Several of the Democratic candidates for president have demonstrated how they contrast with the current occupant of the Oval Office in terms of how they would lead the country through disasters. Senator Amy Klobuchar released her plan for Global Pandemic Prevention, Detection and Response Policy. This is from Senator Klobuchar’s campaign:
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – The recent outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus is a stark reminder of the persistent threats posed by infectious diseases. Senator Klobuchar believes the United States must continue to lead the global fight to prevent, detect and respond to pandemics. In the Senate, she has championed efforts to address outbreaks at home and abroad. She successfully secured critical funding to combat Ebola in West Africa, helping strengthen health care infrastructure. And as Chair of the Senate Steering and Outreach Committee, she spearheaded efforts to rapidly address the spread of the Zika virus and support local prevention measures and research. As President, she will prioritize taking on global pandemics and protecting U.S. national security. She will:
Renew U.S. leadership and recommit to the Global
Health Security Agenda, an initiative launched under the Obama administration
to respond to the threat that infectious diseases pose to the global community.
Work with our allies and through multilateral organizations
like the World Health Organization to improve local health infrastructure in
at-risk countries and regions.
Fully fund U.S. departments, agencies, and programs
that are on the front lines in preventing and responding to outbreaks, both at
home and overseas, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, State
Department, United States Agency for International Development, Biomedical
Advanced Research and Development Authority, and the President’s Emergency Plan
for AIDS Relief.
Strengthen early-warning systems to detect and
respond to outbreaks on the ground before they spread into full-fledged
Develop the global rapid-response system for
deploying international medical teams to respond to outbreaks at the
Increase stockpiles of existing vaccines and
treatments and streamline delivery systems for rapid deployment during
Invest in capabilities for accelerating the
production of new vaccines and treatments when new pathogens emerge.
Leverage public-private partnerships that can unlock
new investments and innovations.
The Democratic candidates for president offer stark contrasts to the present occupant of the Oval Office. With a potential coronavirus pandemic creating global anxiety, Senator Elizabeth Warren has just released a detailed plan how she would prevent, contain and treat infectious disease outbreaks at home and abroad.
Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan to prevent, contain and treat infectious disease outbreaks at home and abroad. Diseases like Ebola virus, Zika virus and most recently, coronavirus demonstrate the real threat that outbreaks pose to our health and security. The United States can be a leader in combating these problems. But to do so, we must invest at home to ensure our public health agencies, hospitals, and health care providers are ready to jump into action when outbreaks strike. And we must invest and partner with other countries to help build strong public health systems abroad.
By properly preparing, we will save lives, strengthen our relationships with allies, protect our interests, and help build resilience to outbreaks and pandemics around the world.
Warren’s Plan to prevent, contain, and treat infectious disease outbreaks will:
Restore White House leadership on health security by designating a senior official to focus solely on this issue and fully funding domestic public health and preparedness at key HHS agencies, in contrast to President Trump’s decision to eliminate this White House role and massive proposed budget cuts to public health;
Restore American leadership in the international community, reversing President Trump’s assault on the State Department and USAID;
Invest in global health security and rejoin global efforts on climate change by changing how diseases emerge and spread, reverse President Trump’s proposed global health cuts and retreat from international climate efforts.
Ensure evidence-based decisions and equity in response to outbreaks, relying on science to contain them and ensuring that all communities get the help they need to stay healthy.
Preventing, Containing, and Treating Infectious Disease Outbreaks at Home and Abroad
In 2014, the world watched as Ebola spread throughout six countries in West Africa and eventually jumped oceans to reach the United States, Spain, Italy, and the U.K. As the outbreak spread, over 50 countries stepped up to help respond. The experience revealed a new global reality: to effectively beat infectious diseases, we need all hands on deck.
In 2015 the state of Indiana experienced an outbreak of HIV stemming from the ongoing opioid epidemic. In a county with a population of less than 25,000, over 200 people contracted the virus. Simultaneously, Zika virus was spreading throughout the U.S. and causing birth defects in children born to some infected pregnant women.
Instead of building capacity to combat these problems, Donald Trump has deprioritized global health security and risked putting us on heels in a crisis.
Trump has repeatedly tried to nickel and dime federal programs essential to health security, proposing billions of dollars in cuts so drastic that even leading a House Republican thought they would leave Americans vulnerable. Trump eliminated the key position that coordinates global health security across the many federal agencies that work to keep us safe. And his response to natural disasters that could lead to serious outbreaks, like hurricanes in Puerto Rico, has been basically non-existent.
Like so much else, Trump’s approach to keeping us safe from disease outbreaks is a mess. But when he’s gone, we can fix it.
We can invest at home to ensure our public health agencies, hospitals, and health care providers are ready to jump into action when outbreaks strike. And we can help build strong public health systems abroad. By taking these steps, we will save lives, strengthen our relationships with allies, protect our interests, and help build resilience to outbreaks and pandemics.
That’s why I have a plan to prevent, contain, and treat infectious diseases — one that will help keep America safe and healthy. And as President, I will work across all levels of government here at home and with our many partners abroad to turn that plan into action.
Preventing Transmission and Preparing for Outbreaks The best way to beat a pandemic is to prevent it from starting in the first place. As President, I will work to build the foundations that help us catch infectious diseases before they spread.
Build strong public health systems at home and abroad. Combating infectious diseases requires building health infrastructure that enables us to handle epidemics whenever and wherever they strike. Diseases do not recognize borders — we need a global approach to a global problem. To build strong systems we must:
Fund agencies that prevent and manage outbreaks. President Trump has repeatedly proposed billions in cuts to the agencies responsible for fighting and preventing pandemics, a devastating blow that would put lives at risk. Some of the deepest proposed cuts were to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which runs essential pandemic prevention and response programs. As President, I will fully fund this work, ensuring that key agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the State Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have the support they need to do their jobs.
Prepare health departments, health care providers and
hospitals, and other facilities and frontline staff. We must increase
funding for the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) cooperative
agreement that supports the critical work of health departments across the
country to prepare for outbreaks, natural disasters, and more. Similarly, we
must continue to support the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP), which ensures
we equip facilities and train staff on the front lines.
Fully fund the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). Designed to build capacity in nearly 50 countries, the GHSA funds work in partnership with other countries to strengthen their public health infrastructure and combat outbreaks before they start. And in a few short years, it is clear that investment has paid off. Under President Trump some of this work has ramped down, but we know that the ability to stop an outbreak requires consistent investment and support. As President, I’ll provide it.
Reduce transmission of infectious diseases at home. By
reducing the transmission of communicable diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C, we
keep families healthy and safe and strengthen our health system’s ability to
respond to global pandemics. That’s why I have a plan to invest $100 billion to
end the opioid epidemic, and why I’ve committed to end the domestic HIV epidemic by
2025 and ensure that patients can afford drugs like PrEP and
Hepatitis C treatments by acting on Day One of my presidency to
lower drug prices.
Move to Medicare for All. When people can’t
access basic health care, infectious diseases are more likely to spread and
cause severe, lasting health effects — as we saw in the recent Indiana HIV outbreak.
This is especially true in underserved communities, who can experience
the effects of outbreaks more
severely. Under Medicare for All, everyone will have high quality health care
they can afford, removing financial barriers for patients who may be contagious
and need to seek care. We all benefit when we stop the spread of infectious
Fully fund critical existing global health work. U.S. investments in global health, including programs that combat HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria help build capacity in countries around the world that enables them to better handle epidemics when they strike. As President, I will push to expand funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which funds vital services for individuals living with HIV or AIDS overseas and is a pillar of U.S. global health programs. I’ll also repeal the Trump administration’s heartless Global Gag Rule, which makes organizations that conduct or refer patients for abortion ineligible for global health funds — harming patients and reducing the capacity of other nations’ health systems.
Fight climate change. A changing climate means infectious diseases will spread to new places, and it’s already happening. In 2016, the Zika virus threatened more of the U.S. because changing climates mean the mosquitos that carry it now thrive further and further north. And Lyme disease is expected to increase by 20% in the next decade due to climate change. West Nile is projected to more than double by 2050 due to warming, costing upwards of $1 billion annually. Our health depends on fighting climate change. And I have a lot of plans for that.
Recommit to the Paris Agreement and invest in the Green
Climate Fund. On Day One of my administration, I’ll commit the United
States to rejoin the Paris Agreement, including meeting Obama era commitments
to the Green Climate Fund — a critical funding stream to prevent the spread of
climate fueled pandemics — and backfilling the contribution that the Trump
administration neglected to deliver.
Recognize interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health. When it comes to pandemics, we must think about how animal, human, and environmental factors interact. Last year the Trump administration shut down the Predict program to test animals for dangerous pathogens that could cross over to humans. As President, I would restore this essential work. And I will support new scientific research to help understand and predict the impact of warmer temperatures on disease emergence and transmission.
Invest in CDC’s Climate and Health Program. This essential program invests in adaptation for the effects of climate change on our nation’s health, but it’s budget only allows for programs that cover roughly half our population. Rather than follow President Trump’s attempts to kill this program, I will expand it to cover every American so no community is left behind.
Prioritize effective federal management. As President, I’ll take key steps to ensure that the agencies who handle outbreaks have clear leadership, responsibility, and support.
Restore White House leadership position for health
security. President Obama created this position in response to the
Ebola epidemic. In 2018, the Trump administration eliminated it –
and I demanded answers. As
President, I will bring it back, with a formal senior lead in my White House
who focuses solely on global health security and oversees this work across the
entire federal government.
