Press Releases

Global Fragility and Violence Reduction Act Passes House 

Washington, DC – Representatives Adam Smith (D-WA), Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Ted Poe (R-TX), Michael McCaul (R-TX), and Bill Keating (D-MA) today applauded the House passage of their bipartisan bill, the Global Fragility and Violence Reduction Act. This legislation would improve U.S. engagement in fragile and unstable countries to reduce violence and address the conditions that create safe havens for terrorists, criminal networks, and war lords.

“Instability across the world continues to lead to the displacement of millions of people. In response to the unprecedented refugee crisis caused by the rise in conflict, famine and disease, the U.S. must be a leader in addressing the root causes of violence and fragility. The Global Fragility and Violence Reduction Act is a significant step in bringing together defense, diplomatic, and development stakeholders to better tackle these complex challenges,” said Rep. Smith, Ranking Member of the Committee on Armed Services.

“Around the world, levels of violence are at a 25-year high, driving massive instability. This is a global security threat, as fragile, unstable states are breeding grounds for criminals and terrorists,” said Rep. Engel, Ranking Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on the House floor. “Over the years, we have learned a lot about what works to stabilize conflicts and prevent violence from breaking out. We need to update our government policies to implement those lessons. This bill does just that, by establishing an initiative to reduce fragility and violence that will align American policy and programs with best practices.”

“Around the globe today, nations plagued by conflict and violence pose serious challenges for our interests abroad and security at home,” said Rep. Poe, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade. “Terrorists and rogue regimes have long exploited fragile states to operate beyond the rule of law and promote extremism. Meanwhile, the various departments and agencies of the U.S. government charged with conducting our foreign policy have responded to these challenges with ad hoc fixes that avoid addressing underlying causes of instability and lack interagency coordination and proper Congressional oversight. The Global Fragility and Violence Reduction Act will fix these mistakes by requiring coordinated long-term strategies presented to Congress that target the core cause of violence and instability in trouble nations around the world. Through a smarter, planned process, our diplomats, military, and USAID staff can use our foreign aid dollars more effectively and efficiently, instead of endless assistance programs that only apply triage to persistent conflicts. I thank Ranking Member Engel, Rep. Smith, and Rep. McCaul for their hard work on this important bill.” 

“Today, the House took an important step to reduce worldwide violence and improve international stability. Violence and brutal conflict costs the global economy over $14 trillion a year and creates environments where large-scale international responses are needed to stop the struggle and deliver humanitarian aid. This legislation directs USAID, the State Department, and the Defense Department to work with other relevant agencies in crafting an integrated strategy in a number of these ‘fragile states.’ The strategy would focus on preventing the total breakdown of government, while also denying terrorist groups the unstable, fertile territory from which they recruit,” said Rep. McCaul, Chair of the Committee on Homeland Security. “By proactively prioritizing the necessary resources and with our federal departments working in unison, we will be better positioned to eliminate terrorist safe havens, stimulate global stability, and avoid large-scale international interventions.”

“As a senior Member of the Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security Committees, it could not be clearer to me that to be safer here at home, we need to address the root causes of fragility that leave communities around the world vulnerable to conflict and extremism. That’s exactly what this bill does. It requires an interagency strategy and a pilot program so that our resources are not only better coordinated to have a greater impact, but so that we also learn as much as possible about how to best combat this problem,” said Rep. Keating, Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade and Co-Chair of the Congressional Counterterrorism Caucus. “We have lost so many lives and expended so much on conflicts that don’t seem to ever get resolved. Addressing fragility brings us closer to the root causes of these conflicts and we owe it to our servicemen and women, to members of our foreign service, and to the American people to do that. Time and again, our research has shown that focusing on fragility will be a much more effective way of creating more sustainable peace and security around the world.”

Background

Violence and violent conflict have become the leading causes of displacement worldwide, resulting in an unprecedented 68.5 million forcibly displaced people, while preventable violence kills at least 1.4 million people annually. Containing violence costs the global economy $14.7 trillion a year (12.4% of world GDP).

US National Security Strategies over the past 15 years affirm that America has a national security interest in better preventing and mitigating violence, violent conflict, and fragility. Lessons learned over the past 20 years show that doing so will require more clearly defined goals, strategies, and interagency coordination.

