Press Releases

Washington D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith released the following statement regarding yesterday’s vote on the emergency supplemental legislation.  

“Without question, there is a humanitarian crisis at our southern border. Earlier this week, I voted for a bill that would have provided much-needed funding to support and care for migrant children and families, including improved access to health care, food, and safer living conditions. However, I voted against the Senate’s supplemental bill yesterday.

 The Senate supplemental legislation puts far too much faith in an Administration that has time and again demonstrated a complete abdication of its responsibility to provide a safe environment for children and individuals in its care, a flagrant disregard for our system of separation of powers and Congress’s role in governance, as well as a propensity to disregard norms and rules that constrain the expenditure of taxpayer dollars. Individuals, including children, have died in the care of the federal government. The Administration has redirected resources towards his wall and has unnecessarily and cruelly increased deportation of long-time community members, while doing far too little to ensure the health and safety of the people his policies have harmed.

 It is entirely reasonable for Congress to demand that basic standards of care are met for vulnerable children. It is not too much for Congress to ask that the money we approve for food, medical support, the care of children, and improved facilities are actually spent for those purposes. The Senate bill we voted on yesterday failed to include these requirements. It allows the Trump Administration significant discretion to spend funds within the Department of Homeland Security how they see fit; not necessarily consistent with the intent of Congress. It also does not include a requirement that the federal government establish standards of care to better ensure the health and safety of children and adults and lacks a provision in the House-passed bill that placed limits on keeping unaccompanied children at unlicensed facilities. 

 The Senate should have taken the House up on its offer to come together and resolve differences between each chamber’s bill, as we do for countless other pieces of legislation, but Republican Senate Majority Leader McConnell refused to even discuss this legislation with the leadership of the House.”

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) today issued the following statement in response to the Department of the Defense decision to deploy additional personnel and assets to the Central Command area of responsibility. 

“Today’s decision by the Department of Defense to increase its presence in the Middle East is unsettling.  While requests from CENTCOM should always be taken seriously, our posture in the region should be scrutinized if it does not fit into a broader strategy.  Without a clearly articulated strategy, adding more personnel and mission systems seems unwise, and appears to be a blatant and heavy-handed move to further escalate tensions with Iran.

“Leaders from both sides of the aisle have called for de-escalation.  At first blush, this move does not fit the bill. I look forward to hearing from Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan how this decision complements a broader strategy in the region, which focuses on de-escalation and diplomacy first.”

Washington, D.C. - Congressman Adam Smith submitted written testimony to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, highlighting the effects of aviation noise and emissions for residents in communities around airports.

“As to the Representative for one of the busiest and fastest-growing hub airports in the country, Sea-Tac International Airport, I see every day the effects aviation has on residents living nearby airports. Congress must act to reduce the impacts felt by surrounding areas while ensuring that our airports remain vital economic engines.  As we focus restoring and improving our infrastructure, we must mitigate the impacts on the environment and Americans.”

In the 115th Congress, Rep. Smith introduced the Aviation Impacted Communities Act, legislation that designates communities under flight paths as “aviation impacted”. That legislation codifies into law, a process for communities to better interface with the FAA. It also gives these communities the ability to petition the FAA for impact studies.

Additionally, Rep. Smith voiced his concerns about the health effects of ultrafine particles (UFPs), miniscule particles that are less than 100 microns in diameter and that have been known to be detrimental to human health. His legislation, which was recently introduced in the 116th Congress, mandates a national study on UFPs around several of the nation’s busiest airports.

Rep. Smith’s full testimony may be read below:

WRITTEN STATEMENT OF

 

UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SMITH

OF THE

9th DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON

 

 

BEFORE THE

COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE

OF THE

U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

 

“MEMBERS’ DAY HEARING”

WEDNESDAY, MAY 1, 2019

 

 

Chairman DeFazio, Ranking Member Graves, and distinguished Members of the Committee: Thank you for the opportunity to share some of the key infrastructure and transportation priorities that are of importance to the Ninth Congressional District of Washington, which I proudly represent.  As the Committee develops its legislative agenda for the 116th Congress, I would like to highlight the importance of acting to stem the increasing impacts of aviation noise and emissions on communities surrounding airports. As a Member of Congress whose district is home to one of the busiest and fastest-growing hub airports in the country, Sea-Tac International Airport, I have a deep understanding of how this issue affects residents near this and other airports throughout the country.

