WOODALL: America still works together for national security
As Americans, we’ve shown time and again throughout our history that above all else, we unite around what matters. We come together to accomplish remarkable things, protect each other, and act as an ambassador for freedom and opportunity around the world.
We defend liberty passionately, and that all starts with the safety and security of the American people. In recent months we’ve seen terrorist attacks not only overseas, but tragically, here at home as well. The attackers seek to destroy freedom, create division, and stoke chaos. As they are wrong about so much, so too are they wrong in their estimation of our national character. As Americans, we don’t panic; we don’t point the finger of blame amongst ourselves; we do not divide. Rather we unite to confront challenges, and we defeat the enemies we face as one nation.
The activity on Capitol Hill can often seem far removed from our communities or overshadowed by politics, but even Congress is united around national security. Even in divided government, Congress is moving measures forward and having them signed into law by the President; measures that are now making a difference for Georgians and Americans throughout the country.
An immediate example can be found in H.R. 2029, the “FY2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act” – now the law of the land – which contained legislation increasing our investment in border security surveillance technology. That technology was at the forefront of the capture of Taliban-linked individuals first reported by the Washington Times just this June. A group described by federal authorities as “involved in a plot to conduct an attack in the U.S. and/or Canada” had reportedly entered underneath a border fence, but thanks to the added surveillance technology we apprehended them within miles of their entry point.
The “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act” is another example and has been fully implemented as of April 2016 according to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. As a result of this legislation, all travelers from Visa Waiver countries to the U.S. must have an e-Passport. The e-Passport contains the security feature of an electronic chip, which holds all of a passenger’s information including name, date of birth and other biographical information.
The e-Passport prevents identity theft travel fraud, and travelers who do not have an e-Passport from a Visa Waiver country must obtain a visa to come to the U.S. In addition, any traveler who has visited an area known for terrorist activity such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya, will receive a more rigorous security check before being allowed to enter the U.S. This law is the result of our focus on the direct threat of foreign fighters, and reflects our determination to keep them off our shores.
Our commitment to neutralize foreign fighters doesn’t stop there, though. We’ve begun implementation of another bill, H.R. 2835, the “Border Jobs for Veterans Act of 2015,” requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to grow its partnership with the Department of Defense (DoD) to utilize the skills of returning veterans in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Since enactment, CBP has participated in 651 veteran recruitment events and has a target of 1,000 events for FY 2016. CBP has already experienced an improvement in applicant awareness and engagement and is currently partnering with the DoD transition offices across America to provide information sessions and workshops for service members transitioning back to civilian life.
One early success of the CBP and DoD partnership is the CBP Recruiting Center on Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, which entails the DoD Transition Assistance Program Office providing space for CBP’s frontline agent and officer recruiters who offer information to transitioning service members on a full-time basis. As the first of its kind, I’m eager to see the program’s success continue and be replicated in states across the country. By these agencies working together, we are able to better protect Americans and better serve those who have sacrificed so much to serve each of us.
I want America to be proud of these improvements and proud that there is still more that unites us than divides us in America today. But make no mistake: no amount of legislation will keep America safe; only the selfless sacrifice of those thousands of U.S. citizens serving on the front lines here at home and abroad does that.
We as a citizenry and we as a Congress must continue to support those who protect national security and give them the tools to succeed, for we know anger and blame don’t keep America safe; their hard work does. Thank a veteran; thank a law enforcement official; and thank God as He continues to bless the United States of America.
Congressman Rob Woodall (R) represents the Seventh Congressional District of Georgia, which includes the majority of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties, and currently serves as Chairman of the Rules Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process, as well as serving on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and Budget Committee.