Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) introduced the 911 Diversion to Unarmed Personnel Act, which would provide funding for unarmed 911 response programs that divert nonviolent 911 calls to specialized service providers instead of law enforcement.

“It’s abundantly clear that we need to fundamentally reimagine what law enforcement looks like in our country,” said Rep. Smith. “A critical step in this process of addressing systemic racism and restructuring law enforcement is reexamining the hyperactive approach to policing that tasks law enforcement officers with responding to situations they are neither trained nor equipped to handle.

“The 911 Diversion to Unarmed Personnel Act would support programs that enable 911 call dispatchers to direct nonviolent calls toward unarmed responders who can connect people with the services and care they need. Community-based public safety programs across the country have shown incredible success in responding to nonviolent 911 calls with specialized service providers, like social workers, medical professionals, and restorative justice practitioners. These programs reduce violent and hostile encounters, help restore trust between law enforcement and community members, and provide for better services and care to community members. 

“Our communities deserve an emergency response system that recognizes the range of urgent needs that are best addressed without police involvement. Unarmed 911 response programs are a critical component to reimagine public safety in a holistic, equitable way that centers on getting individuals the resources and services they need.”

911 receives more than 240 million calls every year. The overwhelming majority of these calls involve nonviolent, non-criminal incidents such as neighbor disputes, nuisance complaints, truancy, reports of “suspicious” activity, requests for wellness checks, and mental health crises. Both the police and policing reform advocates often assert that specialized service providers—such as social workers, paramedics, and peer support counselors—are better equipped to handle such situations than armed officers. The “send the police to everything” approach that prevails in much of our country often places armed law enforcement officers in situations they are neither equipped nor trained to handle and leads to encounters between police and civilians that turn violent and, in many cases, deadly.

The 911 Diversion to Unarmed Personnel Act would provide funding to state, local, or tribal jurisdictions to support unarmed 911 response programs that divert nonviolent 911 calls toward specialized service providers and away from traditional law enforcement. The funding may be used to hire and train service professionals and 911 dispatchers, modify existing 911 call systems, or obtain necessary equipment and technological capabilities.

The bill requires that the programs are managed independently from and are not subject to oversight from state or local law enforcement agencies. These diversion programs will help ensure that individuals who are the subject of calls to 911 and who are experiencing addiction, homelessness, or mental health crises are met with professional service providers capable of providing screening, assessment, de-escalation, and transportation to immediately necessary treatment.

Text of the 911 Diversion to Unarmed Personnel Act can be found here and a one-page summary of the bill is available here.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, today issued the following statement after speaking with Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller regarding the White House direction to the Department of Defense to drawdown U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan to 2,500 by January 15, 2021.

“After speaking with the Acting Secretary this morning, I believe reducing our forward deployed footprint in Afghanistan down to 2,500 troops is the right policy decision. At the same time, this reduction must be responsibly and carefully executed to ensure stability in the region.

“While the history of conflict in the region is complex and predates our direct involvement, after nearly 20 years of armed conflict, Americans and Afghans alike are ready for the violence to end. It is clear that groups like ISIS-K and the Taliban will continue to fight and sow chaos, but ultimately it is up to the Afghans to find a sustainable path to peace.

“Our primary goal has been, and continues to be, the prevention of transnational terrorists from launching an attack against the United States from Afghanistan. In order to contain the terrorist threat as we draw down our troop levels, it is critical that we coordinate the drawdown closely with our allies, as well as our partners in the Afghan government, to protect our interests and those of our allies in Afghanistan.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) introduced the Emergency Economic and Workforce System Resiliency Act, which would provide new funding to states and localities to prevent layoffs, meet the needs of dislocated workers, and collaborate with employers on innovative strategies for preserving existing and creating new jobs.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers have been laid off and displaced. This disruption in the labor market has only further highlighted the need for an updated workforce training system that coordinates across public and private sectors and better prepares our workers for the changing job market,” said Rep. Smith. “The current systems in place meant to prepare workers and spur economic development are siloed from each other – economic development activities are often completely separate from programs that provide unemployment and other benefits to unemployed or underemployed workers.

“Whether it is growing automation and technological advancements or the transition to a green economy, there will inevitably be changes to our workforce needs. We must ensure that our workforce system can prepare workers for these transitions. This bill would provide desperately needed funding to states and localities over the next five years to help prevent layoffs, support workers in vulnerable jobs as they prepare to transition, and financially support workers during transition. It would provide resources to develop training, retraining, and other programs to help workers gain the skills and credentials they need to obtain and keep high quality jobs in in-demand fields with family-sustaining wages and benefits.”

The Emergency Economic and Workforce System Resiliency Act creates a five-year funding stream to states and localities to invest in new programs to prevent layoffs, meet the needs of displaced workers, and strengthen the viability of employers to preserve existing jobs and create new ones. This funding would help states meet the exacerbated needs of the workforce system during the pandemic and economic downturn and would be a model going forward as new and unexpected disruptions impact workers.

The bill encourages states to collaborate across state agencies and with other non-profit and for-profit entities. States are encouraged to prioritize partnerships with firms and industries that offer high quality, in-demand jobs with competitive wages and benefits.

The bill also funds five-year pilot programs for states to pilot innovative workforce-system-wide layoff aversion models. These grants will promote innovation at the state level to support workers throughout the career lifecycle and to bolster firm resiliency in the wake of economic disruption.

