off in the future but they will be now. the biggest difference will be the forcing mechanism causing us to get closer and closer to the deadline. depending on who wins the election, it certainly changes the equation of the parties are going to be willing to do. we do not know how that will change, but the atmosphere will be decidedly different. >> will it be better? will be more bipartisan? >> i cannot predict that.
it will probably have to be more bipartisan. in all likelihood, each party is going to control at least one of the three pieces here. as we get closer to that forcing mechanism that i just described, bipartisanship will have to happen to avoid what everyone a knowledge as are some truly awful outcomes. >> there has been a concerted effort this week about the dangers of sequestration. there's a new study by the aerospace industries association and then there was a hearing that we had yesterday. you feel like they're some choreography going on to push democrats on sequestration? >> i would not call it "choreography of." with it there is some very real concern in a bipartisan way about the impact of sequestration and a feeling that we need to drive home a point about what that would be. the defense has been all the focus, but sequestration hit every single discretionary
program. education, headstart, early learning, transportation, innovation, the nih. all of it will be hit if we do not deal with sequestration. the bipartisan desire to make people aware of it, surely we will find a way to avoid it, but we want to drive home the point that to find a way to avoid it is going to take some effort in how truly awful it will be if this came to pass. there has been an increased focus reflecting mainly how bad it would be and how much closer we get to the day. >> of freezing notices from companies like lockheed martin affecting employment, could that affect the outcome of the election? >> it's hard to say which way. both sides will try to spin it. i do not know if it will have a dramatic impact because this is a really bipartisan problem
here. democrats and republicans voted to create the budget control act and is in this position and it will take democrats and republicans working together to solve it. i do not think it will have a dramatic effect on the election. i hope to avoid that, first of all. i hope we focus between now and then on the need to find a solution. >> i want to take you back a little bit. we're talking about specific cuts. you mention nuclear weapons, but i want to get into acquisition programs. there are a host of them that are hemorrhaging money. you had the sign off on $2 billion more for two aircraft carriers and you just found out the f-35 increased its acquisition costs and there's a lot of money to be had. lcs was supposed to save on personnel and now the modularity is in question. are there programs out there
that you believe should be either seriously reduced or eliminated entirely? >> i have not made that decision yet. surely the inch that question is yes. we have now started more programs given some of the cost increases that we can afford to complete. the administration tried to address this to some degree by decommissioning a lot of aircraft. seven cruisers were set to be decommissioned in congress is fighting back on some of that. i think the commissioning some weapon system will have to be part of it. we're going to have to be very cautious about what we buy in the future, but the f-35 is slated to be a huge part of our force going forward. we have to continue a trend of the costs under control. who knows what the total by will be in the future, but it is
essential to our national security. there are some tough decisions undergoing have to be made, no question. >> switching gears, i want to talk about syria. there's a lot going on right now. i know that you are against getting involved in syria and militarily, but can you conceive of any circumstance under which the u.s. military could be involved or in a humanitarian operation should go forward if assaad was to fall? >> i will not specifically conceive of a future hypothetical situation. i will say circumstances change. as they change, the people at the department of defense will evaluate them. they do contingency planning. what if we did this? in the current set of circumstances, there really is not a military mission here that makes sense for the united
states of america, away for our military to step in and make the situation significantly better. it has devolved into a civil war with multiple factions involved. we're not in a position to stop it. that is a situation now. if it changes, we will reconsider. i will not preclude what might happen if things change. >> let's stay on foreign policy. you wrote an essay for "foreign policy" magazine. you said it was no secret that dick cheney was behind foreign- policy issues in the bush should ministration. 17 of the 34 advisers to mr. ronny are from the bush administration. you said that is a scary prospect. >> it is the over-willingness to engage in military action and as a belligerent go it alone, no allied approach. it is not well suited to our
current national security needs. president obama has not shrink from using our military to protect this country, most notably in counterterrorism and the fact we were able to kill a osama bin laden, but we have againstlle to take steps al qaeda in the arabian peninsula and an effort to push back against the taliban. what you get from the romney campaign and dick cheney is that whenever there's a problem that we need to step in militarily. we have heard the rhetoric as romney has been critical of the president "not doing enough in syria." he has been much more belligerent in iran. you have to wonder if you have a number -- and other republican administration that how many more wars will be have to go through?
