James Webb on Homeland Security

Democratic Sr Senator


I wrote and passed the post-9-11 G.I. Bill

In the senate, I spoke about economic fairness and social justice from day one. I also wrote and passed the best piece of veterans education legislation in history, the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill.

I came up as a committee counsel in the Congress, used to put dozens of bills through the House floor every year as a committee counsel on the Veterans Committee.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

Destroy government records of personal info after some time

Q: What about Edward Snowden?

A: I would leave his judgment to the legal system. We have a serious problem in terms of the collection of personal information in this country. One of the things I did was co-introduce two amendments saying, "We understand the realities of how you have to collect this broad information in the Internet age, but after a certain period, you need to destroy the personal information that you have if criminal justice proceedings have not been brought against them."

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

I opened up more billets to Navy women than anyone

Q: in 1979 you famously wrote "Women Can't Fight" and you drew upon your experience as a combat veteran. Are you going to take all of that back?

A: If you look at my record as a government official, when I was secretary of the Navy, I opened up more billets to women than any secretary of the Navy in history. And I am totally comfortable now with the military being able to make these decisions in a way that it goes to performance and I am very proud to see these two women who are West Point graduates. And the military should be able to decide how they will be used.

Source: CNN SOTU 2015 interview series: 2016 presidential hopefuls , Aug 23, 2015

President should consult Congress about POW exchanges

Q: Sergeant Bergdahl--a US soldier held by the Taliban's Haqqani network for five years--has been brought home--in an exchange for five prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. What do you think of it?

WEBB: Obviously everyone should be happy that our soldier is out of harm's way. But about the exercise of presidential authority: When the President, on his own initiative, without coming to the congress--

Q: You see questions about an overreach of administration that did not seek out congress?

WEBB: That's what I'm saying. We're going to have to see a much more vigorous discussion from the Congress on presidential authority. What we've seen in the past is that Republicans don't particularly want this discussion because they're more aggressive in terms of this use of force in that part of the world. The Democrats don't want it because they don't want to be disloyal to the presidency, but we have to have that discussion.

Source: CNN SOTU 2014 interview series: 2016 presidential hopefuls , Jun 1, 2014

No draft; 5% tax break to recruit soldiers

Q: Would you vote to reinstate the draft?

WEBB: I don’t believe that right now this country needs a draft. I’ve proposed a 5% tax break for all people who serve honorably in the military.

Q: How much would that cost?

WEBB: If you go to the typical income of a veteran, it’s about $30-something-thousand, so it’s not a high-cost program. And it’s targeted to people who’ve served. And one of the things that that would do is to bring more people from across class lines into the military.

Source: VA Senate debate on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, p. 7 , Sep 17, 2006

Continue terrorist interrogations within Geneva Accord rules

Q: How would you vote on the Warner-McCain-Graham bill about interrogating enemy combatants? Colin Powell said, “The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism.” To redefine Article 3 of the Geneva Convention “would add to those doubts.”

WEBB: I’m with Senator Warner on this, and I think in terms of what Colin Powell is saying, that’s a very important piece of how we deal long-term with the Islamic world particularly, that we have to stay on the moral high ground.

Q: But you would not end interrogation?

WEBB: No. Obviously we have to protect ourselves, and we have to be able to get information out. But if you abrogate the standards of the Geneva Accords, you give other nations who have less fair standards than ours the moral justification to do that. We saw that during the Vietnam War when the North Vietnamese refused to call our prisoners of war “prisoners of war.” They simply called them war criminals, and they didn’t respect the Geneva Accords.

Source: VA Senate debate on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, p.12 , Sep 17, 2006

Wrote “Women Can’t Fight” in ‘79; now OK with military women

Q: An article you wrote in 1979 was headlined: “Women Can’t Fight.” You write:
“No benefit can come to anyone from women serving in combat. I have never met a woman, including the dozens of female midshipmen I encountered during my recent semester as a professor at the Naval Academy, whom I would trust to provide those men with combat leadership.”
Was the content of that article wrong?

WEBB: This article was written from the perspective of a Marine company commander, and was way too narrowly based.

Q: But was it wrong?

WEBB: I don’t think it was wrong to participate in the debate at that time. It’s been 27 years, and I am fully comfortable with the roles of women in the military today. When I was secretary of the Navy, I opened up more operational billets to women than any other secretary of the Navy in history.