Eleni Papadakis, Executive Director of the Washington State Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board:

“I am struck by the potential long-range impact inherent in this bill. It is rare to see federal legislation that addresses the issues of the here and now, while also supporting transformative investments for future impact. While this bill would provide significant new resources to help displaced workers prepare for high-demand, high-wage employment, it will also enable states to learn from the pandemic and re-engineer public systems for the future—to better support businesses, workers, and communities for economic resilience. I so appreciate the bill’s aim towards shared prosperity and equitable and inclusive economic recovery. The bill also shows a solid understanding of how globalization, technology, environmental, and security issues are inducing tremendous changes to work and workplaces—and supports states to face these critical challenges to our economic vitality.”

Olivia Golden, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP):

“The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) is pleased to endorse the Emergency Economic Adjustment Assistance and Workforce System Resiliency Act which offers critical supports for navigating the recession and includes actionable workforce interventions for states and localities. CLASP applauds this bill’s prioritization of populations that have been disproportionately harmed by the pandemic, including people of color, justice impacted youth and adults, immigrants, displaced workers and others facing systemic barriers to employment.”

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Each year on Veterans Day, we honor those who have served our country and risked their lives around the world to keep us safe. In recognition of their bravery, heroism, and sacrifice, we must ensure that they and their loved ones are cared for when they return home. As we reflect on their courage and selfless service, I wanted to give you an update on my efforts in Congress on behalf of our veterans and their families.

As the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, I am honored to work to support active duty service members. This also means doing everything we can to ensure that members of our military have access to the quality jobs, educational opportunities, and health care services that they deserve, and we are supporting them and their families in the transition to civilian life.

Supporting Veterans During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have continued to hold virtual meetings with veterans and local Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs). These meetings provide an important opportunity for me to hear from local veterans about issues they are facing during the pandemic and better advocate on their behalf.

For example, earlier this year I learned that some student veterans were at risk of losing their GI Bill benefits due to the transition from in-person to online instruction. I worked with my colleagues in Congress to pass and sign into law the Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act, which authorizes the VA to continue paying work-study allowances, educational assistance, and subsistence allowances during emergency periods.

At the beginning of October, the House passed an updated version of the Heroes Act to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic and support struggling individuals, families, and businesses. This legislation included provisions specifically aimed at veterans and their families, such as:

  • Ensuring veterans will not have copays or cost-sharing for preventative treatment or services related to COVID-19;
  • Improving supply chain management to ensure that each VA medical center has the necessary equipment to effectively respond to COVID-19;
  • Temporarily suspending VA’s debt collection activities and extending deadlines to file claims and appeals for VA benefits, including disability compensation, during the public health emergency;
  • Addressing the VA Board of Veterans Appeals backlog caused by the interruption of in-person hearings; and
  • Expanding emergency assistance for elderly veterans residing in State Homes.

The Updated Heroes Act makes clear that House Democrats are willing to do what is necessary to provide our communities, workers, and families urgently needed health and economic relief. It is imperative that we continue to work to advance legislation that meets the needs of our communities.

Promoting Access to the Outdoors for Veterans

In September, during National Suicide Prevention Month, the House passed the Veterans Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care, and Treatment (COMPACT) Act to address the veteran suicide crisis and ensure that veterans can receive emergency mental health care regardless of cost. The COMPACT Act included the Accelerating Veterans Recovery Outdoors Act, a bill I led to expand outdoor recreation opportunities and access to public lands for military veterans. Experts agree that access to nature can have positive therapeutic effects on veterans, especially those struggling with combat-related injuries and post-traumatic stress.

Passing Legislation to Expand Support for Veterans

The House has worked diligently in recent months to enhance veterans’ lives and address hurdles that have prevented veterans from accessing benefits and services. In September alone, the House unanimously passed 11 bills for veterans, including:

  • The Dependable Employment and Living Improvements for Veterans’ Economic Recovery (DELIVER) Act, which would provide support for our most vulnerable veterans throughout the COVID-19 pandemic by providing food, safe shelter, and access to VA telehealth services.
  • The Veterans Benefits Fairness and Transparency Act, which would protect veterans applying for VA disability benefits by requiring the VA to maintain availability of disability benefits questionnaires on the VA website.
  • The Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, which would establish a grant program for nonprofit organizations that provide mindfulness activities to veterans and provide additional tools and resources to inform efforts to address the multifaceted challenge of veteran suicide.
  • The SHIELD for Veterans Act, which would reform the VA’s debt collection practices to remedy the gross inefficiencies revealed in VA’s process and prohibit certain anti-consumer practices that have created financial hardship for veterans.

I am honored to represent thousands of veterans who call Washington’s Ninth Congressional District home. I look forward to continuing my work with veterans and VSOs in our community to make impactful changes for veterans and their families. Thank you to all our nation’s veterans for your service.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, today issued the following statement after Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Anderson submitted his resignation, just one day after Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was fired via tweet.

“It is hard to overstate just how dangerous high-level turnover at the Department of Defense is during a period of presidential transition. The top policy professional in the Department resigning the day after the Secretary of Defense was fired could mark the beginning of a process of gutting the DoD – something that should alarm all Americans. 

“As soon as Former Vice President Biden became President-Elect Biden, President Trump and those loyal to him started to sow chaos and division. It appears that chaos has now reached the Pentagon. Acting Under Secretary Anderson’s resignation is made even more alarming by his presumed replacement, Anthony Tata, whose problematic past prevented him from achieving Senate confirmation. If this is the beginning of a trend – the President either firing or forcing out national security professionals in order to replace them with people perceived as more loyal to him – then the next 70 days will be precarious at best and downright dangerous at worst.

“This confirms what I have been saying for months: The President’s singular obsession with loyalty has severely undermined the competence of our government and made us less safe. It is an insult to the American people to hamstring government, particularly during a period of presidential transition.” 

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