it's a legitimate question. they are too willing to use military action instead of looking at the other tools in our national security arsenal. that is the main concern i'm trying to express. >> you think mitt romney would be a carryover of bush and cheney? >> there is a risk. he does not have a foreign- policy background. that much is clear. that is just a function of where he has served and what he has done. he has relied on the bush- cheney the administration leadership so it's a worthy concern. we ought to hear more specifically from governor romney what he plans to do on afghanistan. he has said things leading you to believe that he's in favor of leaving much more u.s. troops in afghanistan for a longer time. we have not heard a clear policy on it, but he has certainly alluded to it. i would urge all voters to listen carefully to what governor romney says about his
future plans. i'm very concerned about the level of commitment from the republican side of the aisle to further military action that i do not think is warranted. >> jeremy herb. >> we have heard so little about foreign policy. do you think the obama campaign has done enough to highlight it? should they be drawing more contrasts? >> obviously, you look at the polling in what people care about, the care about the economy, jobs, economic opportunity. that is the first focus. by all accounts, that is where the main part of this debate will be had. the obama campaign has taken great pains to point out the foreign-policy successes of this president. we have a democratic president polling significantly ahead of his republican opponent on national security issues. they point to his successes in terms of containing al qaeda,
building international relationships to impose sanctions in iran, getting us out of iraq on time. i think there are a lot of successes and they have been appropriately emphasized. >> one of the successes, recently secretary clinton was able to secure an agreement to open up the border between pakistan and afghanistan costing the u.s. an additional $100 million per month and now the house has voted in this defense spending bill to cut off about half of the counterinsurgency bond with a target placed on pakistan. do you think that vote could undermine these agreements? are you concerned about the message the house is sending? this is not law yet, but it sends a strong message. >> in the short term, it will not undermine the progress. i think secretary clinton would say this as well.
it's not like we solved it because we got this back up. it's a good, positive step, but pakistan, as has been documented, it is a very problematic ally. we will continue to have challenges. i do not think we can cut them off. we should continue to maintain their relationship because we have a clear interest in the afghanistan-pakistan region. i wish we did not. it's a very difficult part of the world. they both have massive troubles in their government and way too many violent extremists hanging around. pakistan has not done enough to contain them. we have to continue to work with pakistan, afghanistan, to contain that threat. >> the administration had a request for 68,000 troops. your committee and others have basically given their approval
of carrying over the 68,000 troops through all of fiscal year 2013. nobody seems to believe that you will actually have 68,000 troops on the ground in afghanistan throughout all of 2013 which means there seems to be some extra money in that account. how far or how quickly do you think the administration will begin to draw down? where do think we will be at the end of 2013 as far as troops in afghanistan? >> i hope they look at ways to draw down the troop numbers. we have to transition to afghan- controlled security in government. we will continue to help lessen their governance and peace, but the longer we maintain a substantial troop presence, the more difficult the transition is going to be. the united states military cannot impose stability on afghanistan. the afghan people have to do that. what we have done in the last few years as we have given them a chance.
we beat back the taliban in a number of areas and we have trade afghan national security forces. we have tried to work on the governance issues. we have given them the best chance we can. now we begin to transition down because ultimately sovereignty will trump. no one has ever been able to militarily control afghanistan in the history of that country. we will not be the first. president obama was very realistic about the direction we need to go now. i do not know the exact number, but i hope it's lower than 68,000. >> five minutes remained in our conversation with adam smith from washington state, the ranking democrat on the house arms services committee. jeremy herb from "the hill." >> we hear talk about how dangerous it would be a thing got nuclear weapons. we have also heard from the the joint chiefs, general dempsey, that they are
acting rationally on the international stage. do you think iran is as dangerous as advertised? >> yes. both of those statements can be true. there are a lot of rational actors in the world were very dangerous. where iran is concerned, part of their effort is projecting power. they view themselves as an original power. they are involved in hezbollah and hamas. we have heard about their threats to straight -- threats to shut down the street of hormuz. they will not do anything to completely destroy themselves, but they may make a bad calculation, so we need to continue on the course the president has said. mass a withering sanctions that pressure them into a diplomatic solution. i did we're beginning is the impact of those. iran is clearly feeling the pressure.