Rebuild the State Department and USAID. American security and health depend on robust diplomacy and development assistance, but the Trump administration has declared war on the State Department and USAID. We must reverse the trend of declining American diplomacy and development aid by creating a 21st century foreign service and corps of development specialists. My plan to rebuild the State Department ensures that we have the diplomats we need leading our engagement with the world to help effectively manage outbreaks.
Build on CDC’s legacy as the world and domestic leader in
public health. The Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) holds our nation’s largest supply of
medical countermeasures and medical supplies. Historically, CDC has managed the
SNS because it has the public health expertise to stock the right medical
countermeasures and ensure they get to communities who need them during an
emergency. In 2018, the Trump administration removed the
SNS from CDC management in an ill-advised attempt to
streamline response activities that could make it easier for drug companies to
lobby for their products to be included. As President, I will move it back to
optimize public health while ensuring coordination with other agencies.
Strengthen the Public Health Emergency Medical
Countermeasures Enterprise (PHEMCE). PHEMCE coordinates the federal
government’s efforts to prepare for potential chemical, biological,
radiological and nuclear threats, as well as from emerging infectious diseases.
We must ensure the PHEMCE fully utilizes expertise from across agencies and
reinvigorate its ability to prepare for and respond to emergencies.
Develop vaccines for infectious diseases. The United States should join it’s peer countries and invest in the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a public/private global alliance focused on vaccine development, and actively participate in global coalitions working toward vaccine development. I have pushed CDC to prepare for pandemic influenza, which must include the development of a universal flu vaccine — a necessity if we want to effectively fight the next strain of pandemic influenza.
Containing Outbreaks and Ensuring Equity Effectively containing infectious diseases requires effective coordination, flexible resources, clear data and communication, and the ability to move fast while not leaving anyone behind.
Ensure surge funding to handle the outbreak. Responding to pandemics costs money. And when it’s needed, it’s needed yesterday. In 2014, Congress did not provide funding to combat Ebola when it was out of control in West Africa, and waited until nearly 3 months after the first case occurred in the U.S. to appropriate additional funding. But epidemics don’t wait for Congress. To have a shot at getting ahead of the next big outbreak, we must appropriate and replenish funding for the Public Health Emergency Fund at HHS. This fund enables HHS to quickly respond to public health crises without waiting for supplemental appropriations from Congress.
Establish the Global Health Security Corps. Sometimes outbreaks occur in places experiencing intense conflict. And when health experts cannot enter those regions, outbreaks can grow exponentially. A bipartisan commission recently proposed creating a global health team that can handle these challenges — doctors, scientists, and aid workers with extensive security training who can go into conflict zones to do contact tracing, build trust in communities experiencing conflict, and work effectively with foreign governments at the local, regional, and national level. As president, I’ll launch this Global Health Security Corps to ensure that we can get the right expertise to the center of an outbreak before it becomes an epidemic.
Mitigate impact on underserved populations. Underserved and disadvantaged populations are hit harder by outbreaks. Adding insult to injury, vulnerable populations are often scapegoated for spreading disease. Outbreak responses must ensure that everyone can get the help they need. This requires constant effort on the front lines – but system-level solutions can help, too.
Practice ethical and evidence-based infection
control. My administration will work with state and local governments
to ensure that disease surveillance and response is based on facts and science,
not fear. We will also reject ill-informed, unscientific, and often
counterproductive travel bans in favor of science-based efforts at isolation
and quarantine. These efforts will be undertaken only when necessary, and we
will provide strict protection of civil liberties for those involved, including
the rejection of any unlawful detentions.
Leverage federal health care programs to respond to disasters.Studies have shown the clear connection between extreme weather events and outbreaks. After Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, for example, fatalities from bacterial Leptospirosis spiked, eventually leading to 26 deaths. In addition, despite the extensive damage to the islands infrastructure, the Trump administration waited months before delivering aid or assistance. I have committed to leveragefederal programs to quickly tailor health care responses to specific environmental disasters or outbreaks in affected communities when they occur.
Build equity protections into preparedness grant funding and government seeded innovations. I will instruct my administration to incorporate equity requirements into health preparedness and response programs to ensure all communities get the resources they need to stay healthy. I have also committed to improve environmental equity mapping via “a rigorous interagency effort to identify cumulative environmental health disparities and climate vulnerabilities and cross-reference that data with other indicators of socioeconomic health.” When the government helps fund development and clinical trials of medical countermeasures, we should be sure to negotiate a fair market price so that everyone can afford it.
Provideaggressive dissemination of reliable information. Communication is an essential element of effectively beating an outbreak. My administration will work with the private sector to promote the distribution of important factual information, to counter misinformation, and to ensure that critical facts are appropriately translated so communities can take the steps needed to stay healthy. The Trump administration banned CDC from using “evidence-based” or “policy-based,” as well as other terms, in official documents–unacceptable for an agency whose mission must be informed by science. In a Warren administration, science will once again be in charge at the CDC.
Uphold principles of open science and transparency. Sharing information about what is happening during an outbreak facilitates problem-solving. We must encourage sharing of specimens and data between researchers and public health officials, urge transparency from foreign governments, and increase support for data sharing platforms. During a public health emergency, publishers should not use paywalls to hide important data or force authors to keep data embargoed until publication. My administration will conduct a full-scale reassessment of the public health informatics supported by the federal government and modernize these systems, building on recent congressional investment. And I have already committed to improve interoperability of electronic health records, which will help providers all across this country see their patients’ medical histories and ensure that more patient data can be securely shared with critical public health databases, while ensuring that patient privacy is maintained.
Effectively partner with foreign governments and multilateral organizations. The U.S. cannot beat outbreaks alone. We must use all our tools, including diplomacy and international collaboration, to work through tough issues and partner with other countries. I’ll lead the world in promoting effective multilateral action, including through Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. And I’ll bolster our work with the World Health Organization (WHO) to continue reforms started after the 2014 Ebola outbreaks and improve the world’s ability to respond collectively to these crises.
Treating Emerging Infectious Diseases It’s essential that we continue pushing for medical advances — both to treat those who contract diseases and vaccinate against those we can prevent.
Invest in basic science. I have committed to invest $100 billion in the NIH — and $60 billion of that will fund basic science research. And when drug companies break the law, I’ll create a “swear jar” where companies will pay a portion of their profits from publicly-funded research back to the NIH. This funding will expand the research we need to develop vaccines and treatments for infectious diseases we know and novel diseases that have not yet emerged.
Invest and incentivize development of new medical countermeasures. To ensure we are able to effectively surge development during a pandemic, we must build and maintain strong infrastructure for medical countermeasure development. As President, I will ensure that small biotechnology innovators get ongoing support from Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), and we will leverage the Food and Drug Administration (FDA’s) expertise in manufacturing and clinical trials to help larger drug manufacturers bring these countermeasures to market at scale.
Bring new treatments to patients. The $40 billion I’ve committed to invest in the NIH will fund the creation of the National Institute for Drug Development — a new institute that will work to bring that basic research of the rest of the NIH into reality for patients. And under Medicare for All, we will be able to better incentivize the private sector development of drugs for which the market is currently broken, like vaccines and antibiotics. Vaccines prevent outbreaks from starting, while antibiotics provide critical protection against infections, and we are in desperate need of new antibiotics to combat resistant infections.
Enable surge support during outbreaks, especially for
diagnostics. BARDA and FDA must be ready to surge at times of
outbreak, when the need to quickly diagnose new cases is essential to
containing an outbreak and properly treating patients. My Administration will
work to provide this support and, when appropriate, use Emergency Use
Authorizations to get new diagnostics into the hands of health care providers
as soon as possible.
Prioritize therapies that work for all populations, especially kids. Therapies are often approved after being tested on populations that are not representative of the patient population. As a result, many therapies in the Strategic National Stockpile are not approved for kids, and some therapies do not work as effectively for racial minorities or women. As President, I will direct the FDA and BARDA to work with drug companies to develop pediatric medical countermeasures and increase the enrollment of underrepresented populations in clinical trials, ensuring that the treatments we develop work well for all of us.
Ensure treatments can reach patients quickly. Time is critical when you’re combating infectious diseases. We must make sure that our system is ready to “turn on” at a moment’s notice. That means we must constantly evaluate our medical countermeasure stockpiles and prepare annual updated biological threat assessments. And during an outbreak, we must quickly distribute medical countermeasures, with proper protections for equitable distribution across communities.
Ensure safety of high security labs. My administration will not allow labs to generate novel viruses with epidemic or pandemic potential, or to perform field testing of such viruses and will closely monitor dual-use research on biological threats and update policies as needed. This knowledge is incredibly important to protect our health, but could be harmful if used as a weapon. And we must be vigilant about lab safety standards and avoid accidentally mailing anthrax or forgetting about smallpox specimens for 50 years.
Diseases like coronavirus remind us why we need robust international institutions, strong investments in public health, and a government that is prepared to jump into action at a moment’s notice. When we prepare and effectively collaborate to address common threats that don’t stop at borders, the international community can stop these diseases in their tracks.
Vice President Joe Biden issued his own criticism of the Trump’s administration’s handling of a potential pandemic, in an op-ed in USA Today: Joe Biden: Trump is worst possible leader to deal with coronavirus outbreak citing the need for the President of the United States to cooperate with international partners to address this pandemic and prevent future ones. Biden writes that this is a moment that requires leadership — leadership that Trump is incapable of delivering — and lays out how his policies will be informed by science and reassert U.S. leadership on global health security.