Sea-Tac Airport is a vital economic engine for the Puget Sound Region. The growth of the airport has facilitated and been driven by economic expansion of the region. While air traffic at this and other airports has increased, new technologies have helped to mitigate, and in some cases reduce, corresponding growth in aggregate airplane noise impacts. Unfortunately, the benefits of noise mitigation and reduction has not been enjoyed evenly throughout regions served by major airports, including the district I represent. The narrowing of departure and arrival routes has concentrated noise and other impacts over specific areas and those living under these pathways now bear an increased majority of the noise burden. Culturally and socioeconomically diverse communities like the Beacon Hill neighborhood in the Ninth District of Washington as well as the City of SeaTac, where I grew up, are located directly beneath increasingly tight flight paths and the noise impacts on these areas can seem nearly constant as planes fly overhead every few seconds.

Sadly my constituents and others living in similarly situated areas too often feel as though they have little or no recourse or remedy. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not always been responsive to their concerns, and while the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 included meaningful and positive provisions that will improve community engagement, I believe more can and must be done.

I will be reintroducing legislation that I first offered in the 115th Congress to improve the manner in which the FAA engages with noise-affected areas and to help bring some relief to those on the ground. The Aviation Impacted Communities Act will codify into law a formal process for localities to join together and constructively engage with the FAA through the work of Community Boards. These groups will have the ability to nominate civic leaders or elected officials to represent residents before the FAA. The Aviation Impacted Communities Act will also designate areas under flight paths as “aviation impacted;” allowing residents to petition the FAA to study and create action plans to solve the problems they face.

I understand that changes such as these will place an additional burden on an agency charged with the daunting task of ensuring the safety and soundness of our air transportation network.  However, the support provided by this legislation to those who are disproportionately impacted by the externalities of the aviation system that is vital to all of our communities and our country is both necessary and just. I look forward to working with you to improve and advance the provisions contained in this legislation.

In addition to noise impacts from aviation, ultrafine particles (UFPs) in the atmosphere pose an outsize threat to those living near airports and under flight pathways. These pollutants are miniscule particles of less than one hundred nanometers in size that are emitted as byproducts of petroleum fuel combustion in engines, such as those used on vehicles and aircraft.

In 2014, a first-of-its-kind study was conducted around the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to examine the levels of UFPs in the atmosphere surrounding the airport. That study determined that ultrafine particles were being emitted over a much larger area than previously thought and could be causing more serious and widespread harm.

According to the FAA’s own preliminary research, fine and ultrafine particles in the atmosphere are considered a health risk in humans because of their ability to penetrate deep into the human respiratory system. UFPs may be particularly dangerous as they may aggravate heart ailments, contribute to lung disease, and cause nervous system impacts. Their wide dispersion could affect human health over large areas, lead to increased hospital admissions, and hurt children’s performance in school. Additionally, it has been demonstrated that lower-income and minority communities tend to be exposed to higher levels of UFP pollution. However, the degree to which aviation contributes to UFP pollution exposure is not fully known and only a handful of studies have been conducted in the United States to begin to inform our scientific understanding of these particles.

In addition to gaps in scientific knowledge, there are also gaps in the federal government’s approach to UFP regulation. The FAA regulates UFPs in the atmosphere no differently than considerably larger particles and presently only recognizes two still-sizable categories of particulate emissions. The first includes larger particles that are ten microns or less; identified as PM10.  A second smaller set, designated as PM2.5, includes any particles below 2.5 microns. Though ultrafine particles are included within the lesser subset, UFPs tend to be considerably smaller than those in the upper limits of the classification. There are no specific guidelines for regulating or measuring the smallest particles because the FAA does not identify them separately from the PM2.5 category. In order to properly regulate these particles, more analysis is needed of these pollutants, their attributes, dispersions, and effects on human health.

Given the potentially harmful health effects that UFPs may have on those who live near airports and the limited research on which to base regulation in this important area, it is time for a national study on this issue. Residents of impacted communities across the country, like those in the congressional district I represent, deserve to know how they are affected by ultrafine particles in the atmosphere, where these particles originate from, and whether alternative fuels such as biofuels could be employed to reduce those impacts.

More must be done to understand how UFPs affect the areas around airports, to what extent aviation contributes to the creation and diffusion of UFPs, and whether or not sustainable aviation fuels could help reduce the number of these particles in the atmosphere. The Protecting Airport Communities from Particle Emissions Act, which I recently reintroduced in the 116th Congress, will help to answer many of these questions. This legislation seeks to improve the current science in this area by directing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to partner with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to conduct a national study of UFP generation and dispersal around major hub airports, like Sea-Tac Airport in Washington state and others around the country.

Drawing from data provided by agencies like the FAA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Health and Human Services (HHS), among others, a FAA-NAS study would investigate the characteristics, primary sources, and potential health effects of UFPs. Its scope would be national and examine UFP pollution surrounding several of the most significant airports serving some of the United States’ most sizable metropolitan areas, including: Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles-Southern California; Seattle; San Francisco Bay Area; Phoenix; New York; Chicago; Boston; and Atlanta. It would also identify any information gaps in the current science on this issue in order to better inform the regulation of UFPs.