Q: Bottom line, do you now believe that women can, in fact, provide men with combat leadership?

WEBB: Absolutely.

Source: VA Senate debate on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, p.14 , Sep 17, 2006

Decisions about women in military should be made militarily

Q: When you say “Being in the Naval Academy is a horny woman’s dream,” [in an article in 1979 headlined “Women Can’t Fight”], you regret that?

WEBB: Well, I do regret that. There’s many pieces in this article that if I were a more mature individual, I wouldn’t have written, as I’ve tried to show by my conduct when I had positions in government.

You followed up with an article in 1997, [entitled] “The War on the Military Culture.” You write:

“Political and military leaders must have the courage to ask clearly in what areas our current policies toward women in the military are hurting, rather than helping, the task of defending the US.“
Where are our current policies towards women hurting the defense of the US?

WEBB: I was pointing out in that article where the political process interferes with the military being able to make its own decision on those matters. And one of the things that I did when I was secretary of the Navy was I turned this over to the military side.

Source: VA Senate debate on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, p.15 , Sep 17, 2006

Supports don’t ask, don’t tell rule for military

Q: Do you like the don’t ask, don’t tell rule or do you think it is stupid?

WEBB: I support the don’t ask, don’t tell rule. I think that the military is a different environment. It’s one where we’ve always had gays in the military, we always will.

Q: So you should keep your orientation to yourself if it is homosexual?

WEBB: At this point, yes. I just think it’s a practicality issue.

Q: Mr. Miller, should we keep don’t ask, don’t tell?

MILLER: No, it needs to be modified. It is costing us $200 million or more a year, it’s costing us the ability to recruit and retain very capable people. We need to come up with a more practical way.

Q: Do you think people should be able to be openly gay in the military?


Source: Virginia 2006 Democratic Senate Primary debate , Jun 9, 2006

Quit Reagan administration protesting cuts to Navy budget

Webb worked on veteran’s issues on Capitol Hill, taught literature at the US Naval Academy, and wrote 6 best-selling novels and the story for the movie “Rules of Engagement.” In 1987, Pres. Reagan tapped him to serve as Navy secretary. He quit a year later in opposition to Navy budget cuts. Webb largely remained in the Republican fold until the war with Iraq and research for a book prompted soul searching.
Source: Jeanne Cummings, Wall Street Journal, p. A6 , Jun 8, 2006

Republicans are illegally wiretapping Americans

Look at [the Republican Senate’s] rhetoric about “individual liberty,” when they are illegally wiretapping Americans as part of a domestic spying program. When I am elected to the Senate, I’ll remember that my duty is to you, the people; I’ll honor our nation and our fighting men and women; and above all, put the country ahead of political gains and political ambitions. We have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of cleaning up to do.
Source: Campaign announcement speech , Apr 28, 2006

Added soldiers’ statue to Vietnam Memorial

James Webb was responsible for lobbying the U.S. government to place the statue of the three soldiers at the Vietnam Memorial. Additionally, Webb was the one who argued for inclusion of a black soldier in the statue.
Source: Draft Webb website, www.draftjameswebb.com , Jan 3, 2006

Voted YES on extending the PATRIOT Act's roving wiretaps.

Congressional Summary: A bill to extend expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 and Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 relating to access to business records, individual terrorists as agents of foreign powers, and roving wiretaps until December 8, 2011.

Proponent's Argument for voting Yes:
[Rep. Smith, R-TX]: America is safe today not because terrorists and spies have given up their goal to destroy our freedoms and our way of life. We are safe today because the men and women of our Armed Forces, our intelligence community, and our law enforcement agencies work every single day to protect us. And Congress must ensure that they are equipped with the resources they need to counteract continuing terrorist threats. On Feb. 28, three important provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act will expire. These provisions give investigators in national security cases the authority to conduct "roving" wiretaps, to seek certain business records, and to gather intelligence on lone terrorists who are not affiliated with a known terrorist group. The Patriot Act works. It has proved effective in preventing terrorist attacks and protecting Americans. To let these provisions expire would leave every American less safe.

