Dr. Boozman's Check-up

An uprising in the Central African Republic (CAR) has put a wrinkle in the search for elusive war criminal Joseph Kony. The rebels who seized power in the CAR last month have not been recognized by the African Union (AU) and have exhibited hostility toward foreign troops, so Uganda, the AU and the U.S. special forces helping with intelligence and logistical support have halted their search for Kony.

Kony and his rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have caused untold pain to children and families in Central Africa over the past 25 years. It is currently believed that the weakened group is hiding in jungles straddling the borders of CAR, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.

The LRA is responsible for a litany of human rights violations including abduction, rape, torture and murder all committed under direct orders from Kony, a demented messianic guerilla leader who uses abducted child soldiers to carry out his heinous crimes.

In light of the news that Ugandan and AU troops have suspended their search, human intelligence becomes all the more important in the effort to capture Kony. This is why I am pleased to see the State Department announce a bounty for Kony and two of his top lieutenants. The bounty on Kony increases the chances locals would be willing to provide information that will help lead to his arrest.

The ability to offer a bounty didn’t exist until then-Senator, now Secretary of State John Kerry and a bipartisan group of our Senate colleagues passed a measure to expand the State Department’s Rewards for Justice program making it applicable to anyone who offers information that leads to the arrest or conviction of Joseph Kony. I was the lead Republican sponsor of this effort.

Prior to our successful effort to expand the program, it only applied to information leading to the arrest and conviction of criminals wanted for terrorism, narcotics trafficking and anyone indicted in the three international criminal tribunals—Sierra Leone, the former Yugoslavia, and Rwanda. Our expansion of the program will provide incentives for offering information for individuals wanted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide; giving us one more instrument to help track this elusive war criminal down.

The key to capturing Kony is not superior firepower. Nor is it more troops. What we have seen time and time again in these manhunts is human intelligence wins out. Somewhere, someone knows his whereabouts and will come forward with information that will lead to his capture. Today’s announcement should help and I welcome it.

Here’s a recap of some of this week’s posts in case you missed them.

  • Senate Passes Two Boozman Amendments:  While the Senate Majority’s budget was deeply flawed, I did get my colleagues to agree to two of my amendments to the resolution. The first on would ease regulatory burdens imposed on community banks caused by the Dodd-Frank bill. The second one aims to protect private property rights. Read about them both here.

  • Advice & Consent:  Senator Boozman recently met with President Obama’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Gina McCarthy. Hear what I have to say about the role of the Senate in confirming presidential nominees in the latest edition of “From the Mailbag.” 
  • Upcoming Opportunity to Improve Arkansas’s Waterways: In the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, we are working on a new “Water Resources Development Act.”  This bipartisan legislation would improve our nation’s water resources policy to expand opportunity, promote commerce, and reduce flood risks. I am working to includes reforms that speed up project delivery and provide new ways to finance water projects. My goal is to protect taxpayers and improve our water resources. Read how here
  • Talking Budget & Sequestration with KASU: For the first time in four years the Senate debated a budget resolution. I talked about the importance of this basic responsibility of governing as well as ways Washington is working to cut the budget and give flexibility to our federal agencies so they can eliminate the waste and abuse with KASU morning show host Mark Smith. You can listen to the interview here.

For the first time in four years the Senate debated a budget resolution. We talked about the importance of this basic responsibility of governing as well as ways Washington is working to cut the budget and give flexibility to our federal agencies so they can eliminate the waste and abuse.  You can listen to the interview here.

Senator Boozman supports spending cuts but wants to have targeted cuts instead of the across-the-board cuts imposed by sequestration. In this edition of "From the Mailbag" he discusses efforts in the recently passed continuing resolution to provide flexibility to federal agencies to minimize the impact of the cuts.

President Obama arrived in Israel today for his first official visit as commander in chief. Before he left, 77 of my colleagues and I sent the President a letter urging him to (1) reaffirm his commitment to working closely with the new government of Israel (2) support unconditional direct negotiations between both the Israelis and Palestinians (3) oppose Palestinian efforts to circumvent direct negotiations or efforts to isolate or delegitimize Israel (4) reiterate the United States’ support for a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and (5) identify policy solutions to address the other urgent and important threats facing Israel and the United States today. 

The overwhelming support in the Senate for this letter demonstrates that the unshakeable bond with our strongest ally in the volatile Middle East isn’t a partisan issue. Thankfully, in Congress there is unity on this issue.

The letter references a Senate-passed resolution—that 89 of my colleagues and I cosponsored—reaffirming our commitment to a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We agree that a clear pathway for peace is through unconditional direct negotiations between both the Israelis and Palestinians. Efforts by the Palestinians to circumvent direct negotiations must continue to be opposed.

These Palestinian efforts are often coupled with campaigns to isolate or delegitimize Israel. In our letter, we thanked President Obama for actively standing by Israel at the UN to try to block such efforts during his first term and called on him to make clear that our relationship with Palestinians will be jeopardized if they seek action against Israel at the International Criminal Court. These attempts to delegitimize Israel are counterproductive to the peace process.

As the shifting landscape of the Middle East continues to rapidly change, it is more important than ever for President Obama to seize this moment to reaffirm our strong support for Israel and revitalize the stalled peace process.

Read the letter by following the link below.

The Senate will soon begin debate on a budget. In this edition of "From the Mailbag" Senator Boozman discusses the importance of the Senate debating its first budget resolution in four years.

Here’s a recap of what we worked on this week in case you missed it.