Tom Suozzi’s town hall, his first as the Congressman representing New York’s 3rd District, was Standing Room Only, but he handled it with grace and aplomb, managing to organize what could have been an unruly outpouring of frustration, consternation, anger and anxiety into a productive discussion.
He presented the four key issues he believed most people wanted to discuss – Obamacare (Affordable Care Act), Trump-Putin ties and conflicts of interest, the travel ban, immigration and the environment – then held it up to a vote to ask if that met with approval. Then he picked four or five people to ask questions before moving on to the next topic.
Who wants to stay until 8:30? 9:15? 9:30? All night? 9:30 was the decision.
That’s how it went throughout the night with a return to key points: this is what democracy looks like. Let’s be realistic: I’m a junior Congressman from a minority party. And finally: it is up to you. Your voice. Your activism.
Most ingenious of all: he divided up his 3rd Congressional district into 16 neighborhoods – “The Third Will be Heard” – and tried to recruit people to join committees to stay active – write letters to local newspapers (the media with the most trust, he said), go door to door if necessary, engage in conversations with friends, family and others, instead of that old-saw of politics being a taboo subject.
Whenever someone introduced themselves as an expert – such as the scientist with Feinstein Institute who is a member of a newly formed Science Advocacy of Long Island (who have much to be concerned with as the Trump Administration destroys data on climate change and looks to shut down NASA’s Climate monitoring activities) – he would recruit them onto the committee. The high school fellow too young to vote whose friends are completely apathetic? You’re recruited. Get your friends engaged.
“Take that energy, that excitement and use it in a constructive forum to win the battle,” he said.
With the debate swirling over whether Democrats should be as obstructionist as the Republicans were during Obama’s presidency, Suozzi clearly appreciates that “politics is the art of the possible” (as Hillary Clinton said, much to the consternation of the Bernie Sanders ultra-left progressives who likely were among the 92 million voters who did not come out and vote, handing the reins of power and policy to the exact opposite of Obama/Clinton).
Indeed, Suozzi as Congressman is functioning exactly as he said he would during the campaign: as someone who prefers to find common ground in order to accomplish something.
He told the packed audience that filled the room to capacity that he is a member of a newly formed (can you imagine?) Problem Solvers Caucus, consisting of 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats. They are trying to find some consensus on issues such as infrastructure and tax reform (good luck with that).
Interestingly, when Suozzi asked for a show of hands of people who had never been politically engaged before, an estimates 40% of the room raised hands.
Some of the questions and comments were extremely moving: the woman whose husband is being treated, thanks to Obamacare, for cancer “he’s on the verge of being cured, but if Obamacare is repealed, he would have a preexisting condition”; the son whose father has advanced Parkinsons, who lost his job and if Obamacare is repealed, faces the dilemma of providing quality of life for the father or the family.
A woman speaking haltingly because of her disability, fearful of proposals to cut Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security and instead to send money to states to use as a block grant, a fear echoed by parents and of siblings of disabled people, who declared “I’m tired of people characterizing us as lazy”.
An immigrant man whose college-age son can’t get an internship because of his status; the woman who migrated from India 28 years ago as a 15 year old, who described the “extreme vetting” then, which has only gotten more intense under Obama; and people who asked what can be done to alleviate the anxiety in their communities over sweeps.
Suozzi noted that as Glen Cove Mayor he fought against having local police become defacto ICE agents because of the importance of the community having trust in its government and law enforcement and the value of “community policing”.
He also acknowledged when someone brought up something that he was not aware of – like the problem with a local pre-school that serves special needs children which has to negotiate individually for grants from state and county government, and has seen only a 2% increase in funding over the last six years.
“The Third Will be Heard”
Suozzi did not disguise the surprise at the turnout, noting that in his years as an elected official (Mayor, Nassau County Supervisor) well accustomed to holding town halls, he has never seen anything like this.
He asked what groups were represented: a number were newly formed in response to Trump’s election including several Indivisible groups, who came with pre-printed signs “Agree”, “Disagree” (an effective mechanism to communicate with the Congressman. Others included Reach Out America, Moveon.Org, Science Advocacy of Long Island, Long Island Together, Every Child Matters, Planned Parenthood of Nassau County, 10100, NY Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Campaign, NOW of Nassau-Suffolk, Code Pink Long Island, Long Island OptOut, Huntington Democrats, among others.
One of reasons Democrats lost is because they didn’t mobilize locally, he said, which is why he hopes to try to keep the energy going, and why he kept going back to the need for the people to get the change they want.
He started off with some of his own comments:
Travel Ban? We are less safe, he said, and putting the ramifications of the Muslim ban and curtailment of immigrants and refugees, he said. “There are 80,000 people worldwide in organized terror groups. There are 65 million refugees, due to climate change, civil war, feminism. This is a nation of immigrants, a nation dedicated to two propositions: all men and women are created equal and entitled to respect and dignity.”
The enhanced sweeps of undocumented immigrants (unfurled in a way that shows the lie of only going after the “bad hombres”) “makes us less safe when communities distrust their local police force. People turn to gangs for protection when they are afraid of law enforcement.”
He was asked about the Stop Arming Terrorists Act that Tulsi Gabbard has proposed. “I have to research further,” he said honestly, adding, “It’s true the US funded Osama bin Ladin against the Russians, and Saddam Hussein, and funded the Syrian regime before, and we are still funding the Saudis who fund terror groups. We did it to have access to oil.
“But, for the first time 50 years we are not dependent on oil from the Mideast. This is an opportunity that is not likely to be seized on by the Trump Administration.”
Had Trump not reversed all the Obama policies that bolstered homegrown, clean renewable energy, the US could have said to these dictators, “We don’t want your land your oil. But we need to move more to clean energy to make this happen.” (Trump, in his speech to the CIA the day after the inauguration, as the Women’s March was going past the White House, said that he thought we would have a second chance at taking Iraq’s oil, because he had been taught that “to the victor belongs the spoils.”)
Obamacare: Mend It Don’t End It
On the first topic, Obamacare, a man said he was walking proof of the problems, because his wife suffers from cancer, and over the past two years, one insurance company after another pulled out, until the hospital where his wife was being treated said they would not treat her because there was no carrier in the exchange. Now, his wife has a pre-existing condition.
Suozzi said, “There are problems with ACA. But we need to mend it, not end it.” He said he supported single-payer (essentially Medicare for All), but that wasn’t possible under Obama, who instead bent over backwards, even picking up on the right-wing Heritage Foundation’s model that preserved for-profit health insurance companies as the intermediary for obtaining health care which had been put into place in Massachusetts under Governor Romney. Obama was unable to get a public option. But even after bending over backwards to accommodate Republicans, not a single one voted in favor of ACA, but instead, spent six years voting 60 times to repeal it, even forcing a government shut down.
People raised concern about the proposal to tax people differently for health care based on age, not income, a scheme to cut $216 billion in spending ; of capping how much employers give to employees for health insurance which then would be taxed as income.
“It’s time to get out the Uzzi and go after Price [the new Secretary of Health & Human Services, whose 2015 bill repealing Obamacare is the most likely model]. Go after Republicans for raising taxes.”
A young man described how his father had advanced Parkinsons and then was laid off and lost his health insurance. Now he has a pre-existing condition. Repealing Obamacare, he said, “would force our family to choose between my father’s well-being and our family’s.”
Suozzi responded, “This is real life, the devastating effect of repealing Obamacare.”
Turning next to the Trump-Putin and conflicts of interest topic, Suozzi said he would support a bill to require Trump to release his taxes, and would support an independent (not just bipartisan) commission to investigate his ties to Russia and possible collusion of his campaign with Russian agents to swing the election.
“This is why you are so important,” he said. “I don’t want you to understate what you are doing. It’s working. We need reasonable Americans to put country ahead of party. Since McCarthy, Republicans have tried to paint Democrats as unpatriotic. This is a generational opportunity to change that dynamic.”
Travel Ban: Guns Kill, Not Refugees
A man noted that none of the 7 countries under Trump’s ban has had anything to do with terrorism in the US since 1975 (on the other hand, terrorist acts were committed by people from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia and none of these were included in the ban), using the premise of public safety. But 34,000 people are killed each year by gun violence.
“Guns kill, not refugees,” a woman said.
Suozzi said that even when he brought together gun rights advocates with gun control advocates, there was general consensus on the need for universal background checks (instead, the Republicans just overturned Obama’s requirement for mentally ill people receiving services from Social Security to be included in the database). The reason there is no commonsense gun regulation is the same that reasonable health care is blocked: moneyed interests. “It’s always about the money.”
But the focus on Trump’s use of fear and under the guise of “national security” push through anti-democratic policies (such as his threat to “send in the feds” to Chicago and use military precision to round up undocumented immigrants with expedited review so that their cases are not properly adjudicated, his attacks on free press and an independent judiciary and reestablish private prisons) prompted a woman to remark, “Be afraid. The America you know won’t exist in 15 years. Republics disappear. Commitment is important. We should be afraid that America will slip away from us, we must persevere.”
This raised the issue of campaign finance reform and gerrymandering and voter suppression. Suozzi confessed his inability to significantly change any of that, but that it is up to the people to get people out to vote, which is another compelling reason for his neighborhood-based activism. He said his office would be engaged in voter registration campaign.
Rachel Carcalelli of Great Neck Plaza, an environmentalist, noted that Superstorm Sandy cost $75 billion. “We need to rebuild infrastructure in sustainable ways – public transportation, water systems, renewable energy, sanitation.”