Opponent's Argument for voting No:
[Rep. Conyers, D-MI]: Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows a secret FISA court to authorize our government to collect business records or anything else, requiring that a person or business produce virtually any type record. We didn't think that that was right then. We don't think it's right now. This provision is contrary to traditional notions of search and seizure which require the government to show reasonable suspicion or probable cause before undertaking an investigation that infringes upon a person's privacy. And so I urge a "no" vote on the extension of these expiring provisions.
Status: Passed 86-12

Reference: FISA Sunsets Extension Act; Bill H.514 ; vote number 11-SV019 on Feb 17, 2011

Voted NO on cutting $221M in benefits to Filipinos who served in WWII US Army.

Opponents argument for voting NAY:Sen. INOUYE. From the Spanish-American War in 1898, until the end of World War II, we exercised jurisdiction over the Philippines like a colonial power. In July 1941, we called upon the Filipinos to volunteer to serve the US under American command, and 470,000 Filipinos volunteered. An Executive Order in 1941 promised Filipinos if they fought for us, they could become citizens of the US and get all of the veterans' benefits. But in 1946, the Congress rescinded the 1941 act. Well, this veterans bill has a provision in it--a provision of honor--in which, finally, after six decades, we will restore our honor and tell the Filipinos: It is late, but please forgive us. Proponents argument for voting YEA:Sen. BURR. This bill is so much more than just a pension for Philippine veterans. It is $332 million in Philippine benefits, of which $221 million is devoted to a new special pension that does not exist [previously. Only that $221M would be cut]. Regardless of the outcome of my amendment, I support final passage of this bill. But we do have a difference as it relates to the pensions. I believe that there was not a promise made. We did not imply it. Those who made the decision on the 1946 Rescissions Act, they looked at the history very well.

Sen. CORNYN. The problem I have with this bill is that the US Treasury is not bottomless, and the funding that is being provided to create this new pension would literally be at the expense of US veterans. The $221 million that is addressed by Sen. Burr's amendment would actually go back in to supplement benefits for US veterans. And while we appreciate and honor all of our allies who fought alongside of us in WWII, certainly that doesn't mean we are going to grant pension benefits to all of our allies, [like] the British or the Australians. Vote for the Burr Amendment because certainly our American veterans should be our priority.

Reference: Burr Amendment; Bill S.Amdt. 4572 to S. 1315 ; vote number 2008-111 on Apr 24, 2008

Voted YES on requiring FISA court warrant to monitor US-to-foreign calls.

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. FEINGOLD: The Protect America Act (PAA) we passed last year was sold repeatedly as a way to allow the Government to collect foreign-to-foreign communications without needing the approval of the FISA Court. Now, this is something all of us support, every one of us. But the PAA actually went much further. It authorized new sweeping intrusions into the privacy of countless Americans. The bill the Senate is considering to replace the PAA does not do nearly enough to safeguard against Government abuse. So this amendment would provide those safeguards.

[The PAA allows] acquiring all the calls and e-mails between employees of a US company and a foreign company, with no requirement to get a warrant and no requirement that there be some link to terrorism. So any American who works at a company that does business overseas should think about that.

OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO: Sen. BOND: The purpose of this bill is, and always has been, to enable the intelligence community to act to target foreign terrorists and spies overseas.

The amendment, as it is drafted, will have a totally unexpected impact. It is difficult to explain, in an unclassified session, why this amendment is unworkable. There are only certain communications which the intelligence community is lawfully permitted to acquire, and which it has any desire to acquire, because to acquire all the communications from all foreigners is an absolutely impossible task.

I cannot describe in a public setting how they go about ascertaining which collections are important. But to say that if Osama bin Laden calls somebody in the US, we cannot listen in to that communication, unless we have an independent means of verifying it has some impact or a terrorist threat--That is the most important communication we need to intercept.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment Rejected, 38-57

Reference: Amendment to Protect America Act; Bill S.Amdt.3913 to S.2248 ; vote number 08-S012 on Feb 7, 2008

Voted YES on removing need for FISA warrant for wiretapping abroad.

Vote on passage of S.1927, the Protect America Act: Amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to state that nothing under its definition of "electronic surveillance" should encompass surveillance directed at any person reasonably believed to be located outside the US.

