Congressman Jim Bridenstine Votes to End Veterans Gun Ban, Restore Accountability at VA

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Today, Congressman Jim Bridenstine, a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, voted to protect Second Amendment rights for veterans and restore accountability at the Veterans Administration.

H.R. 1181 would end the Obama Administration’s Veterans Gun Ban by restoring constitutional due process protections for veterans.  VA has reported hundreds of thousands of veterans to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) simply because they have a fiduciary to handle their benefits earned through service.  In 2016 alone, VA registered 32,000 veterans on NICS which prevents them from buying or owning firearms.

Congressman Bridenstine said, “The Obama Administration’s Veterans Gun Ban undermines Second Amendment rights for our veterans and is back-door gun control.  Judges should make mental incapacity determinations subject to due process, not VA bureaucrats.”

H.R. 1259 gives the VA Secretary authority to fire, demote, or suspend VA employees for poor performance or misconduct using expedited procedures.

Congressman Bridenstine said, “While most VA employees work hard to serve our veterans, the VA Secretary should be able to quickly remove and discipline the bad apples.  We need accountability at the VA.  The House has passed similar legislation each year I’ve been in Congress.  There’s no excuse for not getting this legislation to President Trump’s desk.”     

Bridenstine on FAA/AST Transcript

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Mr. Bridenstine - It is my honor. Thank you. Chairman Diaz-Balart, Ranking Member Price, Mr. Culberson and Mr. Valadao, it's an honor to be here.

I wanted to bring up something regarding infrastructure that a lot of people don't think about. When you think about infrastructure, when you think about roads, and bridges, highways, we think about hospitals and schools. One piece of infrastructure that I think a lot of people don't consider is launch.

Space has transformed our way of life. The way we communicate, the way we navigate, the way we produce food, the way we produce energy, the way we provide security, do disaster relief, the way we do banking depends on GPS for example.

All of these capabilities require infrastructure and as you look how things are moving forward now, what used to be the domain of government, space, is now the domain of private operators and commercial operators. And when you think about things like remote sensing and imagery, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency now uses a commercial space program to buy data from commercial providers for intelligence. When you think about communications the Department of Defense, for its routine communications, uses about 80% commercial satellites. Satellites that are launched to provide broadband from space, DirectTV, the internet, are now being leased by the Department of Defense to provide communication capabilities for the warfighter.

When you talk about all different sorts of activities happening in space commercial providers are now carrying a heavy load. What we need to do within the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation is make sure that they are adequately funded for all the upcoming launches. Everything I just described is historical. When you think about the future, we're talking about hundreds if not thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit for remote sensing and imagery.

When you think about communications we're talking about hundreds many, many thousands of satellites. Boeing has a program, OneWeb has a program, SpaceX has a program. Each one of these low earth orbit communications constellations constitutes multiple thousands of satellites in low earth orbit that all are going to require launch and these companies are contracting overseas.

In fact, last week American companies building imagery satellites for purposes that the Department of Defense will use, launched 96 American satellites on a foreign rocket. An Indian rocket to be precise. OneWeb has contracts worth billions of dollars with the Russians because we don't have the capability here in the United States to deliver what they need. So, the office of Commercial Space Transportation, which is within the FAA, in my estimation needs to be fully and adequately funded just so that we can go forward with these new programs that are going to change the way we think about space.

And of course, where does that begin?

The Office of Commercial Space Transportation within the FAA is the regulatory body. That is true. But they are also the body that is necessary to promote and facilitate commercial space industry. Right now, they are funded under a Continuing Resolution at a level that I believe is inadequate.

Last year I came to this committee and I requested 19.8 million dollars which don't seem like a big number. But that is what was in the President's budget request and what the appropriations process came to was an amount less than that and then you guys delivered and I thank you for that. The challenge is operating under a Continuing resolution that 19.8 million dollars never materialized.

So I would ask this year to take care of these needs that are transforming the way we think about space and the way it's transforming the human condition on Earth.  I am requesting that the office of Commercial Space Transportation within the FAA, sometimes call FAA/AST, be funded to the tune of 23 million dollars. With that, I'll be open to any questions.

Mr. Price - Let me just say I thank the gentleman for his testimony, it's very convincing.  Am I to conclude also that you will strongly back picking up the remaining five months of the current fiscal year to take advantage of the appropriations bill that would be concluded in an Omnibus, as opposed to a year-long CR?

Mr. Bridenstine - I will tell you I don't like doing CRs. I will also tell you that what we need to do is go through the appropriations process because as I've just described the world has changed and we need to make sure that what we are funding as a government reflects that change. I don't want to do a CR. If we do an omnibus and the priorities in there are appropriate I'm certainly willing to consider it.

Mr. Price - You are giving us a very good example of why a serious appropriations bill with the detailed work that goes into it is preferable to automatic pilot.

Mr. Bridenstine - Absolutely, yes sir, and I fully appreciate you making that comment.

