Press Releases

Recognizing the fact that millions of Americans carry cell phones with them throughout the day, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced a concurrent resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives expressing the sense of Congress that all Americans should program their cell phones and other portable electronic devices to show personal emergency contacts under the acronym ICE (In Case of Emergency) to enable emergency personnel to contact family and friends in the event of an emergency.

“This is a non-partisan issue and is a simple step that Americans can take right now,” said Smith. “We never want something bad to happen, but if a situation arises where a person is incapacitated, someone on-scene can grab the person’s cell phone or Blackberry and get in touch with their emergency contacts. This is something that can take less than a minute to program, but when time is short, this easy step can save hours and provide peace of mind to individuals and their families.”

Smith hopes that he will get bi-partisan support on his resolution and that the House passes it swiftly.

e call to evacuate.  Despite this understanding, no action was taken to accommodate those who could not evacuate their city.”

The letter concludes that “the tragic events caused by Hurricane Katrina have left hundreds of thousands of Americans with shattered homes and families and without food and water.  We are committed to joining together to provide relief and to save as many lives as possible.  

We have seen the compassion of Americans as volunteers, donations and financial assistance has flowed into the southeast region.  We must now do our part to repair the damaged region and assist in rebuilding the lives of many of our citizens. 

An important first step in this effort is new leadership at FEMA.  We strongly urge you to replace Director Michael Brown immediately.”

The complete text of the letter follows:

# # #

Dear President Bush,

We are writing today to urge you to replace Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director Michael Brown.  Brown and his senior leadership team have demonstrated a stunning level of ineptitude that made the disaster of Katrina and the loss of life and property much worse than it had to be.  This tragic event has made clear that your team is not up to the job of protecting Americans from either natural disasters or from any possible terrorist attack.  Security is a paramount concern to us and Americans deserve a competent and able emergency management agency.  Now that it is proven that this team is incapable, we can’t afford to wait to replace Director Brown. 

We also strongly disagree with the suggestion – made by many in your Administration – that Americans shouldn’t “point fingers” or play the “blame game” as the relief effort continues.  Thousands of lives are at stake right now.  We are also spending billions of public dollars on the recovery and those resources must be spent effectively and efficiently.  We need an experienced team now to implement the government’s plan for repairing the southeast region, not after a lengthy review process.  While we support that broader review, one thing is immediately clear: the director of FEMA is plainly not up to the important job at hand. 

 Consider the following critically important facts.

Despite days of warning, FEMA did virtually nothing to prepare for the impact of Katrina.  Director Brown reportedly waited five hours after Katrina struck before he proposed to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff that he send 1,000 Homeland Security workers into the region to support rescuers.  Even then, his letter gave personnel two full days to arrive on the scene to begin offering assistance.  It was five agonizing days before FEMA and DHS showed up in any significant numbers with adequate supplies to help the tens of thousands of people in New Orleans. 

Equally disturbing are the efforts of FEMA and others in your Administration to explain away these inexcusable actions.  Claims have been made that local leaders in Louisiana did not ask for help and that the federal government could not have foreseen that the levees around New Orleans would be breeched in the event of a significant hurricane.  The utter absurdity of these claims makes it even clearer that we need new leadership at FEMA if Americans are to have any confidence that the agency will wisely and effectively deal with the continuing crisis in the Gulf Coast, much less prepare for future natural disasters or terrorist attacks.  

First, locals did ask for help before the storm hit and FEMA assumed responsibility for dealing with the fallout from Katrina.  Louisiana’s Governor Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency for Louisiana on August 26th and on August 27th, she requested federal support. On that same day, and acting on your authorization, Director Brown responded to Blanco's request for assistance and declared that FEMA would "mobilize equipment and resources necessary to protect public health and safety by assisting law enforcement with evacuations, establishing shelters, supporting emergency medical needs, meeting immediate lifesaving and life-sustaining human needs and protecting property, in addition to other emergency protective measures." 

Second, the coming disaster was clear.  Max Mayfield, the Director of the National Hurricane Center has confirmed that both Director Brown and Secretary Chertoff listened to his agency’s briefing on Katrina’s likely impact.  Maxfield made repeated warnings about the hurricane and was quoted by the New Orleans Times-Picayune as saying, "We were briefing them (FEMA and DHS) way before landfall. It’s not like this was a surprise. We had in the advisories that the levee could be topped."  It is alarming that, given this knowledge, FEMA thought it was appropriate to sit back and wait instead of aggressively preparing for the disaster. 

Third, the vulnerability of the levees was well established.  Last year, FEMA conducted a simulation involving the potential evacuation of New Orleans as a result of a Hurricane.  For many years experts had been predicting that the levees could be breached by a hurricane and that the results would be disastrous, costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars.  In 2001, the Army Corps of Engineers conducted a study and found that the levees in the region needed to be updated, raised, and the pumping systems modernized.  In the event of a category 4 or 5 hurricane, like Hurricane Katrina, the levees would fail and the cities within the levees would be at risk of flooding.

