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Congresswoman Susan Davis On Military Cuts, Navy Broadway Project

Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-53rd District)
Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-53rd District)
Congresswoman Susan Davis
Congresswoman Susan Davis joins KPBS Midday and Evening Edition. Davis represents San Diego's 53rd Congressional District.
GUEST:Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego)

CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. It's Wednesday, June†13th. Our top story on Midday Edition is a conversation with congresswoman Susan Davis who represents San Diego's 53rd congressional district. She has recently made headlines for a proposal that would substantially change plans for a new Navy Broadway project. Welcome back to the show. DAVIS: Thank you very much, Maureen. It's nice to be with you. CAVANAUGH: Plans to update the Navy headquarters on Broadway and harbor drive have been debated for years. Now you want to offer the Navy an option to move. DAVIS: There have been so many delays in developing the Navy Broadway project, and basically what I'm doing with some language to the national defense authorization bill is to give them an alternative. It basically is a "may "to the Navy, not you have to or you should, but they may seek an alternative, an option, to move the headquarters onto base, onto a site where the Navy is today and certainly I think 32nd street is one that people talk about. But it would just give them that option to do that. And the reason for it really is that we want to start moving this project forward. The thought that the Navy would have to stay in that building that was developed I believe in about 1927 and has had a number of changes to it is really disturbing. It's not serving them well. It's definitely not serving the city well. And the opportunity to build more modern facilities, one that perhaps even consolidates some other needs that the Navy has would make a lot of sense. And it would also provide San Diegans with more open space, I believe, and it would provide for a different kind of planning perhaps at the Navy Broderick complex. The other issue is to not just think about this as Navy Broadway, but what issues would the Navy like to solve? At 32nd street, they have what's called the wet side and the dry side. And we know that there are some transportation issues over there. And if we could think somewhat differently, we might be able to have some of the revenues and the support for the Navy Broadway complex at the embarcadero to use for that. That's a possibility. CAVANAUGH: Yeah. DAVIS: We also know because of terrorism, and we have to do a lot of building up of the facility at Navy Broadway that wouldn't have to be done. CAVANAUGH: If it were on a Navy base. >> It would be much more security. CAVANAUGH: Right. Now, if the Navy were to locate its headquarters on a base, 32nd street or some other base in San Diego, what would happen to that Navy-owned waterfront property in San Diego? DAVIS: Well, there has been agreement, of course, with Manchester development for a number of years going back to 2006 when they won that bid, essentially, and I believe from some of the response that was recently in the paper, that wouldn't necessarily get in the way of developing that whole area. Because in essence they would have a lot more room to do that, and of course I would hope that there would be more opportunity for open space. The other thing that I see -- and again, we all have our visions, and I think that some people feel that, well, it's too late for a vision. We dealt with that years ago. But since we're not moving forward, I think this gives us a really special time to think about what some of those options are. And I can see a Navy presence down even at the waterfront there, across from the midway, that could be an educational opportunity, there could be recreation there, all geared to the Navy. Whether it's playgrounds for children that tell them about the Navy and ships, there are so many things that I think we can do that speak so positively to the fact that we are a Navy town. We're a city that really loves the resource that we have, which is our great Navy and our marines. And I think you can make a very positive statement about that. CAVANAUGH: Congresswoman Davis, how far along has this idea gone? It's part of a package that's passed in the House of Representatives. Now it's gone onto the Senate. DAVIS: Right. And I just want to make clear, this is really just allowing them this as an alternative. So at this point, nothing has really changed, nothing has to change. But I think we just want to say that -- let's not tie them to that particular site. And I think a reading of the legislation, the original legislation, has sort of burdenened them with that. And there certainly are a lot of people that see it as positive that the Navy is there. That might have been the case a few years ago, but now that has has drawn on for so long, I think we need to think of an alternative. CAVANAUGH: I want to bring up the fact that the boundaries of the 53rd district that you represent have substantially changed because of redistricting. If you win in November, the district you represent will no longer be part -- no longer include the waterfront and the military bases in San Diego. I'm wondering will that impact your focus and service on the services committee? DAVIS: Well, I certainly plan to stay on the armed services committee. And I actually have seniority on that committee, so I wouldn't want San Diego to lose that opportunity as the chair and now the ranking chair of the personnel committee. I've made it a very special part of my service to reach out and to be very involved with the families who serve our country. And those families of course here in San Diego mean a great deal to us. They're not only serving in the Navy and certainly in the Marine Corps here, and we also have army reserves here in San Diego as well. But they're our soccer coaches, our neighbor, our friends. And we want to make certain that they're supported. What worries me in some of the discussions that we're having now is that we may not have the opportunity to always support them in the way that we have. And I happen to believe that we should. That we need to provide our support to those families. CAVANAUGH: And you're talking about possible cuts in the defense budget when you're talking about not being able to support the families the way we do now? DAVIS: Well, I think that when we're looking at -- two separate things in the defense budget. One thing we have, the budget control act. There's already been an agreement for about $350†billion cuts over the next ten years. The idea that we would have to come back and do something differently mainly because the Congress has fa-- because the Congress has failed to negotiate this well, the sequestration that's being talked about would mean about another 10% across the board cut, not just to the military, not just to the defense budget, but to all of our budgets across the board. CAVANAUGH: I want to get to that. Because I think that's a