Dr. Boozman's Check-up
Jun 20 2016
In separate statements made just days apart last week, President Obama and CIA Director Brennan both touted progress in the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS). They pointed to the terror organization’s loss of territory, key leadership and finances.
Their assessments of the group’s capabilities, however, was quite different.
The disconnect between these two statements is quite striking. While both can be true at the same time, one outlook is unmistakably more positive than the other. The context of President Obama and Director Brennan’s statements were quite different. Clearly the President wants to present the situation in a much better light than our intelligence community sees it.
In a similar vein to the President’s pre-Paris attack declaration that ISIS has been “contained”, he has once again attempted to paint a rosier picture than reality offers.
The truth is the Obama Administration’s lack of a real strategy to combat ISIS allowed the group to continue to add recruits, claim territory and spread its warped ideology. Any territory that has been reclaimed by coalition efforts in the ISIS’s self-proclaimed caliphate, has been countered by massive growth in Libya, the co-opting of groups in places like Egypt and an expansion into Asian and East African nations.
The President’s lack of a strategy has not only failed us with ISIS. The Taliban holds more territory in Afghanistan now than at any time since 2001. Equally as troubling is the fact that the Taliban now appears to be taking a page from the ISIS playbook and ratcheting up the brutality of its atrocities.
We can defeat ISIS. We can make our homeland safer. In order to do so, the President has to bring forth plans based on reality. He must listen to the strategy our military leadership proposes to defeat ISIS abroad. He must engage our intelligence community, which has a much more grim view of ISIS’s capabilities than he does, to ensure that we can prevent attacks at home. And he absolutely must be honest with the American people about the nature of the enemy we face.
These efforts cannot succeed, however, if the President does not understand the gravity of the situation. ISIS remains a dire threat and must be treated that way.
Jun 15 2016
I spoke with Jonathan Reeves during Jonesboro’s KASU morning show yesterday. A large portion of our conversation focuses on the attack in Orlando, efforts to combat ISIS and the National Defense Authorization Act. If you missed the interview, you can listen to it in its entirety on KASU’s website.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette’s editorial “Defeat them, the only answer left” published today, agreed that our nation must take the necessary steps to defeat ISIS and radial Islamic terrorists:
“The best answer to what's happening might have been suggested by the senior senator from Arkansas, John Boozman, who usually doesn't sound this angry. But Orlando was enough to get even the Hon. and honorable John Boozman up in arms, along with the rest of us”
Read the editorial here. (subscription required)
Veterans and Military Groups Applaud Boozman's Effort to Return Taxed Severance Pay to Combat-Injured Veterans
Jun 08 2016
This week the Senate is debating amendments to the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). I introduced several amendments including one based on the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act (S.2712), legislation I introduced earlier this year to prevent taxing the severance pay of combat-injured veterans.
The Pentagon has been withholding combat-related disability severance payments because of an automated payment system error, which has potentially impacted nearly 14,000 veterans.
Here’s what they’re saying in support of the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act:
“Those who serve this nation and are impacted by that arduous service, deserve no less,” said Michael Angelo Coon, member of the Air Force Sergeants Association, which represents current and former members of the Air Force.
“I see this as a priority for Congress to take action on”
“Please do all you can to pass this legislation,” Coon pleads. (Grand Forks Herald, “LETTERS: Combat-injured Veterans Deserve Tax Fairness,” 4/7/16)
Army Staff Sergeant Brandon Davis told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that he didn’t think he would ever see the money again. Davis was relieved when he got a call from our office saying that we are working to help him and others get their money back.
Davis said that the money “may be a life changer” to some veterans that were affected. (Arkansas Democrat Gazette, “Boozman Bill Aims to Get Vets Refunds,” 5/16/16)
“The American Legion ... has worked with veterans in the past to recover these funds.”
The group has specialists who regularly advise transitioning service members on the tax and have them sign paperwork to prevent the tax from being taken out. (Military.com, “Bill Would Reimburse Combat-Injured Vets for Taxed Severance Pay,” 3/17/16)
“They fought for their country and so deserve every penny of that settlement, in order to make the transition to daily life again” says Brian Carlton of The News Virginian.
Carlton understands that taking care of our veterans is of the utmost importance. All four of his grandparents, as well as three cousins and several childhood friends, have served in our nation’s military. (The News Virginian, “We Can’t Lose Focus On What’s Important,” 4/30/16)
Col. Tamhra Hutchins-Frye recently received a promotion to Brigadier General in the Arkansas Air National Guard, the first woman to obtain this rank in the Arkansas Air National Guard.
Read the story published in the Times Record.
I was proud to recognize her accomplishment in the Congressional Record, the official proceedings of Congress, with the following statement:
Mr. President, I rise today to congratulate Tamhra Hutchins-Frye on her recent promotion to Brigadier General in the Arkansas Air National Guard.
Brigadier General Hutchins-Frye was born in Bakersfield, California and entered the Air National Guard in November 1984 as an Airman First Class. She received her commission in August 1989 through the Academy of Military Science in Knoxville, Tennessee and has held various assignments in the 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith, Arkansas, the 189th Airlift Wing at the Little Rock Air Force Base, and Arkansas Air National Guard and Joint Force Headquarters at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock.
She was deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom as the Chief of Staff of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Afghanistan Transformation Task Force and then the Headquarters International Security Assistance Force where she helped lead the transformation of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan as it transitioned to self-rule.
Tamhra earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Arkansas Tech University in 1983 and a Master of Arts in Human Resource Management from Webster University in 2012. She has also completed numerous trainings and programs during her time in the Air National Guard.
