Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) made the following statement about this week’s incident regarding racial slurs at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School:

“The Air Force needs to investigate this incident thoroughly and take appropriate action. There is no place in the military for these kinds of acts. Incidents like these, even if they are performed by a single individual, offend our moral sensibilities and they can undermine the morale of service members and cadets. It is a bedrock principle that everyone in the U.S. military should be treated with dignity and respect.”

Washington, D.C. — Today, House Armed Services Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) and Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) led 145 Members of Congress in writing a letter to President Trump demanding that the Department of Defense deploy additional resources to aid recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Lawmakers are calling for the appointment of a senior general to oversee all recovery efforts, the deployment of life-saving military capabilities that would otherwise be unavailable to the relief effort, deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln, and an increase in personnel to assist local law enforcement.

“President Trump’s effort to aid Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands has been wholly inadequate to date,” said Smith. “When a hurricane hits in the continental United States, you can send massive aid via roads, the National Guard can arrive from neighboring states, and people can leave the affected area. None of that is true here. There is no National Guard Navy, and more than 3.5 million American citizens are isolated and unable to access the most basic supplies. The U.S. military has unique capabilities that can help alleviate this situation, and the President must exercise the proper leadership to make that happen.”

“3.5 million American citizens in Puerto Rico are facing a dire humanitarian crisis,” said Velázquez. “I have heard from seniors whose medical needs are not being met due to power outages, children who are suffering from extreme heat in the crowded airport and families who are still unable to contact their loved ones. These are matters of life and death.” 

“While the situation on the ground remains desperate, President Trump held a press conference yesterday congratulating his Administration on their response,” Velázquez added.  “If President Trump doesn’t swiftly deploy every available resource that our country has, then he has failed the people of Puerto Rico -- and this will become his Katrina. Every second in this effort counts and the stakes are too high for further delay, inaction or inefficiency.”

The full text of the letter is below and online here with a list of signatories.  

For a PDF, click here.

 

September 27, 2017

President Donald J. Trump

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, DC 20500

 

Dear President Trump:

On September 20th, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands endured a direct impact from Hurricane Maria. With winds up to 160 mph, Hurricane Maria devastated these islands, caused significant power outages, destroyed telecommunications infrastructure, and thereby paralyzed the region. Given the impact of the damage and the population of 3.6 million American citizens affected, we are concerned that federal efforts to date have been insufficient to address the severity of the situation. We know there are DOD elements helping today, and all the service members involved are working very hard, but we are concerned that the scale of DOD assets supporting the operation are inadequate. Thus, we write to urge you to further mobilize the Department of Defense to immediately deploy additional assets in support of Puerto Rican and U.S. Virgin Island recovery efforts.

As you know, the Department of Defense has additional capabilities that could help alleviate suffering in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and prevent this catastrophe from worsening. First and foremost, a senior general officer must be appointed to work with FEMA to manage a joint response assist with the recovery effort on the ground, and enable local constituencies to have a single point of contact. This was done in response to Hurricane Katrina, and we feel the same approach is warranted now for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

As we are sure you are aware, in both Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, there are numerous municipalities that are inaccessible from the ground, which is where DOD engineer and aviation assets would be most helpful. With millions of U.S. citizens stranded in remote areas without basic necessities, engineers are needed first to clear the roads. Additional aviation assets are needed to get relief supplies to isolated locations. Additionally, substantial ground and air logistics support is required to get aid to the islands, rescue stranded citizens, and provide them with supplies and thereafter assist with the restoration of power and telecommunications infrastructure if needed. To fulfill DOD's mission, we believe the aircraft carrier, USS Abraham Lincoln, should be sent to the region, similar to its deployment to Miami following Hurricane Irma.

DHS has indicated it has "provided more than 1.5 million meals, 1.1 million liters of water, nearly 300 infant and toddler kits, and nearly 12,000 emergency roofing kits to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria's landfall." While these meals and resources are profoundly needed, unfortunately, there is a large portion of the population that has been underserved.

Lastly, DOD has critical resources that could assist with addressing security issues. We have heard reports that the ongoing supply shortages are causing looting and crime. We were recently informed of armed gangs ransacking a warehouse that distributes food and supplies. Defense Department personnel could provide essential support to local law enforcement in both Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to ensure relief supplies are delivered to those most in need- and that those that have already been immensely devastated by the hurricane, do not need to fear for their lives when filling up their gas at the pump or securing food for their family.

