Today, I voted for H.R. 4038, the American SAFE Act. While this is a good first step, it does not go far enough.
Senior FBI and Homeland Security officials have testified to Congress that it’s impossible to fully screen prospective refugees for terrorist affiliation, especially those coming from disintegrated states and failed governments. Further, the American SAFE Act limits such "enhanced" screenings solely to Iraqi and Syrian refugees. This provision ignores the fact that ISIS has affiliates across the Middle East, North Africa, and Southwest Asia and plans to smuggle terrorists in through our broken southern border. Just yesterday, Honduras arrested five Syrians using stolen Greek passports. We should suspend refugee admissions until Congress has sufficient assurances to restart the program.
Along with over 60 of my colleagues, I signed a letter to Speaker Ryan demanding that the impending trillion dollar omnibus spending bill include a provision which suspends refugee program funding. I am also drafting an omnibus rider to defund the Office of Refugee Resettlement, an agency which is unaccountable to Congress and helps resettle illegal aliens. We are under no obligation to import possible terrorists to replay the Paris attacks in America.
Consistent with U.S. security interests, the best way to help refugees fleeing ISIS is to (1) rapidly defeat ISIS and (2) resettle the maximum number of refugees in the safest areas closest to Syria and Iraq. For the cost of resettling one refugee in the United States, we can resettle 12 refugees in other countries. The United States should help the most people using our limited refugee resettlement resources. We should pause refugee admissions into the United States and redirect resources toward resettling refugees in third-party countries closer to their homes.
Representatives Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Lamar Smith (R-Texas), and Brian Babin (R-Texas) are calling for a temporary suspension of Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) resettlement funding for all refugees, as well as individuals not in a legitimate lawful status. The lawmakers’ approach includes but also extends beyond refugee services for Syrian, Iraqi and other refugees and reflects the need to examine the resettlement of potential “special interest aliens” who are crossing our Southern border. The lawmakers are currently crafting language to address the issue for inclusion in an omnibus spending bill.
The Members argue that congressional action to protect American citizens from Islamic State terrorists must acknowledge vulnerabilities in our overseas vetting process as well as our domestic security vulnerabilities. Islamic State terrorists can just as easily pose as illegal aliens crossing our southern border as they can refugees fleeing a war torn country overseas.
The Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety was recently asked whether Islamic State terrorists had infiltrated the Southern border. He responded, “Individuals that come across the Texas/Mexican border from countries with a known terrorism presence and the answer to that is yes.”1 In April, a Judicial Watch report cited a Mexican Army officer and police inspector who asserted that ISIS was operating training bases in close proximity of the U.S. Southern border.2Another report from August 2014 advised that social media traffic indicated ISIS was planning to “infiltrate” the Southern border in order to carry out a terrorist attack.3
ORR has failed to submit annual reports in a timely manner as required by section 413(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, despite being directly involved in the resettlement of thousands of illegal aliens who have crossed our Southern border over the past few years. Further, ORR’s budget has grown exponentially from approximately $750 million in FY2012 funding to over $1.5 billion currently. Repeated attempts by Members of Congress to conduct legitimate oversight of this entity have been met by delays, obstruction and a failure to produce information.
The vetting and resettlement processes associated with services for refugees and aliens not in a legitimate lawful status must be re-examined in order to address threats from all potential access points. Accordingly, all resettlement services should be temporarily suspended. If Congress funds ORR without such restrictions, Congress will be providing the President the funds to carry out his refugee resettlement efforts in full – both from countries overseas as well as through the resettlement of illegal aliens at the Southern border.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) was established by the Refugee Act of 1980. It operates within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). According to ORR’s FY2013 Annual Report, its “mission is to link these newly-arrived populations to key resources to maximize their potential in the U.S., and to become integrated and successful members of American society.” ORR has settled more than three million refugees from seventy different countries since it was established.
Earlier today, Rep Bridenstine signed onto a letter to House Leadership demanding that any government funding bills stop refugee resettlement until approved by a joint resolution of Congress. The text of the letter is below:
Speaker Ryan, Majority Leader McCarthy and Chairman Rogers:
We are writing to express our concerns about the continuing threat of terrorism and to urge that the Congress exercise greater oversight and authority over the refugee resettlement programs.
The Director of National Intelligence, the Director Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Secretary of Homeland Security have each testified recently that they cannot properly screen refugees coming from Syria and the surrounding regions for national security threats.
There is no duty of the federal government more important than ensuring the protection of the American people. We believe that we would fall short of that duty if the Congress fails to exercise greater authority over the Administration’s refugee resettlement program. We see this as an important national security concern.
