Incumbent House Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Alpine) will face four candidates vying for the new 50th District in the June 5 primary election. They are: Michael Benoit (Libertarian-Lakeside), Connie Frankowiak (D-Julian), Terri Linnell (R-Ramona) and David Secor (D-Crest).
Patch sent all candidates a set of questions. Here are their answers, presented in order of the incumbent first, then in alphabetical order by surname. We were unable to make contact with Frankowiak. Benoit provided one answer to all the questions and it is presented under Question 2.
Patch: Automatic cuts in defense spending could begin in January if certain budgetary targets aren't met, part of agreements between the president and congressional leaders last year that averted a government shutdown.
The House recently passed a $642 billion National Defense Authorization Act that was $8 billion over the agreed amount. After it passed, Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, released a statement expressing concerns over how the gap will be bridged.
“While a number of decisions were made to restore cuts from the president’s budget, we will need to resolve this difference at some point,” Davis said. “This means that programs will need to be cut.
What do you think are the key military spending priorities at this time?
Hunter: A constitutionally obligated duty of Congress is to provide for the common defense—incorporating national security at home and abroad. There are a multitude of priorities within the annual defense budget, from equipping our military as it continues operations in Afghanistan to researching and developing new technology. These priorities, among others, present their own strategic value that is as much of an investment in security today as they are an investment in the nation’s future.
With the President’s shift in defense strategy to the Pacific, the size and capability of the Navy is increasingly more important. The Navy is undersized, and its procurement process is problematic. This is one area where investment and reform must be a priority. Also, in Afghanistan now, and sure to be part of any future campaign, roadside bombs are the single greatest threat to troop safety. So advancing counter-roadside bomb technology and tactics, especially through lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan is critical. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are also part of the solution, providing persistent surveillance and mission support—and a major benefit to San Diego is that some of these platforms are made right in our backyard. And looking towards Iran and North Korea, the importance of missile defense cannot be understated either.
Linnell: We must have efficient spending. To deny us a right to bid on base jobs is to deny us our right to work. We must open up bidding on these jobs. There
are tons of contractors who are able to do a high quality job for less money, so there's no reason why we should be telling these contractors they can't enter the bidding process. This will close the 8 Billion dollar gap in question, and increase the jobs in San Diego and across the nation.
We also need to stop using earmarks to dole out taxpayer money to a Congressman's favored defense contractors in order to get donations. It's important we let the natural process of our Congressional committees, the Pentagon, and our military procurement procedures lead the way. To use earmarks to bypass these procedures is inappropriate. One of my top priorities is passing an amendment, which will fix things now and speak to the future, stating 'Lobbying with Money is Bribery'.
Secor: The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey has said “capability is more important than size.” The adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated that large military invasion and subsequent occupation has no place in 21st Century military strategy. The greatest threats come not from military attack from nation-states, but from individuals and terrorist organizations under no flag.
Therefore, counter-terrorism systems, cyber operations and an increase in the number of Special Operations Forces (coinciding with overall reductions in land forces) are top priorities. Cyber-threats, whether from competing nations, terrorist organizations foreign or domestic, or individuals bent on crippling our defenses or critical infrastructure are capable of doing enormous damage without the need for a single soldier on the ground. Our recent success in destroying Iran’s nuclear centrifuges with a computer virus shows the potential harm we could face if we were on the receiving end of such attacks. Our electrical grid, computer systems, nuclear facilities and military capabilities, must be protected. With regard to military actions, the killing of Bin Laden, recent drone strikes against terrorists in Yemen and elsewhere, information-gathering and our infiltration of terrorist organizations are examples of asymmetrical warfare that is today’s reality. As in the original Afghanistan invasion of 2001 and the killing of Bin Laden, Special Ops Forces are essential for quick surgical strikes that produce maximum results. Our ships, aircraft and land weapons systems must be ready to support a long-term strategic posture.
At the same time, anything that does not add value to our security must be cut ruthlessly. Unlike some, I do not equate fat with muscle. We do need to shrink our military footprint (700 bases in 130 countries), but not as much as Ron Paul suggests. We must continue to maintain a presence where terrorist groups’ threats remain great, but that would not require a large ground force.
