Terrorism and National Security
The attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 united our country as we confronted the international security challenge posed by extremist Islamic groups like al-Qaida. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I am firmly committed to ensuring that our military and intelligence communities have the tools, technology and resources they need to guard our nation, defeat our enemies and support our allies. I am equally committed to ensuring that we enact tough but smart policies that protect constitutional freedoms while keeping Americans safe.
We have learned two important lessons in recent years, both at far too dear a cost. First, we can't afford to ignore the threat of religious extremism abroad. And second, military action alone won't fully deter the threat of terrorism, which is why we must be both smart and tough as we engage with our allies and adversaries. This will require us to maintain the world’s strongest military, engage in robust diplomacy and preserve strategic alliances. As we have seen from the uprisings in the Middle East and north Africa, every situation is unique, and the United States cannot afford to adopt a ‘one-size fits all’ mindset when dealing with complex international issues.
Finally, it has become clear we cannot effectively project strength abroad if we’re economically weak at home. If we want to maintain the United States’ role as a global leader, it is absolutely essential that we bring our federal debt and budget deficit under control. That’s why I have introduced an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would require the federal government to balance its budget each and every year. It’s also why I strongly support comprehensive reforms similar to those recommended by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction commission for reducing our debt and promoting economic growth.
I’m also committed to finding an alternative to the short-sighted approach to deficit reduction known as “sequestration.” This broad and harmful policy was never intended to go into effect, and it has already caused harm to our military readiness. Coloradans deserve better. While seeking a new path toward a responsible fiscal policy, I have put forward a bipartisan proposal with Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine that would provide the heads of federal departments and agencies — including the Department of Defense — with the flexibility to implement cuts more strategically instead of facing across-the-board rescissions that pay no mind to actual mission impacts.
Keeping America safe in our post-9/11 world will require us to rise above the partisan politics of recent years and come up with comprehensive, tough and intelligent solutions to our national security vulnerabilities. I am optimistic we can meet new and existing threats, and I look forward to continuing this difficult and urgent work. As I do, I will always keep in mind what is right for Colorado and our nation. I will continue to use my constitutional power of oversight to look closely at the administration's national and homeland security policies and to represent your voice in our nation’s capital.
Every American has the right to know when their government believes it is allowed to kill them. That's why I'm continuing to press the Obama administration for additional transparency on U.S. drone policy, including its interpretations of when it can take lethal action outside of declared war zones and against Americans.
Colorado's military operations are vital to our national defense, and I'm extremely proud of the airspace warning and control mission performed by the Colorado Air National Guard. Our state's strategic location, excellent weather and easy access to training ranges make Buckley Air Force Base an ideal location to base F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. That's why I'm asking the Air Force to reevaluate its criteria prior to the next round of F-35 basing decisions so that the Colorado Air Guard can continue to keep watch over our skies.
Benjamin Franklin once said that those who would sacrifice liberty in the name of security deserve neither. I agree, which is why I am partnering with my colleagues across the aisle and in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass comprehensive legislation to reform domestic surveillance laws and the secret surveillance court. The bipartisan, bicameral USA FREEDOM Act – which mirrors legislation I introduced in September – would rein in the dragnet collection of phone records, provide safeguards for warrantless wiretapping under the FISA Amendments Act and create a constitutional advocate to protect privacy rights in cases before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. These steps are essential for protecting national security along with our privacy rights, as well as for reestablishing Americans’ trust in the intelligence community.
In the post-9/11 world, the United States faces a wide range of evolving threats to our national security, including a Middle East in turmoil, international cyberattacks and the long-term implications of the recent intelligence leaks. As a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee and the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, one of my most important jobs is ensuring that we keep America safe while also properly safeguarding our privacy rights and constitutional liberties. Frank discussions, like the one I had recently with former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leon Panetta at an event hosted by The Counterterrorism Educational Learning Lab, help us understand how to overcome these pressing challenges. If you were not able to join us, you can watch the forum online.
I am committed to safeguarding our privacy rights and fighting for appropriate checks on the surveillance of Americans without compromising our national security. As part of this effort, I recently introduced legislation which would amend the USA PATRIOT Act to narrow the focus of the existing bulk phone record collection program. My proposal would require the government to demonstrate a connection to terrorism or espionage before collecting phone record data from Americans.