Foreign Policy

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My Foreign Policy Perspective

In my four years at West Point and 20 years in the United States Army, I have been a student, strategist, and practitioner of American foreign policy strategy. Unlike most Americans, (and too many candidates), I can name countries on a map, I have a passport with lots of stamps, and a full understanding of the need to stay engaged worldwide.

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In Congress, I will lead in the areas of foreign policy because of my experience in the Middle East, my work in the private sector for Mercedes (which included foreign travel and business), and my education from the Harvard Kennedy School on the complexity of international diplomacy.

It’s easy for President Trump to rattle a saber at countries around the world when he has never held one or had one aimed at him or his colleagues. I stand in stark contrast to his life experiences and will do everything I can to reduce the threat to the United States and increase our overall national security.

America as a Global Citizen

Since the second world war, America has stood as a global leader; an example of economic prosperity, social justice, and democratic governance to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the current administration, along with the Republican-led Congress has done much to damage that reputation around the world. In Congress, I will work to ensure America maintains its status as a global leader.

Stand with NATO

NATO has served as the single most important reason for peace in Europe for over 60 years and we need to do everything we can to maintain and strengthen this imperative alliance. As a retired Army Ranger, I know first hand the importance of standing strong with your allies. Given Russia’s march toward a totalitarian state showing aggression around the region, as well as their extensive cyber and information warfare campaign directed at the the U.S., England, and others, our Article 5 commitment to our European allies and partners is more important than ever.

The United States' Relationship with Israel

The United States and Israel have a special relationship — one based on decades of cooperation and friendship grounded in democratic values, common security interests, and a shared passion for innovation. Since President Truman’s recognition of Israel in 1948, the United States and Israel have been among each other’s most dependable global allies. I look forward to protecting and continuing that relationship.

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I firmly believe that the United States should work with the Israelis and the Palestinians to come together around an agreement that brings an end to hostilities and establishes a two-state solution. Failing to reach such a deal represents an existential threat to Israel. Negotiating an end result that uses the 1967 lines, with equivalent land swaps, will protect Israel by establishing a standard for geographical recognition of an Israeli border, a future state of Palestine, and robust security guarantees. Such a resolution will also protect Israel’s identity as a democracy and the Jewish homeland, unleash the potential of Israel’s relationships with global allies, and bring added human security to the region.

The long-standing connections that the United States has on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, combined with the United States’ deeply vested interests in the region, uniquely positions America to lead in achieving a two-state solution. Ultimately, it is up to the Israelis and the Palestinians to make the difficult choices to achieve peace, but the United States is indispensable to any viable effort to achieve that goal.

As a 20-year veteran of the US Army, including combat deployments in Iraq, I am proud that the United States has provided stalwart support to Israel’s military while working to establish peace between Israel and its neighbors.

As a technology executive focused on defense, energy, and mobility solutions, I recognize the value of furthering relationships with Israel’s business and technology sectors. The impressive record of innovation and entrepreneurship in Israel make it an ideal partner in developing new solutions to global challenges.

When I am elected to Congress, I will work to continue and strengthen the U.S.-Israeli security relationship while continuing the tradition of American leadership in this critical region.

Increase International Affairs Budget

I agree with the letter sent to Congressional Leadership on February 27, 2017, which stated, “The State Department, USAID, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Peace Corps and other development agencies are critical to preventing conflict and reducing the need to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way” and called on Congress to “ensure that resources for the International Affairs Budget keep pace with the growing global threats and opportunities we face.”

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As a career Army officer of 20 years, I know first hand how important it is for our country to be able to leverage all of the diplomatic tools in foreign affairs. Secretary James Mattis said quite simply, while Commander of U.S. Central Command, “If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

Support for Diplomatic Negotiation & Solutions

Iranian Diplomacy

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly referred to as the Iran Nuclear Agreement, forced Iran to accept restrictions on its nuclear program and a strict new inspections regime, in exchange for sanctions relief. President Trump has repeatedly threatened to end this agreement, and the Republicans in Congress have been complicit in their overall silence thereon or support therefore.

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A fundamental aspect of diplomacy is trust. If Trump does as he threatens, why would any of the parties to this agreement be able to take America at its word on diplomatic matters in the future?

I will work to defend and support the JCPOA and do my best to improve the areas where it is not as strong as it should be. The International Atomic Energy Association needs to have unfettered access to any location it wants to observe and conditions need to be set to ensure Iran does not begin building a nuclear weapon as soon as the agreement ends. However, unilaterally tearing up the agreement would be an egregious mistake, with outcomes affecting American diplomatic credibility far into the future.