Instead, Nassau County will see $6.5 million cut in bus service.
In each case, Suozzi went back to his go-to – that people need to stay active and engaged, to join his neighborhood teams in order to spread the word.
Challenged by a Sanders supporter to reject everything the Republicans propose, Suozzi said, “I’ve been in politics 20 years. I won a lot, lost a few. JFK described himself as an idealist without illusions. I’m not a sucker. I still believe in this country, the power of people. Politics is a noble profession. I will remain an idealist as long as I can, but with eyes wide open.”
A woman noted that many in the audience “are new to politics, to this forum” and might be helped to have more realistic expectations of what Suozzi and the Democratic party, being essentially powerless in the House, can achieve.
Indeed, Suozzi offered a dose of reality to many of the speakers, such as when he was asked to solve the eons old problem of campaign finance reform and gerrymandering. “Nice idea but it’s not realistic for junior member in minority party,” he told one speaker. “All the stuff coming over transom – there’s no free time.” He listed what he is engaged in so far: foreign affairs committee, armed services committee,. “I want to focus on important things in the district- the Northport VA, the North Shore plume (the Navy and Grumman are the responsible parties to clean up a 40-year old site estimated at $500 million to clean up); airport noise in northeastern queens, two major research centers (Cold Spring and the Feinstein Institute), a Coast Guard facility. I decided to make the Problem Solvers Caucus one of my big focuses –if I could get Republicans interested in campaign finance reform and gerrymandering.”
The youngest speaker of the evening, Zachary, about seven years old, stood on a chair to say, “Impeach Trump. He’s messed up. How did we get into this mess?”
One of the older speakers of the evening, Harry Arlin, wearing an Army baseball cap, said, “I lived briefly under Hitler, had to run; lived under Mussolini and was incarcerated, then under Stalin and had to flee… Now I am living under Trump. Impeach Trump. I’m too old to run again.”
Though the issue of the alarming increase in anti-Semitic incidents across the country since Trump’s election was not specifically raised in this Long Island community with a significant Jewish population, Suozzi acknowledged at one point that the town hall was being held in a Jewish Community Center in Plainview, and JCCs have received over 50 bomb threats in recent weeks.
Suozzi periodically would stop and poll the audience again to get their sense of whether to move on to the next topic. It was remarkable to see how he could actually offer a wide opportunity for people to air grievances, questions, comments in such a large and energized group and have something constructive come out of it: namely, a better understanding of issues and concerns, and also to gauge where constituents are on these key issues.
It wasn’t even close: the 3rd Congressional district wants to retain and improve Obamacare, overturn the travel ban but okay to vet, end the terror and insecurity in immigrant communities and provide a path to some kind of legal status, protect the environment, protect the integrity of the election from foreign influence while protecting the ability of people to cast their ballot.
Gabby Giffords Mocks Republicans Dodging Town Halls
Suozzi’s town hall was very different from what many Republican Congressmen are experiencing around the country – Long Island’s Peter King didn’t even hold one during this President’s Week when traditionally Congress members return to their districts to hear from constituents. Trump and his sycophants have accused those coming out in force to protest the repeal of Obamacare as “paid liberal activists” or, as Trump told CPAC, “the losing side” (neglecting to mention there were 65 million voters, three million more than his side).
And ironically, many of the Republicans are citing fear of their constituents as the reason, prompting Gabby Giffords, who was a Congresswoman until she was shot in the head while holding a public availability at a shopping center in Tucson, to write:
“As a member of Congress, I believed that listening to my constituents was the most basic and core tenet of the job I was hired to do. So I was a little surprised yesterday to hear Congressman Louie Gohmert invoke my shooting as a reason not to face his constituents at a public town hall.
“I was shot on a Saturday morning. By Monday morning my offices were open to the public. Ron Barber – at my side that Saturday, who was shot multiple times, then elected to Congress in my stead – held town halls. It’s what the people deserve in a representative.
“So to Congressman Gohmert and others who are abandoning their civic obligations, I say this: Have a little courage. Face your constituents. Hold town halls.
“Many of the members of Congress who are refusing to hold town halls and listen to their constituents’ concerns are the very same politicians that have opposed commonsense gun violence prevention policies and have allowed the Washington gun lobby to threaten the safety of law enforcement and everyday citizens in our schools, businesses, places of worship, airports, and movie theaters.
“In the past year, campaigning for gun safety, I have held over 50 public events. And if I am still willing to do it, they should be too.”
The newly disclosed possibly “pertinent” (or possibly not) Hillary Clinton emails, which are all part of the same single issue of using a private server and have nothing to do with deliberately handing classified information to enemy forces (does anybody really understand what the issue is all about), do nothing to reverse the clear and present danger that a Donald Trump presents if he becomes the “leader” of the Free World and the most powerful person on the planet, with unique control over nuclear weapons.
To remind you of this, the Hillary for America campaign provided a handy list of what The Donald has already said and done.
The comparison with Hillary Clinton’s experience, her steady hand, her maturity, her ability to see the long view, to balance complex competing constituencies, and her willingness to listen, learn and most importantly, admit and learn from mistakes, makes it clear:
The Choice is Clear: Trump is Unfit to be President and Commander-In-Chief
Americans deserve a president who’s ready on Day One to keep us safe. As a former Secretary of State and senator, Hillary Clinton brings vast experience to the Oval Office, having dealt with the key issues facing Americans around the world for decades. Traveling nearly a million miles as America’s top diplomat, Hillary has handled issues ranging from nuclear proliferation to military readiness, from women’s rights to climate change, and is ready to lead from day one.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, has proven himself again and again to be temperamentally unfit and totally unqualified to be President and Commander-in-Chief.
Beyond his lack of understanding of foreign policy and unwillingness to learn, Donald Trump is a loose cannon with dangerous views on major global issues. Trump would encourage the spread of nuclear weapons around the world, has insulted our allies and praised several authoritarian dictators. He even encouraged a foreign government to hack Americans, and since then has refused to acknowledge the U.S. Intelligence community’s conclusion that the Russian government has done just that.
Americans deserve a president who understands the challenging world in which we live, not one who is too erratic and uninformed to have control of nuclear weapons.
Throughout his career, and throughout this campaign, on subject after subject, Trump has proven he is unfit to be commander-in-chief. As we begin the final week of the presidential campaign, here is a look back at Trump’s dangerous record on matters of defense and foreign policy:
On nuclear weapons, Donald Trump has displayed a reckless disregard for fact and fails to understand the dangers of nuclear proliferation. Simply put, he doesn’t have the temperament to be trusted with the nuclear codes.
On the prospect of nuclear war in Asia, Trump said, “good luck, enjoy yourself folks.”
Trump’s rhetoric pushed dozens former nuclear launch officers to sign a letter saying Trump “should not have his finger on the button.”
U.S. MILITARY AND VETERANS
Trump has repeatedly insulted our military, our veterans and their families. He has been disrespecting our veterans for decades, continually proving he’s unqualified and temperamentally unfit to be commander-in-chief.
Trump maintains that we don’t know if Russia is behind recent hacks, despite being personally briefed by Republican Representative Michael McCaul, Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
Trump called the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia was behind that hack was “public relations, frankly” and repeatedly denied their conclusion.
Trump has been accused by a former acting CIA director of being “an unwitting agent of Putin.”
For decades, America has held strong alliances across the world – including those with NATO countries. NATO has stood with the United States, for example, invoking Article 5 after 9/11 and collaborating to fight the war on terror today. But on the campaign trail, Donald Trump has outlined plans to cut off America’s allies.
Donald Trump seems to have an admiration for dictators from across the world. From Vladimir Putin to Saddam Hussein and beyond, Trump has repeatedly complimented foreign leaders known for their records of oppression and abuse..
Trump said North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un deserves “credit” for taking out his rivals and has “got to be pretty smart.”
Trump gave Saddam Hussein undue credit, saying “he did one thing well, he killed terrorists.”
Trump believes that, during the Tiananmen Square massacre, the Chinese government showed “strength.”
Trump thinks Vladimir Putin is a better leader than President Obama, “saying in terms of leadership, he’s getting an A and our president is not doing so well.” (But of course, his praise for Putin doesn’t stop there.)
FOREIGN BUSINESS ENTANGLEMENTS
Trump’s extensive foreign dealings would present significant conflicts of interest and endanger our national security. Trump refuses to disclose the full extent of his foreign business entanglements – but without knowing the details of them, how will Americans know whose interests Trump is putting first? What we do know is concerning.
Donald Trump’s approach to Iran is devoid of any substance. He has prefered to denigrate American leaders and spew lies when it comes to Iran — though he was willing to deal with Iran when it made him money.
Trump would open to door to nuclear proliferation in the region. When asked whether it’s “fine” for Japan and South Korea to get nuclear weapons, Trump said, “Can I be honest with you? It’s going to happen anyway.”
“Slogans aren’t a strategy. Loose cannons tend to misfire. What America needs is strong, smart, steady leadership to wage and win this struggle.”
That small section from Hillary Clinton’s speech at Stanford University is getting a lot of play, but the former Secretary of State Democratic presidential candidate laid out an incredibly detailed, rational vision for defeating ISIS and terrorism “through principled American leadership.”
The speech came in the wake of the terror attacks at the Brussels international airport and a metro station, reigniting American fears in a way that attacks in Turkey and in other parts of the world never seem to do.