very complicated issue that perhaps not everybody is up on. So let me talk first about the president's proposed budget. In that budget there is about $400†billion overall cut for defense over time. How does that affect San Diego? I read that we are not terribly affected by that. Is that the case? DAVIS: We are not terribly affected by that cut. That's really a cut that the Pentagon has been working on for some time. And they believe that with the drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan -- don't forget we almost doubled the budget during the bush years being in Iraq and Afghanistan. So we're going to see some substantial changes as a result of that. But there are also a number of programs and contracts particularly that I think the Pentagon has been working very, very hard to be as efficient as possible. They feel that they can comfortably, not with a lot of -- a lot of zest, necessarily, but they feel they can comfortably do that. But the sequestration is different. That would add 10%, about $600†billion again over the next number of years to cuts that the Pentagon cannot easily make. And in the end, we might see that there would be some cuts to programs that would affect San Diego, and perhaps the defense industries here, but also San Diego as well. CAVANAUGH: Let me take this on, and you tell me if I've got it right when it comes to sequestration. If this budget that the president proposes is not passed, if the two sides, Democrats and Republicans, can't come to a compromise on this building, then what is called sequestration going into effect, and that means there are across the board 10% cuts to just about every government program, including defense. DAVIS: Yes, that's true. And what's so problematic in defense is you have contracts out there, and this probably is problematic in other agencies as well. And it's very difficult to deal with those specifically. CAVANAUGH: Right. Now, given the polarization that we -- we've all heard about it in Congress, do you think there is a chance that Congress is going to find a way past, through this threat of sequestration to get a budget that's more in line with really what the people need? DAVIS: I certainly hope so. And I can tell you, Maureen, that I believe that in the end, people can come together and find a way through this. We are basically standing on a cliff, and I don't think anybody really wants to jump. I don't think anybody wants to see those kinds of cuts, but at the same time it's very hard to move to a position where compromise is seen as a value. CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh. DAVIS: And that hasn't always been the case. We know that from studying the Congress for many, many years. But nevertheless right now, it's a bit of a problem. And the reason that I think the negotiation went to that step was with the idea of really forcing leadership and forcing those members who in a position to negotiate this, working with with the administration, to be able to do a far better job of coming to an agreement. CAVANAUGH: Now, there's an a superpac established by a former colleague of yours, Duncan hunter, used to be in the house of representative ares from San Diego, which plans -- it plans to start running adds against defense cuts. What good do you think may come of that? Is it possible that it might raise awareness? Where do you think that that kind of advertisement -- what is that going to lead to? DAVIS: Well, I think that if we had a situation where we really wanted to educate the public about these cuts, that would be one thing. And the reality is even if the armed services committee, we put back into that budget, when I see we, it's really members on the other side of the aisle, elements of the budget that the Pentagon actually not wanted. So they actually made the decisions under the budget control act a little bit harder because they did put back programs such as the Abrams tank, an east coast missile defense shield program that everybody has agreed is not necessarily the best idea today. So we were dealing with those cuts in addition to others. I don't think this is the administration or one side of the aisle or the other. I think what we have to do is educate people, and not necessarily go along with some of the kinds of statements that are going to be made through these ads. I think the ads are basically intended to scare people and to blame somebody. And that's not appropriate right now. We've got some really tough challenges to deal with. And I think that if the people who are supporting these ads, and again, you don't have to know who they are because the superpacs basically can go on without the public knows who is supporting them, I would suspect we probably have folks locally who are part of it, and I would love to see them doing that in a way of educating all of us about what's at stake here because the reality is that we have about 300,000 people here in San Diego engaged in defense activities, whether it's homeland security, whether it's defense of the country, on a global level or not. Many, many different areas. And we're very proud to be part of that here in San Diego. And we have many people who are actively and involved in these resources that we have. I don't want to see any of those people cut either. But let's just be honest about it and recognize that the great resources that we have in San Diego, fight hard to keep those going, and yet at the same time be willing to say that there may be some things given our current circumstances are not useful anymore. CAVANAUGH: You just want won a primary against nic Popodich, but the two of you will face each other again in November. When does the campaign for the November election really begin to ramp up? DAVIS: I think traditionally most campaigns ramp up after labor day, but my belief in being in public service, and I've been in public service now for far more years than I like to remember are sometimes, but it's been almost 30 years, I believe that you're just always active and involved with the community. CAVANAUGH: Always. DAVIS: That you just keep -- because you just keep working hard, and having the outreach, listening to people, that's very important to me. I come out of a social work background, so the case management that we do in our office is very, very important. Our activities tend to be about the same. We're always working hard, and yet when it comes close to a campaign, there are some other things you do. You may have yard signs, you may be reaching out to people and reminding them of their accomplishments, things that you may not be doing during the course of the year. CAVANAUGH: One last thing then, we'd love to invite you back when the campaign is sort of revved up for a forum with your Republican challenger right here on KPBS. Would you be willing to join us for that? DAVIS: Oh, of course! Absolutely. I guess that's one of the other things that happens during a campaign. Because it is important for people to have a chance to learn more about us. CAVANAUGH: Terrific. DAVIS: And we know that elections are about choices. CAVANAUGH: Thank you so much for coming in. DAVIS: Thank you very much.