Communities have a right to know whether the air they breathe contains high levels of UFPs and how these particles affect their health. I would welcome the support and expertise of Members on this committee to advance the scientific understanding of ultrafine particles through the research proposed in my legislation.  It is crucial that we in Congress fight to reduce the impacts from aviation on surrounding areas while ensuring that our airports remain vital economic engines.

I appreciate the Committee’s consideration of these priorities and its ongoing work to improve our nation’s environment and infrastructure. As we focus restoring and improving our roads, bridges, ports, and water and aviation infrastructure, we must take care to mitigate the impacts that the movement of goods and people can have on the environment and Americans.

Washington, D.C. – This week, Congressman Smith voted to pass H.R. 987, the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act.

“I am proud to have voted in favor of the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act on the House floor this week. Too many Americans find quality, affordable health care out of reach, and continue to suffer from the high price of prescription drugs and medicine they need. This legislation takes important steps to reduce the barriers for lower-priced generic prescription drugs get to market earlier. Furthermore, this bill invests in efforts to expand access to health insurance and rescinds the President’s Junk Plan rule that undermines protections for pre-existing conditions and allows inadequate health insurance plans. House Democrats are committed to improving health care for the American people, and this legislation was an important step in fulfilling that promise.”

Letter Part of Broader Oversight Effort Regarding Politicization of Intelligence Regarding Foreign Threats, and Specifically Iran

Washington, D.C. – Today, Reps. Adam Smith (D-WA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Chairs of the House Armed Services, Intelligence, and Foreign Affairs Committees respectively, sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raising serious concerns over the abuse of classification and politicization of intelligence regarding Iran and other countries in the State Department’s 2019 Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments.

On April 15, the State Department issued its annual report assessing the U.S. and other nations’ adherence to a range of arms control and nonproliferation treaties.  As required by law, the Department prepared this intelligence-informed report with the “concurrence” of the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  This year’s report disproportionately focused on Iran to the exclusion of other countries with serious proliferation concerns, including Russia and North Korea.

News organizations have since reported deep concerns of intelligence officers and State Department officials that the report “politicizes and slants assessments about Iran.”  Moreover, State Department officials who released the report moved fully unclassified sections of the report to the classified annex, leaving an unclassified product that emphasized non-factual information regarding Iranian compliance.

In the letter, the Members raise concerns that the report provides significantly less unclassified information, that the Administration selectively ignores facts or injects non-factual information, and that the administration has failed to file a key report to congress about Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal.  As part of the letter, the Members request an immediate briefing and documents related to the preparation of the report be provided to the Committees. 

The Chairs also announced that the Armed Services, Intelligence, and Foreign Affairs Committees will be conducting rigorous oversight over allegations of politicization of intelligence regarding Iran.

In the letter, the Members write:

“We are deeply concerned by recent reporting that the 2019 State Department Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments, which the State Department submitted to Congress on April 15, may have been the product of political appointees disregarding intelligence or distorting its meaning in order to potentially “lay the groundwork to justify military action” against countries mentioned in the report. … 

Our nation knows all too well the perils of ignoring and ‘cherry-picking’ intelligence in foreign policy and national security decisions, as evidenced by a prior White House’s disregard of the intelligence community’s analysis on Iraq and its selective use of Iraq-related intelligence to justify the march to war in 2003.”

The full letter is below:

May 16, 2019

 

The Honorable Mike Pompeo

Secretary

Department of State

2201 C Street, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

            We are deeply concerned by recent reporting that the 2019 State Department Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments, which the State Department submitted to Congress on April 15, may have been the product of political appointees disregarding intelligence or distorting its meaning in order to potentially “lay the groundwork to justify military action” against countries mentioned in the report.[1]  These allegations underscore our concern that the Department has failed to meet its statutory obligations in the April 15 report to Congress.

It is further reported that that attempts to politicize the U.S. Intelligence Community’s normally objective assessments of Iran and others’ adherence to international obligations led to intense disagreements within the Department and the interagency.[2]  Our nation knows all too well the perils of ignoring and ‘cherry-picking’ intelligence in foreign policy and national security decisions, as evidenced by a prior White House’s disregard of the intelligence community’s analysis on Iraq and its selective use of Iraq-related intelligence to justify the march to war in 2003. 

