Elizabeth Warren on Homeland Security
Massachusetts Senator; former head of CFPB; Dem. Presidential Challenger
WARREN: I do.
Q: How does that protect America's national security?
WARREN: Look, a president's first job is to keep America safe, and an important part of that is to have a strong military. All three of my brothers served in the military, and I understand how much the military sacrifices, how much their families sacrifice, and how much they are willing to put on the line. That means that we have a sacred responsibility to them, and that is not to use our military to solve problems that cannot be solved militarily. We are not winning in Afghanistan. We are not winning in the Middle East. What we need to do is we need to use all of the tools in our toolbox. We need a strong military. We also need a strong State Department. Those are our eyes and ears on the ground. They are our frontlines in diplomacy.
CEO Tom STEYER: It isn't so much about experience, it's about judgment. What we are hearing is 20 years of mistakes by the government in the Middle East. So the real question is judgment. If you look who had the judgment, it was a state senator from Illinois with no experience named Barack Obama who opposed the war. An outside perspective, looking at this and actually dealing with the problems as they are is what we're looking for now.
Warren: Yes, it's time to close this detention facility. It not only costs us money, it is an international embarrassment. We have to be an America that lives our values every single day. We can't be an America that stands up and asks people to fight alongside us, as we did with the Kurds in fighting ISIS, and then turn around in the blink of a tweet and say that we're turning our backs on the people who stood beside us. After that, who wants to be an ally of the United States? We have to be an America that understands the difference and recognizes the difference between our allies, the people who will work alongside us, and the dictators who would do us harm. And we need to treat our allies better than we treat the dictators.
WARREN: I think it should be. All three of my brothers served in the military. I think the notion of shared service is important. It's how we help bring our nation together. It's how people learn to work together from different regions, people who grew up differently. It's also about how families share that sacrifice.
WARREN: Because it makes the world safer. The US is not going to use nuclear weapons preemptively, and we need to say so to the entire world. It reduces the likelihood that someone miscalculates, someone misunderstands. Donald Trump keeps expanding the different ways that we have nuclear weapons, the different ways that they could be used puts us all at risk. You know, our military is the best on Earth. But we should not be asking our military to take on jobs that do not have a military solution. We need to use our diplomatic tools, our economic tools, and if we're going to send someone into war, we better have a plan for how we're going to get them out on the other end.
The trickle-down policies of the Reagan years shifted American' priorities. 1 At the same time that military spending expanded significantly, school funding was slashed by 15 percent. More bombs and fewer text books. And when the politicians figured out there was no price to pay politically, the cuts just kept on coming. Even during the Obama years, federal funding for education took a hard hit. In 2011, Republicans bargained for another 15% cut in return for increasing the debt ceiling and thus preventing the complete disruption of financial markets around the world.
A bad debt could ruin not just a service member's credit score, but also the person's career. Not paying a debt is deemed "dishonorable conduct," a black mark that can cause soldiers to lose out on security clearance. In 2006, the Department of Defense studied predatory lending that targeted service members and concluded that such lending "undermines military readiness." The scam artists and predatory lenders who targeted our men and women in uniform were a national disgrace. The consumer agency needed to make fixing this problem a priority.
Only late in the debate did Warren try to explain why and how she would cut the military budget. She said that Brown's determination not to raise taxes meant that the budget would not be balanced and the deficit would not be reduced, which would lead to across-the-board cuts in all agencies. She would rather make planned cuts, such as by reducing the size of the standing army, she said, than allow across-the-board cuts that could hurt needed programs.
Press Release from Sen. Merkley's officeCiting the dangers to US national security posed by terrorists and rogue states seeking nuclear weapons, a bipartisan group of 26 senators sent a letter last week to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), calling on the President to support increased funding in the FY2016 budget to more rapidly secure and permanently dispose of nuclear and radiological materials. The letter comes in response to the President's proposals in recent years to decrease funding for nuclear material security and nonproliferation programs.
The senators indicated that unsecured nuclear material poses unacceptably high risks to the safety of Americans and argued that the rate at which nuclear and radiological materials are secured and permanently disposed of must be accelerated. The senators expressed concern that cutting funds would slow what has been a successful process of elimination and reduction of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and separated plutonium in the international community. In just the last five years, nuclear security and non-proliferation programs have proven successful in eliminating HEU and separated plutonium from 13 countries, including Ukraine.
