5 Questions with Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ)

May 15, 2012

We continue our Member of the Week segment with a questionnaire with the Congressman. We want you to know the most conservative members of Congress on both a professional and personal level because it's important to see them as real people, not just politicians. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) answers 5 questions, some policy oriented and some personal:

Heritage Action: What aspect of government (i.e., program, department, agency) do you want to reform the most? What legislation are you currently pushing or working on to achieve that reform?

Rep. Franks: In terms of the financial survivability of the nation, it has become more critical than ever to enact a balanced budget amendment. I am cosponsor of a number of different balanced budget amendment versions because I believe the most critical economic issue is a requirement to actually balance the budget regardless of some of the details or the taxation architecture that may accompany it. The taxation policies to fund government will be an ongoing struggle. However, if the budget is required to balance, the incentive on Congress and other policymakers will be to enact a tax policy that is pro-growth and therefore ultimately maximizes America's economy and the attending government revenues.

Thomas Jefferson said it this way: "I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our constitution; I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government to the genuine principles of its constitution, I mean an additional article taking from the federal government the power of borrowing."

With that said, it is important for all of us to remember the old maxim that we get more of what we subsidize and less of what we tax. Therefore, I believe it is important to minimize or abolish taxes on income. Income is the primary indicator of productivity which is the quintessential substance of any economy. If we wish to maximize income, it accordingly makes no sense to me to tax income anymore than is absolutely necessary. For that reason, I support the Fair Tax or some version thereof.

HA: What's a piece of smaller legislation, or nominee, that is currently on the agenda but flying under the radar that you feel conservatives should be concerned about?

Rep. Franks: I believe everyone, conservatives and democrats included, should be concerned about the vulnerability of our electric grid to electromagnetic pulse, or EMP. In our technological advancement, we have now captured the electron and transported its utility into nearly every business, home and industrial endeavor throughout the civilized world. But we have also grown profoundly dependent upon electricity and its many accoutrements.

The effects of geomagnetic storms and EMP on our electric infrastructure are well-documented, with nearly every space weather and EMP expert recognizing the dramatic disruptions and cataclysmic collapses these pulses can potentially bring to electric grids. Heritage also has several articles and resources addressing the EMP threat that faces not only our nation but the entire world.

Consequences of an EMP event could be unspeakably devastating. For instance, the Department of Defense ("DOD") relies overwhelmingly on the commercial grid for its operations. Loss of the commercial grid due to an EMP event would leave DOD without its major source of electricity. Furthermore, Dr. William Graham, the chairman of the Congressional EMP Commission, testified before Congress that "EMP is one of a small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences."

Dr. Graham has said that a major catastrophic EMP attack on the United States could cause an estimated 70-90 percent of our nation's population to become unsustainable. It is impossible for me to even wrap my mind around such an astonishingly high figure.

Our first national security priority in this instance is to protect our major transformers from cascading destruction. To that end, I have introduced H.R. 668, the SHIELD Act, which is currently before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The SHIELD Act addresses, among other things, vulnerabilities of our electric grid to EMP by requiring automated hardware-based solutions. This hardware will take the guesswork out of current procedural processes that are in place to mitigate the EMP threat.

The first purpose of any government or its leaders is to protect the lives and security of its innocent citizens. Failure to fulfill this responsibility renders all others meaningless. Thankfully, there is a moment in the life of nearly every problem when it is big enough to be seen by reasonable people, but still small enough to be solved. Action taken today to address the EMP threat can result in an EMP event so big having an effect so small that no one but a few will recognize the disaster that was averted.

HA: What do you enjoy the most and the least about being a Member of Congress?

Rep. Franks: I think as Members of Congress we enjoy this sense of calling to try to make sure the torch of liberty continues to burn for this and future generations- just to have the privilege of being part of making sure that the great principles and ideals that made America the most magnificent nation in the history of the human family is one of those things we all aspire to.

The time I spend away from my loved ones is what I like least about being a Member of Congress. I have three year old twins at home who are my first children, and who came to me late in life. They are truly unspeakable gifts from God and the joy of my very soul. Being away from them any more time than I have to be is a profound sacrifice. One is inclined to also add: the sleep deprivation and the insane schedule, long airplane rides replete with high altitude turbulence, and the almost complete absence of any hobbies in life.

HA: What is your favorite thing to do when you are not in Washington?

Rep. Franks: There is nothing I like to do more than being with my family and beloved friends.

HA: What do you miss most about being a kid?

Rep. Franks: I suppose all of us as adults miss that child-like astonishment at the grandeur, complexity, and beauty of the transcendent miracle of life itself. Still, I am fortunate and thankful that many of those feelings remain with me today.