Addressing the North Korea Threat

North Korea’s nuclear program is among the top national security threats that the U.S. and our allies face today. North Korea may soon have an Intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. and carrying a nuclear weapon, along with enough nuclear material for dozens of such weapons. A military conflict with North Korea could result in the deaths of at least several hundred thousand people, including thousands of U.S. service members and civilians stationed in South Korea.

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North Korea’s nuclear program is among the top national security threats that the U.S. and our allies face today. North Korea may soon have an Intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. and carrying a nuclear weapon, along with enough nuclear material for dozens of such weapons. A military conflict with North Korea could result in the deaths of at least several hundred thousand people, including thousands of U.S. service members and civilians stationed in South Korea.

When I served in the Army, we conducted computer simulations/wargames against the possibility of a war on the Korean peninsula. As the Squadron logistics officer, I remember two items that I pushed north into the fight. The first were artillery shells to shoot over the mountains. The second were body bags. I want to avoid a war in Korea and I understand the staggering real costs.

In Congress, I will be a vigorous advocate for an approach to North Korea that includes bilateral and multilateral diplomatic efforts with the goal of negotiating a halt and eventual rollback of North Korea’s nuclear program.

Honor America’s Commitment to United Nations

The FY2018 International Affairs budget significantly cuts U.S. funding for the UN, including our previous commitments to global peacekeeping. This is unacceptable. Since the mid-twentieth century, the United States has been a principal world leader – a standard that should never be changed. The UN plays a critical role on the world stage to manage diplomacy between countries. That said, I also want to work towards reform at the UN and its Charter to reduce the ability for rogue nations to hold up meaningful progress in the area of human rights.

Climate & Energy in International Relations

Climate change is real and scientists globally accept that emission of carbon dioxide through human consumption of fossil fuels is the principal contributing cause thereof. A stable climate is a critical underpinning of quality of life and sustaining that stability—while exploring leadership solutions for a less stable climate—are at the core of my energy policies.

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Climate change is not only real and impacted by human behavior but the negative consequences to billions of people staggeringly outweigh the incidental benefits to fossil fuel companies. Climate change is a proven threat multiplier, leading to increased conflict over resource scarcity. This is the existential threat of our time.

I have seen first-hand the cost of our country’s dependence on foreign countries’ carbon resources during my time in the military. Our dependence on fossil fuel promotes destruction of our other natural resources and forces coordination and alliances with regimes and interests whose human rights records are an anathema to basic human decency. Since leaving the military, I have made it my professional mission to help move us to a cleaner future in which we are less dependent on fossil fuels. I established the National Security Technology Accelerator to connect innovators and entrepreneurs in renewable technologies to procurement professionals in the biggest consumer of carbon fuels—the Department of Defense.

I also co-founded RideScout, a mobility data aggregator that reduced the carbon footprint and travel times of commuters around the world. RideScout was later purchased by Daimler AG, where I served as global President of Moovel, working with municipalities and corporations around the world on smart city approaches to increasing energy efficiency. I was proud that our efforts were recognized in 2014 by the Department of Transportation for our innovative use of data to improve transportation, thereby reducing our carbon footprint by reducing the numbers of single occupancy vehicles on the road.

In Congress, I will continue this mission to achieve a 100% safe, clean, renewable economy as soon as practicable. Through the efforts of market forces, ambitious engineers, business leaders, President Obama, and a handful of international and municipal government leaders, we are moving steadily toward that goal, but we must move faster and more boldly in that direction. The one actor consistently missing is the United States Congress.

No Travel Ban

As a Fellow with the Truman National Security Project I am proud to stand by Michael Breen’s statement on the latest iteration of the Muslim ban:

“This most recent iteration of the Muslim ban remains an affront to American values and still fails to make our country safer. The Trump Administration has yet to provide any serious evidence that their efforts in this space are geared towards anything other than discriminating against those that the President and his cadre of small-minded advisors think look like terrorists. Moreover, given that its release was delayed multiple times for purely political reasons, the argument that it is urgently needed for national security is a joke.”

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“By persisting in targeting refugees and immigrants, the Trump Administration and the Republicans in Congress who enable it continue to embarrass the United States on the world stage. The newest iteration of this order—already admitted by administration officials to be geared towards “the same basic policy outcome” as its previous form—remains a cruel and ineffective policy. The Truman community will continue to reject the Trump Administration’s sustained attacks against American pluralism by fighting these shoddily composed, clumsily released, and morally and strategically bankrupt executive orders.”

