Dr. Boozman's Check-up

Last week, President Obama announced that a large-scale U.S. military-led response to the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 2,800 people have died in the worst outbreak of Ebola virus in history. In total, over 5,800 people in West Africa have been infected in the outbreak.

On the same day of that announcement, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions and the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services, Education and Related Agencies held a joint full committee hearing on “Ebola in West Africa: A Global Challenge and Public Health Threat.”

Among those testifying at the hearing was Dr. Kent Brantly, a U.S. missionary who put his medical expertise to use to help Liberians suffering from Ebola. Liberia is the West African nation hit hardest by the outbreak, with over 3,000 known cases and almost 1,600 deaths.

Along with running the treatment center in Liberia’s capital city, Dr. Brantly is also an Ebola survivor himself having contracted the disease while treating patients in Monrovia.

In his testimony, Dr. Brantly laid out why the U.S. needs to take a larger leadership role in West Africa, saying that the WHO’s efforts to stop the outbreak are “so bound up by bureaucracy that they have been painfully slow and ineffective in this response.”

He believes the U.S. needs to be in charge of the mission, saying that it “is imperative that the U.S. take the lead instead of relying on other agencies. The U.S. military is highly trained with a clear chain of command. They are experienced in responding to complex international crises such as what we are facing now. I believe they are the only force capable of mounting an immediate, large-scale offensive to defeat this virus before it lays waste to all of West Africa.”

I agree that U.S. assistance is necessary to quickly take charge of the situation as it continues to spiral out of control. The reality is we live in a small world and we need to eradicate this threat before it escalates to an even bigger crisis. While I believe the President’s proposed strategy can be successful, I do think more must be done to ensure that we do not fall into the same trap as the WHO’s operation.

One easy way to prevent our mission from becoming a bureaucratic failure is to appoint a central coordinator here in Washington. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is handling the public health aspects, the Defense Department and USAID have lead on logistics and materials, and the National Security Advisor is helping to coordinate. However, there isn’t a single individual in charge of the entire operation. That was one of the points I raised at the hearing.

We need a point person in charge to avoid ending up in the same bureaucratic quagmire that currently exists.  

During the hearing, I also pushed officials to ensure the public that the proper steps we are being taken to prevent individuals infected with Ebola from bringing it into the US.  Clearly that is a concern for the public and we must be able to reassure Americans that every precaution is being taken to protect public health at home.

You can watch my questions at the hearing by clicking the video below.

The following column was published in the Southwest Times Record on September 21, 2014. 

SW Times Record

As the son of a Master Sergeant in the Air Force, I grew up in a family that had values rooted in military tradition. My dad’s service was a source of pride for us and I knew that wearing our nation’s uniform made him proud too.

Military service ran in the family. A picture of my grandpa and great uncle as young soldiers in France during WWI overlooks my desk in Washington and reminds me of the service and sacrifice of all of our nation’s past and present servicemembers. Like my dad, my grandpa and great uncle were members of the 142nd Fires Brigade Charlie Battery during their military careers.

I know many Arkansans can trace the military service of members of their family to Charlie Battery and the 142nd Fires Brigade. Exploring the history of the 142nd is like reading a book of our country’s military operations. Having been created in 1917 from the former 2nd Arkansas Infantry, members of the 142nd have a long history of supporting military operations at home and abroad. The unit participated in nearly every war and conflict since the Mexican Expedition. Most recently Charlie Battery received the Meritorious Unit Commendation award for its service in Iraq. 

Based in Ozark since 1963, Charlie Battery is part of community’s identity. To recognize its role in the community, and to honor the men and women who served and shaped our history, Ozark is bringing those whose lives have been touched by Charlie Battery together.

This unique reunion will bring together former commanders, members, family and descendants to reminisce and share memorabilia. I’m proud to join the community in celebrating the accomplishments of those, like my family, who served in Charlie Battery. I’ll be bringing some of my own keepsakes that have been passed down to me through the years.

Collecting and preserving these stories, memories and artifacts is important to recognizing the service and sacrifice of our veterans and their important role in our history. Providing future generations the opportunity to learn from their experiences is essential.

Arkansas has a rich history of service to our nation. Arkansans have always been willing to do their part to serve and protect. Our units stationed in the state are some of the best assets in our national defense made up of dedicated patriots. We have a proud tradition of honoring our state’s 250,000 veterans and we owe it to these men and women to ensure that their contributions to our country are preserved.

