Posted by Randy | June 09, 2016
The last 8 years under this Administration have shown that bowing down to bullies or simply ignoring them does not make them go away. Our men and women in uniform are willing to stand up to those who threaten the United States, and they deserve the resources required to come home safely.
Rep. Randy Forbes speaks out on Farci Island incident and other threats to our diminishing seapower
It’s not clear how the Iranians treated the U.S. sailors, but we know a few key facts. The Iranians seized Navy computers aboard the boats and copied their contents. The sailors were interrogated individually — constantly — and paraded before Iranian television crews. In footage broadcast internationally, they were apparently compelled to admit that they were in the wrong for entering Iranian waters — though the evidence showed they had not — and to apologize for doing so.
But every American soldier, sailor, airman and Marine is trained to refuse to aid the enemy in that manner. It’s a violation of their duty to do so. So were they abused? Tortured? Threatened with immediate execution? We don’t know because the Obama administration has classified everything about how the sailors were treated.
They were released after about sixteen hours. The only reaction from President Obama was a statement by Secretary of State John Kerry thanking the Iranians for their cooperation and patting himself on the back for effective diplomacy. There was never even a word condemning the Iranians for violating international law by seizing the American boats in international waters.
Two weeks ago Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) got our attention when he said that the classified information about the incident, if made public, would shock the American people. He said that we would be shocked by not only how Iran treated our sailors but also how the Obama administration responded. As Forbes pointed out, Obama did nothing at all to help the sailors while they were in captivity.
Forbes is chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. I spoke to him Thursday about the Farsi Island incident and some other key seapower issues.
Information is properly classified only when its release would damage the national security of the United States or one of our allies. That means, to put it simply, information shouldn’t be classified just because it would be politically embarrassing. But that’s apparently what happened in the case of the Farsi Island incident.
I asked Forbes directly: had anyone from the administration told him what the rationale was behind the decision to classify the Farsi Island information? He answered just as directly: no, they hadn’t. There hasn’t been even an attempt to justify that decision.
Moreover, Forbes said that he believed that the Navy would agree to declassify and release the information, but that it hadn’t received permission to do so from the president or the secretary of defense. Forbes told me that he believed that the information would be made public eventually — in weeks or months — but it probably wouldn’t happen before the November election.
The inescapable conclusion is that the administration’s refusal to release the Farsi Island incident information is purely a political decision to help protect Obama’s nuclear weapons deal with Iran. Letting the Farsi Island information out now would give Republican opponents of the deal ammunition that could be highly useful in their campaigns this summer and fall.
Because Obama regards that deal — which guarantees Iran nuclear weapons — as a key part of his legacy, he won’t do anything to help arm its opponents. You can bet that if Hillary Clinton is elected president, we’ll never see that information declassified and made public.
Forbes spoke derisively about Obama’s foreign policy. His philosophy, he said, is pretty simple. When you give in to bullies, they get bolder and raise the stakes. He said, “The Russians are now flying over our ships at about thirty feet above the deck. We see the Chinese telling us we can’t even do a port call in Hong Kong. We see them intercepting our P-3s and trying to literally push us out of the South China Sea.
“And we see the Iranians’ actions” (such as the firing of missiles fifteen hundred yards from the carrier USS Harry S. Truman last December), “… and the fact that they seized the two Navy riverine boats in January in violation of all maritime rules.”
Forbes said, “The Iranians get bolder. They’re telling us to get out of the Persian Gulf or they’ll shut the Strait of Hormuz.”
Forbes, the leading advocate in the House of restoring American seapower, believes this is all due to Obama’s knuckling under whenever America is challenged. He’s right. He said that Congress should stand up and demand greater challenges to nations such as Iran when the next Iranian sanctions bill comes up.
But it will take a lot more: a lot of money and time to restore the seapower we need to have to protect America’s interests and allies abroad.
Forbes pointed out that as soon as Obama came into office he began about $780 billion of cuts in defense spending over ten years to which sequestration added another $500 billion in cuts. He said that one of the first things the Obama administration did was issue gag orders for everyone in the Pentagon — both military and civilian — so that they couldn’t even tell Congress what repercussions there would be from its massive cuts.
