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Issue Position: National Security

Issue Position

Date: Jan. 1, 2014

Protecting our nation from those who would do us harm is the first and most important responsibility of Congress.

In the midst of turbulent times abroad, we must remain vigilant in deterring hostile nations and pursuing terrorist networks intent on bringing death and destruction to our country. We must also identify and eliminate vulnerabilities within our borders, ports, and critical infrastructure. As an ever-shrinking global community draws both our friends and our enemies closer, we must maintain our focus and commitment to protecting our national security.

National security also means increasing our capacity to respond to domestic emergencies and disasters and reducing our vulnerabilities abroad and at home. It means limiting our dependence on foreign oil and the unfriendly or unstable regimes that dominate the world's oil supplies.

As Minnesota's U.S. Senator, I will continue to focus on these priorities:

Transitioning out of Afghanistan responsibly. I support the responsible withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The United States has a vital interest in ensuring that Afghanistan is not used as a base for terrorism. Yet with the death of Osama bin Laden, I believe we have an opportunity for a new momentum that will empower the Afghan people to stand on their own and allow our troops to come home. The international community must work together to emphasize increased security and economic development for the Afghan people, with the Afghan government and security forces taking the lead. I continue to have concerns about whether the Afghan government can gain the confidence of the Afghan people and serve as a credible partner in the fight against the Taliban. We must make clear to Afghan leaders that America's commitment will not be open-ended and that significant progress in governance and the economy must be made. I will continue to push for strong and necessary oversight of U.S. policy in Afghanistan and a responsible plan for the drawdown of U.S. troops.

Rebuilding our Armed Forces, National Guard, and Reserves. Our men and women in uniform have consistently performed above and beyond the call of duty, but they have been overstretched by recent conflicts. We need to focus our defense budget on retooling and reinforcing our military capabilities and rewarding those who have sacrificed for this nation, regardless of their service branch. We also need to identify and eliminate wasteful spending and unnecessary programs to ensure fiscal responsibility and accountability in our defense budget, while fully providing our service members the tools they need to carry out their duties.

Increasing security at our borders, ports, and critical infrastructure sites. This includes the screening of cargo entering U.S. ports, enacting effective security regulations for nuclear and chemical plants, and guarding our food supply. As the tragic collapse of the I-35W bridge demonstrated, disaster can strike when and where we least expect. We must provide our first responders and emergency personnel with the full resources they need to react to disasters, natural or intended.

Reaffirming our commitment to NATO and other international institutions that promote freedom and democracy. The United States must continue to lead the global community toward the common goals of peaceful exchange and interaction. International organizations and institutions can be vehicles for achieving our objectives and serving our national interests, and we must make the most of them.

Reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Our national security is held hostage by oil-producing nations whose policies and objectives often diverge from our own. Fostering stable and sustainable homegrown energy sources has great potential to increase our national security. Our energy agenda should include expanded incentives for biofuels, wind power, solar, and other sources of renewable energy, as well as domestic drilling, hydropower, nuclear, geothermal, and waste-to-energy technology. From the wind farms of southwestern Minnesota to the biofuels plants across our farming communities, Minnesotans know that these industries can create good jobs and strengthen our economy, in addition to reducing our dependence on foreign oil. We should be investing in the farmers and workers of the Midwest, not the oil cartels of the Middle East.

Remaining vigilant against terrorism. ince 9/11, we have made significant improvements to our counterterrorism and intelligence capabilities. However, recent terror attempts have made it all too clear that terrorist foes remain intent on bringing death and destruction to our nation. We must continue to make every effort to research and develop new technology to detect and mitigate threats to our nation by air, land, and sea. We must also strengthen our federal, state, and local intelligence and law enforcement operations and streamline coordination between our national security agencies. By strengthening our security efforts and investing in overseas initiatives that help prevent terrorist ideologies from developing, we can diminish the threat of terrorism to our nation.

Advancing peace and security in the Middle East. America and Israel are close allies whose interests in the Middle East and around the world remain strongly aligned. The deep and enduring friendship between our nations is based on values rooted in democracy and mutual strategic goals, and we must remain steadfast in our commitment to Israel's security. I believe that the United States must reinforce its commitment to leading a meaningful peace process of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. With dialogue, patience, and resolve, our ultimate goal of peace through the region can be realized. We must also address the dangerous instability stemming from the ongoing conflict in Syria. With over 70,000 dead and millions displaced, the United States cannot afford to ignore the humanitarian and strategic impacts of this war and should work with our regional allies to provide humanitarian assistance and seek a durable peace without the Assad regime.
Curbing the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. Iran's present course of action represents a threat to the United States, our allies in the Middle East, and the international community. Iran has defied repeated demands from the United Nations Security Council to stop enriching nuclear fuel and to fully disclose all information regarding its nuclear program. Compelling Iran to abandon its support for international terrorism, suspend its nuclear enrichment program, and respect the basic human rights of its citizens are critical steps to meeting the goal of long-term stability in the Middle East and around the world.