Perhaps most troubling, federal officials knew from news reports and from Mayor Ray Nagin’s comments that tens of thousands of New Orleans residents would not be able to respond to the call to evacuate.  Despite this understanding, no action was taken to accommodate those who could not evacuate their city. 

We are deeply troubled by what this failure of leadership could portend for another disaster or attack.  Some of FEMA’s top positions have been staffed with individuals who have ample political and campaign experience, but virtually no understanding of how to prepare for and respond to a disaster of any magnitude.  We expect state and local responders to be well trained and qualified.  The same must be true of FEMA’s leaders.  There is no doubt that a new and better skilled leadership team at FEMA is required in order to best protect our nation.

The tragic events caused by Hurricane Katrina have left hundreds of thousands of Americans with shattered homes and families and without food and water.  We are committed to joining together to provide relief and to save as many lives as possible.  

We have seen the compassion of Americans as volunteers, donations and financial assistance has flowed into the southeast region.  We must now do our part to repair the damaged region and assist in rebuilding the lives of many of our citizens. 

An important first step in this effort is new leadership at FEMA.  We strongly urge you to replace Director Michael Brown immediately.  We look forward to your response.

//SIGNED//                              //SIGNED//

Adam Smith                             Ellen Tauscher

Member of Congress                Member of Congress

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) made the following statement today concerning the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission’s final votes on the proposed Joint Base Lewis-McChord:

“The BRAC Commission tackled a difficult assignment in shaping the future of our military forces to ensure that they continue to be the world’s best and most effective fighting force.

Throughout the entire BRAC process, I along with other Members of the Washington State delegation, have asked questions and raised concerns, particularly on the implementation of the proposed Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the proposed reduction in jobs affiliated with McChord Air Force Base (AFB). Having written two letters to the Commission, outlining these concerns, I was pleased to note that the Commission is taking an approach that allows affected military units to give input into how manpower levels should be derived as opposed to the original proposal from the Department of Defense that directed a prescribed number of jobs to be cut.

On the much larger question of the current BRAC round and the proposed Joint Base Lewis-McChord, I applaud the Commission’s recognition of the important military assets we have in the Northwest. Our distinctive geography, unique military assets and dedicated servicemen and women, combine to position Northwest facilities as highly valuable for our nation’s security. I also applaud the Commission’s efforts to better leverage local assets and improve efficiency through joint basing, particularly the proposed Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Since this is a new concept, it is difficult to foresee the full implications of the proposal, but the concept has merit and I am encouraged that the Commission gave power to the local commanders to have direct input into how the realignment will be implemented. The Joint Base concept has the potential to bolster efficiency and joint operations, which are critical to a modern-day fighting force.

I was also pleased to see that the Commission will propose an amendment that will allow for members of the Air Force to continue to receive medical treatment at McChord, while moving the bulk of military families and retirees to the much larger medical facility located next door at Fort Lewis. While questions still remain concerning the impact on jobs that this move will create, I believe that this is a step in the right direction and represents progress in addressing our concerns.

I will continue to monitor the military situation both in the 9th District and throughout the country and I will work to ensure that our military and those who serve in it are given the best equipment and the right assets to continue to do the great and heroic work that they do each and every day.”
 

Today, U.S. Representative Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) gave a speech at the Tacoma Club focusing on meeting the challenges of global poverty. Smith, a Member of the House International Relations Committee, is passionate about global poverty issues and believes the United States has a moral obligation to improve the lives of the world’s poorest people. Smith also announced the introduction of his bipartisan bill, HR 3605, called the Global Poverty Act of 2005.

Smith stated that the bill is an “important piece of legislation [that] requires the President to develop a comprehensive strategy to vastly reduce global poverty and eliminate extreme global poverty and report back to Congress on its progress. This plan should include foreign assistance, foreign and local private investment, technical assistance, public-private partnerships and debt relief. The bill declares that the reduction of global poverty and the elimination of extreme global poverty are a priority of U.S. foreign policy and that the U.S. should work with all the players involved in this fight, including developing and donor countries and multilateral institutions to coordinate policies to address global poverty.”

In his speech, Smith said that “nearly half of the world’s population is struggling in poverty and one-sixth of the world’s population can’t meet even the most basic needs for survival. This is morally unacceptable.” Smith believes that “the United States needs a comprehensive strategy, one that currently does not exist, to help eliminate extreme global poverty.” He went on to state that “we need to leverage development aid, debt relief, technical assistance and public-private partnerships. We need to coordinate with world bodies, including the United Nations, to help impoverished countries devise plans that will work for them. The United States has a moral obligation and a strategic need to help eradicate global poverty.”

Smith outlined four concrete steps that can be taken to deal with the problems associated with extreme global poverty: ensure that developing countries have a decent infrastructure, the ability to reduce the effects of debilitating diseases on their population, access to affordable credit to help build their small businesses that drive their economies and finally access to a free, universal education system.