The Unclassified Compliance Report Does Not Comply With the Law:

By law, the Department is required to submit to Congress a “detailed report . . . to the maximum extent practicable in unclassified form,” regarding compliance by the United States and other countries with “arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament” agreements.[3]  The unclassified 2018 Report was 45 pages long.  The unclassified 2017 report was 54 pages long.  This year, the unclassified Report totals 12 pages,[4] and contains no meaningful discussion of either the United States or Russia,[5] which have the world’s largest nuclear arsenals.  We are unaware of any vast improvement in arms control compliance that would justify a report that is 75%-80% shorter than it has been in recent years.  Furthermore, we are perplexed by the Department’s decision to bury unclassified content—previously discussed in the unclassified report in earlier years—in the classified annex, apparently to shield it from public view.[6]  The Department’s unclassified report does not fulfill in good faith the requirements of 22 U.S.C. § 2593a(a). 

Selective Inclusion of Unclassified Information Raises Questions About Politicized Intelligence

Congress has mandated that the Compliance Report be a factual, apolitical document, but this year’s unclassified report consists largely of hypotheticals or opinion. Given that this report addresses the gravest of issues—nuclear programs of countries like Russia, North Korea, and Iran—it is critical that it contain strictly factual information based on the best analysis of our intelligence community.  Unfortunately, in several crucial places, this is absent.  Worse, the failure to report accurately and in detail on these countries is compounded by the fact that the Trump Administration has not submitted reporting about the Iranian nuclear program under Section 135 of the International Atomic Energy Act, as mandated by the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.[7]  Without clear, factual, and up-to-date information about the Iranian nuclear program, the executive branch is denying information to Congress needed to keep the American people safe.

More shockingly, the 2019 Report makes no substantive mention of Russia, whose arms programs the United States itself has said violate international agreements such as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.  With Russian missile deployments violative of the INF Treaty dotting NATO’s Eastern Flank, these omissions are glaring and represent a failure to report adequately under the statute.

It is not possible for Congress to be properly informed—or for the United States to have a sound foreign policy in a dangerous world—when an Administration submits a mandated report to Congress that selectively ignores facts or injects non-factual information about certain threats to our country. 

Request for Briefing and Records

In light of the above, and in addition to the request we plan to make to the Intelligence Community, the Committees hereby request that the Department provide the following no later than May 23, 2019:

  1. A briefing from the State Department on the process led by the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance for compiling information, drafting, and coordinating the Compliance Report for approval.  This briefing should include:
  • a description of the offices and agencies involved, as well as their responsibilities for the Compliance Report process, and the role of political appointees in finalizing the report;
  • information on how the Compliance Report bureaucratic process this year differed from past years, including for the Compliance Report submitted to Congress in 2018;
  • the nature of feedback received from interagency officials regarding the coordination of the Compliance Report this year compared to years past;
  • a description of and explanation for changes in the structure of the report this year from years past;
  • a description of how the Department decided to minimize, in its unclassified Report, the missile proliferation threats of Russia and North Korea, vis a vis other serious missile proliferators, including Iran;
  • a discussion of any changes in compliance determinations in this year’s report as compared to prior years, as well as the basis for such determinations.
  1. Documents, to be provided no later than May 23, 2019 sufficient to demonstrate the factual bases for assertions and explanations provided in this briefing.

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter. Please feel free to contact the House Foreign Affairs Committee at 202-225-5021 for further information.  We look forward to receiving the requested information.

 

###

 



[2] Id.

[3] See 22 U.S.C. §2593a. 

[4] The Department has noted that a “longer unclassified version of this report will be submitted following full declassification review of the lengthy classified annex.”  See Letter from Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Mary Elizabeth Taylor, dated April 15, 2019. PDF attachment to email from Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Charles Faulkner, April 15, 2019, 6:57 PM.  There is no legal basis for submitting multiple versions, of varying lengths, of the unclassified report.

[5] Russia was discussed extensively in recent years’ unclassified reports.  See, e.g., 2017 Compliance Report, pp. 11-20, 36-40, 44-48; 2018 Compliance Report, pp. 10-18; 31-39. 

[6] The classified Annex contains dozens of paragraphs that have already been portion-marked as “(U),” indicating that their content is fully unclassified; many of those wholly unclassified paragraphs are similar to sections included in prior years’ unclassified reports.  This further supports our conclusion that the Department has not complied with the statutory mandate.  We are also concerned that, in hiding unclassified information from the public in this fashion, the Department has violated Executive Order 13,526, which prohibits using classification to “delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of the national security.”

[7] This reporting requirement is contained in a freestanding statute and is not contingent upon U.S. participation in the JCPOA.  Rather, the plain language of the statute shows that the obligation, which came into effect 180 days after the United States entered into the JCPOA, is an ongoing one.  Congress has given the Administration ample opportunity to weigh in on these issues, and yet, the Administration is overdue on at least two reports.