Press Releases

Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith, a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, today voted for the Fiscal Year 2000 Defense Authorization bill, which passed.

"The Department of Defense Authorization bill will go a long way towards meeting our defense needs," Smith said. "Perhaps most importantly, it provides a much-needed pay raise for the men an women serving our country, reforms the military retirement structure called REDUX, and increases funding for military housing and installations."

The bill includes a 4.8 percent pay increase for military personnel for next year. The increase is .5 percent above the Employment Cost Index (ECI), an index used by the private sector to calculate wage increases. The bill requires that future military raises be calculated using the full ECI.

"From the moment this bill was introduced, throughout the Armed Services Committee process and up until it passed on the floor, I adamantly supported the 4.8 percent pay increase," Smith explained. "If we want to have a first-class military, we need to make the military a good career choice by providing competitive pay and good benefits. This pay raise is a step in the right direction to taking better care of our troops."

Not only does the legislation provide a pay raise for personnel, it reforms the Military Retirement Reform Act, commonly known as "Redux." Under Redux, service members who entered the military after 1986 and retired at 20 years of service would receive retirement pay equal to approximately one-fourth of their total pay and allowances (or 40 percent of their basic pay) compared to approximately one-third of total pay and allowances (or 50 percent of basic pay) before 1986.

To encourage mid-career service members to continue serving their country for twenty years or more, the bill changes current law by allowing personnel covered by Redux to choose between the following:

• Retiring under the pre-1986 military retirement plan at 2.5 percent of basic pay per year of service over 20 years (up to a maximum of 75 percent of basic pay); or

• Accepting a one-time $30,000 bonus after 15 years of service and remaining under the Redux retirement plan that reduces the percentage of base pay paid to retirees before age 62 by 1 percent for each year the member retires with less than 30 years of service. Servicemembers accepting the bonus would be obligated to serve the remaining five years to become eligible for retirement.

The legislation also includes an increase in funding to accelerate implementation of the Basic Allowance for Housing, which provides housing allowances for military families in high cost areas; provisions to encourage re-enlistment; and increases in special pay and bonuses, including aviation career incentive pay, hazardous duty pay, and foreign language proficiency pay.

The bill also makes key investments in tomorrow's technology, to ensure that our military has the best available equipment.

"We need to make smart investments in military technology," said Smith. "Now is the time to modernize our forces to make sure our soldiers have the equipment and training necessary to do their job, and funding new tactical air power programs, such as the F-22 and Joint Strike Fighter, is key to preparing our forces for tomorrow's fight."

Both the F-22 and the Joint Strike Fighter received funding in the Defense Authorization bill. The F-22, which is partially produced in Tukwila, received $1.6 billion for funding at the Joint Strike Fighter, another Boeing project, received a total of $301 million for the Air Force and Navy Joint Strike Fighters. Other Boeing projects include the Airborne Laser, which is a high-powered laser carried aboard an aircraft that is meant to destroy ballistic missiles in their launch phase, funded at $309 billion.

The bill also authorizes $3.7 billion for ballistic missile defense, including $852 million for national missile defense and $473 million for the Theater High Altitude Air Defense system (THAAD) for the missiles that will succeed the Patriot missiles. "The Gulf War demonstrated the dire need for a proven theater missile defense systems to protect American troops and ally civilians," noted Smith.

Smith also voted for an amendment, which passed, to incorporate recommendations contained in the Cox-Dicks report on security breaches on U.S. nuclear labs.

"Clearly, the Cox-Dicks report illustrated that we had inexcusable blunders in counter-intelligence at our nuclear labs," Smith said. "The amendment I voted for will implement the changes needed to ensure that such security breaches do not happen again."

The amendment establishes new procedures to increase security at Energy Department weapons facilities and national labs, requires the President to submit numerous reports to Congress on Chinese espionage and military activities, and institutes new guidelines to prevent the illegal transfer of technology to a foreign country during satellite launches.

Smith, who has been a ardent supporter of funding for Hanford Nuclear Site cleanup funding and limiting overhead costs and waste, also succeeded in including a General Accounting Office (GAO) report to investigate allegations of $85 million in overbilling by key Hanford cleanup contractors.

Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith today was appointed to the Democratic Task Force on Technology, a group of approximately 15 Members of Congress who will outreach to the technology community and advise House Democratic Leadership on technology policy.

“Serving on the Technology Task Force will give me an opportunity to work on the issues that will drive the 21st Century economy,” Smith said. “I am looking forward to it, because I think that I can be helpful in educating some of my colleagues about technology and how the government can best allow the technology industry to grow and continue to create good paying jobs across America.”

Since taking office two-and-a-half years ago, Smith has established himself as a leader on high-technology issues. He cites five goals relating to technology policy: 

  • Encourage research and development to continue fostering technological innovations;
  • Promote technology exports and re-evaluate inefficient and counterproductive export controls and unilateral sanctions;
  • Take a hands-off approach to taxing and regulating the Internet;
  • Encourage greater access to high-bandwidth (broadband) services by creating incentives for businesses to lay the infrastructure necessary to give homes, particularly those in rural and suburban areas, access to high-speed data capacity; and
  • Educate children and adults for the 21st Century by teaching them the skills they need to succeed and providing lifelong learning and skills training. 

Smith is also sponsoring a high-technology summit for government officials and the technology community August 11 at the Bell Harbor Center in Seattle.

