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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. What it says is basically what is obvious to everybody, which is that the President has a different opinion. The President believes that Russia can be a partner to reduce the missile threat and that he can possibly work with them to develop missile defense systems that they don't feel threatened by. It's no big secret. It's what the President has said.

Generally, the other side doesn't want to have anything to do with Russia--okay, fine--but they are a factor. The President wants to figure out some way in which we can work with someone who is no longer our enemy to reduce this threat. There is no great mystery here. That's what he is talking about.

I want to support Mr. Polis' amendment as well and say that the problem is that we are going to need the ground-based missile system. It's funded in the President's budget to a certain amount of money, but because it has been missing so often, there was a limited amount of money that you can spend testing this. It's not ready. They're spending money testing it. They just don't need this additional money.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. So we're not saying that we don't need missile defense. We're spending money on it. We're spending a lot of money on it, and we're going to develop that.

Then the point on Russia is very simple and straightforward in that the President would like to negotiate an understanding with Russia so that we are not in conflict with one another. There are many who don't want us to have that conversation, and I believe Mr. Turner is in that camp. The President would like to have that conversation. That's all he meant, and he explained it in this letter.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 3 minutes.

I wanted to take this moment while we have a little extra time on this one to talk about Afghanistan and to express our opinions since we weren't able to get our amendment ruled in order.

It's important for all the Members on the floor to understand that the base bill has language on Afghanistan, and the base bill calls for us keeping 68,000 troops in Afghanistan until the end of 2014 and then makes unspecified requests to make sure that we have sufficient troops to accomplish a series of missions after 2014. It very aggressively calls for a large troop presence in Afghanistan for an extended period of time.

I, and many Members on this side of the aisle as well as some on the other, oppose that. We do not think that keeping that many troops in Afghanistan for that long is in the best interest of our national security or our country, and the bulk of the country agrees with us on that. Unfortunately, we weren't offered the opportunity to offer our amendment that offers what I think is a better approach.

I am also going to reluctantly oppose Representative Lee's amendment, the only alternative we were given, which is to pull us out as fast as we safely and responsibly can. Representative Lee's amendment does not allow us to maintain any sort of counterterrorism mission, which I do think is critically important. The amendment we wanted to offer was to put us on a more aggressive, quicker drawdown pace to speed up the transition to the Afghan forces for security while enabling us, with a relatively small number of troops, to maintain that counterterrorism issue.

We have trained over 350 Afghan national security forces. They have taken over responsibility for an increasing number of provinces and districts throughout the country and for an increasing number of security responsibilities. It is time to make that transition.

My objection to the base bill is it doesn't give us the opportunity to make that transition because it mistakenly believes that the key to Afghan stability is keeping as many U.S. troops in Afghanistan for as long as possible. Having that large of a foreign military force--as we have seen, there's been a huge increase in attacks by Afghan forces on U.S. forces. We had the Koran burning incident. We had the horrible incident of a soldier going off and allegedly killing 16 or 17 civilians in Afghanistan.

Our presence at this point, in and of itself, is destabilizing. And what we want is a responsible drawdown of that force. We don't want to do it hastily in a way that jeopardizes the mission or jeopardizes Afghanistan. That was the purpose of the amendment that I, along with Congressman McGovern and others, authored. And it is unfortunate that for reasons I cannot understand, the majority refused to allow us the opportunity to debate that.

Now, as I said earlier, I speculated that part of the reason is because they know that the American people agree with us. It's a debate they don't want to have and a vote they don't want to take. And I respect that. A number of my colleagues have joked with me over the years, The toughest part of this job is voting; that's when people actually see where you stand.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. I yield myself an additional 1 minute.

There have been many times where I wished I didn't have to do that, but it comes with the job and particularly on something as important as Afghanistan.

I don't think anyone would dispute that the most important thing about this bill, the Armed Services Committee bill, this year is what's going on in Afghanistan. The single most important issue, and we're denied the opportunity to have a vote on what I think is a much better plan, rather, leaving in place in the base bill a call for having 68,000 troops in Afghanistan until the end of 2014.

It is very simple: the majority is in favor of a larger troop presence for a longer period of time. We are in favor of a smaller troop presence for a shorter period of time. I believe it's the better policy. I regret that we will not have the opportunity to vote on it; but as we go into conference, I will strenuously argue this point. It is a major flaw, I believe, in an otherwise very strong bill.

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Mr. SMITH of Washington. I would just say that no part of the President's plan calls for having at least 68,000 troops through December 31, 2014. If you had struck that out of the bill, that would change things. But having that number in there makes an enormous difference.

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