Congresswoman Elaine Luria Probes for Answers at House Armed Services Committee Hearing

January 29, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Elaine Luria (VA-02), a 20-year veteran and retired naval commander, today questioned top officials at the first House Armed Services Committee hearing of the 116th Congress. The hearing focused on military support and continuing deployments along America’s southern border.

In a joint statement to the Committee, John Rood, the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and Vice Admiral Michael Gilday, Director of Operations for the Joint Staff, told the Committee that border-stationed troops are designed to “stem the tide” of “illegal immigration, human smuggling, and drug trafficking” along the southern border.

Congresswoman Luria asked Vice Admiral Gilday which of the three is the highest priority for troops currently deployed at the border. Vice Admiral Gilday said they were “all pretty important,” but did not give a direct answer.

Congresswoman Luria turned the focus to illegal drugs, stating that many drugs arrive in America by way of sea and ports of entry. She asked what is being done to stop that flow of drugs.

Vice Admiral Gilday said the Department of Defense is primarily focused on resisting China, North Korea, Russia, and Iran. He added that defense officials have “prioritized our resources in accordance with those priorities” and said that drug trafficking “hasn’t reached” the same level of concern.

“With that racking and stacking of national priorities, [border security] is currently the only one in our discussion that is being potentially envisioned as a national emergency,” Congresswoman Luria said at the hearing. “It doesn’t seem consistent with where we’ve placed it in our order of priority.”

“Today’s testimony illustrates that we haven’t examined every element of border security, including combating the flow of drugs at sea,” Congresswoman Luria said after the hearing. “If what’s happening truly constitutes a national emergency, why aren’t we using the full range of our military capabilities?”

Congresswoman Luria supports an orderly, deliberate, and thorough debate on border security between Congress and the President. She favors a review of evidence-based policies and a congressional vote based on expert testimony and verified data.

A full video of today’s Committee exchange can be found here.