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Stefanik votes to sanction Turkey for Syria aggression

North Country congresswoman also concerned by 'shortfalls' at military installations

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik speaks with the Enterprise editorial board Oct. 5, 2018, at the newspaper’s Saranac Lake office. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik on Wednesday addressed the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities to discuss the inadequacies she said she perceives in military infrastructure when it comes to climate change and technology.

The Republican representing northern New York also joined 90 Republican Congress members in voting to introduce sanctions against Turkey, a fellow NATO member, for its aggression against U.S. allied Kurdish fighters and civilians in Syria, which began after President Donald Trump, against the advice of his Pentagon and State Department officials, removed U.S. troops from Syria last week, clearing the way for Turkey’s invasion.

Trump also ordered sanctions against Turkey, although the ones Stefanik supports are more severe. Stefanik declined to comment on Trump’s sanctions directly.

Trump’s troop removal has been unpopular across Congress, and on Wednesday Stefanik also voted for a resolution opposing the troop withdrawal, which passed. Stefanik wrote on Twitter that she is “deeply opposed to the Administration’s decision.”

“A decision that has already led to serious consequences, including loss of life,” she wrote.

Countering Turkish Aggression Act

Stefanik was recently part of a congressional delegation that visited Turkey, Afghanistan and the Syrian-Jordanian border to meet with foreign governmental leaders and U.S. security, intelligence and diplomatic leadership.

“It is clear that terrorist groups still pose a serious threat to this region’s instability and our own national security,” Stefanik wrote in a press release Wednesday. “Any actions to increase the instability of Syria must be met with adequate consequence.”

The sanctions she supports would bar U.S. individuals or firms from making transactions with Turkey.

The Trump administration sanctions include an exception for foreign military sales.

Congress’ proposed sanctions are tougher, banning U.S. military assistance to Turkey — in finances, materiel or technology — and banning any foreign person or entity who knowingly conducts one of those transactions with the Turkish military. Sanctions also apply to many of the highest-ranking Turkish officials.

Trump can delay the House sanctions if Turkey withdraws its troops from Syria.

The Senate is expected to introduce its version of a sanctions bill Thursday.

“I support the sanction against Turkey,” Democratic candidate for New York’s 21st congressional district Tedra Cobb wrote in a press release.

Military resilience

Stefanik, who is the ranking Republican member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities, made remarks at the start of that subcommittee’s joint hearing with the Subcommittee on Readiness titled “Resiliency of Military Installations to Emerging Threats.”

“Military installations” refers to bases, land and other military infrastructure.

Stefanik addressed her concerns over what she called “shortfalls in both the physical and the digital domains” of Department of Defense installations and facilities.

In the physical domain, she said climate change poses threats to public safety, economic security and national security through extreme weather events, including within her district.

“Our Intelligence Community continues to assess that global environmental degradation and climate change are likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress and social discontent across the globe through 2019 and beyond,” Stefanik said.

In the digital domain, which Stefanik said is equally important, she said the DOD is vulnerable and needs to advance technologies such as artificial intelligence, Quantum computing and 5G. She said the future of warfare and military resiliency relies on advances in cybersecurity and information technology.

“This future begins and ends with our facilities and installations, which will be our greatest resource or our weakest link,” Stefanik said. “Information and data are a strategic resource to be protected, preserved and fully actioned.”

She said in 2016 the committee directed the DOD to conduct a comprehensive review to evaluate cybersecurity vulnerabilities of DOD infrastructure.

“Unfortunately, this review and the subsequent corrective actions remain far from complete, and we are still incredibly vulnerable to attack,” Stefanik said. “I fear we have not yet even identified the scale and scope of our problems, let alone begun to mitigate our most concerning shortfalls.”

The committee had five witnesses from the Pentagon and military departments discuss the state of military infrastructure at the hearing.