Responding to global food and water shortages, environmental challenges, and national disasters. As the global population continues to grow, so too will the demand for essential resources, including food and water supplies. The unpredictable effects of climate change could lead to more global instability due to rising poverty, mass migrations, increased border tensions, and greater demands for rescue and recovery efforts. It is our obligation to help those who lack access to stable food and water supplies. We must take steps to combat global climate change and also be prepared to respond to natural disasters, both at home and around the world.

Combating global poverty and disease. We must continue to lead the global fight against AIDS, malaria, and other diseases that are devastating entire regions. We must develop and distribute stockpiles of medicine and vaccinations to prevent future global epidemics.

Since coming to the Senate, I have fought to make America more secure by:

Enacting into law the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. When I arrived in the Senate in 2007, many of the important 9/11 Commission recommendations had been languishing for years. In my first six months as Senator, I helped pass the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act to provide our government with a blueprint to prevent future catastrophes and strengthen the resources available to our first responders. These critical reforms provide increased funding to protect our ports, borders, and critical infrastructure, including improved rail and aviation security.

Ensuring that our troops have the resources and support they need to do their jobs and remain safe. I traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan to see firsthand the actions of our brave Minnesotans in the field, and to meet with U.S. military commanders and diplomatic leaders. I was impressed by our military leadership, encouraged by the spirit of our soldiers, and honored to meet with Minnesota troops in the field to thank them for their service and sacrifices on behalf of our nation. I came home with a commitment to give our troops stationed in combat zones the equipment and resources they need to successfully carry out their missions and to ensure they are treated with the respect they deserve when they return home. In the Senate, I have supported funding increases for better and safer equipment - including to provide our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan with mine-resistant combat vehicles and individual troop body armor - and to address shortfalls in critical National Guard equipment. I also fought to create and secure funding for a national Yellow Ribbon program, based on the Minnesota National Guard's ground-breaking model, to ensure that Guard members and their families have the support they need before, during, and after deployments. [See Veterans section for additional legislation and actions.]

Increasing the security of our nation's transportation networks. The 9/11 Commission Act included measures to improve rail and aviation security across the nation. I also worked with the Transportation Security Administration to implement the Secure Flight program to improve the security screening of air travelers in the United States. This program strengthens our ability to identify and prevent potential threats, while reducing delays and inconveniences to American travelers caused by terrorist watch list misidentifications.

Providing first responders with life-saving communications tools. I I was an original cosponsor of the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act to allow for state-of-the-art technology that will help first responders in both rural and urban communities at no cost to taxpayers. I helped pass legislation to implement a nationwide wireless network to allow our first responders to clearly communicate when disaster strikes and focus on doing what they do best - saving lives. As co-chair of the NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus, I included a bipartisan provision to reauthorize the federal 9-1-1 Coordination Office to manage the transition to the Next Generation 9-1-1 emergency response system based on high-speed digital wireless networks in the Spectrum Act, which was passed into law in 2011.

Promoting domestic energy production. I successfully included legislation in the 2008 Farm Bill to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil by providing incentives for U.S. farmers to grow the next generation of biofuel crops. I have also introduced the Securing America's Future with Energy and Sustainable Technologies (SAFEST) Act to establish strong renewable energy and energy-efficiency standards, incentives for developing biofuels and biofuel infrastructure, and targets for the availability of advanced vehicle technologies. I have also supported efforts to promote the use of renewable fuels in military installations to sustain the long-term capabilities of our forces.

Advocating for Minnesota interests in meetings with customs officials and residents of Minnesota's border cities about how to secure our borders. I have worked to cut through the red tape that has been created by some new border crossing laws to help business travelers, tourists, hunters, anglers, and families. As part of this effort, I pushed for the creation of a U.S. passport card as an alternative document for U.S. citizens crossing our northern border to maintain the flow of commerce and tourism while ensuring security

Demanding accountability for American taxpayer funds. Since the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan began, there have been disturbing revelations that billions of dollars in American taxpayer money have been lost to corruption, fraud, and waste. There must be accountability for reconstruction funds that are intended to provide the Iraqi and Afghan people with the meaningful economic assistance they need to rebuild their respective countries. These illegal and unethical practices not only undermine reconstruction efforts - they hurt our troops in the field and impair their ability to carry out critical missions. In 2007 I co-sponsored a bipartisan provision in the Defense Authorization bill that established an independent commission to increase transparency and accountability in wartime contracting. The commission, modeled after the famous Truman Commission during World War II, has begun carrying out its assigned responsibilities to ensure accountability for U.S. tax dollars spent in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have also repeatedly voted to cut funding for programs the Defense Department has found to be unnecessary - including the F-35 alternate engine, the C-17 aircraft, and the F-22 Raptor fighter program - to ensure our defense budget is focused on the programs and technologies we need to strengthen our Armed Forces.