Keeping America Safe and Honoring Those Who Served
Our government's most sacred responsibility is keeping Americans safe. The rise of ISIS and the growing specter of cyber-attack are two of the most significant and ever-changing threats we face. As the son of a Foreign Service officer, I recognize that the United States is, and must remain, a great force for peace in the world, working alongside our international partners and using all of our strengths - from our economy to our military - to build a safer and more secure future.
The Digital Age has transformed our economy in ways that previous generations could never have imagined. While this period of rapid technological change has brought many benefits, it has also created dangerous vulnerabilities that hostile nations and criminal actors are exploiting to harm Americans. In this new environment, we need robust cooperation between government and business. Here is what I have done in the Senate to enhance the state of our nation's cybersecurity:
- As co-chair of the Center for Strategic and International Studies Cyber Policy Task Force, I am working with the nation's preeminent experts to craft cybersecurity recommendations for the next presidential administration. I am also working closely with the U.S. Naval War College and the President's Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity to develop new cybersecurity initiatives.
- In the Senate, I have led the fight to update our outdated cyber laws and to give our prosecutors better tools to fight cybercrime. These efforts recently bore fruit when the President signed into law language I introduced that empowers prosecutors to bring charges against overseas cybercriminals who buy and sell Americans' stolen financial information.
- I have introduced the Botnet Prevention Act, which would give the Department of Justice greater authority to shut down "botnets" - networks of compromised computers that are an engine of internet-based crime.
While there has never been a safer time to fly, new threats to aviation safety have emerged in recent years. Laser pointers aimed at airline cockpits can disorient pilots and put passengers at risk. Reckless drone operators can fly too close to our airports, which causes hundreds of near-miss incidents each year.
- I wrote the law that makes it a federal offense to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft cockpit. This law has been used to prosecute dozens of dangerous incidents across the country.
- I worked with airport representatives, drone manufacturers, and drone enthusiasts to craft the Drone Operator Safety Act, which passed the Senate in 2016. This legislation would create safe zones around airports and impose criminal penalties for those who violate them.
We owe our servicemembers and their families a great debt of gratitude, and we need to support them in meaningful and lasting ways. Members of Rhode Island's National Guard have deployed continually to support operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East, maintaining one of the highest per capita deployment rates of any state in the post-9/11 period. I am working hard to ensure our troops have everything they need for success in their missions and when they return home. And I've pushed for essential reforms at the Department of Veterans Affairs, working to make sure veterans have access to needed care.
- Troops transitioning from periods of active-duty service often need time to regain their financial footing. That's why I've authored legislation - signed into law in 2014 and 2016 - to temporarily extend to 12 months the foreclosure grace period for transitioning servicemembers and veterans, and why I'm working to pass a bill that would make this protection permanent.
- I host an annual Veterans Breakfast in Rhode Island to honor our state's veterans, listen to their concerns, and provide them with useful information, employment opportunities, and services. My Rhode Island office provides casework services to help veterans in Rhode Island communicate their needs to federal government agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs. Among other things, my staff helps constituents navigate the claims and appeals process with the Veterans Benefits Administration, as well as coordinating with veterans and the VA Medical Center on complex health cases and assisting veterans with service discharge upgrade requests and requests for service records and medals.
- I have consistently supported legislation to strengthen mental health services for our servicemembers and veterans, including the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act, which was signed into law in 2015. This law improves mental health care and suicide prevention resources for transitioning service members and veterans and also helps meet the demand for mental health care providers by providing incentives for them to choose to practice medicine in the VA.
- To address wait-time backlogs at the VA, I helped pass the bipartisan Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, or "Choice Act," which was signed into law in 2014. This comprehensive legislation allows eligible veterans to seek private care at hospitals and clinics outside the VA system and provides additional resources for new medical facilities around the country. It also expanded access to treatment for victims of military sexual assault and authorized the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to remove senior executives for poor performance or misconduct.