Defense & Foreign Policy
The Afghanistan war is now the longest running war in United States history. It is also an unwinnable war that has taken over 2,300 service members’ lives and cost taxpayers over $708 billion. Some economists estimate that the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to taxpayers will be as high as $4-$6 trillion. In the wake of the September 11th attacks, the United States went into Afghanistan to eliminate a glaring threat to our national security: the safe haven and protection provided for Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda by the ruling Taliban. The commander of allied forces in Afghanistan estimated in 2013 that there were fewer than 75 al Qaeda members left in Afghanistan. Congresswoman Speier believes the killing of Bin Laden in Pakistan by our talented and brave Navy SEAL troops was a moment of great success for our military and for the country.
Congresswoman Speier believes that now is the time to bring our troops home and focus on more targeted, strategic operations to root out enemies who threaten to carry out terrorist attacks. To that end, she is a co-sponsor of H.R. 200, which would limit further funding only to the efforts necessary to bring our troops safely home. Congresswoman Speier has consistently voted in favor of amendments on the House floor that would require President Obama to submit a plan to Congress outlining the timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. These amendments would have required the President to begin the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by July of 2011, as the President had originally proposed.
Congresswoman Speier has co-lead a Member task force focused on wasteful spending in Afghanistan and is a lead cosponsor for H.Res.430 urging the President to hold the government of Afghanistan to their financial and governance requirements to continue to receive international aid. There are significant questions about how to transition out of Afghanistan, and the ability of the government to sustain gains made during the U.S.’s presence. Afghan security forces are becoming more capable and effective, but the corruption and lack of confidence in the U.S. government will present significant challenges for the country moving forward. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has found that many of the projects we’ve invested in are not being used or cannot be sustained by the Afghans after we are gone.
Pentagon spending accounts for more than 50 percent of the discretionary spending in the United States budget. Any plan to get federal spending on the right track must include cutting wasteful Pentagon spending. For years, Pentagon spending has skyrocketed at a breakneck pace, and Congresswoman Speier believes there are numerous opportunities to make smart cuts and strengthen our troops and our national security.
As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Congresswoman Speier is committed to fighting against funding weapons programs that are outmoded, ineffective, and a waste of taxpayer money. She has been critical of Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program, which was delivered to the Navy with a door that could not shut out water that could flood the ship, and questioned the safety of weapon systems like the F-22, which deprived pilots of the oxygen they needed and contributed to the death of at least one pilot. The Department of Defense needs to be smarter at how it uses its resources. She has also highlighted wasteful spending on excessive prices for weapon system spare parts through a series of “Price is Wrong,” floor speeches, including $71.01 for a straight pin the Pentagon already had for 4 cents, $1,678.61 for ramp gate roller assembly they already had for $7.71, and $644.75 for a spur gear they had previously purchased for $8.72. Congresswoman Speier also supports sensible reforms to the military pay and benefits system. It is time for Congress to rein in Pentagon spending into something that we can afford and sustain into the future.
Foreign aid makes up less than 1% of our budget, but it is one of our most effective policy tools. The United States is continuing to restore its image after years of bad decisions that have damaged our standing throughout the world and placed our national and economic security at grave risk. Congresswoman Speier believes in modernizing our foreign assistance programs to better address the global challenges of the 21st century, including terrorism, poverty, pandemic disease, climate change, energy security, failing states, food insecurity, slowed economic growth, and population and migration issues.
Congresswoman Speier is committed to pursuing equality for all members in the Armed Forces. She was proud to vote for repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. This baseless policy hurt our troops and damaged our national defense for too long. Many in uniform endured tremendous challenges and setbacks—emotional, financial, and professional—because they were forced to conceal their sexual orientation. And the military lost thousands of highly skilled men and women who were dedicated to serving their country. It was no surprise to hear from studies and military leaders that ending this policy had no overall negative impact—no less is expected from our servicemen and servicewomen. Our LGBT members can now live the military values of honesty, honor and integrity by integrating their personal and professional lives as they serve our country.
The official end of DADT in 2011 and the end of DOMA in March 2013 did not mean the end of unequal treatment of same-sex spouses of service members, who are still denied a wide range of services and benefits such as health insurance, family leave, housing allowances, travel and transportation allowances, pre-deployment counseling, and access to base commissaries. Congresswoman Speier joined 36 fellow Members of Congress in signing a letter to Defense Secretary Panetta urging him to take executive actions, and has cosponsored the Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act, which would provide the same family benefits to lawfully married lesbian and gay service members and veterans as for opposite-sex spouses. She has also signed a letter with 39 other Members to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki commending the VA for extending national cemetery burial benefits to same-sex couples.
Congresswoman Speier cosponsored the Service Member Anti-Hazing Act in the 112th Congress and will sign on to it when it is reintroduced in the 113th. This legislation would require the military to identify hazing incidents by gender and sexual orientation and develop an annual diversity training program to prevent such hazing.
She also signed onto a Congressional letter urging the International Olympic Committee to uphold the ideals of non-discrimination and commit to the protection of human rights during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.