Press Releases

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) yesterday offered an amendment to H.R. 6003, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 to encourage collaboration between Amtrak and local and regional commuter rail agencies on train schedules and routing in shared rail corridors.  The U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 6003 by a vote of 311 to 104 after voting to include Smith’s amendment.

Local commuter rail transit agencies often share rails with Amtrack, and several agencies across the nation have made substantial investments in tracks and signal capacity in shared rail corridors to enhance commuter rail service.  However, Amtrak’s first right to schedule their service often causes delays to commuter rail passengers and undermines the on-time performance of commuter rail systems.  High gas prices increase demand for passenger commuter rails, so efficient and effective use of rail infrastructure is critical. 

“Amtrak should work in collaboration with commuter rail carriers to facilitate the most efficient flow of intercity Amtrak and commuter rail passengers.  In the Puget Sound region, Sound Transit worked with BNSF and invested substantial sums of public funds in the rail corridor between Tacoma and Everett.

Investments like these all around the country benefit freight rail, Amtrak and commuter rail passengers.  Amtrak should respect these investments and work with our local commuter rail agencies to help maximize commuter rail service so commuters and taxpayers can see improved returns on our public investment,” Smith said.

Smith’s amendment does not replace or affect the existing process for adding additional passenger service on freight rail networks, but rather simply requires Amtrak to engage in good-faith discussions on scheduling with commuter rail agencies to ensure that passenger movement is maximized and a balance is struck between Amtrak’s intercity rail service and commuter rail service.

H.R. 6003 must be approved by the Senate before the President can sign it into law.

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today issued the following statement regarding the Democratic budget plan for fiscal year 2009 passed by the House of Representatives this afternoon:

“I am proud to announce that the 110th Congress passed a budget plan for the second year in a row, establishing a pattern that differs sharply from past Congresses.  Budget resolutions are fundamental pieces of any larger attempt to reign in our budget process.  The framework we have established in this report gives us a chance to return to fiscal responsibility, a trait sadly lacking from federal budgets for some time now. 

“Our national debt and deficit have not received sufficient attention in our national dialogue, and we absolutely must get both of these factors under control so we can address long-term economic priorities including a more affordable health care system, a better education and skills training policy, greater innovation investment and infrastructure improvements.  Addressing these challenges will be essential to our future prosperity.  However, I do not believe this process will be successful unless we get back to a fiscally responsible budget process. 

“The budget conference report is a good first step in returning to a path of fiscal discipline.”

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today voted to improve our nation’s military readiness, support military families, recommit to our efforts in Afghanistan and protect our nation from terrorism and unconventional threats.  He supported H.R. 5658, the fiscal year 2009 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes $601.4 billion to support our national defense, including $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Smith helped shape the legislation via his chairmanship of the House Armed Services terrorism subcommittee and an amendment he offered on the floor of the House of Representatives.  The bill passed by a vote of 384 to 23.

“This year's National Defense Authorization Act is a good product, especially considering its language and funding to restore readiness and support military families. Our forces are under a great deal of strain because of their deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, so we provided almost $2 billion above the President’s request to fill readiness gaps. The bill also prioritizes our troops by giving them a 3.9 percent pay raise to recognize their hard work and sacrifice and support them in every way we possibly can,” Smith said.

Recommitting to Afghanistan

  • Our efforts in Afghanistan continue to suffer due to a disproportionate focus on Iraq.  The NDAA attempts to rectify this imbalance in a region of the world critical to our fight against al-Qaida and their allies.  The bill:
  • Requires the Administration to de-link its future budget requests for Afghanistan from those for Iraq to enhance transparency and congressional oversight. 
  • Requires detailed reports on the training of the Afghan National Security Forces - the cornerstone of our counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.

“Our national security interests would be best served by a responsible redeployment from Iraq and a greater emphasis on our Afghanistan commitment.  Recently I introduced a resolution calling for such redeployment and a better balance in our defense policy.  I am pleased the NDAA this year will help Congress oversee and prioritize our efforts in Afghanistan,” Smith said.