Patch: Should the United States be cutting back its military spending in 2013?
Hunter: We need to cut spending wherever we can. And while there are plenty of places where we can find efficiency in any budget, including defense, the fact that the defense budget is now slated for $1 trillion in cuts over the next decade presents significant risk amid emerging adversarial and global tension. Not only is there the threat of terrorism, originating in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, there is a legitimate threat of aggression from Iran and North Korea. China is also militarizing faster than any other nation, standing in direct contrast to the U.S., which is cutting back on defense spending and in the process losing defense manufacturing capability and jobs to Asia. We are at a critical juncture, and arbitrarily cutting defense spending puts us in a dangerous position and sends a message that we are underestimating our adversaries.
Benoit: We can cut defense spending wisely – and be safer at home.
Most Americans know we have to cut government spending, but how to do that is a difficult question. Some say we can’t cut any military spending, but is that true? Most ex service men and women I know say there is more than ten percent waste in that budget.
Let’s start with the fundamentals. We must keep our citizens safe from external attacks. And we must have a military that fits the purpose of the USA.
To protect our safety, the military should have the most advanced and effective weapons, and we should fund the research to maintain leadership and the information technology to deploy weapons and personnel most effectively. I will support those primary considerations and never place financial constraints on this legitimate role of the military. Of course, we can work harder to cut out the 10% waste. But we must not fail in our basic mission.
But, too often, our politicians go too far beyond the mission. They involve us in fighting wars that we shouldn’t fight, in tasks that we shouldn’t take on (like so-called “nation building”), and over-extended involvement in situations where we should be exiting, not digging in.
I will propose to get our military out of the foreign countries we shouldn’t be in, and support bringing military personnel home. I will also propose providing them with all the medical support and job training we can give to make them productive workers and consumers in our domestic economy.
We can safely adopt a military budget that sustains U.S. global leadership in military technology and capability, but also begins to re-size ground forces; slows the growth of compensation and benefit programs; continues to make better use of defense resources by reducing lower-priority programs, cuts out waste, and simplifies the defense organization to achieve more efficient approaches to doing business.
Using this kind of a budget approach, we can help the military to adapt in order to better address the new kind of security environment we find ourselves in.
After WW2, ten million GI's found work and we finally got out of the depression. If we were to bring all our troops home today, enabling them to spend their money here, then that would boost the economy at home. We are better off defending our own borders from within than fighting unnecessary wars on foreign soil.
Linnell: Yes, and it can be done without decreasing our ability to defend ourselves.
Secor: Yes. President Eisenhower warned us about the growth of the military/industrial complex. Ike also said, ”Every dollar uselessly spent on military mechanisms weakens our defense and, therefore, our security.” It’s not by chance that DOD has operations in every Congressional district in the country. And our very own District 50 has become ‘‘office space” for Pentagon contractors from across the nation. Mr. Hunter works for them, not the district. It’s a simple circular scam that works for both. Contractors get taxpayer money to fund their programs, many of which are unnecessary, very low priority, and even unwanted by the military! Part of that taxpayer money goes back to Hunter in the form of large campaign contributions from the contractors, Hunter uses that $750,000 campaign fund (that is still the original taxpayer money) to get re- elected. Then goes to back to work sucking ever more funds from our Treasury to further enrich the contractors (and their investors). The vicious cycle continues. It’s so out of control DOD has no idea how many contractors there are or what they are doing.
Fact: Pentagon contractors now have enough office space in D.C. and surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs to make three additional Pentagons! And seven of the 10 richest counties in America surround Washington, D.C. No coincidence. Just follow the money.
Congress agreed last year to the Budget Control Act, yet immediately violates it by tacking on an additional $8 billion to this year’s military budget ($642 billion). We’re headed for gridlock over this. Again.
An example of money-greased politicians demanding precious funds for senseless projects: The 2013 budget calls for $74 million to upgrade the M1A2 Abrams tank. But, as they did last year, the House added an additional $181 million to the program. The Senate added $91 million for 33 new tanks. Army Chief of staff Gen. Ray Odierno said, “We don’t need the tanks. Our tank fleet is 2 1⁄2 years old on average now. It’s been recapped, it’s been reset, we’re in good shape, and these are additional tanks that we don’t need.”