Mr. Price - Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Diaz-Balart - Thank you, Mr. Price, and I will tell you [Mr. Bridenstine] that you have been very effective working with this subcommittee and we appreciate your involvement and we appreciate your hard work and look forward to continuing doing so. And we agree with you a CR - a lot of folks don't understand how devastating a CR is in so many ways. But again, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank you for your hard work particularly with your involvement with this subcommittee.  It's greatly appreciated.  

Mr. Bridenstine - Thank you for your support.

Mr. Culberson - I also want to thank you Jim for your support for NASA, for the space program, and your understanding of the changing times in which we live the commercial sector is going to be getting us into low Earth orbit like it's stepping out in front of the Rayburn building like catching a cab you'll be able to catch a commercial ride into low Earth orbit. And you're exactly right this agency needs to be, this portion of the FAA needs to be fully funded and really appreciate your support for getting a detailed appropriations bills on the floor not only this one but the Commerce, Justice, Science bill as well.

Mr. Bridenstine - Would the gentleman yield for 15 seconds? When you think about NASA, this agency [FAA/AST] is critical for NASA to accomplish its mission because NASA is using commercial to get back and forth to the International Space Station.  This agency could make that problematic if it’s not adequately funded. It’s not just NASA though it’s also the Department of Defense, it’s the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. This agency touches all of those and more which is why it's so important.

Mr. Culberson - I deeply appreciate your support for it and I want to also wish Jim good luck in his and I strongly support his application to become the new NASA administrator.  Jim would do a superb job with that position and I want to strongly express my endorsement and support for your work and I hope to see you become the new NASA administrator and look forward to helping you in that role.

Mr. Diaz-Balart - Thank you very much. With Mr. Culberson's strong endorsement, I think the gentleman who is testifying has had a good day.

Provisions from American Space Renaissance Act Included in NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017

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March 7th, the House of Representatives passed S. 442, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017, passed by the Senate in February. The bill will now go to the President for his signature.

For our space program to be successful, NASA needs consistency in its mission. The NASA Transition Authorization Act keeps a mission to Mars as NASA’s horizon goal, supporting the critical deep space exploration systems as well as partnerships with industry that will make this horizon goal successful. This bill also recognizes the importance of the Moon in these plans as well as the role NASA plays in lowering barriers to access for other actors in space.

S. 442 includes several provisions from my American Space Renaissance Act, H.R. 4945 introduced in the 114th Congress:

  • Launch Indemnification: Allows the NASA Administrator to determine a maximum probable loss for a launch, and set the insurance requirements to that determination. This provides flexibility to launch providers and could potentially lead to cheaper launches.
  • Orbital debris removal: Calls for a review of concepts and technologies for removing existing orbital debris, enhancing the safety of the space environment.
  • ISS transition plan: Requires NASA to develop a plan to transition from NASA sponsorship of the ISS to other regimes, critical to ensure the United States does not suffer a gap in low Earth orbit presence.
  • Venture Class launch: Indicates Congress’ support for the Venture Class Launch Services program, a key program to enhance the domestic commercial launch industry and ensure we have necessary capabilities in the United States.

Service Academy Day

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Congressman Bridenstine will be hosting a Service Academy Day on April 22, 2017 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the 1st floor auditorium of the CityPlex Towers. The purpose of this event is to provide students who are interested in attending a service academy a forum to gather information and ask any questions they may have.  At this event, interested students and parents will have the opportunity to interact with representatives from all five service academies. Each representative will give a presentation covering the admissions process, life at the service academy, and additional pertinent details. If you have further questions, or would like to RSVP for this event, please contact Cam Thomas at or at 918-935-3222.

Service Academy Flyer

Shoot the Next One Down, Mr. President

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This past weekend brought the world another banned missile launch from North Korea followed by another emergency UN Security Council meeting. Another round of diplomatic tough talk and sanctions is surely on the way.

On February 12, North Korea launched a Pukguksong-2 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). A decade of sanctions has not deterred the Hermit Kingdom from pursuing its goal of developing long-range, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) with nuclear warheads which could target the U.S. homeland. Yet, the Trump Administration has an opportunity to escape from the tit-for-tat cycle of following each North Korean missile test with yet more ineffectual sanctions.

President Trump should order the Secretary of Defense to position American assets and shoot down Kim Jong Un’s next missile launch. Intercepting a North Korean missile would signal to Pyongyang that America has the capability and the willingness to defend our allies and the homeland. In the parlance of military strategy, the missile defense option enhances deterrence-by-denial. North Korea is more likely to be deterred from developing missiles if robust, layered missile defenses deny them any strategic benefit from striking first. The only two alternatives are preemptive offensive action and, of course, more strongly worded UN Security Council resolutions and toothless sanctions.

In July 2006, North Korea abandoned seven years of good-faith multilateral negotiations by testing seven ballistic missiles – including the Taepo Dong-2 nuclear-capable ICBM. Shortly thereafter, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1695 condemning the launches and demanding that Kim Jong-Il’s regime returns to multilateral talks and the previous launch moratorium.