No Border Wall

The proposition of a border wall is ridiculous. The structural, economic, property rights, and other logistical challenges are nearly insurmountable, but no wall is. For however tall the wall is built, there will be a taller ladder. The long-term solution is to engage Mexico and Central America to improve the overall economic situation and quality of life in their countries while working in our mutual interest of a safe, prosperous region, and working to achieve comprehensive immigration reform.

Reinstate Cardin-Lugar Anti-Corruption Rules

Cardin-Lugar was a bipartisan rule that required American gas and mining companies to share publicly the “project-level payments they made to the US and foreign governments for the extraction of oil, gas and minerals.” This is simple transparency about transactions that have enormous effect on people around the world. Mineral revenues have historically lead to extensive and overwhelming corruption, exacerbating risks of poverty, hunger, and instability. Such risks weigh heavily on American national security, and the transparency measures mandated by Cardin-Lugar can help mitigate these risks.

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In spite of the substantial benefits derived from Cardin-Lugar, one of this Republican Congress’s first acts of this session was to rescind these transparency measures. That bill was passed by Congress and signed by President Trump on February 14, 2017. Cardin-Lugar significantly advanced international efforts to curb corruption and has been applauded by investors, companies and governments around the world. I’ll fight to reinstate these important transparency rules, and oppose any attempt to let corruption find safe harbor in American legislation. More to the point, I’ll lead the fight to shed light on such pro-corruption legislation.

Americans are facing a crucial crisis in trust. The most important tool we can utilize to restore trust is transparency. Once people in governance are allowed to measure the full cost of our trade, including the costs of externalities, we can then make much better decisions about how countries and governments can work towards common goals like reducing poverty, hunger, and instability, and increasing freedom, health, and opportunity.

Congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force

It has been 16 years since Congress passed the most recent Authorization of the Use of Military Force (AUMF). Since then, the response to 9/11 has been expanded broadly and irregularly to numerous terrorist organizations and countries. The 2001 AUMF never sunsets; absent action from Congress, this overbroad AUMF gives the President a blank check. For eight terms, Congress’s Constitutional responsibility to authorize military action and define its scope has been abandoned.

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We need a new AUMF in order for the Congress to conduct its constitutional responsibility. There is a reason why we have a separation of powers in the constitution, even if the Congress in recent years has ceded much of their power due to cowardice and political convenience. Lastly, if we get Congress behind actions in a way that allows for a direct line to be drawn to constituents, we will achieve more buy-in from the American people than exists today.

Nuclear Weapons & Weapons of Mass Destruction

Since the 1980’s there has been broad, bipartisan agreement that nonproliferation and arms control of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and materials are critical to both American and global security and stability. From treaties proposed by President Reagan to President Obama’s Nuclear Security Summit process and New START, the U.S. has been the primary force in moving to decrease nuclear stockpiles and secure vulnerable nuclear materials. The Trump administration and Congressional Republicans have slashed funding for a network of organizations stemming from these treaties and contributing to these efforts, including the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Biological Weapons Convention International Support Unit and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization. Further, attempts have been made to restrict funding for comprehensive monitoring of nuclear tests around the world.

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This attempt to strip national and global nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons security and monitoring programs is contrary to both our immediate national and international interests. Nuclear weapons are one of the few existential threats posed to all of humankind. In an increasingly unstable climate driven world, now is not the time to walk back our agreements or take these weapons less seriously than we have before. I’ll vigorously fight to support increasing funding for nuclear, chemical, and biological nonproliferation and arms control programs. Further, I am committed to continuing nuclear reduction talks with international partners, supportive of international efforts to secure vulnerable predicate stock for nuclear, chemical, and biological predicate stock. I further support the Comprehensive Test Ban, and ultimately believe that the safest world is one with free of nuclear weapons.

Promoting Open Democracy & Human Rights

Democratic governments that respect basic human rights are more successful economically, more stable, and less likely to the pose a threat to America, their neighbors, or their own people. Such open democracies are less likely to become breeding grounds for instability, extremism, terrorism, and forced migration. As a world leader, the U.S. has both an international moral obligation and a national security obligation to play an important role in encouraging political, economic, and social reforms, particularly among partner states.

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One of humanity’s greatest recent broad advances is cutting extreme hunger worldwide in half since 1990. It’s generally agreed that we will be able to end extreme hunger completely by 2030. However, currently Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Nigeria – face potential famine conditions in what the UN has labeled the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II.

