Transcript of Pelosi, Davis, Peters, Vargas Press Availability at Naval Base San Diego
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-CA), Congressman Scott Peters (D-CA) and Congressman Juan Vargas (D-CA) held a press availability at the Naval Base San Diego. Below is a transcript of the Leader’s opening remarks, as well as a question and answer session:
Leader Pelosi’s Opening Remarks:
“Thank you very much, Congressman Vargas, for your hospitality. I know how proud you are of Naval Base San Diego, you tell us every day in the Congress of the United States. I am proud to join you and our two colleagues – Congresswoman Susan Davis, a senior Member of the Armed Services Committee, who used to represent this district, and Congressman Scott Peters, a Member of the Armed Services Committee, who also shares the pride in Naval Base San Diego that we all have.
“It is my honor to be here to hear the mission and the vision of this Base. Admiral Rowden was spectacular today in his presentation of readiness, manning, training, equipping, with a vision to protect our country and to honor our values. I thank Commander Jones for welcoming us as well and briefing us on some aspects of commanding this post. I thank our VIPs — that would be Danielle Gayhart, and also Alicia Oconer, who briefed us about what is was to be a family on the base, because that is part of the strength of our nation. And I want to thank Janet Paulovich for her leadership on the Fleet and Family Support Center.
“As my colleague, Mr. Vargas, mentioned, just a few weeks ago, some of us, 10 Members, began in California at Travis Air Force Base. We went to Hickam for the Pacific Command briefing, and then on to Guam, and on to Korea, to Japan, to Elmendorf, Alaska, and now here — coming full circle as to how we are repositioning toward Asia, rebalancing toward Asia, and the role our state of California plays in that, and of course, the role that our military and all of our services play – but the particular role of the Navy in this vast Pacific Ocean. And it is, again, about a new world that we are living in and what the new challenges are.
“Every one of these men and women in uniform who boards a ship, or wears the uniform — and their families — are part of an effort to make the world a better and safer place. We are grateful to them. In our meetings with our Veterans Service Organizations and the families, the Gold Star Moms and the Blue Star Families and the rest — the families tell us that they have particular challenges and needs that must be addressed for them to raise their families, but for our men and women in uniform, wherever they are in the theater, to have the confidence to serve because their families are in the best of care.
“So I thank [Janet Paulovich] again, I thank Commander Jones, I thank Admiral Rowden for their patriotism and their leadership, and I thank my colleagues for fighting the fight for this wonderful place: Naval Base San Diego.
“I think that Congresswoman Susan Davis wants to take any questions that you may have.”
Congresswoman Davis. Thank you. Again, it’s really our pleasure to be here with the men and women who serve our country and particularly their families, because we know it’s one thing for them to prepare for deployment – it’s quite another when families also are called upon to prepare. We’d be happy to take any questions.
Q: I hear you’re about to tour the littoral combat ship over here. How is that program faring under sequestration?
Congresswoman Davis. It’s being protected in many ways. We have those ships coming online and so we anticipate that they will be conducting their mission. And there are a number of them that are still ready to come online and we’re prepared for that.
Leader Pelosi. On that score, I say that every place I went, all those bases, probably seven – oh by the way, just a couple days before I went on that route I was in Mississippi for the christening of a ship, of the John P. Murtha ship. And starting in Mississippi, California, and all the other places, the issue of sequestration was one of that everyone was in agreement on. We cannot go down that path again. We have to stop. We have to come to some other kind of budget agreement because that is not in furtherance of our national security and measuring the strength of our country, our military strength for sure, but the health and well-being of our people as well.
Q: So you’re confident it will be avoided at this time?
Leader Pelosi. We’re fighting for that.
Congresswoman Davis. Right. I think there is quite a bit of consensus, but we also are dealing with the Budget Control Act; we’re dealing with the budget that came forward that really does not address all the concerns that we have by any means. And we want to be sure that our families are well taken care of and that people who serve our country have what they need to complete their mission that we’re asking them to do.
Q: A big concern for military families now is the restructuring of benefits for military families, some of the changes moving forward in health care and some of the pay structures. Were you able to talk at all about that and how families feel about that, and how it might affect recruiting and maintaining a strong military as a result? What’s the feedback you’ve gotten on that?
Congresswoman Davis. Well, I think recognizing that there are some commission recommendations and I think that the families are actually dealing with the same issues that they are often dealing with: how do I make sure that my children are okay? How do I make sure that they are getting the services that they need? How do we help our spouses as they transition from one base to another? I think we actually focused on the very real problems that people feel every day. The modernization issues that are being faced by the committee actually are coming up very soon. And I think that we’re going to be looking to have much more feedback on the part of our families on whether or not these are good to proceed with. I suspect that some of those issues will be dealt with and others we may be holding off for a while to be sure that we’re doing the right thing for our families.
Q: We’re about a thousand feet here from NASSCO. What’s the feeling about the Jones Act? I know that Sen. McCain would like to see it repealed.
Congresswoman Davis. That issue actually did not come up as we’re focusing on our families, per se, at this time. And I think as a committee, we deal with that issue from time to time, and we want to be sure that our American ships are getting every advantage that they have in serving our population and certainly our country.
Congressman Peters. I don’t think there’s wide support for repealing the Jones Act. And in the national security space, it’s very important that this nation retain its capability to build and maintain these ships and we not rely on someone else. This has to be done for national security purposes on our shores. And I think the Jones Act is one way to support that.
