Press Releases

Earlier this week, the president signed the FY 2003 National Defense Authorization Act into law, providing approximately $393 billion for the nation’s defense programs. While concerned over the failure to deliver on the nation’s promises to veterans with this bill, Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) has praised the Act’s inclusion of an extension of the time limit for use of Montgomery G.I. Bill (MGIB) benefits – increasing access to education for the U.S. military.  

The Defense Authorization bill greatly improves the quality of life for the men and women in uniform – providing a 4.1 percent military pay raise, with larger pay increases for mid-grade and senior non-commissioned officers and mid-grade officers, reducing out-of-pocket housing costs for military personnel by increasing housing allowances to cover 92.5 percent of all housing costs, establishing more than $10 billion to build new military housing and working facilities for military personnel and their families and raising the number of years members of the Reserves have to use their MGIB  benefits from 10 to 14. 

“I am pleased that my colleagues on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees agreed with me in recognizing the value of providing better and more competitive education benefits to our Armed Forces.  Obviously this is a step in the right direction – making the Montgomery G.I. Bill more valuable and useful to more men and women in service,” Smith said.  “But we can, and must, do more.  My original proposal would have extended this benefit to both active duty servicemembers and reservists – expanding the pool even more.”

“At a time when recruitment and retention are more important than ever, we must work to make military service an attractive career option,” continued Smith. “We have to do a better job of providing better and more competitive educational benefits for all enlisted military members and this extension is a good first step.  I am committed to making sure that we maintain the most intelligent and highly-skilled fighting force in the world and will continue to work with my colleagues to reach that goal.”

In April of this year, Smith introduced two bills to improve the quality of life for the U.S. military through increased access to education.  The first bill, H.R.4213 “Expanding Education for Military Families Act,” would allow for full portability of MGIB benefits to the family members of enrollees in the MGIB program.  His second bill, H.R.4214 “Military Education Extension Act,” proposed extending the time limit for use of MGIB benefits to 15 years for both active duty servicemembers and reservists.  The time limit extension included in the Defense Authorization Act was limited to 14 years for reservists.

Details of Smith’s legislation to improve the quality of life for the U.S. military through increased access to education:

H.R.4213 – The Expanding Education for Military Families Act
Currently, the Montgomery G.I. Bill contains a portability provision for those with “critical military skills.”  In exchange for the transfer of some of their MGIB benefits to a spouse, a child or some combination of the two, MGIB enrollees, who have served at least six years in the Armed Forces, agree to serve an additional four years.  While this is an improvement from the original bill, the recent modification adversely affected morale among those not included under the provision.  In many cases, this portability option makes the difference in whether or not a servicemember can pay for a child’s college education. Smith’s “Expanding Education for Military Families Act” would offer this portability option to all members of the Armed Forces.

H.R. 4214 – The Military Education Extension Act 
Under current law, when Montgomery G.I. Bill active duty enrollees separate from the service or retire, they have ten years to use their benefits – after that time, any unused portions are lost.  For reservists, the ten-year clock starts ticking down from the date of their enrollment in the program, which is usually when they are processed at their first duty station.  With the “Military Education Extension Act,” Smith proposed lengthening the clock to 15 years for both active duty enlistees and reservists.  

As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Adam Smith has been a strong advocate of modernizing our military and investing in tomorrow's technology, as well ensuring that Department of Defense resources are used efficiently and that America's fighting men and women have the tools and equipment they need to fulfill their missions. Improving the treatment of personnel, retirees and veterans is not only the right thing to do, but is critical to our national security.  If we want to continue leading the world in military power, we must invest in the best Armed Services.

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) today congratulated the City of Fife on securing a $20,000 grant from the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Secure Our Schools program at the Department of Justice.  The grant is intended to support efforts to improve security at schools and on school grounds, providing up to 50 percent of the total cost for municipalities to install metal detectors, locks, lighting, and other equipment to help deter crime. The grants can also be used to pay half of the cost of security assessments, security training, and any other measure that will provide a significant improvement in security.

“We cannot abandon our commitment to safe and good public education – it must be our goal to have the best public education system in the country.  Creating the safest schools possible is a priority shared by the law enforcement community, educators, and the public,” said Smith. “Fife’s grant will enable local law enforcement and the school district to implement much needed safety enhancements.  I look forward to continuing to support these and other local efforts to ensure that our children are safe in their schools.”

Secure Our Schools is one of several COPS initiatives to enhance school safety. COPS has provided over $670 million to law enforcement agencies to hire more than 5,900 school resource officers. The COPS program also administers school safety training, and recently published a guide to help communities address “Bullying in Schools.”

In addition, COPS supports innovative community policing initiatives, funds the purchase of crime fighting technology, provides training and technical assistance resources, and funds the hiring of local law enforcement officers. Since 1995, COPS has invested $9.6 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to 12,900 state and local law enforcement agencies.

For additional information about COPS Secure Our Schools program visit their website at www.cops.usdoj.gov.

 

Tomorrow, Wednesday December 4, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Representative Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) will meet with local elected officials and representatives of the Lakehaven Utility District to celebrate congressional passage of Cantwell and Smith’s legislation to improve the wastewater systems in south King County and parts of Pierce County.  The President is expected to sign this legislation into law later this week.

