Defense Media Network

Interview: U.S. Rep. James Langevin

Rep. James Langevin, D-R.I., is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, where he is the ranking member of the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, and also serves on the Subcommittees on Seapower and Projection Forces and Tactical Air and Land Forces. As a supporter of the critical national security work done by Rhode Island’s defense industry, he has worked in committee to double production of the extraordinary Virginia-class submarines built in Quonset, meeting military needs and creating hundreds of new jobs.

After fulfilling an eight-year term on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Langevin returned as a senior member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, where he serves as a member of the Subcommittees on Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications.

Securing our nation’s technology infrastructure against cyber attack is a top priority for Langevin. As the co-founder and co-chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, he led the way in raising awareness of cybersecurity issues in Congress and fostering dialogue and debate on the critical questions surrounding this topic. He co-chaired the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Commission on Cyber Security for the 44th Presidency, which made policy recommendations to President Barack Obama. Langevin has introduced the Personal Data Notification and Protection Act to ensure consumers are appropriately alerted when their sensitive information is compromised. To further improve cybersecurity, he has also introduced the Executive Cyberspace Coordination Act, which aims to strengthen the country’s defenses against cyber threats and reflects concerns listed in the commission’s report, including the vulnerability of critical infrastructure.

Recognized as a national and party leader on national security, health care and cybersecurity, Langevin has dedicated his many years of public service at the federal and state levels to the hard-working citizens of Rhode Island.

Born April 22, 1964, Langevin is the first quadriplegic to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.

At the age of 16, Langevin was injured while working with the Warwick Police Department in the Boy Scout Explorer program. A gun accidentally discharged and a bullet struck Langevin, leaving him paralyzed. The tremendous outpouring of support from his community inspired Langevin to give something back and enter public service.

Langevin graduated from Rhode Island College and earned a master’s degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He resides in Warwick, Rhode Island.


Special Operations Outlook: The Trump administration released a new National Defense Strategy (NDS) at the end of 2017, placing emphasis on the issue of near-peer threats China and Russia, and in fact calling such near-peer competition the primary threat facing the United States. Given that special operations in the years since Sept. 11 have primarily been involved with counterterrorism and anti-insurgency efforts, how do you see the naming of this new primary threat affecting Special Operations Command (SOCOM)?

U.S. Rep. James Langevin: Regardless of the type of threat, Special Operations Command will continue to play a key role in our national security. SOCOM has been and will continue to be heavily engaged in counterterrorism, but their expertise in the core special operations activities also helps reduce threats for combatant commanders across the spectrum of operations. Our special operations forces [SOF] are in more than 80 countries, working side by side with partners and allies to facilitate peaceful cooperation as well as combat operations. Our global security environment is only going to get more complex. For this reason, our special operations forces and their unique capabilities will continually need to answer the call.

James Langevin web

U.S. Rep. James Langevin, D-R.I.

Special operations has been traditionally considered “the tip of the spear,” a small but elite force. In the years since 9/11, SOCOM’s ranks have doubled, and the command’s budget request for next year asks for funding to add 1,000 more troops. Do we have to consider that the “special” missions that SOCOM has historically undertaken are the new norm? Or will the new emphasis on near-peer competitors see SOF pushed into the background as they were during much of the Cold War?

Our special operations forces are growing as threats around the world evolve. Our adversaries do not want to get in a high-end conflict with the United States, and for good reason. But while near-peer competitor challenges grow, we must remember SOF remains engaged in the counterterrorism fight and is still hard at work in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Africa. We must not lose sight of that. We must ensure that we are not overburdening the SOF community and are caring for them and their families when they return home.

What does the shift of focus to strategic competition with near peers, as outlined in the National Defense Strategy, mean for the partners and allies that have been a key part of SOCOM’s mission success as far as their tactics, techniques, manpower, methods, etc.?

Our partners and allies remain one of our strategic advantages over our adversaries, and will remain a key asset in any future conflict. We could not operate as effectively around the world without our network of alliances, and we see that today in places like Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, where our allies and partners provide specific and reinforcing capabilities to ensure stability in all corners of the globe.

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