The Marine Corps is a good example. The reports that the Marines were going to museums to cannibalize parts for aircraft were, Forbes said, true. He added that the Marines tried to see what foreign ships were available to deliver them to trouble spots because we don’t have enough sealift ships to do it.
I asked Forbes about the fact that although we have ten carriers — and soon will have eleven — we have only enough pilots and aircraft to outfit six. He agreed that there was a grave shortfall in strike fighters.
Forbes told me that the Navy had testified to his committee that three out of four strike aircraft aren’t going to be ready for combat for at least twelve months. He said that the Navy is cannibalizing parts from some aircraft to outfit others. And it’s not just the aircraft that are being cannibalized.
The submarine force usually has priority over other ships for repairs, but the Navy is being forced to cannibalize parts from submarines to keep others at sea. All classes of ships are being affected.
Forbes said, “In 2007, the Navy could meet 90 percent of our combatant commanders’ needs around the globe. This year, they’ll only meet 42 percent.”
He gave the example of one of our submarines that went into drydock for repairs that had been estimated to take 28 months. It actually took over 40 months. In that time, the whole crew sat ashore. The captain of the ship, Forbes said, resigned in frustration saying he hadn’t signed up just to sit in a shipyard.
The Navy’s total fleet is down to 272 ships. President Obama, Forbes said, wanted to reduce it by another twelve percent and Congress refused. (The Chinese have 300 surface vessels and plan to have at least 78 submarines as well within two years.)
Forbes, and many of his colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee, are trying to restore sanity to defense spending but there is, in truth, not much they can do. If the next president doesn’t take this on as Job 1, the shortfalls will grow, which means our capability to perform essential national security missions will continue to shrink.
Read the full article here.
Posted by Randy | June 09, 2016
Wallops Island is already home to innovative work in the commercial space industry as well as important NASA and U.S. military missions. I’m delighted the Navy is considering basing the MQ-4C Triton unmanned maritime patrol aircraft at Wallops -- an ideal location to permanently station this important asset.
In case you missed it, I recently led 18 Representatives and Senators from both parties in sending a letter to the Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations urging the use of Wallops Island, Virginia as the permanent East Coast base for the MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft. The letter was signed by Members of the House and Senate from Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware.
Yours in service,
Posted by Randy | June 09, 2016
A lot has happened in Congress these past few months that have a big impact on our region and our national security. Here’s a quick breakdown:
There is no higher Constitutional obligation than to provide for our national security. I will continue fighting every day to ensure our nation is secure, our citizens are safe, and our servicmembers are equipped to accomplish their missions and come home to us.
Yours in service,
Posted by Randy | June 09, 2016
The United States and the Philippines have been allies for decades, and our militaries have fought side by side from World War II to Vietnam to Iraq. Now, as China threatens Philippine sovereignty and destabilizes the Asia-Pacific region, it is more important than ever that Washington and Manila stand shoulder to shoulder.
As South China Sea Verdict Nears, Washington Must Stand with Manila
The good news is that the U.S.-Philippine alliance is stronger today than any point since the Cold War and on a trajectory to grow stronger still. Over the past 15 years, shared concerns about terrorism, natural disasters, and China’s growing power and aggressive behavior have drawn us back together. Today, 71 percent of Filipinos support a stronger U.S. military presence in Asia—the highest percentage of any country in the region. In 2014, our two countries signed a landmark Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) authorizing U.S. military forces to operate at a number of “agreed locations” throughout the country. Last year, Congress authorized a new Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative that will enable the United States to partner with the Philippines and other countries in the region to improve their maritime security.