In her speech, she refers to “radical jihadist terrorists<” rather than the term preferred by the Republican candidates, “Radical Islamists” – as if semantics like “War on Terror” or “War on Drugs” or “political correctness” are the cause of the problem or the solution.
Instead, she detailed her strategy for defeating ISIS and the indispensable role of steady American leadership, of reinforcing our alliances, and of doing what actually works. Indeed, many point to the isolation, alienation and discrimination of the Muslim community in Brussels, with unemployment at 40%, as a reason why Belgium has sent some 1500 radicalized people to become trained by ISIS (some 400 have returned), while on a per capita basis, the US, with its well assimilated Muslim community, has had only a handful radicalized (indeed, there are more White Supremacists than radical jihadists).
Her speech was a rebuke to those who have responded to the terrorist attacks in Brussels exactly as its perpetrators would hope, trafficking in bigotry and bluster, and capitalizing on voters’ fears.
With an unequivocal rejection of such fear-mongering, she declared Americans “will not turn on each other, turn on our allies, or turn away from our principles.”
Here are highlights from her remarks on March 23, 2016:
“Yesterday’s attack in Brussels was the latest brutal reminder that our fight against ISIS and radical jihadist terrorism is far from finished. More than 30 innocent people are dead — men and women hurrying to catch a plane or waiting for a train or meeting a loved one. Hundreds more are wounded, including three Mormon missionaries from Utah, a U.S. Air Force Officer, his wife and four children, and other Americans.
“It’s understandable that Americans here at home are worried. The threat we face from terrorism is real, it’s urgent, and it knows no boundaries. Even as Brussels grieves, the memories of Paris and San Bernardino are painfully fresh as well. On Saturday, a bombing in Istanbul killed four people, including two U.S.-Israeli dual citizens. Many other places have been targeted by terrorists in the past year alone. Hotels in West Africa. Beaches in Tunisia. A market in Lebanon. A Russian passenger jet in the Sinai.
“ISIS is attempting a genocide of religious and ethnic minorities. It beheads civilians. It enslaves, tortures, and rapes women and girls.
“Walls will not protect us from this threat. We cannot contain ISIS – we must defeat ISIS.
“This will be one of the most important challenges facing the next President who takes office on January 20. Our new Commander-in-Chief will walk into the Oval Office and find a world of hard choices and complex problems. That president will sit down at that desk and start making decisions that will affect the lives and livelihoods of every American and people around the world. So the stakes could not be higher.
“Today, I want to emphasize three points: First, we face an adversary that is constantly adapting and operating across multiple theaters, so our response must be just as nimble and far-reaching. Second, to defeat this transnational threat, we need to reinforce the alliances that have been core pillars of American power for decades. And third, we need to rely on what actually works, not bluster that alienates our partners and doesn’t make us any safer.
“Let’s begin by being clear about what we are facing: ISIS controls a shrinking but still sizeable territory in Iraq and Syria. It leads a far-flung network that includes affiliates across the Middle East and North Africa, and cells in Europe, Asia, and even here in North America. It’s also part of a broader ideological movement that includes other terrorist groups. We need to do battle on all these fronts.
“Last year, in speeches in New York and Minneapolis, I laid out a three-part plan to defeat ISIS in the Middle East, around the world, and here at home. Recent events have only reinforced the urgency of this mission.
“First, we do have to take out ISIS’ stronghold in Iraq and Syria. We should intensify the coalition air campaign against its fighters, leaders, and infrastructure, step up support for local Arab and Kurdish forces on the ground, and coalition efforts to protect civilians. And pursue a diplomatic strategy aimed at achieving political resolutions to Syria’s civil war and Iraq’s sectarian divide.
“Second, we must dismantle the global network of terror that supplies money, arms, propaganda, and fighters. This means targeted efforts to deal with ISIS affiliates from Libya to Afghanistan. It means going after the key enablers who facilitate illicit financial transactions and help jihadists arrange travel, forge documents, and evade detection. And it means waging online battles with extremists to discredit their ideology, expose their lies, and counter their appeals to potential recruits in the West and around the world.
[If Republicans really were serious about defeating ISIS versus making President Obama look bad – -perhaps even inviting a terror attack here which they believe will bolster their ability to win back the White House – the Senate would have already confirmed the appointment of Adam Szubin’s as the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, the post in charge of tracking down and stopping the funds going to terrorist organizations.]
“Third, we must harden our defenses and build our resilience here at home. We need to counter each step in the process that can lead to an attack, deterring would-be terrorists and discovering and disrupting plots before they’re carried out.
“Our enemies are constantly adapting, so we have to do the same. For example, Brussels demonstrated clearly we need to take a harder look at security protocols at airports and other sensitive so called “soft sites,” especially areas outside guarded perimeters.
“To do all this, we need an intelligence surge, and so do our allies.
“We also have to stay ahead of the curve technologically. That does mean working with the brightest minds here in Silicon Valley to more effectively track and analyze ISIS’s social media posts and map jihadist networks online. When other candidates talk about building walls around America, I want to ask them: How high does the wall have to be to keep the Internet out?
“And we also have to tackle a thorny challenge that is top-of-mind here in the Bay Area – navigating the security and civil liberties concerns surrounding the encryption of mobile devices and communications.
“Impenetrable encryption provides significant cybersecurity advantages, but may also make it harder for law enforcement and counterterrorism professionals to investigate plots and prevent future attacks. ISIS knows this too. At the same time, there are legitimate worries about privacy, network security, and creating new vulnerabilities that bad actors – including terrorists – can exploit.
“There may be no quick or magic fix. In the Apple case, the FBI may have found a work-around, but there will be future cases with different facts and different challenges. So the tech community and the government have to stop seeing each other as adversaries and start working together to protect our safety and our privacy. A National Commission on Encryption, like Senator Mark Warner and Congressman Mike McCaul are proposing, could help. And our security professionals could use the advice and talents of technology professionals to help us figure out how we do stay ahead of the terrorists.
“Our fight against radical jihadist terrorists will be long, and there is very real risk of future attacks here at home. But pursuing this comprehensive strategy will put us in the best position to defeat ISIS and keep our families and communities safe. This is a very personal issue for me, having served as a Senator from New York on 9/11. Having seen the horrors that were produced by a well-planned and executed attack on our country, knowing how important it is that we do stay ahead of those who wish to do us great harm, without panic, without paranoia, but with resolve not to give in to the very behavior the terrorists are hoping to engender.
“We can’t let fear stop us from doing what’s necessary to keep us safe – nor can we let it push us into reckless actions that end up making us less safe.
“For example, it would be a serious mistake to stumble into another costly ground war in the Middle East. If we’ve learned anything from Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s that people and nations have to secure their own communities. We can, I argue, must support them, but we can’t substitute for them.
“It would also be a serious mistake to begin “carpet bombing” populated areas “into oblivion.” Proposing that doesn’t make you sound tough, it makes you sound like you’re in over your head. Slogans aren’t a strategy. Loose cannons tend to misfire. What America needs is strong, smart, steady leadership to wage and win this struggle.
“To do that, we need to strengthen America’s alliances in Europe, Asia, and around the world.And that is the second point I want to emphasize.
“On 9/11, NATO treated an attack against one as an attack against all. On September 12, headlines across Europe, most notably in Le Monde proclaimed, “We are all Americans.” There were very few planes in the air that day – but one was a British jet carrying the UK’s top national security leaders to Washington to offer any help they could.
“Now it’s our turn to stand with Europe. We cherish the same values and face the same adversaries – so we must share the same determination.
“This is especially true at a time when Europe faces multiple overlapping crises, from President Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, to the massive influx of refugees, to continuing economic challenges, to the rise of right-wing nationalist parties. We have made so much progress together toward the goal of a Europe that is free, whole, and at peace, and we can’t risk letting it fall apart now.
“For decades, Republican and Democratic administrations have understood that America’s alliances make us stronger. Secretary Shultz compared the slow, steady work of building diplomatic relationships to gardening. He knew that when you cultivate effective partners, you can can harvest real rewards.
“Allies extend our reach, share intelligence, provide troops in conflicts like Afghanistan, offer bases and staging areas around the world for our military, and serve as a bulwark against competitors like Russia and China. And by the way, both Moscow and Beijing know our global network of alliances is a significant strategic advantage they can’t match.
“NATO, in particular, is one of the best investments America has ever made. From the Balkans to Afghanistan and beyond, NATO allies have fought alongside the United States, sharing the burdens and the sacrifices. In the 1990s, Secretary Perry helped guide NATO’s expansion based on the alliance’s core tenets of collective defense, democracy, consensus, and cooperative security. They became known as the “Perry Principles,” and they’re still at the heart of what makes NATO the most successful alliance in history.
“Turning our back on our alliances, or turning our alliance into a protection racket, would reverse decades of bipartisan American leadership and send a dangerous signal to friend and foe alike. Putin already hopes to divide Europe. If Mr. Trump gets his way, it’ll be like Christmas in the Kremlin. It will make America less safe and the world more dangerous.
“When it comes to the struggle against ISIS, we need our allies as much as ever. We need them to be strong and engaged, for they are increasingly on the frontlines. London, Paris, Madrid, Brussels, Istanbul – they’ve all been hit by terrorism. And, as we saw when a terrorist cell in Hamburg carried out the 9/11 attacks, what happens in Europe has a way of making it to America. So it’s essential that we have strong partners who can work with us to disrupt plots and dismantle networks in their own countries before they lead to attacks in ours.