The Global Fragility and Violence Reduction Act charges the State Department, Defense Department, and USAID with designating at least 6 priority countries or regions and implementing 10-year plans for addressing violence and fragility in those areas. The bill requires these departments and agencies to apply lessons learned and robust standards for measuring effectiveness and adapting programs based on results.

The legislation is endorsed by: Alliance for Peacebuilding, American Friends Service Committee, Bread for the World, CARE, Carl Wilkens Fellows, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), Center on Conscience & War, Charity & Security Network, Chemonics, Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness, Conciliation Resources, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd US Provinces, Cure Violence, Educators’ Institute for Human Rights, Foreign Policy 4 America, Franciscan Action Network, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), Future Without Violence, Global Communities, Global Water 2020, Humanity United Action, i-ACT, In Defense of Christians, Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, InterAction, International Alert, International Civil Society Action Network, International Crisis Group (ICG), International Rescue Committee, Jewish World Watch, Karuna Center for Peacebuilding, Mercy Corps, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, National Latino Evangelical Coalition, Never Again Coalition, Nuru International, Pax Christi International, Pax Christi USA, Peace Direct, PRBB Foundation, Saferworld, Search for Common Ground, STAND, Stop Genocide Now, United Church of Christ, Women for Afghan Women, World Relief, and World Vision.

Washington, D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) released the following statement about President Trump’s order regarding deployment of the military to the southern border:

“I strongly oppose the President's recent change in policy granting the military expanded authority regarding the use of lethal force, detention and search of civilians, and crowd control on our southern border. This guidance is unwise, unnecessary, and likely illegal. It is unwise because the President is creating a dangerous situation where thousands of armed troops are being asked to operate under vague and unclear rules of engagement. It is unnecessary because there is no evidence that the U.S. Border Patrol isn't capable of handling the situation on its own. The guidance is likely illegal because the military is prohibited from conducting law enforcement activities in the United States by the Posse Comitatus Act.

“This deployment has been a politically motivated stunt from its inception, and it is putting the U.S. military in an inappropriate position while undermining service members’ ability to train and perform their appropriate functions. At its core, this political stunt continues to be an exercise in fearmongering with the intention of inaccurately portraying asylum seekers as dangerous. Even more troubling, this decision appears to be driven by a group of anti-immigration fanatics in the White House who refuse to listen to legal and policy advice from experts while not even involving senior DOD and military leaders in the policy deliberations.

“I am extremely disappointed with the way that the administration has been stonewalling Congress. The public deserves transparency regarding the decision to initiate this deployment, and the justification for a change in the authority under which our  troops are operating. We need to know what the mission is, what exactly our troops are doing, how long the deployments will last, and how much it is going to cost.

“President Trump’s actions have potentially grave implications for the rule of law and it is essential that Congress get to the bottom of this misuse of our armed forces. For these reasons, the border deployment will be among the first oversight issues that the Armed Services Committee takes up in the new Congress.”

House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith sent the following letter to President Trump regarding recent guidance to U.S. military forces at the southern border. 

November 23, 2018

 

The Honorable Donald J. Trump

President of the United States

The White House

Washington, DC  20500

 

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing because of your administration’s recent decision to grant legal authority for active duty personnel along the southern border to act as an extension of law enforcement. This decision raises serious legal questions, puts our armed forces in an untenable position, and further reduces their readiness.


The activities described in the memorandum signed, at your direction, by your Chief of Staff include “a show or use of force (including lethal force, where necessary), crowd control, temporary detention, and cursory search.” This is yet another unnecessary step towards the militarization of the southern border and is not a proportionate response to individuals that wish to legally seek asylum as they flee violence and persecution in their countries. Furthermore, the activities described in the memorandum may be a violation of existing federal laws, such as the Posse Comitatus Act (18 USC 1385) or limitations on troops’ participation certain law enforcement activities (10 USC 275). 