Time and space will not allow me to go on. You know it’s true. This is not an isolated example. It’s the cockroach principle. There is never just one cockroach.
Winston Churchill once said, “Gentlemen, we are out of money. Now we’ll have to think.” Unbelievably, that message has still not reached the House of Representatives.
Mr. Hunter and all in Congress who take precious funds for unwarranted pet military pork projects (see funds kept for Air National Guard while funds are cut for “Meals on Wheels”) in a time of Depression, are anything but patriots. They are weakening our defense and therefore, our security. They should put away the phony patriot mask. Just put on the stocking mask and pass the note to the clerk behind the counter.
Patch: Why should (or shouldn't) the U.S. cut back military spending at this time?
Hunter: In addition to the points above, there’s another important point to be made about defense spending. Critics often cite investment in national defense as the source of our fiscal woes. It’s not. National defense amounts to less than 20 percent of the federal budget—that’s less than one fifth of the budget for the primary constitutional duty of the federal government. And right now, we spend less than 4 percent of Gross Domestic Product on defense. It has been much higher throughout history, from President Kennedy to President Reagan. And while we must balance defense spending in the context of existing and emerging threats, there’s no question that we are moving in the wrong direction through disproportionate security budget cuts.
Linnell: We should be more efficient, so I believe we can streamline things to keep our defense high, without spending as much money, such as I answered in
question #1. We also really need to require Declaring War. If we had declared war in Iraq it would have been over years ago, when the 'king' was captured, and definitely when he was executed. If we had declared war in Afghanistan, we would not be defending a government put in place by Al Qaeda. Without a clear declaration of war, there is no clear definition to when the war is over and it continues on even against our own best interests.
Patch: Do you see the growing presence of the People’s Republic of China in the Pacific as a credible threat to U.S. national security and strategic interests in that region? If so, what should the United States be doing about it at this time?
Hunter: Absolutely, but it’s not just the direct military threat causing concern. There is now the threat of cyber warfare—a position of strength for China. It is also a fact that China is acquiring technological capability and resources originating far outside its borders, and much of the research and development that occurred in the U.S. for decades has moved offshore, to China’s benefit. One way we can show strength is through a solid and reliable manufacturing base. We also send a signal of strength by adequately investing in research and new technology on all fronts.
Linnell: Absolutely we need to be vigilant. We should be keeping our ear to the
ground and stand watchful, use special ops and covert operations only as
absolutely necessary, along with the diplomatic processes until war is
declared by Congress. This provides the highest defense and insures foreign
relations are properly balanced.
Secor: We are shifting our focus to Asia, as we should. The introduction of new facilities and assets in Australia and the Asian region are needed to protect our interests and those of our allies. At the same time, the Chinese military, though huge in numbers, is in no position, and has no capacity to attack the U.S. or its allies without receiving an immediate and massive retaliatory blow from which they could not recover. Actually, its military will be needed to control its own people as its economy slows.
The Chinese know that the “war” with the U.S. will be a cyber-war and an economic battle for supremacy. Those are the two spaces they could win. That’s why, though we have 11 carriers, the Chinese have only one. They bought it from the Russians. It doesn’t work very well.
We still spend nine times what the Chinese do on defense. The Chinese spend six times what we do on infrastructure. One of us knows something, and I don’t think it’s us. China depends on FoxNews and other fear-driving warmongers and profiteers to gin up the Chinese threat and encourage more wasteful spending. They aid and abet the Chinese by overplaying the conventional 1950’s-style military threat, while ignoring the real threats – which are economic and financial. China’s currency manipulation and unfair trade practices (aided by multi-national companies that call the U.S. home), hurt our security more than that aircraft carrier ever will.
It is cybersecurity and trade policy that are paramount. As to our debt to the Chinese, while it must be reduced, they could not call in the I.O.U.’s without bringing down their own economy. On the ground, they are more concerned about Russia and India than a military conflict with America.
Patch: How should the United States prioritize any potential threat from China with other areas of concern such as Iran and North Korea?
Hunter: Each is unique, while all present an equally serious threat to U.S. and global security. North Korea is no less of a threat than Iran to stability in their respective regions. China, with the benefit of a strong economy, creates regional and global instability of its own—and China remains on the military fast track with the help of unbalanced trade practices.
