5th District Candidates on the Issues: Part Two - National Security

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With Election Day only a week away, we're bringing you a three-part series looking at what the 5th District candidates for United States Congress say they would do on a variety of issues. 

National security issues are taking center stage in this election, as the threat from groups like ISIS increase and the war in Syria is front-page news. The next 5th District representative will confront these issues from day one in office.

In the second installment of our "On The Issues" series, NBC29's Nora Neus asked candidates Jane Dittmar (D) and Tom Garrett (R) about their positions on national security.

The candidates have some similarities. Both Dittmar and Garrett say they are concerned about the threat of terrorism and wary of escalated American involvement in complicated foreign conflicts like Syria. But, they have very different approaches on other issues, like the handling of refugees from those conflicts entering the United States.

Dittmar focuses on what she can do to defeat ISIS as the 5th District congresswoman:

“Well the only thing the Congress brings to the table is the power of the purse. So if new funds were needed through Homeland Security to protect from ISIS, or if military had a new initiative that needed appropriation, I think that would be where a Congressional seat would be involved."

Garrett speaks in terms of overarching American policy aims.  He has said that to confront radical Islam the U.S. should not be the world's policemen but rather "make it clear" we will depose foreign governments who "ignore or empower" radical Islamic groups.  When asked how he would do that he said:

“Well, by not backing up from red lines you set, right? But the current administration has been so incredibly dangerous in creating vacuums."

Garrett says his concern about creating power vacuums informs his position on the civil war in Syria, and he cautions against rushing to depose President Bashar al-Assad:

“Though he's a bad guy, [he] has insured that there was some stability and safety for religious minorities, two million Christians in Syria, two million Alawites out of 23 million people, and they've lived side by side in harmony."

Garrett and Dittmar agree that the United States should offer humanitarian aid in Syria but acknowledge the difficulty in managing shifting regional alliances.

When asked if she would support direct military assistance from the United States to Syria, Dittmar said:

“It depends on what that means. If it's a humanitarian aid, yes.  Right now it's so complicated with regard to international relations and the different players. Russia is a problem in that they're siding with Assad, and yet we need to partner with Russia in other ways, we certainly don't want to start a war with Russia."

Garrett is unequivocal.  He says he does not support boots on the ground military intervention at this stage in the conflict:

“So before American military power is used, we need to ensure that there's a desirable end state that we can articulate, and there's no desirable end state that we can articulate in Syria, none."

The issue could directly impact Virginia’s 5th District though.  According to the UN, over four million refugees are fleeing from conflict zones like Syria. Hundreds of refugees from around the world resettle in Charlottesville through the International Rescue Committee.

Garrett said:

“Until we have an FBI director say ‘yes, we can adequately vet these people,’ then we shouldn't be taking young men from areas with ongoing radical Islamist bloodshed into the U.S.”

Dittmar doesn't see it that way. When asked if she would you support additional refugee resettlement into the Charlottesville area, she stated:

“Well I think whatever is happening naturally seems to be working well for the area. I know the International Rescue Committee is a welcoming agent as far as support services and getting people jobs so that they can integrate well."

We'll bring you part three of the series with Dittmar and Garrett focusing on health care, Friday on NBC29 HD News at 6.

Click here for part one, the 5th District candidates on the economy.