Insights@Meridian: Congressman Adam Smith

On March 30th, Meridian hosted a virtual Insights@Meridian program with Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Adam Smith, moderated by The Washington Post’s Missy Ryan. The conversation touched on the Chairman's security and defense priorities under the incoming Biden administration, how the U.S. can best deter global adversaries, and why it is important to rebuild American alliances over the next four years. 

In case you missed it, below are the top takeaways from the conversation: 

  1. BIPARTISANSHIP IS KEY IN CRAFTING NATIONAL DEFENSE POLICY. When it comes to passing key defense legislation in Congress, especially the National Defense Authorization Act, bipartisan cooperation is essential. Throughout his remarks, Chairman Smith highlighted the importance of collaboration between Republicans and Democrats on national security and defense funding and policy, noting that the work of the House Armed Services Committee bridges partisan divides. This bipartisan cooperation also strengthens important new Congressional initiatives, such as the IndoPacific Defense Initiative and the recently formed Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems 
  2. REBUILDING ALLIANCES THROUGH TRADE AND AID. As the Biden administration and 117th Congress seek to rebuild U.S. alliances, expanding trade and development aid to foreign countries can help demonstrate the value of these relationships, especially for countries unsure of how American politics might impact future partnerships. Vaccine diplomacy will become especially important over the next year, as the U.S. expands vaccine access and support to other countries to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Chairman Smith also noted that global arms sales also offer an important means of supporting our allies, can provide leverage to address human rights abuses, and prevent foreign militaries from relying on American adversaries. 
  3. DETERRENCE IS EASIER THAN DOMINANCE. Throughout the program, Chairman Smith asserted that deterrence is a more realistic defense strategy than dominance, as striving for American global military dominance will inevitably lead to investing in the infrastructure to fight wars we would rather avoid. He emphasized that effective deterrence puts diplomacy and development initiatives first and noted that diplomatic and defense efforts should work in tandem, as reflected in Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin’s recent article in The Washington Post.
  4. THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE MUST MODERNIZE U.S. FORCES.In order to prepare for the future of warfare, the Department of Defense must continuously invest in new technologies and modern communications infrastructure rather than pouring money into outdated legacy systems. As cyberattacks and new AI technologies become more prevalent, the U.S. defense apparatus is only as strong as its command-and-control systems, thus they must be built efficiently and effectively withstand attacks. Furthermore, modernizing American forces must include expanding equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives to address historic inequities and build a more diverse military leadership.
  5. ENDING TROOP PRESENCE IN AFGHANISTAN.Chairman Smith addressed the challenges facing ongoing negotiations over U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, asserting that we should withdraw soon for it is not the responsibility of the U.S. to enforce peace and security in unstable countries. While he noted achieving the May 1st troop withdrawal deadline seems unlikely, he argued that the U.S. presence in Afghanistan has been unable to provide a clear solution to instability and rising Taliban authority, achieving only a stalemate over the past twenty years.  

Insights@Meridian is designed to provide ambassadors and other senior diplomats with an intimate opportunity to hear directly from Administration leaders, members of Congress, policymakers and business visionaries on vital policy issues of the day. 

Project summary