we will keep the pressure of to try to make sure that they do not build a nuclear weapon. >> have also not yet made the decision to draw down nuclear production and uranium production. what is the end game? what will convince them to make that next step? the diplomatic talks have now really yielded that. >> it's a matter of applying pressure over an extended period of time. you never know when pressure will be successful. they have not walked away from the talks. they have encouraged them. there have been a number of expressions about how the economic sanctions are having a profound impact on them. the hope the pressure reaches a point where they do make a decision. your right. they have not yet. they're trying to have their cake and eat it too. they do not want to be an international pariah, but they do not want to give up their pursuit of nuclear power and
nuclear weapons. you cannot have your cake and eat it, too. you will either be the pariah and tilly make the decision to change course and we will keep the pressure up until we do. >> i did what to rescue by your committees dynamics. alexians eberly impacted at the democratic side of the house armed services committee. you rose to the ranking post as a result of that. you're now looking at losing some very senior members. i wanted to ask you how that changes the dynamic for democrats? has the committee become more liberal in its approach to defense? just give me your read on what it means to have so many new faces on the democratic side. >> our committee has always had a very bipartisan tradition of taking our mission seriously to reward for national security, the defense of our country, and support the troops.
obviously, the last election hurt us in terms of experience. we lost over 100 years of experience between members who either retired, and in one case or running for governor. filling that gap as a challenge. we have a lot of members coming of doing a great job. they take their role seriously. we're slowly rebuilding. norm said he was not running again. he is a ranking member. i told him he could not do it too was, basically. he said it time marches on. you have to build the next generation and build of that experience to continue to do the job and that is what we're doing on the committee. >> you are just back from africa. is american aid making a difference?
what did you take away from that trip? >> i'm very optimistic about the future of africa. they have great resources and a real desire to build and grow their society. i was in you got that and kenya. -- uganda and kenya. they have helped us in somalia, djibouti, and ethiopia. there's a long way to go. the infrastructure is not there to help grow the economy, but i encourage u.s. companies to be more engaged in africa. there's a growing middle class presented opportunities for us. africom will be essential. that is one piece in developing aid and they're making a critical difference in their region. in his capacity building, the capacity of the local nations to govern and grow. of these are very important relationships and i was more
optimistic about our relationship there. >> a quick follow up? >> did you hear anything new about al qaeda in africa, some of these terrorist groups? are you can talk about all? and are you hearing more affirmation of their growing were becoming more formidable? >> the good news outweighs the bad during the good news is we have had considerable success in somalia and in yemen. we have been contained in the arabian peninsula, the more robust threat at the moment. they have really yielded some substantial help. the bad news is what happened in mali, the coup, and allocated taking up -- al qaeda taking up northern mali and boco in nigeria.
where does this go? will they focus and try to be transnational? that is what we will really need to pay attention to going forward to make sure we contain that threat. >> congressman adam smith, ninth congressional district and ranking democrat on the house armed services committee. thank you for joining us on "newsmakers." we continue the conversation with jeremy herb and frank oliveri. in a new book come out of the top 10 issues that need to be addressed come he mrs. -- names foreign policy twice. it will not get the attention it needs. >> it's very important. there's a lot going on. our nation seems to be very focused inward right now. our finances dictate limitation does to the role the u.s. can play abroad. they will not for the military in any more. they're very concerned.
you have a military that has been in some kind of war since 1991. they're looking to be more robust with the state department, more diplomatically involved. it is very, very important and it always has been, but on the public stage it is going up to take a back burner to domestic issues. you cannot be strong abroad until you are strong at home. >> "kicking the can down the what will we be facing with the election? define what ends up happening. they talk a good game. neither side is really moving until the election. that will be what decides it. then the question is if we have a movement election, a divided election, and if congress can come together to at least find a deal in january with two months to do it.
it may be more likely that they will just be kicking the can down the road six months or another year. >> polls do not show we will see any great movement. you'll see changes, but they will be on the margins. you're not likely to see a great change in terms of circumstance. every lawmaker in the last two weeks says they do not see any path to avoiding a sequester. it debt ceiling, taxes, the sequestered, just even getting appropriations, they are running out of time. the calendar is pressing on them. i do not know if anybody right now has any conception of how this will be wrapped up. i think that is an ominous sign. is debatable. many debate about how bad the sequester would be if it actually happened. we pointed out earlier about a number of places where the pentagon is just losing money hand over fist. one wonders if they can afford
to lose that kind of money that maybe this money could still be saved somehow. there really is an open question at this point. i do not think anyone is that interested in solving it right now. they feel like have a winning hand going in the election right now that maintaining the status quo is good for them. it pays to the republican base to say we are strong on defense and we will protect. it pays for democrats to make the republicans look bad choosing the attacks against wealthy people versus cutting your military. it's an interesting juxtaposition. >> the last word. >> it's interesting we have had this push from the defense industry. then we have also had the other side trying to save going back to 2006 spending levels. i think he will hear more on that from democrats as republicans talk about how devastating this would be to the military. november is going to be