"Reducing budgets for agencies and programs that help keep nuclear and radiological materials out of the hands of terrorists is out of sync with the high priority that the President has rightly placed on nuclear and radiological material security and signals a major retreat in the effort to lock down these materials at an accelerated rate," the senators wrote. "The recent spate of terrorism in Iraq, Pakistan, and Kenya is a harrowing reminder of the importance of ensuring that terrorist groups and rogue states cannot get their hands on the world's most dangerous weapons and materials."
In the past two fiscal years, Congress has enacted $280 million additional dollars to the President's proposed funding for core non-proliferation activities.
Congressional summary:: Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection, and Online Monitoring Act or the USA FREEDOM Act:
Opponent's argument against (Electronic Frontier Foundation): The bill only addresses a small portion of the problems created by NSA spying. It does not touch problems like NSA programs to sabotage encryption standards; it does not effectively tackle the issue of collecting information on people outside of the US; and it doesn't address the authority that the government is supposedly using to tap the data links between service provider data centers, such as those owned by Google and Yahoo. The bill also does not address excessive secrecy; it won't deal with the major over-classification issues or the state secrets privilege.
Opponent's argument against (J. Kirk Wiebe, former NSA Senior Intelligence Analyst interview with TheRealNews.com): It's window dressing. Stopping bulk collection is a good step, but the only thing that's going to fix this is direct access into NSA's databases by an independent group of hackers, techie types, people like Snowden who know how to get into a network and look at things and verify that the data they're collecting and what they're doing with it complies with the Constitution. The NSA has essentially operated illegally--unconstitutionally--for 60% of its existence.
Congressional Summary: HR 1735: The National Defense Authorization Act authorizes FY2016 appropriations and sets forth policies regarding the military activities of the Department of Defense (DOD), and military construction. This bill also authorizes appropriations for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), which are exempt from discretionary spending limits. The bill authorizes appropriations for base realignment and closure (BRAC) activities and prohibits an additional BRAC round.
Wikipedia Summary: The NDAA specifies the budget and expenditures of the United States Department of Defense (DOD) for Fiscal Year 2016. The law authorizes the $515 billion in spending for national defense and an additional $89.2 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations fund (OCO).
Opposition statement by Rep. Gerry Connolly (May 15, 2015): Congressman Connolly said he opposed the bill because it fails to end sequestration, and pits domestic investments versus defense investments. Said Connolly, "This NDAA uses a disingenuous budget mechanism to circumvent sequestration. It fails to end sequestration."
Support statement by BreakingDefense.com(Sept, 2015): Republicans bypassed the BCA spending caps (the so-called sequester) by shoving nearly $90 billion into the OCO account, designating routine spending as an emergency war expenses exempted from the caps. This gimmick got President Barack Obama the funding he requested but left the caps in place on domestic spending, a Democratic priority. "The White House's veto announcement is shameful," Sen. John McCain said. "The NDAA is a policy bill. It cannot raise the budget caps. It is absurd to veto the NDAA for something that the NDAA cannot do."
Legislative outcome: House rollcall #532 on passed 270-156-15 on Oct. 1, 2015; Senate rollcall #277 passed 70-27-3 on Oct. 7, 2015; vetoed by Pres. Obama on Oct. 22, 2015; passed and signed after amendments.
Excerpts from Letter from 53 Senators to President Trump We are deeply troubled that your freeze on the hiring of federal civilian employees will have a negative and disproportionate impact on our nation's veterans. As such, we urge you to take stock of this hiring freeze's effect on our nation's veterans and exempt the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from your Hiring Freeze.
Opposing argument: (Heritage Foundation, "Eliminate Redundant Government Hiring," May 9, 2017): It's not hard to find federal programs that are duplicative or ineffective. The president's executive order requires all agency heads to submit plans for reorganizing their operations. Their proposals are to "include recommendations to eliminate unnecessary agencies and programs." That all sounds great, but what does it actually mean?
Well, for starters, it means the previous federal hiring freeze is no more. But it doesn't mean programs and departments are free to hire willy-nilly. Instead, they've been instructed to follow a smart-hiring plan, consistent with the President's America First Budget Blueprint.
A few agencies, like the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs, will beef up staff. Most, however, will have to pare down employment. All federal employees can expect to see resources shift to higher-priority ones. Many may be asked to do something new or different with the goal of optimizing employees' skills and time.
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Joe Kennedy III
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