America has historically provided food and agriculture development assistance to countries through initiatives and programs, as well as through international organizations, including the U.N., such as such as the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the U.N. World Food Program to provide humanitarian aid.

I will advocate to increase assistance. If a failed state cannot feed its people, it is also likely to become a breeding ground for crime, corruption, and terrorism. I want to help end poverty, educate girls worldwide, and provide clean water, reliable power and energy to as many people as possible to improve overall quality of life and reduce the breeding grounds of terrorism.

The Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen

Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes in Yemen are exacerbating a humanitarian crisis that has placed millions of Yemenis on the brink of starvation. In May 2017, President Trump, with the complicit silence or support from Republicans in Congress, announced $110 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

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Just because we can sell weapons to the Saudis does not mean we should with a short-sighted and nihilistic disregard for the consequences of how those weapons are used. We need a guarantee that our weapons are not being used in ways that exacerbate root causes that increase the risk of terrorism, resulting in justification of an endless war on terror, through their mistreatment of the Yemeni people.

Fight Human Trafficking

The horror of human trafficking poses an even greater threat to society than many realize. The State Department estimates that 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States each year. Organized crime and drug cartels have figured out that human trafficking is more profitable, easier to execute, and harder for authorities to detect. America’s efforts to stem this tide haven’t matched the challenge, and we must refocus and invest in fighting this disgraceful trend. We must further prioritize fighting human trafficking both as a foreign policy and domestic policy.

Safeguarding American Electoral Systems from Outside Interference

Russia made a conscious, orchestrated, and deliberate attempt to interfere in our elections and, unless we take the right steps to protect ourselves, our electoral systems could be at risk. Regardless of the country of origin – Russia, China, North Korea – we need to make sure that our cyber security is first-rate and that we work with our allies to prevent foreign meddling in sovereign elections globally.

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The controversy surrounding the 2016 elections identified a new online vulnerability: our political and media infrastructures. As those who would do us harm, feed false divisions among the electorate through gaslighting and other psychological operations, and sow doubt on the integrity of the American electoral system become more sophisticated, so must we. The American public must have a complete accounting of what happened 2016 and a new system of transparency and accountability must be established if not by, then for, the platforms involved.

Enhancing America’s Cybersecurity

Technology and cyber security issues have and will continue to have a significant impact on the lives of Americans and are particularly salient to TX-21. The security of our nation’s critical infrastructure will require leaders who have a firm grasp of what the future demands, who know how to mitigate constantly evolving cybersecurity challenges to our public and private institutions, and the protection of citizen privacy and freedom.

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I will work to support emerging efforts with military, technology, and business leaders in Austin and San Antonio to ensure that our regional leadership on national and global infrastructure security is second to none, and always a step ahead of those who seek to harm us. Developing new collaborative platforms for public and private sector risk identification and resource development should be a regional priority. This is a new frontier and there is tremendous opportunity for related economic growth, product development, and job creation.

The federal government’s approach to securing critical infrastructure is codified through a variety of policies, the majority of which embody a centralized military deterrence and a Department of Homeland Security (DHS)-centric, asset-response approach to problem-solving.

To date, these policies have focused on enabling the privately owned critical infrastructure sectors through various incident response frameworks, information sharing, and cyber security guidelines. While information sharing and standardized guidelines have been a primary focus from a defensive aspect of cyber security, the focus of the strategy has been best resourced militarily.

Existing strategies promote far too much centralization of key government resources, with too much focus on military spending. Future strategies should focus on enhancing the national guard and local governments to protect the infrastructure at the tactical level.

This proposed decentralization does not, however, mean that private entities should be allowed to perform “hack back” operations, which have grave potential to escalate interstate conflict and destabilize international affairs. Private organizations should focus on incident response, not use of force.

Revisiting the Scope & Transparency of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

The federal government has extraordinary authority to monitor Americans’ electronic communications. Reporting has shown that the National Security Agency is broadly surveilling Americans’ international communications, as well as monitoring vast swaths of Americans’ domestic communications. Rules purported to protect Americans’ privacy are weak and riddled with exceptions as the government builds and retains indefinitely a database of Americans’ international telephone calls and emails.

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The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) has been executed in an opaque fashion. Americans need vastly more transparency as to how the program is executed to ensure our privacy is not being unconstitutionally invaded. Further, we need common sense changes to better protect American information that is caught up in what are ostensibly international surveillance programs.