Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) made the following statement about the passage of the FY 18 NDAA in the House:
“An enormous amount of good bipartisan work has gone into the writing of this bill, and I am supporting it. Make no mistake about it: We face a complex threat environment. North Korea is testing intercontinental ballistic missiles, Russia continues to undermine not just our elections, but democracy itself across the globe, and we face a terrorist threat. These are dangers that we must be prepared to confront.
“On the issue of terrorism, I want to warn strongly against using the issue of terrorism to demonize the Muslim religion. I know many people don’t want to do that—they simply want to confront groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS—but Steve Bannon, who works at the White House, indicates that he thinks that all Muslims are a threat. To the extent that we adopt a national security policy that views the world that way, we make the problem worse. That’s what ISIS wants. That’s what Al Qaeda wants. They want a clash of civilizations. We should not want that. Muslims have the biggest stake in this, and we must work with them, not against them, to confront the terrorist threat that ISIS and Al Qaeda and others present.
“On the broader budget issue, the main thing I am still concerned about in this bill is that it really doesn’t make choices. It continues to spend money in a variety of different places without a recognition of finite resources, and of the choices that need to be made about how to confront the threats that are most dangerous to us. This defense bill is $72 billion over the budget caps, so if we don’t eliminate or raise the budget caps, that additional money will go away, and leave us once again in the land of uncertainty for the Department of Defense. We have to make choices so that we don’t leave the U.S. military in the lurch, not knowing how much money they are going to have.
“I also want to point out that the rest of the budget does matter. The President’s budget contains a $54 billion plus-up for defense and a $54 billion cut from nondefense discretionary spending. So don’t tell me one thing doesn’t have anything to do with the other. What are we talking about with domestic spending? Here are a few examples: I mentioned our infrastructure, that bridges are collapsing all across the country. We have incredible infrastructure needs that lead to the strength of our country. They are connected, just like national defense is, to the strength of this nation.
“Another example is the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, which is close to my district in Seattle. It is doing incredible research right now about how not to use chemotherapy, but to actually go in and take out the white blood cells that aren’t working, get them to work, send them back in, and successfully fight cancer. This has worked for blood cancers, and they’ve just started studies on lung cancer, where basically we could cure cancer without going through the hell of chemo. The President’s budget would cut Fred Hutchinson’s funding by more than two-thirds.
“So cutting domestic spending is not a political issue. It is a policy choice, and a very real deed that has an incredible impact on the lives of Americans just like national security, just like making sure North Korea doesn’t hit us with nuclear weapons. Making sure that terrorist groups don’t attack us, curing cancer, stopping bridges from collapsing, these are policy priorities. And because we’re not making budget choices, these are priorities that get pushed aside.
“We heard yesterday that in a time of war, you make domestic sacrifices. We’ve read all about World War II and the domestic sacrifices that were made at that time. But you know what else you do in a time of war? You don’t cut taxes. You raise them. Prior to 2001, we had never gone to war without raising taxes or issuing war bonds or raising more revenue. Yet, we are unwilling to do that. I care enough about the national security of our country that I would raise taxes and pay for it. That’s the choice I would make. These choices are not being made in this so-called budget resolution, and I think that places us at risk.
“Lastly, the nondefense discretionary budget is the State Department; it’s USAID; it’s the Department of Homeland Security. If you’re going to have a national security strategy, it can’t just be the military. And you know who will tell you that more often than anybody? The military. They don’t want to bear the burden alone. Secretary Mattis said it best when he told us, I believe, that ‘If you’re going to cut diplomacy, if you’re going to cut development, you had better give me four more divisions. Because that’s how many more wars I’m going to have to fight.’ All of these things matter to the national security of this country.
“It is more likely than not that this bill—with all the good work that has been done on a number of different policy provisions unrelated to the money—that all of that is in jeopardy because this bill has at least $72 billion in it over the budget caps, that is not likely to be there come October 1 or the end of the year. So, if we don’t make the choices on the budget that reflect the priorities of the entire country, that actually reflect the budget numbers, then we are doing a disservice to the men and women who serve our country. It’s a good bill. It is going to be better once we figure out the budget issues and actually start making the choices that are necessary to make us stronger in every aspect of society.”