  • Answers for Illegal Immigrants Release:  In late February, it was reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had released a “few hundred” illegal immigrants from custody.  The administration drastically misrepresented the number to the public and more than 2000 criminal illegal immigrants had been released from custody. We deserve answers about their release. This week we joined a group of U.S. Senators in support of a proposed amendment to the Continuing Resolution currently being debated in the Senate that would require the Department of Homeland Security to provide Congress with information about the illegal immigrants who are being released for what the administration says is budget considerations. 
  • UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) - The Obama Administration has expressed an interest in international small arms control initiatives that were resisted previously by both the Bush Administration and the Clinton Administration. I’m strongly opposed to the U.S. signing any UN Treaty that would regulate small arms. This week we cosponsored a concurrent resolution to prevent that from happening. Read more about it here. 
  • Defund the President’s Health care Law: I voted for an amendment that would prohibit funding for the implementation of President Obama’s health care law. This law does little to contain the cost of health care which is the real root of the problem. The amendment wasn’t approved but I will continue to fight against this overreach. 
  • Coordinated, Robust Energy Review: We need to promote energy policies that put our nation on the path to energy independence. I have long supported an all-of-the above energy plan that uses all our nation’s natural resources. This week we cosponsored the Quadrennial Energy Review Act of 2013 that would authorize a government-wide coordination council to submit a comprehensive review of current domestic capabilities and future energy needs. 
  • Protecting Air Traffic Control Towers: Irresponsible cuts from sequestration will put the flying public at risk, impair access to rural areas, jeopardize national and civil security missions, and cost jobs. I joined a bipartisan effort to stop the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) targeting air traffic control towers in sequestration to share the cost of the cuts to air traffic control evenly. In addition I joined with other members of the Arkansas Congressional Delegation asking for answers on proposed local contract control tower closures from the FAA administrator.


In advance of the Obama Administration’s continued efforts to reverse the policies of the last two administrations and engage in a new round of negotiations of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a concurrent resolution was introduced in the Senate that outlines specific criteria that must be met in order for the Senate to ratify and recognize it as customary international law. 

The intended goal of the ATT is regulating global trade in conventional weapons, but this is a direct attack on our Second Amendment rights. I am vehemently opposed to the U.S. signing any UN Treaty that would regulate small arms. I believe this is a backdoor effort to chip away at every law abiding citizen's right to keep and bear arms. That’s why I cosponsored the concurrent resolution introduced today by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS). 

We need to exempt domestic, civilian firearm ownership and use from the treaty’s scope, as it is governed by national laws and constitutions. 

This is not a new issue. Last July, the U.N. Conference on the ATT dissolved without consensus treaty text thanks in part to the efforts of my colleagues and I who expressed our intent to oppose ratification of any treaty that infringes upon our Second Amendment rights and freedoms as Americans. Unfortunately, the day after President Obama’s reelection, his administration announced its intent to reengage in treaty negotiations which will begin Monday. 

If the Obama Administration does sign the U.S. as a party to the treaty, it would have to be ratified by 2/3 of the U.S. Senate. It would not get my vote and I believe that this support does not exist amongst my colleagues. 

I believe in upholding our Constitution and will continue to represent the values we, as Arkansans, hold dear.   

I'm a cosponsor of legislation that would protect the value of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals. Read the story published yesterday in Military Times on this important issue.

Senate bill would reduce rank of drone medal

By Rick Maze - 

Thursday Mar 7, 2013

Congressional opposition continues to grow to a Pentagon decision to create a new medal for drone operators that ranks higher in precedence than the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Four senators — two Republicans and two Democrats — introduced a bill Wednesday that would prevent the new Distinguished Warfare Medal from ranking ahead of medals awarded for direct combat. It allows the Defense Department to go ahead with an award for extraordinary achievement in cyber warfare and for operators of unmanned aerial vehicles, but it would make certain the new medal ranks behind the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

The bill, S 470, is supported by the nation’s two largest veterans organizations, the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, and by the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

Similar legislation was introduced Feb. 26 in the House of Representatives.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, chief sponsor of the Senate bill, said he understands warfare is changing but medals earned on the battlefield are for those who have “made unparalleled sacrifices and deserve out everlasting respect.”

“The front lines of conflict are changing, but the folks who serve directly in the theater of war are at greater risk, and we should fully acknowledge the risks that their service brings,” said Tester, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, which has heard complaints about the Pentagon decision from many veterans organizations.

Original cosponsors of the Senate bill include Republicans Dean Heller of Nevada and John Boozman of Arkansas and Democrat Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.

“The proposed ranking of Distinguished Warfare Medal above medals like the Purple Heart and Bronze Star blurs the line between the risk that is taken by those who are serving directly under enemy fire and those who are not,” Boozman said.

Heller said he recognizes that everyone in the service faces challenges and makes sacrifices, but what they face differs depending on their skills and duties. “In a world where the nature of war is ever-changing, this legislation allows service members to be recognized for their contributions while also preserving unique honors for those who have served on the battlefield,” Heller said.

Manchin said he supports the new award but not its ranking. “Awards earned in combat for heroism, patriotism and a commitment to make the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy every day should not rank below a medal earned in relative safety. Even though the standard practices of war are changing, the risks combat warriors face daily should meet the most renowned awards,” he said.

“While we acknowledge the important role that our drone pilots play on the modern-day battlefield and believe they should be recognized for their distinguished service, that recognition should be made in a manner that equates the nature of their service with the sacrifices of those who serve in combat zones, risking life and limb, under direct enemy fire,” Boozman said.