These trends are all encouraging. But while the U.S.-Philippine alliance has been gaining strength, so has China. Over the past two decades, Beijing has been steadily improving its ability to project power into the South China Sea and wage a campaign of “gray zone” paramilitary aggression with its Coast Guard and maritime militia. Since 2012, the Chinese Coast Guard has effectively occupied the Scarborough Shoal, a small shoal off the main Filipino island of Luzon that China claims as its own, and begun construction of artificial island outposts atop disputed features. So far, the Philippines’ response to the occupation of Scarborough Shoal, China’s reclamation efforts, and the frequent harassment of its fishermen has been laudably measured: avoiding violent confrontations and appealing instead to international law and the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
Now, with international arbitrators expected to rule in the Philippines’ favor, our ally may face another uptick in Chinese aggression. According to close watchers of the South China Sea, Beijing’s next move may be to declare an “air defense identification zone” (ADIZ) over the South China Sea and enforce it with military aircraft and surface-to-air missile systems based on China’s artificial island outposts. Beijing could also begin building another artificial island base atop Scarborough Shoal, just over 200 miles from Manila. China could also increase the frequency with which it harasses and interdicts Filipino and other nations’ shipping inside its expansive nine-dash line.
To deter China from taking any of these destabilizing steps, the United States and the Philippines will need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the weeks and months ahead. The two countries signed the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty “so that no potential aggressor could be under the illusion that either of them stands alone in the Pacific.” Secretary Carter was right to declare in April that our commitment to the security of the Philippines remains “ironclad.” But to deter aggression in the South China Sea, we should also make clear that—as stated in the treaty—both parties are bound to respond to attacks on the “armed forces, public vessels or aircraft” of the other party, as well as “island territories under its jurisdiction.” To have maximum impact, these words should be backed in the near term by the continuous presence of U.S. naval forces and, in the longer term, by continuing efforts to build up the Philippines’ defensive capabilities, offset China’s military growth, and maintain a stable balance of military power in the region.
Might does not make right, but it can also be used to deter threats to peace, prosperity, and the rule of law. While the United States should not take sides in territorial disputes, it should support those parties that are pursuing peaceful resolution. The Philippines is one such party, and its alliance with the United States is an exemplary link in what Secretary Carter recently called a “principled security network” in the Asia-Pacific region. That link was forged 65 years ago, but by adhering to our shared principles in the trying weeks ahead, the United States and the Philippines can prove that it remains strong.
Read the full Op-Ed here.
Posted by Randy | June 08, 2016
My top priority is to ensure our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are equipped with what they need to successfully accomplish their missions and return home safely. Our men and women in uniform deserve nothing less from their elected representatives.
P.S. There's no doubt that reconciling defense spending with our rapidly increasing national debt and deficit is a big task. Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has called our national debt this country’s “biggest national security threat.” There’s far too much waste at the Pentagon, which is why I have supported a full audit of the Department of Defense to ensure that every taxpayer dollar is well spent. However, we cannot use the national debt as an excuse to jeopardize our national security. Washington can – and must – get its fiscal house in order without cheapening our national security.
Posted by Randy | June 07, 2016
Did you know that over 10 million visas were issued by the United States in fiscal year 2015 alone?
Congressman: Obama Admin Failing to Screen, Track Foreign Immigrants
The Obama administration is failing to adequately screen and track nearly 10 million foreign immigrants who were let into the country on visas last year, according to a congressional member of the House Judiciary Committee, who disclosed to the Washington Free Beaconthat there is “tremendous pressure” on federal authorities to green light these visas despite the inability to fully vet foreigners.
Rep. Randy Forbes (R., Va.) told the Free Beacon that nearly four years after a government oversight body highlighted critical vulnerabilities in the U.S. visa system, the risk of infiltration and fraud remains at record highs.
These flaws have allowed terrorists to gain legal entry to the United States, yet the Obama administration continues to pressure federal authorities to admit individuals into the country—even those who have failed to properly complete their visa applications, Forbes said.
These practices have prompted Forbes to spearhead legislation aimed at tightening security screening measures and cracking down on fraudulent visa applications.
“What most Americans don’t realize is that just last year alone we issued about 10 million visas for people to come into the United States,” Forbes said in an interview. “That’s a pretty large number and we really don’t have the processes of completely vetting those individuals, nor do we have processes often times of keeping up with them once they get here. So in addition to just driving or walking across the border, or sneaking across the border, on the Southern border, we have 10 million that just come in because we stamped a visa and allowed them to come in.”