Linnell: Through diplomacy, combined with standing watchful and keeping our ear to the ground. I will not hesitate to declare war if the time comes, but we
shouldn't be interfering overmuch until such a time is forced upon us. This
is the thinking which grew our country to being a world power, and it is the
thinking that best reflects our American values. As Washington stated in his
farewell address, 'we must act for ourselves and not for others'. This is
the policy we need in both foreign relations for war and for commerce. We
must put ourselves first, and not have trade deficits, not ship our jobs
away, and not interfere in other country's politics. Our interference could
result in unneeded wars, or in failing to let another country go to war in
time for them to successfully defend themselves.
Secor: As to Iran – China is the only major player left in the Iranian oil patch, as rising Chinese demand requires as much oil as it can get from any and all sources around the world. China has also been a major stumbling block to worldwide demand that Iran not acquire nuclear weapons. The U.S. and other developed nations must continue to work together, to continue sanctions that are destroying the Iranian economy, and simultaneously press negotiations with China, emphasizing that a nuclear Iran would mean a nuclear Saudi Arabia, and further destabilization of the entire region which is always just a misstep away from war. And that’s in no one’s best interest, not even the Chinese.
As to North Korea – China, in supporting and enabling North Korea’s maniacal activities, weakens its position in world affairs, and at the same time strengthens the relationships we have with other Asian nations who regard China as their major threat. China is very worried that a North Korean collapse could mean a deluge of North Korean refugees into China. It knows it must continue to support its crazy neighbor. It’s like having a wolf by the ears – you don’t like it, but you don’t dare let go. Close and constant contact with China regarding North Korea is essential, so any aggressive act by the North Koreans does not set off a regional conflict.
In both Iran and North Korea, any local military actions of scale could escalate rapidly to a conflagration. Who would have thought in 1914, that some kid shooting Austrian Archduke Ferdinand while he was visiting Sarajevo would quickly bring on WWI and millions of dead. We must not simply focus on a particular country and how its particular actions we find unacceptable or whose leader we call a tyrant. We must always consider the entire region in forming our negotiating positions and military strategies. Ever-increasing sanctions and
tough, unified negotiations are the way forward with both North Korea and Iran. Bombing either nation would be an act of war, and once wars start, and once they spread...Well, whatever your original “good intentions” were, they soon become lost. And after Iraq and Afghanistan we all should know with what the road to hell is paved.
Patch: What is the single biggest action that you plan to take (if elected) to help put more people into jobs within the new 50th district?
Hunter: Economic recovery and job creation is the biggest issue facing families and communities across the country—not just San Diego. Of course, California has its own challenges at the state level, including an uninviting business environment, burdensome regulatory structure and high tax rates. But at the federal level, promoting job growth starts with small businesses—the backbone of our economy. They need less interference from the federal government, and more flexibility to invest in the resources they need. Health care costs and regulatory requirements are just some of the issues impeding job creation and, until we make it easier and more efficient for businesses to operate, job growth will remain slow. I’ve also introduced legislation (H.R. 881) to limit lawsuit abuse that puts restrictive costs on many small businesses. And I believe that we must restore certainty by cutting spending and ensuring tax rates remain low for job creators and entrepreneurs, giving them confidence to invest and grow.
Linnell: Stabilizing our currency and banking system must be done in order to
decrease inflation. We must re-regulate the banks through either reinstating
the Glass-Steagal Act or repealing the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 to put
an instant patch on the system until a full Audit of the Federal Bank is
completed. A partial audit turned up a 16 trillion dollar gap. Once the full
Audit is completed, we will have a much better definition of the problem.
Then we will have the ability to appropriately roll up our sleeves and find
a permanent, long term solution. Our companies are not hiring because they
lack faith in the economy, so we must put the economy as a high priority to
get the businesses to hire. Another important thing would be to tax foreign
businesses who use unfair business practices such as slave or child labor,
or currency manipulation. We must do things to help our businesses have a
level playing field.