H.R. 1259 Passes House

May 26, 1999

Today the House overwhelmingly passed H.R. 1259, the “Social Security Lock Box Act,” which prohibits official government entities from using the Social Security surplus to mask the size of the on-budget deficit and establishes “points of order” (allowing Members to halt pending legislation) against considering any measure that would use Social Security surpluses for any purpose other than reforming Social Security and Medicare.

“H.R. 1259 is very similar to the ‘Honesty in Budgeting Act’ that I introduced earlier this year,” Smith explained. “I am proud to see the House of Representatives take various similar ideas and combine them into one bipartisan bill to protect the Social Security surplus from being used for other purposes.”

Smith says the problem is the government has used the Social Security surplus for other purposes and counted it as income for many years. “That’s very misleading, because that money is not income – it’s borrowed, and it has to be paid back plus interest,” he said. “The first step towards ending this practice is to be honest with the American public and stop using the Social Security surplus to mask the true size of the deficit. That was the primary goal of my ‘Honesty in Budgeting Act’, and the legislation passed today will help get us there.”

“Requiring CBO and OMB to exclude Social Security figures from their official reports is a key step in changing the perception that we have a budget surplus,” Smith continued. “For example, although we’ve heard pronouncements that we had a $70 billion surplus in 1998, that just isn’t the case. We had a $99 billion surplus in the Social Security trust fund and a $29 billion deficit for the rest of the government. Since we have to pay that $99 billion back to Social Security, we don’t have a $70 billion surplus — we have a $29 billion deficit.”
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Latest CBO budget figures, released on February 1, project the U.S. will have a non-Social Security surplus of $800 billion in the next ten years. “Real surpluses are obviously welcomed,” Smith said. “The point of my bill is to clarify the numbers and make it easier for citizens to understand how much money truly have in the bank.”

Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith today will vote to overhaul bankruptcy law and require debtors to repay some or all of their debt when they are financially able.

“Reforming bankruptcy laws is all about personal responsibility,” said Smith. “People who can afford to repay their debts should do so.”

The Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1999 (H.R. 833) is expected to pass the House today.

Under current law, bankruptcy filers may file under Chapter 7 and be absolved of all debt, or file under Chapter 13, preventing repossession of property but agreeing to repay some or all of their debt. H.R. 833 institutes a needs-based formula to steer more debtors into Chapter 13 and thereby require greater debt repayment.

“The formula is very balanced and fair,” explained Smith. “First of all, it only affects taxpayers earning more than the median income. It then provides allowances for living expenses, exempts child support payments, exempts secured debts such as mortgage and car payments, exempts retirement and education savings, and determines an individual’s ability to pay their debt. If there is an extenuating circumstance, such as job loss or medical emergency, a judge can still opt to forgive the debt. If it is determined that the debtor can afford to repay some of the debt, he or she is required to do so.”

It is estimated that bankruptcies cost each American household $400 per year in the form of higher prices for goods and services. Bankruptcies also restrict access to credit for lower- and middle-income families. 

Smith says bankruptcy reform will provide fairness for the vast majority of consumers who do pay bills on time. “It is unfair that many higher-income families are declaring bankruptcy even when they have the ability to repay some of their debts, costing other families hundreds of dollars a year.” he said.

Small businesses are another victim of irresponsible bankrutpcy filings, according to Smith. “A small business can be devastated by just one or two debtors declaring bankruptcy and not paying their bills,” he explained. “The Bankruptcy Reform Act will change this by only allowing those consumers truly in need of bankruptcy reform to be absolved of their debts.”

The legislation also ensures that child support payments are first priority for debt repayment, unlike current law which places child support seventh on the list of priorities for repayment.

Smith says he supports the legislation because it emphasizes the value of personal responsibility. “We need to ensure that government policy promotes values like personal responsibility,” said Smith. “Requiring people to pay off the debt they incur whenever possible is a very basic tenet of personal responsibility.”

Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith was named to the Honor Roll on the Concord Coalition Tough Choices scorecard, which scored Members of Congress on their votes related to fiscal discipline and responsible budgeting.

The Concord Coalition is a bipartisan, grassroots organization advocating fiscal responsibility and entitlement reform to protect their viaiblity and fairness for all generations. Their “Tough Choices” scorecard rates 12 votes in the House of Representatives that promote fiscal discipline. Priorities include protecting the budget surplus until the long-term Social Security problem has been solved, keeping the budget enforcement procedures, such as the pay-as-you-go rules, intact, and eliminating wastefull or unnecessary government programs.

The 12 votes scored by the Concord Coalition were weighted according to their relative importance to deficit reduction. The median score in the House of Representatives was 36.

Smith earned a raw score of 74 and was in the 97th percentile, which places him number 12 out of 435 Members of Congress. The top fifteen include Members of both parties from around the country: Representatives Mark Sanford (R-SC), David Skaggs (D-Colo), Tom Barrett (D-Wis), Ron Kind (D-Wis), Michael Castle (R-Del), Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex), Bill Luther (D-Minn), David Minge (D-Minn), Pete Stark (D-Calif), Barbara Lee (D-Calif), Vic Fazio (D-Calif), Ben Cardin (D-Md), Adam Smith (D-Wash), Charles Stenholm (D-Tex), and Ron Paul (R-Tex).

“Although I don’t vote based on how I will be rated by any organization, I’m very proud to be on the Concord Coalition’s honor roll,” said Smith. “The Concord Coalition is extremely well-respected and is the leading advocate of fiscal responsibility. Since maintaining fiscal discipline and reducing the debt is a top priority for me, it is nice to be recognized by an organization that prioritizes these issues.”