North Korea has responded subsequently by conducting over 30 banned missile launches and nuclear tests. Like clockwork, the United Nations and the United States responded to these violations with over 20 actions to establish, expand, or reaffirm sanctions. This weekend’s missile test followed the latest UN Security Council Resolution (2321) enacted in November 2016. Clearly, a decade of sanctions has not changed Pyongyang’s behavior. While the diplomats tussle in Turtle Bay, North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs move steadily forward.

Cleary, U.S. and international diplomatic and economic instruments of power are insufficient – even combined with allies and partners. Continually signaling impotence weakens the trust of Japan, South Korea, and the American people.

So, what change is needed? Should we pursue diplomatic efforts? Yes. Should we enhance economic sanctions? Yes. It’s time to back up those options with a credible show of defensive military force.

Can America’s armed forces actually “hit a bullet with a bullet”? Absolutely. Led by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), the U.S. military has constructed a Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) over three decades. The BMDS represents an integrated and layered network of sensors (ground-, sea-, and space-based), interceptors (ground- and sea-based), and command-and-control nodes that provide an umbrella of protection from inbound ballistic missile threats.

The Aegis BMDS system would likely be used to defeat a North Korean threat. Aegis is a combination sensor-shooter system capable against short- to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats for regional defense. The system also supports homeland defense through its detection and tracking capabilities. The United States has 16 Aegis BMD ships assigned to Pacific Fleet complemented by Japan’s four deployed Aegis BMD-capable KONGO Class Destroyers. Since 2002, Aegis BMD has a stellar test record — 34 hits (3 with Japanese KONGOs) and only 6 misses. Aegis is well suited to shoot a Pukguksong-2 or Musudan out of the sky.

American taxpayers have provided more than $180 billion to the MDA since 1985, including more than $16 billion for Aegis. It’s time to put the hard-earned treasure of the American taxpayer to work.

Absent use of defensive intercept, the military alternative is preemptive strike to take out North Korean missiles on the pad. Incidentally, two former Secretaries of Defense – Ashton Carter and William Perry – recommended preemptive strike a decade ago. The difference today is that operational missile defenses provide the option to reinforce deterrence and assure allies without necessarily escalating to offensive action.

President Trump should direct Secretary of Defense James Mattis to posture our ballistic missile defense forces in the Pacific theater to intercept any and all future North Korean ballistic missile launches. A forceful military response – backing up diplomacy and sanctions – may help deter further ballistic missile and nuclear development.

Congressman Jim Bridenstine Votes to Block Rule Requiring States to Grant Funds to Abortion Providers

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Today, Congressman Jim Bridenstine voted to block an Obama Administration regulation which opened a backdoor to funding abortion with taxpayer funds.

Congressman Bridenstine’s statement on passage of H. J. Res. 43 in the U.S. House:

“Congress is moving to block numerous regulations finalized late in Mr. Obama’s presidency.  This particular ‘Midnight Rule’ was designed to support the abortion industry.  If enacted, this rule would have prohibited states from denying Federal grants to abortion providers.  I’m proud that the House acted to start the process of repealing this rule.”

Congressman Bridenstine’s extended commentary on Title X funds is available at: /blog/?postid=616

Congressman Jim Bridenstine Votes to Block Methane Rule

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Today, Congressman Bridenstine voted to promote Oklahoma’s energy industry by supporting H.J.Res. 36, legislation to block the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) overreaching and duplicative methane emissions rule.  The bill passed the House 221-191.

In the 11th hour of the Obama administration, the BLM rushed through an unnecessary and duplicative mandate that hinders energy production in Oklahoma, increases production costs, and raises prices for consumers and businesses across the United States. The regulation aims to reduce methane emissions from natural gas production on federal and Indian lands, driving down production and federal and tribal revenues.  Federal on-shore natural gas production declined 18 percent from 2010 to 2015, compared to a 55 percent increase on state and private lands. The industry has voluntarily reduced methane emissions by substantial amounts, capturing value, while still increasing production. Furthermore, the BLM lacks the authority and expertise to regulate air quality, which is already regulated by the EPA and the states.

Several of the “midnight regulations” issued late in the Obama term are being reviewed under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Congress has authority to review and block regulations within sixty legislative days of their finalization. Once H.J.Res. 36 is passed by the Senate and signed by the President, the BLM Methane Rule cannot take effect, and the agency may not reissue a rule that is similar.

Congressman Bridenstine said, “The Obama era brought regulation after regulation hindering production and innovation in oil and gas. Today’s vote is a step in the right direction for the industry and for the people of Oklahoma."


Bridenstine Statement on Executive Order on Immigration

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President Trump's Executive Order on immigration is simply a pause, similar to ones issued by previous presidents including Mr. Obama. The temporary pause affects only seven terror prone countries so we can better vet people coming into the United States.  The goal is to balance security with access. There is no ban on any religion.