Plans to update the Navy Broadway Complex have been debated for years, and there seems to be no end in sight.

But Congresswoman Susan Davis told KPBS about her new proposal that could end the debate. She made news last week by introducing language to the National Defense Authorization Bill that would give the Navy the option to move its headquarters onto an existing base.

"It basically is a 'may' to the Navy, it's not a 'you have to,' or 'you should,' but it's 'you may seek an alternative, an option, to move the headquarters onto a base, onto a site where the Navy is today,'" she said.


She said one option is to move the headquarters to the Navy base on 32nd Street.

Davis said the reason for her proposal is to move the Navy Broadway Complex project forward.

"The thought that the Navy would have to stay in that building that was developed in about 1927 and has had a number of changes to it is really disturbing," she said. "It's not serving them well, it's definitely not serving the city well, and the opportunity to build a more modern facility, one that perhaps even consolidates some needs that the Navy has, would make a lot of sense."

Davis also spoke about the potential military cuts under "sequestration," a 10 percent across–the-board cut that would start in January and would include up to $500 billion in additional cuts to defense spending over 10 years. The cuts were triggered by Congress’ inability to reach consensus on how to reduce the federal deficit.

"It's a looming problem, it's not just sequestration, there are a lot of problems that are coming together by the end of the year," Davis said. "Tremendous challenges for the country."


Davis said San Diego's position on the Pacific Rim means "we won't see problems" from budget cuts. However, if sequestration goes into effect, she said defense contractors could lose significant business, which would then impact the local economy.

Davis, who represents the newly-redrawn 53rd District, captured almost 58 percent of the vote in last week's primary. She will run against Republican Nick Popaditch again in November and told KPBS she would participate in an on-air forum with Popaditch before that election.

Democracy Day is an effort that started in 2022 to draw attention to the crisis facing American democracy, provide the public with the context and information they need, and bring all types of media together to sound the alarm collectively. KPBS is a media partner in this collaborative.