“America needs European intelligence services working hand-in-hand with our own, including where they may have better reach and expertise like in North Africa. We need European banks to stop terrorist financing. We need European planes flying missions over Iraq and Syria, and European special forces helping train and equip local anti-ISIS forces on the ground.
“We need European diplomats and development experts working to improve governance and reduce the appeal of extremism across the wide arc of instability that stretches from West Africa all the way to Asia. Together, we can do more — and more urgently — to support moderate voices and stand with Tunisians, Libyans, Kurds, and others in the region who are trying to do the right thing.
“And as we should, of course, be closely consulting with Israel, our strongest ally in the Middle East, we also have to extend our consultations to Arab partners as well.
“All of this will make America safer and help defeat ISIS.
“There is much we can do to support our European partners – helping them improve intelligence and law enforcement, facilitating information sharing, working more closely at every level. There’s also more they can do to share the burden with us. We’d like to see more European countries investing in defense and security, following the example Germany and others have set during the Obama administration.
“The most urgent task is stopping the flow of foreign fighters to and from the Middle East. Thousands of young recruits have flocked to Syria from France, Germany, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. Their European passports make it easier for them to cross borders and eventually return home, radicalized and battle-hardened. We need to know the identities of every fighter who makes that trip and start revoking passports and visas.
“Stemming this tide will require much better coordination among every country along the way. Right now, many European nations don’t even alert each other when they turn away a suspected jihadist at the border or when a passport is stolen. And Turkey, a NATO ally, still has more work to do to control the border where most foreign fighters cross into Syria.
“After the Paris attack, France and Belgium pledged to move forward together on reforms, but that’s difficult without the European Union. In January, the EU announced a new integrated counterterrorism center. But intelligence cooperation still lags and the EU keeps delaying a vote to share traveler information between member states. It’s actually easier for the United States to get flight manifests from EU nations than it is for EU nations to get them from their own neighbors, thanks to an agreement the U.S. negotiated when I was Secretary of State.
“There also has to be a special emphasis on identifying and investing in the hot spots — the specific neighborhoods, prisons and schools, where recruitment happens in clusters, as we’ve seen in Brussels. And it’s time to make good on the promise of establishing a new unified European Border and Coast Guard to strengthen the continent’s external borders, which are under unprecedented pressure from refugees and migrants.
“Now this is a heart-breaking crisis. Last year, the world was horrified by the photo of a drowned toddler lying on a Turkish beach. In the months since then, hundreds more children have died trying to reach safety. We’ve seen Europe and Syria’s neighbors in the Middle East struggle under the weight of this challenge. It’s too big for any one country or even continent to handle alone. I’m glad that the EU and Turkey are now working closely together, and the United States should do whatever we can to support that.
“The only truly effective answer is to go to the source, end the conflict that is displacing all these people. So we have to support and maintain the ceasefire in Syria. And we should also work with our coalition partners and opposition forces on the ground to create safe areas where Syrians can remain in the country rather than fleeing toward Europe.
“In the meantime, it would be wrong to shut our doors to orphans or to apply religious tests for people fleeing persecution. That’s not who we are. But of course we have to be vigilant in screening and vetting everyone. We can’t allow terrorists to intimidate us into abandoning our values and humanitarian obligations. But we also have to be smart and vigilant about how we process people into our country: it would be doubly cruel if ISIS can not only force families from their homes and but also prevent them from ever finding new ones.
“And that brings me to my third point: In our fight against radical jihadism, we have to do what actually works.
“One thing we know that does not work is offensive, inflammatory rhetoric that demonizes all Muslims. There are millions of peace-loving Muslims living, working, raising families, and paying taxes in this country. These Americans are a crucial line of defense against terrorism. They are the most likely to recognize the warning signs of radicalization before it’s too late, and the best positioned to block it.
“Last year in Minneapolis, I met parents, teachers, imams, and others in the Somali-American community who are working with law enforcement and mental health professionals to intervene with young people at risk of being radicalized. Efforts like that deserve more local and national support.
“Since 9/11, law enforcement has worked hard to build trustful and strong relationships with American Muslim communities. As the Director of the FBI told Congress, anything that erodes that trust makes their job more difficult.
“We need every American community invested in this fight, not fearful and sitting on the sidelines. So when Republican candidates like Ted Cruz call for treating American Muslims like criminals, and for racially profiling predominantly-Muslim neighborhoods, it’s wrong, it’s counter-productive, it’s dangerous. As a spokesman for the New York Police Department pointed out last night, that kind of blanket bigotry would treat the city’s nearly 1,000 Muslim police officers as threats. “It’s hard to imagine a more incendiary, foolish statement,” he said.
“Commissioner Bill Bratton of the NYPD was even more blunt this morning. He said Senator Cruz “doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.”
“Demonizing Muslims also alienates partners and undermines moderates we need around the world in the fight against ISIS. There’s been a lot of talk from both Republicans and Democrats about the importance of building coalitions with Muslim nations. Having actually done this, I can tell you, insulting allies and partners is not a good way to start.
“Another thing we know that does not work, based on lots of empirical evidence, is torture. Many intelligence, military and law enforcement experts have attested to this fact. It also puts our own troops and increasingly our own civilians at greater risk.
“I’m proud to have been a part of the administration that banned torture after too many years in which we had lost our way. And if I’m President, the United States will not condone or practice torture anywhere in the world. Even when we’re up against opponents who don’t respect human life or human rights, torture is not the right choice. As Senator John McCain has said, the high standard to which we hold ourselves “isn’t about our enemies; it’s about us. It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be.”
“America is a great nation. And this is a time for American leadership. Smart, strong, steady leadership.
“No other country can rally allies and partners to defeat ISIS and win the generational struggle against radical jihadist terrorism. Only the United States can mobilize common action on a global scale in defense of our people and our values.
“America doesn’t cower in fear or hide behind walls. We lead and we succeed.
“Throughout our history, we have stared into the face of evil and refused to blink. Whether it was Fascism, the Cold War, and or hunting down Osama bin Laden. And we will defeat ISIS too. No enemy or adversary should ever underestimate the determination of the American people.
“I will never forget what it was like to arrive in Brussels for the first time as Secretary of State in March of 2009. I was on my way to NATO. NATO headquarters was buzzing. Hundreds of young people at the European Parliament had stood and cheered, not for me, but for the idea of American leadership – for the promise of an alliance that delivered unprecedented peace and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic.
“That’s what we need to remember today. Americans cannot and I believe will not turn on each other, turn on our allies, or turn away from our principles.
“We’re in it for the long haul. And that means We’re going to work together. And we’re going to prevail.
This may be another one of the long struggles we have confronted from time to time in our history; but like all the rest of those, if we can forge a bipartisan consensus, if we can bring our people to understand what this struggle means to us, if we can maintain our alliances and our partnerships, we will be successful.
“And that will benefit not only our country but the world. And that, when you boil it down is what American leadership has to be about.
Taking bold actions to protect Americans in today’s digital world
The next War to End All Wars will likely be fought in cyberspace, rather than by invading armies. Cybersecurity is critical line of defense, but also raises issues of privacy – from government as well as criminals. The Obama Administration has just issued a Cybersecurity National Action Plan which, among other things, creates a Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity as well as a permanent Federal Privacy Council. It includes expanding upon the President’s 2014 BuySecure Initiative to strengthen the security of consumer data. Here is a fact sheet from the White House detailing the Cybersecurity National Action Plan:
From the beginning of his Administration, the President has made it clear that cybersecurity is one of the most important challenges we face as a Nation, and for more than seven years he has acted comprehensively to confront that challenge. Working together with Congress, we took another step forward in this effort in December with the passage of the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, which provides important tools necessary to strengthen the Nation’s cybersecurity, particularly by making it easier for private companies to share cyber threat information with each other and the Government.
But the President believes that more must be done – so that citizens have the tools they need to protect themselves, companies can defend their operations and information, and the Government does its part to protect the American people and the information they entrust to us. That is why, today, the President is directing his Administration to implement a Cybersecurity National Action Plan (CNAP) that takes near-term actions and puts in place a long-term strategy to enhance cybersecurity awareness and protections, protect privacy, maintain public safety as well as economic and national security, and empower Americans to take better control of their digital security.
From buying products to running businesses to finding directions to communicating with the people we love, an online world has fundamentally reshaped our daily lives. But just as the continually evolving digital age presents boundless opportunities for our economy, our businesses, and our people, it also presents a new generation of threats that we must adapt to meet. Criminals, terrorists, and countries who wish to do us harm have all realized that attacking us online is often easier than attacking us in person. As more and more sensitive data is stored online, the consequences of those attacks grow more significant each year. Identity theft is now the fastest growing crime in America. Our innovators and entrepreneurs have reinforced our global leadership and grown our economy, but with each new story of a high-profile company hacked or a neighbor defrauded, more Americans are left to wonder whether technology’s benefits could risk being outpaced by its costs.
The President believes that meeting these new threats is necessary and within our grasp. But it requires a bold reassessment of the way we approach security in the digital age. If we’re going to be connected, we need to be protected. We need to join together—Government, businesses, and individuals—to sustain the spirit that has always made America great.
That is why, today, the Administration is announcing a series of near-term actions to enhance cybersecurity capabilities within the Federal Government and across the country. But given the complexity and seriousness of the issue, the President is also asking some of our Nation’s top strategic, business, and technical thinkers from outside of government to study and report on what more we can do to enhance cybersecurity awareness and protections, protect privacy, maintain public safety as well as economic and national security, and empower Americans to take better control of their digital security. Bold action is required to secure our digital society and keep America competitive in the global digital economy.
