(The following ran originally in the Fall 2013 edition of THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE.)
A retired U.S. intelligence officer is seeking public office in Georgia’s tenth congressional district.
Lt. Col. Stephen Simpson, a longtime resident of Milledgeville, is vying for the Republican nomination to succeed U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, who is running to replace retiring U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss.
Simpson sat down with THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE’s Nathan Williams to discuss his military background and issues like the national debt, energy independence, immigration reform and the ongoing crisis in Syria.
What is the number one issue affecting District 10, and how do you plan to tackle this as a legislator if you are elected?
The biggest issue affecting District 10, all of Georgia and all of the United States is the debt. Our national debt has ballooned from $6 to $17 trillion in the last six years.
I served with Adm. Mike Mullen, and when he gave his departure briefing to Congress he said our biggest threat isn’t foreign — it’s our national debt. I’m taken aback by some of my Republican friends who just want to talk about the problem but not about solutions. We need zero-based budgeting for every agency to justify their budgets. We also need to identify overseas bases that America doesn’t need anymore, and we need to close them. We can take those resources to build and sustain our existing military.
Despite your lack of legislative experience, how will your extensive public service record help you begin working in Congress on day one?
I spent twenty years in the military. I actually worked in the Pentagon during the BRAC [Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission] process, and I’m the only person running who has done that. I also worked for the Secretary of the Army selling the Army’s defense authorization bill to Congress.
I will not be your typical freshman.
How do you envision your military background influencing your service in Congress, if elected?
You learn very early that it’s about leadership, and leadership is not a popularity contest. I graduated from Georgia Military College’s high school, and the banner’s that hangs there says “Duty, Honor, Country and Character Above All.” We need people in Washington who care about our country, not just getting reelected.
Do you hope to take your military and foreign affairs expertise to a relevant committee?
You’re at the hand of leadership when deciding committee assignments, but I’m very interested in the [House Armed Services Committee]. I’m also interested in the Select Committee on Intelligence.
Also at the top of my list is Agriculture because if we support the farmer, we support jobs. We need to deepen the Port of Savannah to transport their goods. We’re the number one producer of timber in the country, and agriculture is the most important industry in Georgia. I’m the only candidate in this race who believes that.
How can the United States begin reducing its dependence on foreign nations for oil?
There’s no reason in the world to not create the Keystone Pipeline. We need to diversify our options: fracking is safe because it’s clean; we also need to burn clean coal, even though the Obama administration opposes it; we also need to look at wind technology, but I don’t support sending money to green companies to like Solyndra — that’s picking winners and losers. The market needs to do that.
Would you support any version of immigration reform that provides legalization to the 11 million immigrants living unlawfully in the U.S., even if the bill contains a probationary period?
Immigration reform is very complicated and emotional. The first thing we have to do is secure the border. Once we secure the border, we can deal with everything else.
The more federal funds we can return to local governments, the greater the probability of securing the border effectively and with fewer costs. The immigration system is broken, and doing nothing is not an option. We don’t have enough Americans to fulfill high-tech positions, and we need to fix that. If an American could hire one qualified electrical engineer [from abroad], he could create forty-five jobs.
The president has called for military intervention in Syria after evidence surfaced suggesting President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his people. Do you think the United States should get involved, even if our national security may not be in jeopardy?
Our national security is governed by regional stability in the Middle East. One of the many qualifications I have is that I graduated from the Nuclear Biology and Chemical School, and chemical weapons are extremely nasty. They have no heat signature and you can’t detect them from overhead. I guarantee that, given resources and time, we would find stockpiles of these weapons.
The situation is complicated, however, by the failed foreign policy of the Obama administration. We stood by Egypt, which is our second best ally in the region, but we mishandled the situation. So I don’t support military action in Syria. We seem like a rogue nation because the president has done nothing at all, and now he wants action.
What course of action would you suggest for the president in Syria?
I would suggest that he proceed with an abundance of caution. I’ve trained with forces in this region, and the biggest problem is that Assad could last another ten years. A similar thing happened with Saddam Hussein in Iraq, which forced us into Plan B, costing American lives.
—Nathan Williams is a sophomore studying economics and political science.