As member of the United States House of Representatives, I have the responsibility to vote on the use of military force and declarations of war, a duty I take very seriously. Military force should be an option of last resort and used only when the national security of the United States and the safety of its citizens are at risk.
Today we face rapidly changing threats and new unknown challenges. Conflicts are now less likely to occur between nations, but with independent terrorist organizations and like minded groups operating throughout the world. This means our military must be flexible and nimble while employing the best technology and human resources to root out and neutralize threats.
Our challenge is to make sure we properly defend ourselves while being mindful of our budget limitations. We must realistically examine what we spend on defense in light of our federal budget deficit and growing national debt. The defense budget now makes up more than 20 percent of yearly expenditures with total spending for fiscal 2010 reaching $663.8 billion. The United States now accounts for 42.8 percent of the entire world's military spending. This is not sustainable.
I agree with President Obama that we must undertake an extensive review of all military spending and balance that level of investment with any current national security threats.
I believe we did not need to invade Iraq. I voted with 164 other Members in the U.S. House of Representatives against authorizing the use of force in Iraq. I did not believe then, nor do I now, that America should launch a strike against a country without international support or clear evidence that our national security is at risk.
I joined in the relief of the American people in the death of Osama bin Laden. Now we must continue to maintain our vigilance to root out terrorists and terror organizations wherever they may be.
I do not believe that an increased or continued troop presence in Afghanistan serves our national security goals. In 2010, I voted against the Supplemental Appropriations Act, which would have provided additional war funding for Iraq and the troop surge in Afghanistan, while increasing our national budget deficit.
I believe we must protect the U.S. from future terrorist attacks using covert methods that have worked in locations such as Somalia and Yemen, without massive deployments of combat troops. By setting a soft target date to begin withdrawing troops in July 2011, the Administration has acknowledged that our nation's commitment to Afghanistan cannot be open-ended. Rather than waiting until July of 2011 to ask the Afghanistan government to take responsibility for the nation's security, I believe we must begin to reduce our presence in Afghanistan sooner, putting stronger pressure on the Afghan government to reduce corruption and make the difficult decisions necessary to win back the favor of the country's citizens.
Recently, I have taken the following votes that reflect the position I have stated above: I voted on July 27th, 2010, against the 2010 Supplemental Appropriations Act which provides Iraq and Afghanistan war funding for the next year. I voted to support Rep. Jim McGovern's Afghanistan exit bill to direct the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress by December 31 2010, outlining the responsible strategy to be used in Afghanistan. Further, soon after bin Laden's death, I supported a McGovern amendment that would have required the Obama administration to submit a plan for accelerating the removal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and accelerating negotiations for the transfer of authority back to the Afghan government. This amendment gained bipartisan support and was nearly agreed to, failing by the slim margin of 215-204. I believe this vote tally reflects my colleague's shifting attitude on Afghanistan following the elimination of bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader.
Over the years, I have worked tirelessly to ensure that the U.S. has a firm timetable for withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan with a valid and responsible exit strategy that keeps our troops safe.