The President’s Cybersecurity National Action Plan (CNAP) is the capstone of more than seven years of determined effort by this Administration, building upon lessons learned from cybersecurity trends, threats, and intrusions. This plan directs the Federal Government to take new action now and fosters the conditions required for long-term improvements in our approach to cybersecurity across the Federal Government, the private sector, and our personal lives. Highlights of the CNAP include actions to:
Establish the “Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity.” This Commission will be comprised of top strategic, business, and technical thinkers from outside of Government – including members to be designated by the bi-partisan Congressional leadership. The Commission will make recommendations on actions that can be taken over the next decade to strengthen cybersecurity in both the public and private sectors while protecting privacy; maintaining public safety and economic and national security; fostering discovery and development of new technical solutions; and bolstering partnerships between Federal, State, and local government and the private sector in the development, promotion and use of cybersecurity technologies, policies, and best practices.
Modernize Government IT and transform how the Government manages cybersecurity through the proposal of a $3.1 billion Information Technology Modernization Fund, which will enable the retirement, replacement, and modernization of legacy IT that is difficult to secure and expensive to maintain, as well as the formation of a new position – the Federal Chief Information Security Officer – to drive these changes across the Government.
Empower Americans to secure their online accounts by moving beyond just passwords and adding an extra layer of security. By judiciously combining a strong password with additional factors, such as a fingerprint or a single use code delivered in a text message, Americans can make their accounts even more secure. This focus on multi-factor authentication will be central to a newNational Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign launched by theNational Cyber Security Alliance designed to arm consumers with simple and actionable information to protect themselves in an increasingly digital world. The National Cyber Security Alliance will partner with leading technology firms like Google, Facebook, DropBox, and Microsoft to make it easier for millions of users to secure their online accounts, and financial services companies such as MasterCard,Visa, PayPal, and Venmo thatare making transactions more secure. In addition, the Federal Government will take steps to safeguard personal data in online transactions between citizens and the government, including through a new action plan to drive the Federal Government’s adoption and use of effective identity proofing and strong multi-factor authentication methods and a systematic review of where the Federal Government can reduce reliance on Social Security Numbers as an identifier of citizens.
Invest over$19 billion for cybersecurity as part of the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Budget. This represents a more than 35 percent increase from FY 2016 in overall Federal resources for cybersecurity, a necessary investment to secure our Nation in the future.
Through these actions, additional new steps outlined below, and other policy efforts spread across the Federal Government, the Administration has charted a course to enhance our long-term security and reinforce American leadership in developing the technologies that power the digital world.
Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity
For over four decades, computer technology and the Internet have provided a strategic advantage to the United States, its citizens, and its allies. But if fundamental cybersecurity and identity issues are not addressed, America’s reliance on digital infrastructure risks becoming a source of strategic liability. To address these issues, we must diagnose and address the causes of cyber-vulnerabilities, and not just treat the symptoms. Meeting this challenge will require a long-term, national commitment.
To conduct this review, the President is establishing the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity, comprised of top strategic, business, and technical thinkers from outside of Government – including members to be designated by the bi-partisan Congressional leadership.The Commission is tasked with making detailed recommendations on actions that can be taken over the next decade to enhance cybersecurity awareness and protections throughout the private sector and at all levels of Government, to protect privacy, to maintain public safety and economic and national security, and to empower Americans to take better control of their digital security. The National Institute of Standards and Technology will provide the Commission with support to allow it to carry out its mission. The Commission will report to the President with its specific findings and recommendations before the end of 2016, providing the country a roadmap for future actions that will build on the CNAP and protect our long-term security online.
Raise the Level of Cybersecurity across the Country
While the Commission conducts this forward looking review, we will continue to raise the level of cybersecurity across the Nation.
Strengthen Federal Cybersecurity
The Federal Government has made significant progress in improving its cybersecurity capabilities, but more work remains. To expand on that progress and address the longstanding, systemic challenges in Federal cybersecurity, we must re-examine our Government’s legacy approach to cybersecurity and information technology, which requires each agency to build and defend its own networks. These actions build upon the foundation laid by the Cybersecurity Cross-Agency Priority Goalsand the 2015 Cybersecurity Strategy and Implementation Plan.
Ø The President’s 2017 Budget proposes a $3.1 billionInformation Technology Modernization Fund, as a down payment on the comprehensive overhaul that must be undertaken in the coming years. This revolving fund will enable agencies to invest money up front and realize the return over time by retiring, replacing, or modernizing antiquated IT infrastructure, networks, and systems that are expensive to maintain, provide poor functionality, and are difficult to secure.
Ø The Administration has created the position of Federal Chief Information Security Officer to drive cybersecurity policy, planning, and implementation across the Federal Government. This is the first time that there will be a dedicated senior official who is solely focused on developing, managing, and coordinating cybersecurity strategy, policy, and operations across the entire Federal domain.
Ø The Administration is requiring agencies to identify and prioritize their highest value and most at-risk IT assets and then take additional concrete steps to improve their security.
Ø The Department of Homeland Security, the General Services Administration, and other Federal agencies will increase the availability of government-wide shared services for IT and cybersecurity, with the goal of taking each individual agency out of the business of building, owning, and operating their own IT when more efficient, effective, and secure options are available, as well as ensuring that individual agencies are not left on their own to defend themselves against the most sophisticated threats.
Ø The Department of Homeland Security is enhancing Federal cybersecurity by expanding the EINSTEIN and Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation programs. The President’s 2017 Budget supports all Federal civilian agencies adopting these capabilities.
Ø The Department of Homeland Security is dramatically increasing the number ofFederal civilian cyber defense teams to a total of 48, by recruiting the best cybersecurity talent from across the Federal Government and private sector. These standing teams will protect networks, systems, and data across the entire Federal Civilian Government by conducting penetration testing and proactively hunting for intruders, as well as providing incident response and security engineering expertise.
Ø The Federal Government, through efforts such as the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, will enhance cybersecurity education and training nationwide and hire more cybersecurity experts to secure Federal agencies. As part of the CNAP, the President’s Budget invests $62 million in cybersecurity personnel to:
o Expand the Scholarship for Service programby establishing a CyberCorps Reserve program, which will offer scholarships for Americans who wish to obtain cybersecurity education and serve their country in the civilian Federal government;
o Develop a Cybersecurity Core Curriculum that will ensure cybersecurity graduates who wish to join the Federal Government have the requisite knowledge and skills; and,
o Strengthen the National Centers for Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity Program to increase the number of participating academic institutions and students, better support those institutions currently participating, increase the number of students studying cybersecurity at those institutions, and enhance student knowledge through program and curriculum evolution.
Ø The President’s Budget takes additional steps to expand the cybersecurity workforce by:
o Enhancing student loan forgiveness programs for cybersecurity experts joining the Federal workforce;
The privacy and security of all Americans online in their daily lives is increasingly integral to our national security and our economy. The following new actions build on the President’s 2014 BuySecure Initiative to strengthen the security of consumer data.
Ø The President is calling on Americans to move beyond just the password to leverage multiple factors of authentication when logging-in to online accounts. Private companies, non-profits, and the Federal Government are working together to help more Americans stay safe online through a new public awareness campaign that focuses on broad adoption of multi-factor authentication. Building off the Stop.Think.Connect. campaign and efforts stemming from the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, the National Cyber Security Alliance will partner with leading technology companies and civil society to promote this effort and make it easier for millions of users to secure their accounts online. This will support a broader effort to increase public awareness of the individual’s role in cybersecurity.
Ø The Federal Government is accelerating adoption of strong multi-factor authentication and identity proofing for citizen-facing Federal Government digital services. The General Services Administration will establish a new program that will better protect and secure the data and personal information of Americans as they interact with Federal Government services, including tax data and benefit information.
Ø The Administration is conducting a systematic review of where the Federal Government can reduce its use of Social Security Numbers as an identifier of citizens.
Ø The Federal Trade Commission recently relaunchedIdentityTheft.Gov, to serve as a one-stop resource for victims to report identity theft, create a personal recovery plan, and print pre-filled letters and forms to send to credit bureaus, businesses, and debt collectors.
Ø The Small Business Administration (SBA), partnering with the Federal Trade Commission, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Department of Energy, will offercybersecurity training to reach over 1.4 million small businesses and small business stakeholders through 68 SBA District Offices, 9 NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership Centers, and other regional networks across the country.
Ø The Administration is announcing new milestones in the President’s BuySecure Initiative to secure financial transactions. As of today the Federal Government has supplied over 2.5 million more secure Chip-and-PIN payment cards, and transitioned to this new technology the entire fleet of card readers managed by the Department of the Treasury. Through government and private-sector leadership, more secure chip cards have been issued in the United States than any other country in the world.
Enhance Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience
The national and economic security of the United States depends on the reliable functioning of the Nation’s critical infrastructure. A continued partnership with the owners and operators of critical infrastructure will improve cybersecurity and enhance the Nation’s resiliency. This work builds off the President’s previous cybersecurity focused Executive Orders on Critical Infrastructure (2013) and Information Sharing (2015).
Ø The Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Energy are contributing resources and capabilities to establish a National Center for Cybersecurity Resilience where companies and sector-wide organizations can test the security of systems in a contained environment, such as by subjecting a replica electric grid to cyber-attack.
Ø The Department of Homeland Security will double the number of cybersecurity advisors available to assist private sector organizations with in-person, customized cybersecurity assessments and implementation of best practices.