It is prudent and in the best interest of the American people that language be included in the upcoming FY 2016 appropriations legislation to restore Congressional oversight and authority over the refugee program. Specifically we would ask that language be included in the final bill that would:
1. Prevent federal funds from being used to admit to the United States refugees from Syria, the Middle East and North Africa until the following conditions are met:
a. Federal Immigration, law enforcement and national security agencies put in place processes to ensure that refugee and related programs are not able to be co-opted by would be terrorists;
b. That such process and programs are provided to the Congress in both classified and public formats;
c. That a longer-term monitoring process be put into place for those admitted to the U.S. as refugees; and
d. That no federal funds may be used for refugee travel to the U.S. or any U.S. resettlement until Congress has passed by joint resolution a bill that specifically approves funding for such purposes.
2. Permit U.S. funds to continue to be used to provide for the safety of refugees overseas, including housing, food and medical aid.
ISIS has repeatedly declared that they would infiltrate the refugee community that is leaving the Middle East and flooding into Europe. The November 13 attacks in Paris appear to have been a fulfillment of that threat. We cannot allow the refugee program to serve as a Trojan Horse threat to American national security.
We look forward to working with you to make this a priority in end of the year legislation over the coming weeks.
President Obama’s premature and politically motivated withdrawal from Iraq led to the Islamic State’s creation. The Islamic State is now exploiting a humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria to infiltrate terrorists into the West. Press reports indicate that at least one ISIS terrorist involved in the recent Paris attacks was registered as a refugee with Greece.
The United States is a welcoming country, but we’re under no obligation to jeopardize our national security to admit refugees from Syria or anywhere else. President Obama wants to resettle over 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States. The horrific ISIS terrorist attacks in Paris demonstrate that resettling any Syrian refugees could endanger national security.
At this point, the United States has no way of credibly screening potential Syrian refugees for terrorist affiliation. President Obama’s FBI Director, James Comey, admitted this fact to Congress last month. President Obama should stop all Syrian refugee resettlement activity immediately. Congress should defund all Syrian refugee processing and resettlement programs.
Today the House concurred with the Senate amendment to the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act of 2015. The bill passed unanimously from both houses and now goes to the President for signature.
HR 2262 is designed to facilitate a pro-growth business environment for the commercial space industry. The legislation includes, in entirety, a bill sponsored by Congressman Jim Bridenstine, HR 2261 the Commercial Remote Sensing Act, relating to licensing private remote sensing space systems. Bridenstine also contributed a section enabling training of commercial space flight participants in space support vehicles.
Congressman Bridenstine commented, “We already rely on commercial space for so much, and this industry will continue to expand in the coming years. We will soon see worldwide internet coverage, utilization of space resources, improved communications and remote sensing technologies, and more. We must make sure that Congress does not do anything that could stifle this world-changing industry. That is why this Act is crucial.”
Bridenstine has been recognized as one of the top five leaders in space by SpaceNews. In their annual list of worldwide “Space Industry Game-Changers,” the Congressman was noted for his legislative initiatives.
Speaking on the floor of the House, Bridenstine said, “The most important aspect of this legislation is the extension of the moratorium on regulations for commercial human spaceflight, allowing time to create a regulatory environment based on real data, not speculation.” Other provisions will allow American space companies to remain competitive against international companies and enable private companies to explore and mine celestial resources.
The Congressman also addressed provisions he worked to include in the bill and the Senate retained in the final version: “Sec. 116 was an amendment I offered in committee to the original version of H.R. 2262 to require a GAO report on the role of space support vehicles in the commercial space industry, with recommendations to relieve regulatory and statutory barriers to the services these vehicles offer. People will need to be trained to fly, and vehicle designs will not stay static.
“Additionally, Title II of this bill incorporates H.R. 2261, the Commercial Remote Sensing Act, bipartisan legislation I introduced with Congressman Ed Perlmutter of Colorado. This title sets metrics to give Congress a picture of the workload facing the Department of Commerce when licensing remote sensing activities and any issues preventing them from meeting statutory deadlines. Title II recognizes the importance of seeking input from industry representatives. This legislation is crucial as industry expands beyond traditional remote sensing and as Congress starts to update the statutes governing these activities for the first time since the 90s.”
Beyond the positive economic benefits and job creation, Keystone XL Pipeline is an important link in ensuring United States energy security. President Obama has once again made a decision, for political purposes, that undermines America’s national security.
Today, the House passed the defense authorization bill for FY2016 with overwhelming, bipartisan, veto-proof support. Congressman Jim Bridenstine voted for the adjusted authorization bill saying, “The bill contains critically important provisions for national security and our warfighters. I call on the Senate to pass and the President to sign this bill into law by Veterans Day.”
Congressman Bridenstine has become a recognized leader on military space issues. The adjusted FY16 defense authorization act continues numerous provisions and amendments authored by Congressman Bridenstine including the following:
Includes Rep. Bridenstine’s bill, H.R. 1864, which would streamline the DOD process of acquiring satellite communications (SATCOM) services.
Reallocates funding to fully fund the Air Force’s SATCOM Pathfinder program, an innovative SATCOM acquisition test bed.