After outlining these four steps, Smith noted, “that the United States can have an enormous and positive impact on nations in need. However, the formula for success must include close coordination with the recipient nation as well as other donors and multilateral development organizations. The best aid programs are those that have substantial buy-in from the local policy makers and are met with a commensurate commitment to sound economic policies, social services, education, and a strengthening of political institutions.”

In discussing a strategic plan to eliminate global poverty, Smith said, “the plan would incorporate current aid programs, like the Millennium Challenge Account, and would ensure consistency with our foreign policy goals.”

Smith has been deeply focused on the issue of global poverty and in March, 2005 he participated in the Trade and Poverty Forum in Nagoya, Japan.  The forum brought together leaders from the business, political and NGO communities to develop strategies for combating poverty.  Smith understands that our nation must make a greater commitment to poverty alleviation and view these efforts as an investment that can foster global stability and security, build alliances throughout the world and reduce the sense of hopelessness for billions of people.  He is committed to helping marshal the political and social will to address global poverty.

The complete text of the speech can be found at http://www.house.gov/adamsmith/startPage/Globalpoverty.htm

U.S. Representative Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) made the following statement today concerning his disappointment in the passage of the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement:

“I am disappointed that the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Dominican-Republic Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), “said U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, (D-WA). “I am an advocate of free trade, but CAFTA is a fundamentally flawed trade agreement that does not balance the needs of American workers and companies, nor the needs of the nations with which we trade.

It is clear that America needs to have a discussion and build a real consensus, one that does not currently exists, around the issues of trade, globalization and international competitiveness.

To build this consensus at home, America needs a modern, clear-eyed approach to the challenges of globalization. Competition has grown more fierce, more markets and consumers have become available, technology is changing the game, our workers are not prospering and we don’t really know how to factor in very real environmental concerns.

To build a consensus abroad, we must understand that workers’ rights and effective labor and environmental enforcement mechanisms are crucial to ensuring that developing nations fully and effectively participate in the global economy.

Our current debate over CAFTA barely touched on these new realities. 

My hope is that we can begin to talk not just about narrow trade agreements, but about what strategies we must adopt as a nation to ensure we meet the new 21st century challenges of globalization head on, allowing our companies to prosper, our world to grow closer together, our environment protected and our workers to succeed.   By doing so, we can move our nation and our trading partners forward in a way that makes real and sustainable progress toward opening markets, growing our economy and lifting developing states out of poverty.

This consensus must be grounded in balancing the interests and needs of American workers with those of private companies.  Time and again, the Bush Administration has chosen economic policies that undermine our ability to invest in education and skills training that are desperately needed in this country. Domestically, we must aggressively implement policies that help Americans succeed in the increasingly competitive global economy.  We must invest in providing skills training and lifelong learning opportunities so that American workers have the opportunity to upgrade their skills or get new jobs. We must invest in K-12 education, particularly in math and science, to ensure that we continue to lead the world in innovation. We must invest in research and development and partner with universities, businesses and entrepreneurs in developing new technologies and encouraging innovation that will drive our economy and create the jobs of the future. The American workforce and companies must be prepared to take on the challenges and reap the rewards of globalization.

Internationally, we must seek to improve workers’ rights – and raise the standard of living – in developing nations throughout the world.  Better protections for workers and a genuine effort to improve worker’s rights internationally are essential to forging this new consensus. Clearly, we do not expect workers in developing countries to instantly have the same legal protections as workers in the United States. However, there is no reason that our standard for worker protections can’t match those of the Jordan trade agreement. That agreement not only required Jordan to enforce their existing labor laws but to also make progress towards meeting all International Labor Organization standards.  At the same time, the enforcement provisions for the worker protection language should be on the same footing as robust intellectual property and investor’s rights.

With CAFTA, an opportunity has been missed to put forward an agreement that balances the need to open global markets to American workers and businesses and promotes growth and stability overseas. As negotiated by the Bush Administration, CAFTA actually weakens the existing workers’ protections currently available under the United States’ existing trade preference programs with the region. Similarly, on environmental protection, rural development and public health, this agreement falls short. While CAFTA rightly includes protections for the intellectual property rights that are so important to our region, the Administration failed to take such a serious approach on workers’ rights and environmental protections.

The United States must craft a competitiveness policy that provides American workers and businesses with real opportunity to grow and that strengthens our economy. We must build a trade policy that creates foreign markets for our products, not only a vast pool of unskilled laborers who have no hope of fully participating in a global economy. We believe that our nation must be bold in crafting policies to deal with the current economic realities.  We must rise to meet the historic challenge presented by globalization. By doing so, we can build a real consensus on trade that is bipartisan, comprehensive and puts our nation’s workers and businesses in a stronger position to compete and win in the global marketplace.

CAFTA and indeed many of the Administration’s economic policies falls far short of creating a cohesive and comprehensive policy on trade.”