While congressional leaders and law enforcement authorities have warned that foreign terrorists could exploit security gaps in the visa waiver program, the Obama administration continues to green light immigrants in record numbers, Forbes said.
“I don’t think they’re [the administration] being held accountable and I think part of the reason they’re not held accountable is because this is one of those issues that they love to blend apples and oranges and confuse the public with,” Forbes said.
“What we do know is that there sometimes can be tremendous pressure to stamp these visas and get them moving,” the lawmaker added. “This is an administration that has taken the motto of finding yes instead of being correct.”
As congressional concerns over the issue grow, the Obama administration is moving forward with a plan to resettle some 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States this year. In a bid to expedite the process, screening times for these individuals have been cut from around 18 to 24 months to about three months.
Obama administration officials have admitted that the current system is flawed and “presents risks to our national security.”
“We may be admitting individuals who wish to do us harm, or who do not meet the requirements for a visa,” a Department of Homeland Security official testified to Congress in March. “Basic information on visa applicants was not captured in electronic format and thus cannot be used to perform basic investigative steps.”
Forbes’ legislation seeks to close these gaps by tightening current regulations.
The bill would mandate that visa applications from countries with known ties to terrorism receive extra scrutiny from federal authorities. It also would require authorities to review the social media accounts of individuals applying for a visa.
Authorities currently do not review social media accounts, even though there have been instances in which visa applicants have used them to express support for terrorism.
Tashfeen Malik, one of the terrorist shooters who killed 14 in San Bernardino last year, had reportedly pledged loyalty to ISIS on Facebook.
Forbes’ bill would also boost security cooperation between agencies and deny entry to any foreign individual who fails to complete an application.
“Here’s the problem with the existing system,” Forbes said. “Just because you haven’t committed a bad act in the past doesn’t mean you aren’t trying to commit one now. In fact, we’ve actually had terrorists who have said they went to great lengths to make sure they had no previous record so that they could make sure they got their visa to come in and do a terrorist attack.”
Democrats in Congress have been fighting the legislation, Forbes said.
“They do not want to put these additional measure in and it just baffles us,” he said. “They fought us tooth and nail.”
Read the full article here.
Posted by Randy | June 06, 2016
Entry into the United States is a privilege not a right
This morning I joined Stuart Varney to talk about my Visa Integrity and Security Act of 2016 (H.R. 5203), which recently passed in the House Judiciary Committee. This critical legislation strengthens visa security in order to help protect the safety of Americans from those who may wish to do us harm. Watch the full interview here or below.
Yours in Service,
Posted by Randy | June 01, 2016
Bottom-line: Our best chance to bring our servicemembers home safely is to send them off prepared. We must be doing everything in our power to ensure that is the case.
Yours in service,
P.S. Last week, I also led a group of Democrat and Republican lawmakers down to Naval Station Norfolk to hear directly from some of our Fleet Operators. Here is the internal memo that we’re sharing with Members of Congress about the issues we saw and heard about – added a few of my own notes for you to see. We need to be better equipping our men and women in uniform so they can keep us safe, and come home safe.
Posted by Randy | May 27, 2016
This week, the House Judiciary Committee passed my bill, the Visa Integrity and Security Act of 2016, which provides common sense solutions to help fix vulnerabilities in our visa security screening procedures. Entry into this country is a privilege not a right, and we need to ensure the safety of American citizens remains our nation’s top priority. You can read Breitbart’s coverage of my bill here or below.
GOP Rep: Time For Visa Protocols to Err On The Side Of U.S. Security
“What most Americans don’t realize is that last year alone 10 million visas were issued for people to come into the United States. Any of those individuals could have been here for good reasons or they could have been here to do harm to Americans,” Forbes said in an interview with Breitbart News, shortly after the House Judiciary Committee passed his legislation to tighten up visa security.