I am also concerned by the continued lack of transparency and limited information being provided to Congress on Department of Defense operations along the southern border. Congress has frequently heard about decisions made or actions taken through the press rather than hearing directly from your Administration. This includes this most recent memorandum issued the week of Thanksgiving. With that in mind, I request the following information be provided in response to this letter:


  (1) a detailed justification, to include any classified or unclassified threat assessment, for issuing the directive that military personnel be used to conduct activities that could be considered law enforcement activities;

  (2) an assessment of the capability and capacity of U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, and any gaps or limitations that were identified in the context of the current caravans, that warrant the use of active duty military personnel in potential law enforcement activities described in the memorandum;

   (3) a legal opinion and specific statutory authorities cited to justify how the potential actions authorized by the memorandum are in compliance with current law and not in contradiction to previously referenced statutory limitations;

   (4) a list of the equipment and weapons that military personnel will be authorized to carry and use in performance of the expanded mission;

   (5) details of the specific training, to include foreign language training and training on the legal rights of individuals to seek asylum, that military personnel will be provided prior to the performance of the expanded mission;

   (6) the cost to-date of utilizing 5,800 active duty and 2,100 National Guard personnel along the southern border, the expected length the deployment is expected to take place beyond December 15, 2018, and the expected total cost of the Department of Defense’s activities along the southern border, and specific funding sources, in fiscal year 2019;

   (7) the specific mission assigned to each unit supporting the southern border deployment and plans to transition these responsibilities back to the Department of Homeland Security;

   (8) what facilities military personnel would use to temporarily detain individuals under the new authority, what certifications are in place to ensure facilities are adequate for children and families, what time limits are in place for length of detention, what training and capabilities the troops have in providing care to asylum seekers in their detention, and what process is in place to ensure individuals detained by our military are transferred into the existing lawful asylum seeking process.


I hope that you will reconsider this recent decision and de-escalate the situation by removing active duty troops from the southern border. 


                                                                                   Sincerely,

      Adam Smith

      Ranking Member

Washington, D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) released the following statement about the Trump Administration’s request that the Supreme Court take up his ban on transgender military service:

“President Trump’s ban on transgender military service is utterly discriminatory and unconstitutional. Anyone who is qualified should be allowed to serve their country openly, and not be punished for their patriotism due to an arbitrary and bigoted limitation that the President announced in a tweet. We have fought this policy every step of the way, and if the Supreme Court takes up this issue, we will continue to fight it there.”

Washington, D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) released the following statement about reports that President Trump is withdrawing some of the military forces he recently sent to the border:

“The reports that President Trump is planning to withdraw some of the troops he sent to the border two weeks ago indicate just how empty, demagogic, and racially motivated this political stunt was. It appears to be an admission that there was no justification for the mission in the first place. It was not a respectful use of our military to take service members away from their duties and send them to the border as politicized props, and President Trump should not have done it. And there remains no rational explanation for the presence of those active duty troops who remain on the border. They should all be returned to their regular duties.”

Washington D.C.WASHINGTON, D.C. —  Today, Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) joined the lead sponsor Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) in introduction of the Outdoor Recreation Therapy for Veterans Act to help expand opportunities for veterans to access the outdoors for medical care and therapy:  

“Access to the outdoors is proven to have a positive impact on mental health and physical wellbeing. For our veterans, the healing effects of nature can be especially powerful,” said Rep. Adam Smith. “In Washington state, we know the incredible benefits that come from spending time in nature, and we owe it to our servicemen and women to open the door to all avenues of recovery when they return home. I am honored to be joining with Rep. Chris Smith in the introduction of this bi-partisan legislation to help connect our nation’s veterans with the great outdoors. By bringing together stakeholders from the VA and Land Management, we are building a foundation that will ensure that our veterans and their families can experience the restorative power of the public lands their service to our country has protected.”

“Studies have shown that outdoor recreation can also produce holistic, therapeutic benefits for veterans, and this is yet another treatment option that we should consider for veterans who want it,” said Rep. Chris Smith. “Our military service men and women deserve support in every way, and we should explore all avenues, great and small, of providing care and treatment for them. My legislation would help expand access to federal lands for outdoor recreation and should be part of our comprehensive response—a small part, but an important one nevertheless—in veteran care.”

A 2013 report by the Sierra Club said that of a sample study of veterans who took part in month-long group wilderness recreation programs, participants exhibited “significant improvements in psychological well-being, social functioning, and life outlook.” The Outdoor Recreation Therapy for Veterans Act, would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish, within 180 days of enactment, an inter-agency task force to be co-chaired by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the Secretary of the Interior and including the Secretary of HHS, Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Defense as members. The task force would seek to increase the availability of federal lands for use for medical therapy for veterans.

The task force would also help increase coordination between the Department of Veterans Affairs and public land agencies on using public lands for therapy and medical treatment.

