Issues: National Security
As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and an ex officio member of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Levin plays a key leadership role on national security issues, including military operations; defense strategy and budgets; support for our servicemembers and their families; military and civilian nominations; and the activities of the nation’s intelligence agencies. His work to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in defense contracting and to reform the defense acquisition process has earned bipartisan praise.
Iraq & Afghanistan
Carl Levin supports President Obama’s plan to draw down U.S. military forces in Iraq, and to focus personnel and resources on Afghanistan. He believes that the President has established a workable timetable for redeploying most of our combat forces out of Iraq by August of 2010. Under the plan backed by the President and by Senator Levin, some of those troops will be redeployed to Afghanistan to help that nation achieve security and prosperity.
President Obama has called Afghanistan the “central front in America’s war on terrorism.” The 9/11 hijackers planned their attacks and conducted their training on Afghan soil. Senator Levin agrees with President Obama that we must ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe-haven for al Qaeda or Taliban extremists, while giving Afghans as large a leadership role as possible to combat the perception that we seek to occupy the country. Senator Levin has supported the Obama administration’s plan to accelerate expansion of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police, which are critical steps to achieving long-term stability.
Senator Levin knows that assisting with the development of Afghanistan’s economy and civil society is crucial to the United States’ interests. He has backed efforts to send additional civilian personnel to assist provincial reconstruction teams throughout the country.
Finally, Senator Levin agrees with the President that we must establish clear, measurable benchmarks for progress in Afghanistan. These benchmarks should be used to measure our success and, if necessary, guide any corrections to our strategy in the region.
Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody
Senator Levin believes that the United States must acknowledge and confront the abuse of detainees in American custody. This is important for the safety of our troops abroad, for our own security, and to continue to restore the United States’ position as a moral leader in the world community.
In April 2009, the Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Senator Levin, published a declassified version of its comprehensive, bipartisan report on the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody under the previous administration.
This report demonstrated undeniably that claims that detainee abuse was merely caused by “a few bad apples” were false. The report showed that the highest-level civilian leaders within the Bush administration created the legal framework for and authorized the use of abusive interrogation techniques.
These findings were reinforced by the Obama administration’s release of four memos regarding treatment of detainees drafted by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) during the previous administration. Those memos provided disturbing details about the CIA’s interrogation efforts and once again demonstrated that Bush administration officials at the most senior levels authorized these abusive techniques.
Documents like the Armed Services Committee report and the OLC memos are essential to understanding how and why these detainee abuses occurred.
Senator Levin has urged Attorney General Holder to select a distinguished nonpartisan panel of public servants, former federal judges for example, to examine all the evidence and to determine if any additional steps should be taken in order to hold high-level government officials and lawyers accountable for their actions.
Senator Levin believes that such a careful, apolitical examination of the facts is essential to reclaiming the United States’ moral standing in the world.
Russia & Missile Defense
The opportunity posed by mutual cooperation between Russia and the United States is immense. Senator Levin has said it could be a “geopolitical game changer.” It’s an opportunity he believes we must capitalize upon. In fact, there are some issues where our interests are so intertwined that we simply cannot solve them without Russia’s help. Addressing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is the most obvious and most dangerous of these common challenges.
Senator Levin also believes that, after years of conflict over the issue, missile defense can help bring about positive change in our countries’ relationship.
In particular, cooperation between the United States and Russia on missile defense would be a strong deterrent to Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons. For the first time, Iran would face unified opposition to its weapons program. Our cooperation would curtail Iran’s growing power in the Middle East - and with that reduce the country’s ability to harm its neighbors or even harm Americans.
Former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev has said that a nuclear-armed Iran threatens Russia more than it does the United States. Senator Levin believes that the security interests of both nations would be very well served by mutual cooperation to address Iran’s weapons program.
The Russians have already offered to share with us early warning data from their Gabala radar station in Azerbaijan. Senator Levin believes this data would be a useful supplement to the United States’ own radar systems. Additionally, the Senator strongly favors restarting talks aimed at establishing a Joint Data Exchange Center in Moscow.
Department of Defense Acquisition Reform
In 2009, Senator Levin joined Senator John McCain to introduce the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act. This followed a report by the General Accountability Office (GAO) that the Department of Defense’s 95 largest acquisition programs are an average of two years behind schedule, and have exceeded their budgets by almost $300 billion.
Senator Levin believes this is simply unacceptable. It does a great disservice to taxpayers and to our Armed Services. His bill, which was approved by the Congress and signed into law by the President in May, 2009, will ensure that defense acquisition programs are better managed to avoid cost overruns, delays and performance problems.
For example, the legislation establishes a new, independent director of cost assessment within the Department of Defense to ensure that reliable, unbiased data is made available to project managers. Additionally, the bill strengthens current rules to reign in costly modifications to ongoing acquisition programs.