Secor: Austerity measures will never create jobs. They never have, and they never will. The House of Representatives has rejected all jobs bills, even if paid for. They reason that if unemployment remains high it may keep the President from being re-elected. Mr. Hunter, who said in 2010 that jobs was his #1 priority, has joined this club which has cost many thousands of families jobs, and their homes, simply for some unlikely political gain. Our representative will have another opportunity to demonstrate his concern for the unemployed and underemployed when the new transportation bill is addressed in the House. It would provide millions of jobs rebuilding America’s infrastructure across the nation and many thousands here for workers in our district. It’s clear Mr. Hunter will vote “No,” again. As he always does.
I will work tirelessly to rebuild America. Only the federal government can fund rebuilding of our infrastructure on a large scale. The states are broke. Remember, Eisenhower and Congress, in 1956, brought us the Interstate Highway System – 90 percent of which was federally funded. Construction workers, contractors, and suppliers are chomping at the bit to start on the thousands of jobs that will come to District 50 workers. In addition, federal subsidies for residential solar will mean both jobs and less reliance on SDG&E.
We must invest in our community colleges to create specific training programs (in cooperation with businesses and industries) that will train and certify students for needed trades, leading to good-paying jobs in a resurgent middle class.
By making “Rebuild America” our top priority, with good paying jobs in the U.S.A., rehiring teachers, firefighters and law enforcement, and training students and veterans in our community colleges, the paychecks they receive will bring sorely needed demand to our small businesses. They can expand and hire, and the great economic machine that is America can finally begin to rev up and roar once again.
Patch: What is the single biggest action that you plan to take (if elected) to help people hold onto their homes in the new 50th District?
Hunter: Minimizing the accumulation of foreclosures translates into a direct benefit for the entire economy. One way to help facilitate this process is by establishing guidelines for Fannie and Freddie loans that place a reasonable barrier before foreclosure. In this regard, I have co-sponsored H.R. 1498, which expedites the short sale process to 45 days, providing homeowners and the marketplace more certainty.
The federal government can also limit foreclosures by leveraging the free market, rather than increasing federal bailout programs that have proven to be failures. We can scale back burdensome regulations that limit capital lending and hinder the ability of qualified homebuyers to obtain affordable mortgages. These reforms may in large part be accomplished by adjusting restrictions on lending, scaling back the bureaucracy created by Dodd-Frank and preventing rule-making by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that would harm access to affordable mortgages.
Linnell: Banks are our duty as Congressmen to deal with, under Section 8 of the Constitution, to 'regulate the value of our money'. By delegating that duty
to the executive branch, we have neglected to stop the severe inflation of
the housing bubble. I would require the banks prove they have clear
ownership of the mortgage before they foreclose. The Investor should be
doing the foreclosing, but currently it is being done by the Mortgage
Service Provider, who does not have a vested interest in the transaction.
This change would significantly help over 65 percent of the families being
foreclosed upon. The Investor would naturally be more willing than the
Service Provider to work with the families, especially since the homes are
underwater and are worth less than their loans. Vacant, those home lose even
more value. By requiring Investors to do the foreclosing, there will be less
foreclosures. This will stabilize the housing market and stop the slide of
our home values.
Secor: It was we taxpayers that bailed out Wells Fargo, BofA, Chase, and the other financial institutions. They have returned the favor by destroying the lives of millions who saved them. Justice demands action. As a condition of not putting them in jail where they belong, we will demand that these institutions immediately negotiate with underwater homeowners.
First, stop all foreclosures in progress if owners can show “bad faith” negotiations with their banks. Then, two paths are possible. Banks must restructure loans to today’s loan rates (approximately 4 percent). They must reduce the principal on these homes to a reasonable figure, no more than 30 percent above current market value. The banks’ executives and shareholders will be required to absorb the losses.
In reducing these suffocating house payments, huge amounts of families’ money now needed for the mortgage will be freed up to spend on goods and services in our district. That means more business!
Prices for all homeowners will rise as the homes now under water, or sitting empty, or facing foreclosure, are saved.
Investigations done by the FBI have concluded that 80 percent of the fraud committed during the housing bubble was committed by the banks, not buyers. Since we must restore the housing market to get this economy moving, we’ve got to get going asap. If the banksters do not fully cooperate, they will go to prison (where they most certainly belong).