We thank you for your immediate attention to this matter. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.

We look forward to your timely response.

###

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) made the following statement about President Trump’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico:

 “The Trump administration’s response to the destruction in Puerto Rico has been wholly inadequate. A territory of 3.5 million American citizens is almost completely without power, water, food, and telephone service, and we have a handful of helicopters involved in DOD's response. It’s a disgrace. At a minimum, President Trump needs to assemble a coordinated military effort headed by a three-star general officer, as President Bush did after Hurricane Katrina.”

Congressman Smith Reintroduces Bill to Improve Freight Infrastructure & Transportation

Washington, D.C. – This week, Congressman Smith reintroduced the Freight Infrastructure Reinvestment Act, H.R. 3769, a bill that will support improvements to infrastructure and transportation throughout our national freight mobility network:

September 14, 2017

“Freight infrastructure is critical to our future growth and competitiveness,” said Congressman Smith. “Investments in our freight transportation system support our continued economic development by expanding our capacity to transport goods and providing opportunities for job creation across the country.”

The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, passed by Congress in 2015, supports regionally significant freight and highway projects with funds distributed through a grant program and formula funding. The Freight Infrastructure Reinvestment Act (FIRA) of 2017 will expand upon the investments of the FAST Act by creating a sustainable national freight discretionary grant program supported by a dedicated funding source.

With the creation of a National Freight Mobility Infrastructure Fund, FIRA will administer strategic grants for infrastructure projects across our national freight mobility network. Funded through a minimal one percent fee on the shipment of freight cargo, this program will invest in freight projects that improve the efficiency, capacity, and safety of our freight mobility system. FIRA will support projects like the construction of highway ramps to carry freight, the reinforcement of roads and bridges for heavier traffic and vehicle volume, the improvement of marine terminals facilities used for freight, and the expansion of rail and highway tunnels to accommodate increased cargo.

“Our economy depends on an efficient network of ports, roads and railroads,” said Dick Marzano, co-chair of The Northwest Seaport Alliance. “This proposal will provide our nation an economic boost by enabling much-needed investments in the US freight system.  We appreciate Rep. Smith’s leadership and consistent advocacy for freight.”

“Investments in freight movement are critical to the success of our ports,” said Kristin Meira, Executive Director of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association. “Congressman Smith’s bill would provide a much needed funding source to support cargo movement in the Northwest, one of the most trade dependent regions in the nation.  We appreciate his dedication to ensuring our region's continued success in the global marketplace.”

“While the FAST Act’s freight-focused INFRA program provided a first step in addressing multimodal freight needs, much more is needed, as evidenced by the program’s oversubscription: in its initial round, applicants requested $13 for every $1 available,” said Elaine Nessle, Executive Director of Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors. “Congressman Smith’s proposed freight mobility infrastructure fee and National Freight Mobility Infrastructure Fund could provide the next iteration of funding for critical freight projects.”  

The Freight Infrastructure Reinvestment Act of 2017 has been cosponsored by Representatives Albio Sires and Keith Ellison. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure for further consideration.

Congressman Smith Statement Opposing the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act

Washington, D.C. - Congressman Smith released the following statement after voting against H.R. 3697, the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act:

September 14, 2017

“The Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act is an affront to due process that unfairly targets our immigrant communities. This anti-immigrant bill is a blatant effort to support the Trump Administration’s mass deportation agenda.   

“Republican leadership brought this overly broad legislation to the House floor with no hearings and no opportunity for amendments. Under this legislation, the term ‘criminal gang’ would be expanded to grant the Department of Homeland Security vague discretion to target individuals who have no proven gang affiliation. This low burden of proof will open the door to rampant racial profiling, and result in sweeping detention and deportation activities based on nothing more than a supposed belief of criminal activity. Additionally, the bill raises serious constitutional concerns, by allowing for religious and humanitarian aid workers to be classified as gang members simply for their efforts to shelter undocumented immigrants.  

“We should be working to enact better, evidence-based solutions to prevent dangerous gangs such as MS-13 from engaging in criminal activity. We should not be targeting vulnerable populations that are trying to escape life-threatening situations. I will continue to fight against legislation that promotes discrimination against immigrants and their families.”