Protecting Our Nation from Terrorism and Unconventional Threats

The Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee’s (HASC) portion of the NDAA fully resources and enhances the Defense Department’s ability to combat terrorism, fight smarter in the realm of irregular warfare, and counter other unconventional threats to our nation’s security.  Smith chairs the terrorism panel.  The bill:

  • Supports expansion of our special operations forces (SOF) – the “tip of the spear” in our fight against terrorism and extremism – and provides needed equipment and support.  The legislation includes $185 million above the President’s request to fund eight top priorities of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), including advanced aircraft survivability systems, advanced sniper scopes and body armor vests.
  • Prioritizes “irregular warfare,” including counterinsurgency, stability operations, and strategic communications.  The NDAA requires an Assistant Secretary of Defense be tasked to manage irregular warfare to ensure needed support and attention from the Pentagon.  The bill includes a $90 million increase for embedded cultural advisors in Iraq and Afghanistan and requires the creation of a management board to enhance coordination of the Defense Department’s (DoD) counter-terrorism strategic communication efforts. 
  • Enhances DoD’s use of technology and includes language and funding to help protect the United States from unconventional attacks.  The NDAA funds needed science and technology (S&T) research, streamlines our acquisition process for commercial information technology (IT) for the military, and mandates greater coordination and collaboration between DoD and the VA.  The bill adds funds for the Chemical-Biological Defense Program, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and other homeland defense initiatives.  The NDAA also clarifies the President’s authority to use the Reserves during national emergencies.  These provisions ensure our military remains up-to-date and ready to prevent and respond to major attacks on the homeland.

The bill must be approved by the Senate before the President can sign it into law.

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today won approval for his amendment to the fiscal year 2009 National Defense Authorization Act to enhance U.S. efforts to combat the spread of violent terrorist ideology.  The Smith Amendment would address major gaps in our counter-terrorism strategy by requiring the President to develop a comprehensive interagency strategy for strategic communication and public diplomacy.  The House of Representatives approved the amendment during consideration of H.R. 5658, which passed by a vote of 384 to 23.

“Strategic communication and public diplomacy were central to our fight against communism in the Cold War, and they should remain front-and-center as we work to roll back al-Qaeda’s and other violent extremists’ influence among disaffected populations.  Various organizations within our government work in some way to counter terrorist messages, but we lack a coordinated, comprehensive, adequately resourced plan to confront al-Qaeda’s ideology through a strategic message campaign,” Smith said.

The Smith Amendment:

  • Requires the President to develop a comprehensive interagency strategy for strategic communication and public diplomacy by the end of 2009; 
  • Increases Congressional oversight by requiring the Administration to report to Congress on the State and Defense Departments’ respective roles in strategic communication and public diplomacy; and 
  • Requires the Administration to assess and report back to Congress on the Defense Science Board’s recommendation that the U.S. establish an independent, non-profit organization to support the U.S. government’s strategic communication efforts.

Our nation’s multifaceted fight against al-Qaida and their allies includes efforts to counter their ideology – a war of ideas.  Terrorist groups aggressively push their narrative through new and traditional media with the aim of radicalizing and recruiting from new populations.  Through clever use of the Internet and a steady trickle of video messages distributed to and through the media, al-Qaeda drives its central messages and takes us on in the marketplace of ideas.  Numerous commissions and experts recommend improving the United States’ engagement with foreign audiences beyond traditional government-to-government relations.  Unfortunately, U.S. efforts remain insufficient to counter violent extremist narratives around the world.  Smith’s Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threat, and Capabilities repeatedly receives testimony that:

  • The U.S. doesn’t have a coherent, high-level interagency strategy on these issues;
  • The State Department and Defense Department aren’t coordinating sufficiently; and
  • We lack focus and nuance in our strategic communication messaging.

To address these gaps in our counter-terrorism strategy, Smith offered his good-government amendment through bipartisan cooperation and with support of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairmen.   The Senate and the President must approve H.R. 5658 before the Smith Amendment becomes law.

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today issued the following statement regarding his votes today on the Iraq and Afghanistan war supplemental funding bill.

“The bill we voted on in the House today included a timeline, a plan and funds for a responsible redeployment of our troops from Iraq.  I voted for the overall package because I remain supportive of a responsible redeployment policy that supports our troops.  Unfortunately, we were not able to get the votes for the full redeployment package, in large part due to more than 100 House Republicans who refused to vote in favor of funds for troops in harm’s way.

“I strongly support a change in our nation’s Iraq policy.  I have never supported an abrupt cutoff of funds that would lead to a precipitous, irresponsible withdrawal, and I have voted against previous war funding bills that lacked real policy changes in Iraq.  I was encouraged that this legislation contained all the elements needed to properly draw down our commitment in Iraq, and I hope the next administration promptly begins a responsible redeployment to better serve our national security interests.”