I’m looking forward to celebrating Charlie Battery, the role it’s played in my family and sharing stories with other Arkansans who have a connection to this unit.

For more on the reunion go to www.ozark142.org

In June, EPA announced its plan to mandate states restrict the amount of carbon emissions from existing power plants and change how electricity is generated.  These heavy-handed rules target Arkansas for cuts stricter than 44 other states. In this edition of “From the Mailbag,” Senator Boozman answers a question about what he's doing to fight this overreach.

In case you missed our interview this morning with Jonesboro’s KASU radio, you can listen to the interview here. We covered a wide range of issues including the threats of ISIS and Ebola to our national security and discussed the overreach of the EPA’s carbon emissions mandate.

Arkansans have a long and proud history of serving our country in uniform. We are a state of patriots. Our nation’s flag serves as a reminder of the sacrifices of our families and friends who’ve ensured that our nation’s flag continues to fly. Old Glory represents our values and fortitude as a country. 

During the War of 1812, our nation’s capital was burned by British troops and after two years of fighting, hope seemed to be lost. The Battle for Fort McHenry in September 1814 would turn favor for Americans and serve as an inspiration for one of our most honored traditions – the national anthem. 

Early in the morning of September 14, 1814, the stars and stripes served as inspiration to our soldiers fighting the British in Baltimore, American citizens seeking a victory and lawyer negotiating the release of American prisoners. 

That lawyer, Francis Scott Key, witnessed from a ship several miles away from Baltimore the attempted siege by the British of Fort McHenry – the fort that protected Baltimore harbor. Key saw our nation’s flag flying proudly over Fort McHenry – a signal that we had won the battle. While aboard his ship and inspired by America’s victory, he wrote the poem, Defence of Fort McHenry, more commonly known as The Star Spangled Banner. 

This week we celebrate the 200th year anniversary of Key’s writing of The Star Spangled Banner, which resonates and invokes national pride among all Americans. We sing his poem before sporting events, at the beginnings of many ceremonies and programs and in celebration. I am proud and thankful for Francis Scott Key’s victorious spirit, which inspired him to write the poem that lives on through the American spirit. 

The flag that inspired Key continues to move us today. It’s on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Learn more about it here.  

As Arkansans, we understand what it means to give back to our communities – particularly during times of hardship. As a state and a community, we support each other and lift each other up. 

AmeriCorps offers Arkansans an opportunity to further engage in community service through intensive service positions. Many of these roles include community rebuilding efforts after tornadoes and storms, improving schools, providing health services, and supporting our military families and veterans. More than 820,000 men and women serve in AmeriCorps, committing over 1 billion hours of service. 

This week we celebrate the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps. Since its founding, more than 80,000 Arkansans have been affected by the service of AmeriCorps members. I’m proud that AmeriCorps operates in all of Arkansas’s 75 counties. I am grateful to the dedicated men and women who provide life changing services to members of our community and would like to thank them for their commitment to Arkansas and AmeriCorps. 

These volunteers are our friends, family and neighbors. They exemplify true humanitarian spirit and impact the lives of Arkansans and other Americans. We are proud of their commitment and their devotion to serving others through their efforts. I offer my sincere appreciation to all of the men and women who have served and are serving to make a difference in our communities. 

One only needs to turn on the news and see the barbaric acts committed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) to understand that there are people who still want to destroy our freedoms, attack our way of life and cause harm to Americans both here and abroad.

After claiming large swaths of land in Syria, ISIL began a gruesome march toward Mosul, Iraq, executing Christians and religious minorities, displacing thousands, and forcing people to convert to Islam. Along the way, the group sought to eliminate all whom it deems as “non-believers,” by carrying out mass murder of religious minorities in extremely gruesome and vicious ways—including beheadings and crucifixions. The group is continuing its campaign of violence, harassment, and intimidation as it pushes toward Kurdish territory and, its ultimate goal in Iraq-- Baghdad. 

The President—while slow to acknowledge the size, strength and extent of the threat ISIL poses—is correct that we need to take and lead action against this extremist group. That action must be strong and it must be direct. The limited airstrikes conducted in Iraq thus far appear to have slowed ISIL’s progress, but as the President stated last night, more must be done to eradicate this brutal group. ISIL poses a growing threat to the United States and our allies, so I am supportive of the framework to address this threat the President laid out in his speech.