The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved Forbes’ Visa Integrity and Security Act of 2016 — cosponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) — which would mandate more visa security and anti-fraud protocols intended to weed out foreign threats before they even reach U.S. shores.
As Forbes noted to Breitbart, from 9/11 to the San Bernadino massacre, many terrorist attacks and planned terror plots in the U.S. have been perpetrated by terrorists who came to the U.S. legally on visas.
“We also know that we don’t have very good controls once they get into the U.S. as to what they are doing or when they might leave,” he added.
Forbes’ bill does not attempt to solve all the problems with the current legal immigration system, but instead plug some of the more obvious vulnerabilities in the process, including requiring that all visa applications be fully completed prior to the issuance of a visa and more extensive security checks on nationals from countries of concern like Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen.
Additionally the bill requires that all visa applicants receive additional screening including in-person interviews, social media vetting, and DNA proof for family-based claims.
“We view the ability to come to the United States as a privilege. We view the security of the people within the United States as a right. And if those two are in conflict, we want to err on the side of security within the United States,” Forbes said.
“That’s why we increased the burden of proof in here to a clear and convincing level, instead of just the preponderance of the evidence, because we are hearing over and over that these adjudicators are having pressure put on them to just reach a ‘yes’ conclusion and get them in, he added. “That’s just too risky.”
According to Forbes, the reforms in his legislation are simply “common sense.”
“Every employer just about in the country, if they’re going to hire you they’re going to do a social media check on you before they hire you,” he said, referencing one of the provisions in the bill, mandating social media screenings for all visa applicants.
“We know there are people trying to get into this country to do not just bad things, but horribly bad things, to individuals in this country,” he said.
Read the full article here.
Posted by Randy | May 26, 2016
Wanted to share a couple photos with you from Monday, when I led a group of Democrat and Republican lawmakers down to Naval Station Norfolk to hear firsthand from some of our Navy warfighters – the men who command our ships and our aircraft every day -- about the challenges they face equipping, resourcing, and training our fleet. Did you know that:
After 8 years of the Administration dismantling our military, these are just a few of the challenges facing our Navy. Instead of making sure they are the best trained and best equipped so that they never find themselves in a fair fight, we’ve been asking them to do more with less. Bottom line: this Administration wants to manage our Navy’s decline -- we need to be committed to rebuilding it.
This roundtable aboard USS Eisenhower gave Democrat and Republican Members a chance to hear directly from warfighters about the challenges they face in an age of growing threats and shrinking budgets.
Today, due to increased operations and a shortage of funding and parts, only 1 in 4 Navy fighters is ready for combat. One aviator from NAS Oceana described his job as “managing scarcity.”
The Eisenhower is preparing to deploy to the Middle East, where she will relieve the USS Truman, another Norfolk-based carrier whose deployment was just extended to sustain the fight against ISIS. Average deployment time has gone up 32%, according to the Navy.
Longer deployments mean more stress on our ships, our sailors, and their families. The wear and tear on the destroyer USS McFaul was clearly visible after a nearly 8-month deployment.
And it’s not only the ships – our MH-53 helicopters are an average of 24.6 years old. As aircraft get older they grow harder to maintain—this one has been cannibalized to provide spare parts for other aircraft.
Talking to enlisted sailors gave Members a chance to hear directly about the challenges they face on the deck plates. As the Senate and the House prepare to make decisions on the annual defense policy bill, it’s absolutely critical to hear from the men and women whose lives and jobs these decisions impact.
The men and women who wear our nation’s uniform go into harm’s way to defend our freedoms. Our best chance to bring them home safely is to send them off prepared. That is why, as Chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, my top priority is to ensure our soldiers, sailors, airman, and marines are the best trained and best equipped in the world. I will never stop fighting to defend our defenders.
Regardless of the cause of this crash-- we need to be better equipping our men & women in uniform so they can keep us safe & come home safe.
Our pilots aren't getting the flying time they need to build their skills.
Only 1 in 4 Navy fighters is ready for combat. Of our older strike fighters, 1 in 2 is grounded due to a shortage of parts and maintenance.