Mandates a new SATCOM Pilot Program to field new SATCOM systems offering order-of-magnitude capability enhancements over legacy systems.
Reallocates funding toward the Air Force Office of Operationally Responsive Space.
Requires DOD (Department of Defense) to meet certain weather satellite requirements without reliance on China and Russia.
Requires DOD to develop a plan to incorporate commercial space-based weather data into military weather forecasting.
Today I voted against the “Bipartisan Budget Act.” This massive bill was negotiated in secret and brought to Members who were given 41 hours to consider it. No amendments were allowed and representation was denied to the American people. It increased spending, increased annual deficits, and raised the debt limit. I voted No.
Commercial space-based weather satellites, owned and operated by private companies, can augment the federal government’s weather data, be assimilated into our numerical weather models, and substantially improve our ability to predict severe weather. This is my firm conviction. I represent the state of Oklahoma. My constituents year after year find their lives threatened by severe storms and tornadoes. They deserve to have the best possible weather data available to protect their lives and property. The House Science environment subcommittee that I chair has vigorously encouraged the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to explore these options.
In September, NOAA released a draft Commercial Space Policy, thanks in no small part to the efforts of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. While I have some concerns about the policy as drafted, I believe this is a positive step toward NOAA procuring the services of commercial weather data satellite firms and integrating them into the weather enterprise.
Despite my optimism, NOAA continues to slow the process by citing a blanket interpretation of our data-sharing obligations under World Meteorological Organization Resolution 40 (WMO-40). In testimony before the environment subcommittee and reiterated in its draft Commercial Space Policy, NOAA insists that it must give away any and all data, regardless of the source or type of data.
Our international obligations are actually much more nuanced than this interpretation. WMO-40 was developed 20 years ago, an eternity in technological terms and before commercial space was a practical concept like it is today. I have called on NOAA to consider new approaches [“NOAA’s Commercial Data Policy,” Commentary, June 22, page 19], but NOAA remains committed to its interpretation.
The landscape for weather satellites has changed, and NOAA needs to be open to new ideas for handling environmental data, while ensuring we meet our international obligations and provide adequate data access for academia and the downstream weather enterprise.
Instead of blanket policies and complete dismissal of new and innovative data sources, NOAA should work with the emerging commercial sector to incorporate data that protect lives and property, foster a new industry, reduce government costs and increase our ability to forecast severe weather.
To this end, there are multiple methods NOAA can use to incorporate commercial space-based data into numerical weather systems while still meeting our obligations under WMO-40, as NOAA does with various other types of data:
Time delay: Much like NOAA’s use of aviation-based weather data, this method suggests that private space-based data be restricted to clients (such as NOAA) on a time delay of 24-48 hours to be used in the clients’ numerical weather models and ensembles. This would allow private companies to sell data to NOAA without the risk of NOAA giving the data away free of charge.
Resolution restrictions: A resolution restriction would allow a client (such as NOAA) to purchase higher-resolution data. Data for global initial conditions could be shared with the world while the higher-resolution data would not be released free of charge. This method would block the client’s ability to share precise data measurements while still providing for the distribution of certain portions of data.
Data tiers: Data that go beyond NOAA’s requirements in terms of type, amount, frequency and resolution could be subject to a tiered subscription model, incorporated into a client’s numerical weather models with release subject to agreements between the client and the sellers of the data.
An open architecture for space-based weather data would provide more and better data, foster competition and distribute taxpayer costs to the private sector.
As we look to incorporate commercial space-based assets, any genuine and meaningful conversations need to result in action. Many of my colleagues feel the same way: There is in fact bipartisan acknowledgment that this hurdle must be overcome. The ranking member of the subcommittee, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), has expressed a strong desire to ensure that academia and researchers have access to the best data, and I absolutely share this commitment. Another Science Committee colleague, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), has proposed that these issues be dealt with through contracting processes, and I think this concept has promise. I appreciate the good faith with which my colleagues have approached this issue.
NOAA’s mission is public safety, and to meet this national priority it will need to incorporate commercial space-based assets. H.R. 1561, the Lucas-Bridenstine Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act, includes a pilot program to competitively select providers of space-based data to test against NOAA’s proprietary data. H.R. 1561 passed the House on May 19. I am confident we can deliver a final bill to the president’s desk by year’s end.
Private-sector innovation will surpass government capabilities. We have seen this happen with the Department of Defense and with NASA. NOAA will need to integrate commercial sources into its models to stay ahead of the international community’s growing weather capabilities.
The United States has already fallen behind Europe and other countries in regard to weather forecasting. We should not turn our backs on a commercial sector that has the power to help us regain our global leadership in weather forecasting and prediction essential to saving lives and property.
I welcome feedback from throughout the American weather enterprise. I hope this commentary leads to a fruitful discussion on how NOAA treats space-based weather data. This is critical to ensure NOAA has access to the most and best data necessary to protect my constituents and Americans all across the country.
U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) is chairman of the House Science environment subcommittee.