As a dedicated member of the Air National Guard, Hutchins-Frye has been awarded the Legion of Merit and a Bronze Star. She is also an active member of her community and takes a proactive role in giving back and investing in the lives of others as displayed by her roles as Co-Chairman of the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas’s Girls of Promise and as a member of the Board of Directors of Heart of Arkansas United Way, among other types of service.
Mr. President, it is also important to note that Brigadier General Hutchins-Frye is the first woman to obtain this rank in the Arkansas Air National Guard. By virtue of this latest achievement in her impressive and distinguished career, she serves as role model for many, including the young women in our Armed Forces, of how hard work and professionalism can lead to historic and ground-breaking achievements.
I offer my sincere congratulations to Brigadier General Tamhra Hutchins-Frye on this momentous occasion and I applaud her continued commitment and dedication to our nation’s readiness. I know she will continue to make Arkansas proud in this new chapter of her career.
Jun 02 2016
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) needs to address the vulnerability of airport security and potential risks of insider threats according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.
The report recommends that TSA update its operational assessment “to reflect changes in the airport security risk environment, such as TSA’s subsequent determination of risk from the insider threat—the potential of rogue aviation workers exploiting their credentials, access, and knowledge of security procedures throughout the airport for personal gain or to inflict damage.”
As The Hill reports, insider threats are to blame for breaches at airports around the world.
In April, I joined my colleagues in the Senate to improve airport security by passing a comprehensive Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill that strengthens air traveler security.
The bill enhances requirements and vetting for airport employees with access to secure areas, reduces crowds at security checkpoints by screening passengers in advance and providing unneeded TSA security equipment to international airports with direct flights to the United States to improve inspection of passengers and their luggage.
These safety reforms are important to preventing terror attacks at our airports. The recent attack on the Belgium airport serves as a reminder that terrorists remain committed to attacking our airlines and infrastructure. I’m committed to taking the necessary action to protect air travelers. I urge my colleagues in the House to pass this legislation to improve safety at our airports.
Here’s rundown of the bills I have signed on to support in recent weeks:
Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability Act of 2015 (S. 1082): I co-sponsored Sen. Marco Rubio’s bill that would empower the Veterans Administration (VA) to remove or demote an employee based on performance or misconduct.
FUELS Act (S. 2993): I’ve co-sponsored Sen. Deb Fischer’s bill, the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship Act (FUELS Act), which would modify costly and burdensome EPA regulations related to on-farm fuel storage. Our farmers and ranchers needs relief from onerous regulations, not further intervention from federal agencies like the EPA. Cutting costs and red-tape will benefit America’s farmers and ranchers. Treating small farmers the same way as large oil refineries makes no sense and I’m proud to support this legislation.
Expressing the sense of the Senate that a carbon tax would be detrimental to the economy of the United States (S. Res. 472): This resolution, introduced by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), expresses the sense of the Senate that a carbon tax would be detrimental to the U.S. economy.
Expressing support of the goal of ensuring that all Holocaust victims live with dignity, comfort and security in their remaining years (S. Con. Res. 36): I joined Senator Bill Nelson’s resolution which urges a working group in the Federal Republic of Germany to recognize the importance of immediately funding the medical, mental health and long-term care needs of survivors of the Holocaust, particularly any home care and other medically prescribed needs.
Designating May 15-21, 2016 as National Police Week (S. Res. 468): This resolution, which passed the Senate, expresses support for law enforcement officers across the country for their efforts to build safer and more secure communities and recognizes their selfless acts of bravery.
May 13 2016
I joined KFFB’s ‘Open Mic’ to talk about threats to our national security including ISIS and President Obama’s efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility (Gitmo). I also discussed a provision that I included in the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill to pave the way for Interstate status of a portion of U.S. 67 and my commitment to providing our veterans with the care they earned through legislation introduced this week in the Senate.
May 13 2016
Here’s rundown of the bills I have signed on to support in recent weeks:
Veterans First Act (S. 2921): I joined Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, on his bill which seeks to provide further accountability within the VA. Changing the culture with the department is of paramount importance and this bill seeks to continue this push by allowing the secretary to remove VA employees who fail to provide adequate care or service. It also expands and enhances programs to improve outcomes for the men and women who receive services from VA. It also includes two provisions that I authored. The bill is supported by several veteran service organizations, including the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act (S. 2659): I’ve heard from many Arkansans who are concerned about a proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would crack down on amateur motorsports. I cosponsored legislation introduced by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) to push back against this executive overreach and reaffirm Congressional intent that EPA regulations do not apply to vehicles used only for competitive purposes.
Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act (S. 2707): I signed on as a co-sponsor of Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-SC) bill to ensure that the Department of Labor’s approach to update federal overtime rules is sensible and balanced. The Obama Administration released a proposal that would more than double the salary threshold under which employees qualify for overtime pay, sparking concerns that this will have adverse and negative impacts on employees and employers. S. 2707 seeks to require the Department of Labor to recognize and evaluate the economic impacts of any proposed rule change related to the threshold for wages and overtime.
POLICE Act (S. 2840): I’m supporting Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-TX) legislation, Protecting Our Lives by Initiating COPS Expansion Act, which will allow law enforcement and medical personnel to use federal grant funds in their training to better prepare for active shooter events. This will also allow law enforcement to train civilians to respond to active shooter situations and is supported by the National Fraternal Order of Police.
Recognizing Charter Schools during National Charter Schools Week (S. Res. 449): I support the innovative approach to education embodied in many charter schools across the country. As such, I cosponsored this resolution which congratulates the students, parents, teachers and leaders of charter schools. It also supports the ideals and goals of the 17th annual National Charter Schools Week.