The bill is supported by a number of outdoor recreation and veterans advocacy groups, including Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Minority Veterans of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Blue Star Families, Vet Voice Foundation, National Parks Conservation Association, PeopleForBikes, Outdoor Alliance, and Outdoor Industry Association.

Veterans of Foreign Wars

 

“Outdoor recreations such as hunting and fishing provide camaraderie and healing for veterans who struggle with the wounds of war. The VFW supports expanding such opportunities for veterans and thanks Congressman Chris Smith for introducing the Accelerating Veterans Recovery Outdoors Act,” said VFW National Legislative Service Director Carlos Fuentes. “This bill would ensure barriers to accessing outdoor activities that assist veterans are evaluated and removed if needed.”

Disabled American Veterans

“Year after year, events like the DAV and VA co-sponsored National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic and National Disabled Veterans TEE Tournament, prove the life-changing, therapeutic power of outdoor recreation,” said Disabled American Veterans (DAV) National Commander, Dennis Nixon. “DAV is pleased to support The Outdoor Recreation Therapy for Veterans Act as it could provide even more places and opportunities for injured and ill veterans to thrive and rebuild their lives through this invaluable form of alternative therapy.”

Minority Veterans of America

“Being outdoors in nature saved my life! During my transition from the Army, I felt as if everything around me was crashing. I endured through hopelessness, despair, lost...I became suicidal, again, and had even attempted to end my life. I have always loved being active and pushed myself to go hiking one weekend in the Olympics. For the first time in years, I felt whole again, as if I belonged in this world. Two years later, I plan to hike the Appalachian Trail in 2019. Veterans have demanded for years outdoor recreation programs be a part of our mental health treatment,” said Robert White, VP of Internal Relations for Minority Veterans of America. “It is long overdue for the VA to recognize this basic, yet vital need...they now have the opportunity to begin providing Veterans with this service!”

Blue Star Families

“The outdoors provide military families a much-needed place of recreation, rejuvenation, and healing. At Blue Star Families, programs such as Blue Star Parks connect the military community to nature, because the parks make a difference,” stated Kathy Roth-Douquet, Founder and CEO of Blue Star Families. “An overwhelming majority of military families report that visiting parks provides a much-needed outlet from the stress of their daily lives. We commend this bi-partisan bill from Congressmen Chris Smith and Adam Smith because it will make our nation's backyard more accessible for our veteran community and their families. Protecting and preserving these beautiful lands is one of the reasons we serve and sacrifice, so it means so much to us to enjoy them with our families.”

National Parks Conservation Association

“This study is needed to recognize the healing power of the outdoors for all users, especially our military veterans.  The benefits are real to anyone who has enjoyed our parks and public lands,” said Ani Kame’enui, Legislative Director of the National Parks Conservation Association.

University of Washington

“Preliminary evidence suggests that outdoor hiking—combining the benefits of nature contact, group bonding, and physical activity—may be effective in treating veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We also know that nature contact has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, and is associated with decreased likelihood of depression,” said Gregory Bratman, Doug Walker Endowed Professor of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington. “This bill would provide an opportunity to maximize use of federal lands to gain more understanding about the ways in which nature experience benefits the people who have served our country, informing the design of future interventions aimed at addressing their pressing mental and physical health needs.”

REI Co-op

“At REI Co-op, we believe a life outdoors is a life well-lived.  It can even be healing, especially for our veterans who have sacrificed much of their lives to protect our nation,” said Jerry Stritzke, REI’s President and CEO.  “We owe them our gratitude not just today, but every day.  So, we applaud congressmen Chris Smith and Adam Smith for taking this basic step, instructing the VA and the nation’s land managers to determine how our lands can be used to help our veterans heal.  We know the outdoors is good for you.  It’s only right that we make it as easy as possible for our veterans to rejuvenate among the country’s natural wonders.”

The Vet Voice Foundation

The Vet Voice Foundation said in a statement: “The Vet Voice Foundation strongly endorses the bi-partisan bill co-sponsored by Representatives Chris Smith and Adam Smith, to establish a task force on the use of Federal Lands for treatment and therapy through outdoor recreation for Veterans. The health benefits of the outdoors to help our Veteran men and women to walk off the war have long been recognized. We 500,000 members of the VVF applaud this initiative.”