WHO:  
Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)
Representative Adam Smith (D-Tacoma)
Lakehaven Utility District board members 
Linda Kochmar, Lakehaven Utility District 

WHAT:
Celebration of congressional passage of the Lakehaven Utility District legislation 

WHERE:    
French Lake Park 
31531 First Avenue South 
Federal Way, WA

WHEN:  
Wednesday, December 4 at 3:00 pm
 

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) announced today that Northwest Housing Development in Sumner was awarded a grant of $1,271,600 through the Rural Development agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help low-income families build homes in rural areas.  

In a letter of support for their application earlier this year, Smith wrote: “Affordable housing for lower-income housing is a challenge to all levels of government and our society.  The mutual self-help program administered by Northwest Housing Development is a proven success for providing low-income families affordable ownership at a savings to the federal government.”

“In rural America, many still wait for the opportunity to own a home. Mutual Self-Help Housing has provided that opportunity for more than 25,000 rural low-income and very low-income people. This is a new approach to low-income housing, focused on building communities and empowering them by putting a roof over the heads of those who need shelter, building financial equity for individuals and families, and creating homes and communities that are bound together by their common effort,” Smith said, hearing of the award.  “Our nation’s fire departments are the first responders into almost every emergency situation and this grant program is one of the ways that we can help to ensure their continued safety as they face a variety of threats.  This was a very competitive grant process and I am very pleased that the USDA has recognized the value of Northwest Housing’s work in the community and has elected to support their mission.”

USDA Rural Development, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides qualified public and private nonprofit organizations with financing for effective programs of technical and supervisory assistance to help low-income families build homes in rural areas by the self-help method. This is the only means for many low-income households to obtain safe, sound and sanitary housing.

In the Mutual Self-Help Housing program, a group of 8-12 families and/or individuals work together under the guidance of a construction supervisor hired by a nonprofit housing developer (self-help grantee). These groups perform at least 65 percent of the construction work. By working together for 8 to 10 months, they complete all of their homes simultaneously; no one moves in until all the homes within the group are completed. 

Since its inception in 1971, the USDA Rural Housing Service Mutual Self-Help Housing Program has helped low- and very-low-income people to finance and build their homes. This program has developed an effective, dedicated nationwide network of families and individuals, nonprofit housing developers (grantees), technical assistance providers and USDA Rural Housing Service staffers. 

Those who participate in this program are unable to find a home they can afford, much less come up with a down payment. In the Mutual Self-Help Housing program, self-help groups build each other's homes. Their labor becomes their down payment, commonly referred to as “sweat equity.”  Hard work is the key, along with a willingness to work cooperatively with other participants. These groups share the common goal of home ownership and commit themselves to share in the work that will make that goal a reality.

Northwest Housing Development is a nonprofit housing organization in Sumner that organizes people who would otherwise not be able to afford a home into small groups of do-it-yourself builders who learn the basics of home building from professionals and then proceed to build their own neighborhoods.  They received $1,271,600 to provide technical assistance in recruitment, screening, loan packaging and related activities for prospective self-help housing applicants.  Under the terms of the grant, Northwest Housing will construct 57 homes in a 2-year period.

Today, Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) awarded 17-year-old Caroline White of Lakewood the Congressional Award Bronze Medal.

The Congressional Award provides a unique opportunity for young people to set and achieve personally challenging goals that build character and foster community service, personal development and citizenship.  All young people are equally able to earn the Congressional Award, because goals are set based on individual interest, need and ability.  A young person is not selected to receive the award; he or she earns it.

To earn her Congressional Award Bronze Medal, Caroline White set and achieved challenging goals in four areas: voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness and expedition/exploration. 

Caroline volunteered with the kindergarten class at Franklin Elementary School.  In the classroom, she assisted the teachers in their daily activities, learning that while teaching others, you often learn something about yourself.  Caroline also worked with the Civil Air Patrol cadets at McChord Air Force Base, teaching them discipline and the necessary attributes to being a successful cadet.   

Four days a week, Caroline taught children age 4-13 the basic skills of tae-kwan-do for her personal development requirement.  As an instructor she learned that she had to change her teaching style based on each student’s learning style.  Her supervisor noted that “her attention to detail and work ethic are unmatched by anyone else in her position.”  

In physical fitness, Caroline’s goal was to lower he mile running time to 6:10 and increase her pole vaulting height to 7’6”.  To achieve her goals, she attended track practice for two hours daily - repeatedly running distances and sprints and practicing her vaulting.

For her exploration/expedition, Caroline challenged herself with an overnight to Mount Rainier.  To prepare, she learned how to build a fire and how to properly pack a backpack.  After deciding on the appropriate gear, Caroline and her friends hiked for two days.  In the evening, she used her new fire-making skills to enable the group to eat dinner. 

After learning that she had earned the Bronze Medal, Caroline said, “I gained the chance to better myself as a person. I have learned how to feel like a part of my community and I will continue to do so in the future.”

“Congressional Award recipients like Caroline represent the best of America.  They are committed to bettering themselves and to giving back to their communities,” Congressman Adam Smith said.  “It is the making and fulfilling of that commitment that makes these young people so extraordinary.”

Currently there are five young people in Congressman Adam Smith’s district working on their Congressional Awards.

The Congressional Award is a public/private partnership.  The Award raises its own operating budget entirely through private-sector donations and receives no federal funding.  Congress established the Congressional Award in 1979 as a private-public partnership to recognize and reward initiative, achievement and service in young people.