Arizona Republican State Rep. Walt Blackman is running for Congress in Arizona’s new 2nd Congressional District. As a member of the state legislature and an Army Veteran, he shared his thoughts on everything from inflation, border security, and Veterans affairs.
In the interview, Blackman blames poor energy policies from the Biden administration as the cause for high gas prices, proposes deploying military tactics from his experience in the Middle East at the southern border, and he voiced his opposition to the $40 billion spending package the federal government approved to support Ukraine. The representative frequently cited his background as both a veteran and a state legislator when discussing solutions to America’s most pressing issues.
Please note that this interview was edited for grammar, length, and clarity.
Cameron Arcand: What do you think is currently the biggest issue facing the country and how do you plan to help tackle that specific issue in Congress?
Walt Blackman: Well, I would say the biggest issue is the inflation issue we have going on. We see costs of milk going up bread going up, and particularly gas fuel. If you know fuel drives everything, fuel prices will drive everything because that affects our supply chain. If truckers cannot afford to put fuel in their trucks, they’re making sure they’re making fewer trips thus slowing down the supply chain. It’s already slow, but it doesn’t help it. So the answer to that really is to continue to build this pipeline that we have stopped the Keystone pipeline and also continue to drill in Alaska. It’s not going to stop the inflation as quickly as we would like, however it will help […] That’s a way we can curb our inflation costs.
Another is that we pay off our debt between Japan and China. Between the both of them, they own 45% of our debt. If we pay at least one of those countries off, that’s going to bring up trillions of dollars of interest alone that we can put back into our general fund. Then we need to streamline our departments. I know that the government uses Lean Six Sigma processes. However, if we increase that and we become more aggressive on those processes, get rid of finding wasted use or unwasted processes, and then make sure that we streamline our systems. That’s going to curve some of the costs down as well.
CA: When I was researching some of your background for this interview, one thing that I found super interesting was your military experience. If you could dive into that and then maybe also elaborate on that same note of what changes you would like to see the federal government make to help veterans?
WB: So you know, my background, I’m sure you read this up. I spent twenty years in the United States Army on active duty. When we’re talking about border security, we did a lot of work in Iraq guarding the Northern border. Earlier in my career, we did a lot of work in intrinsic action patrol guarding the Kuwaiti border from Iraq in 1995-96. So I have a lot of international experience on how a border should be protected and how we can close a border and we can keep folks out, keep the bad people out and protect the border. I would like to see what we can do as a country.
Use ground surveillance technology, ensuring that we can seal up the tunnels that are underneath the borders that come in from Mexico into the United States. All the way from California through Arizona, down to Texas. Employing surveillance– I’m not just talking one of those small remote helicopters, but we can deploy balloon type of technology, the same type we use in Afghanistan to do surveillance. Those methods tied into Homeland Security and the US Department of Customs [and Border Protection] we can slow down some of that traffic it’s coming through. Then we can’t forget about the ports and what’s coming in through our air traffic.
We need to ensure that is all secured as well. We do have issues with human trafficking. We have issues with drug smuggling coming through with firearms coming through. They’ll leave firearms that you really can’t use on the street like Bazookas. But we can capture and pick up if we are tying in all our resources not only on the ground at the border but also here in the seaports.
What I would do about the Veterans Administration, number one I would allow veterans, I would like to see veterans be able to pick their doctor, particularly those veterans that don’t have Tricare, have a retirement medical program.
I have Tricare and I’m able to pick my doctor. So my care is better in that capacity. I would like to see the veterans at the administration be able to actually do a memorandum of understanding, give a veteran a card that says that they’re a veteran that’s receiving these benefits, and be able to pick their doctors regardless if it is 30 miles or less within their home. So right now if a veteran wants to get a referral, first of all, they have to get that permission referral. So I would like to see more availability and flexibility for veterans to be able to use the doctors that they choose just like everybody else does.
I’d like to see more counselors for veterans. Not VA counselors, you know, the choice for the veterans. We have 22 veterans that are committing suicide every day. We are having what we are now experiencing the Iraq and Afghanistan, veterans are either getting out of the military or have been out of the military and they are starting to either suffer more from PTSD or combat injuries. Their disability ratings are not where they should be to receive the kind of care that they deserve.
CA: We recently just sent a $40 billion package to assist Ukraine. What’s your stance on that? A lot of Republicans are split on the issue.
WB: We need to take a close look at our history. Anytime we had begun to send military aid when there was internal fighting in another country, we ended up having troops on the ground in that country. We look at Vietnam and the beginnings of Vietnam and the late fifties we were sending aid during John Kennedy’s administration. They went from sending money and it graduated through Johnson. They had a troop increase and they were still sending money all the way through Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. So we have a history in this country starting out with sending military aid in the form of supplies, money firearms equipment, however, that graduates to troops on the ground and the slippery slope. I don’t recommend that happening. I don’t recommend that we send, at least, that large of a package to Ukraine.
I understand that Ukraine is fighting for its independence and they are seeking that help. However, what we need to do is we need to rely on […] the United Nations at this point and receive aid from the United Nations. If it ever got to a point to where they needed to send in troops, then troops in as peacekeepers, not as combatants. So something similar to what we did in Bosnia or in Kosovo. However, we need to do something similar that they did what Clinton did in Bosnia when they settled on the agreement and that needs to happen before we send any more money or think about sending any ground troops.
CA: Is there anything else that you would maybe like our readers to know outside of the issues that we talked about today?
WB: I would say that this election is important so that we have the right person there that can hit the ground on day one and do the job. Two years goes by pretty quickly and if we are electing someone who doesn’t understand the process, and doesn’t know how to write a bill, and doesn’t know how to legislate and has never done that– They are going to spend six to seven months just learning that process. We don’t have that time to do that because while a person is trying to learn that process, particularly what’s going on with the economy […] it’s going to hurt the state, it’s gonna hurt the district.
Number two: The person is going to be behind the power curve because they are trying to learn the job. What I want readers to know is that on day one I’m able to hit the ground running. Hence, I’ve already been working with other legislators or other folks that are already in Congress for ideas to further protect our roads, further protect our forestry here in Arizona to come up with legislation, to be able to release some of the forestry back to the state of Arizona, so it increases revenue, we have more land and property, we have more land to turn it over to private property so we can – so the state of Arizona can pay for K-12 funding efficiently. If you don’t know how to do that, if you haven’t had these types of discussions, it’s gonna be pretty hard for whoever to go up there with the exception of me to actually do a job and get it done and then have results.