A modified version, S.2011, failed; it called for amending FISA to provide that a court order is not required for the electronic surveillance of communication between foreign persons who are not located within the US for collecting foreign intelligence information, without respect to whether the communication passes through the US or the surveillance device is located within the US.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. LEVIN: Both bills cure the problem that exists: Our intelligence agencies must obtain a court order to monitor the communications of foreigners suspected of terrorist activities who are physically located in foreign countries. Now, what are the major differences? Our bill (S2011) is limited to foreign targets limited overseas, unlike the Bond bill (S1927), which does not have that key limitation and which very clearly applies to US citizens overseas. Our bill does not. Now, if there is an incidental access to US citizens, we obviously will permit that. But the Bond bill goes beyond that, citing "any person." It does not say a "foreign person." We avoid getting to the communications of Americans. There you have to go for a warrant.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. LIEBERMAN: I will vote for the Bond proposal (S1927) because we are at war, & there is increased terrorist activity. We have a crisis. This proposal will allow us to gather intelligence information on that enemy we otherwise would not gather. This is not the time for striving for legislative perfection. Let us not strive for perfection. Let us put national security first. We are going to have 6 months to reason together to find something better.

Reference: Protect America Act; Bill S.1927 ; vote number 2007-309 on Aug 3, 2007

Voted YES on limiting soldiers' deployment to 12 months.

Vote on an amendment, SA2032, which amends HR1585, the Defense Authorization bill: To limit the deployment of a unit or individual of the Armed Forces for Operation Iraqi Freedom to no more than 12 consecutive months; and to limit Marine Corps deployment to no more than 7 consecutive months; except in time of national emergency.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. HAGEL: The war in Iraq has pushed the US Army to the breaking point. When we deploy our military, we have an obligation to ensure that our troops are rested, ready, prepared, fully trained, and fully equipped. Today's Armed Forces are being deployed repeatedly for increasing periods of time. This is quickly wearing down the troops and their families, impacting the mental and physical health of our troops. Further, these deployments are affecting the recruiting and retention rates of the military. For example, the Army reached only a little over 80% of its recruiting goal for June. This is the second month in a row that the Army has failed to recruit the number of new soldiers needed to fill the ranks. And this is with $1 billion in large cash bonus incentives.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. KYL: Time in theater and dwell times should be a goal, rather than an absolute fixed requirement that becomes the policy of the US military determined by congressional action. By mandating a certain policy for deployment time or dwell time, the Congress is engaged in the most explicit micromanaging of what is obviously a function for the Commander in Chief and military commanders to perform. This is not something Members of Congress are knowledgeable about or would have the ability to dictate in any responsible fashion. It also would be unconstitutional. Clearly, the dwell times of troops or the amount of time in theater is an obligation of the Commander in Chief, not something for the Congress to determine.

Reference: Hagel Amendment to Defense Authorization Bill; Bill SA2032 to HR1585 ; vote number 2007-243 on Jul 11, 2007

Voted YES on implementing the 9/11 Commission report.

Vote on passage of a bill to implement unfinished recommendations of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission) to fight the war on terror more effectively:

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

One of the authors of the 9/11 Commission report said, the President's announced strategy should be given a chance to succeed. That is what I think we should do, give this plan a chance to succeed. Our troops in theater, our commanders, and the Iraqi leaders all believe they can see early signs of success in this program, even though it has just begun, and they are cautiously optimistic that it can succeed. I think it would be unconscionable for the Congress, seeing the beginnings of success here, to then act in any way that would pull the rug out from under our troops and make it impossible for them to achieve their mission.

Reference: Improving America's Security Act; Bill S. 4 ; vote number 2007-073 on Mar 13, 2007

Repeal Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell, and reinstate discharged gays.

Webb signed HR1283&S3065

Repeals current Department of Defense policy [popularly known as "Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell"] concerning homosexuality in the Armed Forces. Prohibits the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Homeland Security with respect to the Coast Guard, from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation against any member of the Armed Forces or any person seeking to become a member. Authorizes the re-accession into the Armed Forces of otherwise qualified individuals previously separated for homosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexual conduct.

Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require the furnishing of dependent benefits in violation of section 7 of title 1, United States Code (relating to the definitions of 'marriage' and 'spouse' and referred to as the 'Defense of Marriage Act').

Source: Military Readiness Enhancement Act 10-HR1283 on Mar 3, 2010

Other candidates on Homeland Security: James Webb on other issues:
Pres.Barack Obama
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