I support what the President is attempting to achieve because we know who the enemy is, we know how they have behaved, and we know they must be stopped. However, we also must have a strategy that truly squashes the threat posed by this terrorist group. Since ISIL poses a threat to more than just the U.S., our approach must be inclusive, which is why support our diplomatic efforts to build a coalition of allies to aid in this fight. Ultimately, the responsibility to protect their citizens and their country will fall on the Iraqis, which is why I also back our diplomatic efforts to support an inclusive, stable and effective government in Iraq.

Perhaps most importantly, the military component of this strategy must be designed by generals, not micromanaged by Washington.  While the President believes he has the authority to act alone, he should bring his plan before Congress to get the feedback of the American people through their elected officials. By doing so, we also send a united message to the world—and more importantly ISIL—that the U.S. is serious and committed to eliminating those who wish to do us harm. 

It’s clear that ISIL has no intention of going down without a fight. The gruesome beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff are evidence of that. ISIL is committed to brutally forcing its warped view on the Middle East and has no desire to stop there. The group has indicated its intentions to attack the U.S. and, perhaps more frighteningly, has the resources and connections to terrorists with western ties to carry out those plans if left unchecked.

ISIL has shown its true colors. We need to confront them. This plan is a step in the right direction.

I’ve stayed busy in Arkansas during the August work period. I appreciate the time away from Washington because I’d much rather spend time in our state visiting with fellow Arkansans and hearing what issues are most important to its citizens. I have been around the state over the past month visiting agriculture facilities as part of our annual ag tour, talking about VA care in our state and transportation issues our state and country faces. Here are some of the headlines from my time in Arkansas.  

Talk Business
Boozman: Marketplace Fairness Act Could Pass By End Of Year
Times Record
USDA Extends Deadline For Rural Development Loan Eligibility
Harrison Daily Times
Vietnam vet gets medals … finally
Times Record
Boozman, Inhofe: Infrastructure A ‘Constitutional’ Obligation
The City Wire
Sens. Boozman, Inhofe say road, river work require new funding approaches
Lonoke News
UAVs a new tool for agriculture
Sen. Boozman visits Little Rock VA Hospital, says more work needs to be done
Boozman Touts VA Reforms And Points Toward Privatization
Senator Boozman visits NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital

In case you missed our interview with Jonesboro’s KASU radio, you can listen to the interview here. We covered a wide range of issues including foreign affairs and things happening closer to home like the immigration crisis of unaccompanied children and my recent visit to the border as well as new VA health reforms that Congress passed last week. 

Last Thursday, before the Senate broke for August recess, Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to force through the President’s request for a blank check to deal with the border crisis.

I voted no.  The bill failed.

Immediately following votes that night, I left with six of my Senate colleagues for a visit to the Rio Grande Valley, the epicenter for the surge in families and unaccompanied children illegally crossing the U.S. border.

What I learned on this trip reaffirmed that “no” vote was the correct one to cast.

Our itinerary took us to McAllen Border Patrol Station, Hidalgo International Bridge and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) facility at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio where many of the children who have illegally crossed the southwest border on their own have been temporarily housed.

What we heard from those on the ground was that the massive wave of unaccompanied children illegally crossing the border has slowed to a degree, although there is reason to believe there may be another uptick when summer ends.  However, the heat is not the only deterrent. People in the three Central American countries that have been sending their children to the U.S. alone are starting to get the message that if their children enter the U.S. illegally, they won’t get to stay. As I have said all along, certainty of return is the only way to stop the wave.

The good news is that Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) are no longer overwhelmed to the point where they are housing children on the floor of the processing center. Agents are no longer microwaving meals for children. Even the temporary HHS shelter we visited at Lackland AFB, where some of the children were sent after initial processing, is set to close very soon.

Clearly CBP and HHS have the resources they need. A blank check is not necessary. Nor is it an honest solution to the problem.

 Furthermore, amnesty is not an option. The President needs to stop with the threats to go it alone and grant amnesty to illegal immigrants. We must not reward people for breaking the law. As we are learning with the current crisis, the risk of being rewarded for breaking the law is what drives many to enter the U.S. illegally in the first place. We are a nation based on laws and those laws must be respected and that message must be reinforced internationally so that those who wish to emigrate to the U.S. understand they must do so through the proper legal channels.