Leader Pelosi. I just wanted to add on your question about families. Congresswoman Davis has been a champion for families on that Committee, on the Armed Services Committee, for a very long time and also for women in the military. I have accompanied her to theater in Iraq, Afghanistan. She visits regularly and will be visiting soon again – we visit all of our troops. Of course, we are interested in the women in the military and the impact on their families back home. And whether it’s men or women, when we’re visiting them there, they want to know how things are at home for their families. They want to know how things will be for them when they’re no longer in the military, and how they will be treated as veterans. So we’re not just listening in the non-combat areas. We’re going into theater of war – again still with all the concerns they have there, they want to know how their families are cared for. So this is really important to the strength of our country, and we could have no better advocate than Susan Davis and now joined by Scott Peters on the Committee to ensure that that priority is addressed. You had a different question?
Q: Do you think the sequestration – last year, the majority of Congress and the Tea Party used that to their advantage. Do you think that it will happen again? Is there any provision that it will not happen so maybe the country shakes up a little bit more?
Leader Pelosi. Well in our budget that we put forth and the President’s budget, sequestration is really not a part of that. It doesn’t work and we have to face that reality. So it will be the budget debate that we have. And the battle of the budget is one of the most significant ones that we have. As I say: nobody wants to see what impact the sequestration will have on our military. We don’t want it on our other aspects too, because our men and women in uniform and our veterans when they come home – they have other needs that are effected by the rest of the budget. So, sequestration doesn’t work at all, across the board. But again, the more the public knows about it, I think the more opportunity we have to do away with it. I don’t know if my colleagues have something more to add on it.
Congressman Vargas. It’s interesting. If you ask any of these officers what keeps them awake at night, they’ll say: “Sequestration 2016.” They say that is what keeps them awake at night. They’ll say: “How can you plan, how can you be prepared, you know, when this is coming down the pike?” You hear it each and every time. And I know that every time I ask, it’s the same thing: sequestration. That’s why we’re fighting very, very hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. You can’t have sequestration that doesn’t work.
[Congressman Vargas addresses the audience in Spanish.]
Congressman Peters. Let me just agree with Juan in both languages. Just to put not too fine a point on it: sequestration is a specific national security concern. We’ve heard in Armed Services testimony from every branch of the military, that if you do the cuts that sequestration would require, which are the meat axe, across-the-board cuts, it will put our nation at risk in terms of readiness, and our ability to really provide the support to all those young people we send overseas. So it’s the wrong thing to do, and everyone up here is going to work hard to make sure it doesn’t happen.
Q: On the other part of the visit – six people were arrested trying to become ISIS, to go to ISIS – two of them here in San Diego. The question is: on that budget, how much money is being wasted, according to some people, at the border, trying to secure the border, while the threat, really, is within. And how is that going to be taken care of?
Congresswoman Davis. I think all of those issues – you know, we’re looking at those, and I think we’ll all be looking for more briefings. But the reality is that it’s very, very difficult to be able to track every individual that comes into an area. And I don’t think that it’s a border issue. This is a much larger issue than the border, and we will be looking to address that as well.
Leader Pelosi. If I just may say, that the President has a budget, a funding for fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and a little broader than that. So there’s increased funding for that. There’s also increased funding for supplying support – weaponry and the rest – in the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. But as you know, it sometimes goes beyond that. One of the things we’d like to do – first of all, I congratulate the FBI for apprehending these people. This was very important, and an indication of their effectiveness in tracking it down in our own country.
The other point I want to make is this: we have been consumed in this debate, fight, discussion of Sunni versus Shi’a – and see the world in the Middle East through those eyes. But more and more, I’m hearing – from the Iranian-Americans, from others here – that it’s not about Sunni-Shi’a, it’s about modern Islam versus radical, militant fundamentalism, using religion as an excuse to be terrorists. And so, if we could just turn our attention to Islam, the Quran is a book of peace. Muhammed was a prophet of peace and reconciliation. And ISIS and ISIL use that religion, but to engage in radical, militant fundamentalism for terrorist purposes. If we can sort of see it in a little different way, then perhaps we can all work together to put an end to ISIL – in all of its manifestations, whether it’s ISIL, ISIS, Daesh, Al Qaeda, whatever the militant fundamentalist form that it takes. So, we’re working together in Congress to do the best we can, with the resources we have, to address the issue.
As it comes to our own country, all of us would admit that protecting the American people is the oath of office we take – to protect and defend. But we also have to protect our freedom, our liberty – so it’s the balance between security and liberty that has existed since the beginning of our country. And so, the challenge is there. I think we have some good initiatives going forward for funding, for policy, as we go forward to fight ISIS, ISIL, or whatever you want to call it. Thank you.
Thank you all very much for coming out today. I’m so proud to be here, really. And again, as I said, just a few days before we left for our Pacific tour we were in Mississippi. And the Mississippi folks take great pride in their contribution to our national security. And I said: “Hey! I’m from California. We are a state of national security for our country.” And certainly, San Diego is a leader in all of that. So thank you, again, Commander, thank you to the Admiral, thank you to [Ms. Paulovich] and to Alicia and to Danielle for just being such patriotic leaders. And I thank my colleagues: it’s an honor to be with Scott Peters, with Juan Vargas, and with a leader on all of these issues for a long time in the Congress, Congresswoman Susan Davis. Thank you all.