Ø The Department of Homeland Security is collaborating with UL and other industry partners to develop a Cybersecurity Assurance Program to test and certify networked devices within the “Internet of Things,” whether they be refrigerators or medical infusion pumps, so that when you buy a new product, you can be sure that it has been certified to meet security standards.
Ø The National Institute of Standards and Technology is soliciting feedback in order to inform further development of itsCybersecurity Framework for improving critical infrastructure cybersecurity. This follows two years of adoption by organizations across the country and around the world.
Ø Commerce Secretary Pritzker cut the ribbon on the new National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, a public-private research and development partnership that will allow industry and government to work together to develop and deploy technical solutions for high-priority cybersecurity challenges and share those findings for the benefit of the broader community.
Ø The Administration is calling on major health insurers and healthcare stakeholders to help them take new and significant steps to enhance their data stewardship practices and ensure that consumers can trust that their sensitive health data will be safe, secure, and available to guide clinical decision-making.
Even as we work to improve our defenses today, we know the Nation must aggressively invest in the science, technology, tools, and infrastructure of the future to ensure that they are engineered with sustainable security in mind.
Ø Today the Administration is releasing its 2016Federal Cybersecurity Research and Development Strategic Plan. This plan, which was called for in the 2014 Cybersecurity Enhancement Act, lays out strategic research and development goals for the Nation to advance cybersecurity technologies driven by the scientific evidence of efficacy and efficiency.
Ø In addition, the Government will work with organizations such as the Linux Foundation’s Core Infrastructure Initiative to fund and secure commonly used internet “utilities” such as open-source software, protocols, and standards. Just as our roads and bridges need regular repair and upkeep, so do the technical linkages that allow the information superhighway to flow.
Deter, Discourage, and Disrupt Malicious Activity in Cyberspace
Better securing our own digital infrastructure is only part of the solution. We must lead the international effort in adopting principles of responsible state behavior, even while we take steps to deter and disrupt malicious activity. We cannot pursue these goals alone – we must pursue them in concert with our allies and partners around the world.
Ø In 2015, members of the G20 joined with the United States in affirming important norms, including the applicability of international law to cyberspace, the idea that states should not conduct the cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property for commercial gain, and in welcoming the report of a United Nations Group of Governmental Experts, which included a number of additional norms to promote international cooperation, prevent attacks on civilian critical infrastructure, and support computer emergency response teams providing reconstitution and mitigation services. The Administration intends to institutionalize and implement these norms through further bilateral and multilateral commitments and confidence building measures.
Ø The Department of Justice, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is increasing funding for cybersecurity-related activities by more than 23 percent to improve their capabilities to identify, disrupt, and apprehend malicious cyber actors.
Ø U.S. Cyber Command is building a Cyber Mission Force of 133 teams assembled from 6,200 military, civilian, and contractor support personnel from across the military departments and defense components. The Cyber Mission Force, which will be fully operational in 2018, is already employing capabilities in support of U.S. Government objectives across the spectrum of cyber operations.
Improve Cyber Incident Response
Even as we focus on preventing and deterring malicious cyber activity, we must also maintain resilience as events occur. Over the past year, the country faced a wide array of intrusions, ranging from criminal activity to cyber espionage. By applying lessons learned from past incidents we can improve management of future cyber incidents and enhance the country’s cyber-resilience.
Ø By this spring, the Administration will publically release a policy for national cyber incident coordination and an accompanyingseverity methodology for evaluating cyber incidents so that government agencies and the private sector can communicate effectively and provide an appropriate and consistent level of response.
Protect the Privacy of Individuals
In coordination with the information technology and cybersecurity efforts above, the Administration has launched a groundbreaking effort to enhance how agencies across the Federal Government protect the privacy of individuals and their information. Privacy has been core to our Nation from its inception, and in today’s digital age safeguarding privacy is more critical than ever.
Ø Today, the President signed an Executive Order that created a permanent Federal Privacy Council, which will bring together the privacy officials from across the Government to help ensure the implementation of more strategic and comprehensive Federal privacy guidelines. Like cyber security, privacy must be effectively and continuously addressed as our nation embraces new technologies, promotes innovation, reaps the benefits of big data and defends against evolving threats.
In order to implement these sweeping changes, the Federal Government will need to invest additional resources in its cybersecurity. That is why the 2017 Budget allocates more than $19 billion for cybersecurity – a more than 35 percent increase over the 2016 enacted level. These resources will enable agencies to raise their level of cybersecurity, help private sector organizations and individuals better protect themselves, disrupt and deter adversary activity, and respond more effectively to incidents.
The White House has issued a Fact Sheet: Preparing for and Responding to the Zika Virus at Home and Abroad:
Since late last year, the Administration has been aggressively working to combat Zika, a virus primarily spread by mosquitoes that has recently been linked to birth defects and other concerning health outcomes. The Federal Government has been monitoring the Zika virus and working with our domestic and international public health partners to alert healthcare providers and the public about Zika; provide public health laboratories with diagnostic tests; and detect and report cases both domestically and internationally.
The Administration is taking every appropriate measure to protect the American people, and today announced that it is asking Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to enhance our ongoing efforts to prepare for and respond to the Zika virus, both domestically and internationally. The Administration will submit a formal request to Congress shortly.
The Pan American Health Organization reports 26 countries and territories in the Americas with local Zika transmission. While we have not yet seen transmission of the Zika virus by mosquitoes within the continental United States, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories in warmer areas withAedes aegpytimosquito populations are already seeing active transmission. In addition, some Americans have returned to the continental U.S. from affected countries in South America, Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands with Zika infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 50 laboratory-confirmed cases among U.S. travelers from December 2015- February 5, 2016. As spring and summer approach, bringing with them larger and more active mosquito populations, we must be fully prepared to mitigate and quickly address local transmission within the continental U.S., particularly in the Southern United States.
The requested resources will build on our ongoing preparedness efforts and will support essential strategies to combat this virus, such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs; accelerating vaccine research and diagnostic development; enabling the testing and procurement of vaccines and diagnostics; educating health care providers, pregnant women and their partners; improving epidemiology and expanding laboratory and diagnostic testing capacity; improving health services and supports for low-income pregnant women, and enhancing the ability of Zika-affected countries to better combat mosquitoes and control transmission.
There is much that we do not yet know about Zika and its relationship to the poor health outcomes that are being reported in Zika-affected areas. We must work aggressively to investigate these outbreaks, and mitigate, to the best extent possible, the spread of the virus. Congressional action on the Administration’s requestwill accelerate our ability to prevent, detect and respond to the Zika virus and bolster our ability to reduce the potential for future infectious disease outbreaks.
Department of Health and Human Services – $1.48 billion
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention– $828 million. The request includes funding to support prevention and response strategies through the following activities:
·Support Zika virus readiness and response capacity in States and territories with mosquito populations that are known to transmit Zika virus, with a priority focus on areas with ongoing Zika transmission;
·Enhance mosquito control programs through enhanced laboratory, epidemiology and surveillance capacity in at-risk areas to reduce the opportunities for Zika transmission;
·Establish rapid response teams to limit potential clusters of Zika virus in the United States;
·Improve laboratory capacity and infrastructure to test for Zika virus and other infectious diseases;
·Implement surveillance efforts to track Zika virus in communities and in mosquitoes;
·Deploy targeted prevention and education strategies with key populations, including pregnant women, their partners, and health care professionals;
·Expand the CDC Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, improve Guillain Barré syndrome tracking, and ensure the ability of birth defect registries across the country to detect risks related to Zika;
·Increase research into the link between Zika virus infections and the birth defect microcephaly and measure changes in incidence rates over time;
·Enhance international capacity for virus surveillance, expand the Field Epidemiology Training program, laboratory testing, health care provider training, and vector surveillance and control in countries at highest risk of Zika virus outbreaks; and
·Improve diagnostics for Zika virus, including advanced methods to refine tests, and support advanced developments for vector control.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services –$250 million.The request seeks a temporary one-year increase in Puerto Rico’s Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) to provide an estimated $250 million in additional Federal assistance to support health services for pregnant women at risk of infection or diagnosed with Zika virus and for children with microcephaly, and other health care costs. This request does not make any changes to Puerto Rico’s underlying Medicaid program, and the additional funding will not be counted towards Puerto Rico’s current Medicaid allotment. Puerto Rico is experiencing ongoing active transmission of Zika. Unlike States, Puerto Rico’s Medicaid funding is capped, which has limited capacity to respond to these emergent and growing health needs.
Vaccine Research and Diagnostic Development & Procurement– $200 million. The request includes $200 million for research, rapid advanced development and commercialization of new vaccines and diagnostic tests for Zika virus. It includes funding for the National Institutes of Health to build upon existing resources and work to develop a vaccine for Zika virus and the chikungunya virus, which is spread by the same type of mosquito. Funding will accelerate this work and improve scientific understanding of the disease to inform the development of additional tools to combat it. The request also includes resources for the Food and Drug Administration to support Zika virus medical product development including the next generation diagnostic devices.
Other HHS Response Activities –$210 million.The request includes funding to establish a new Urgent and Emerging Threat Fund to address Zika virus and other outbreaks. This funding would be available to support emerging needs related to Zika, including additional support to States for emerging public health response needs should mosquito populations known to be potential Zika carriers migrate to additional States.
In addition, the request includes funding to support Puerto Rico’s community health centers in preventing, screening, and treating the Zika virus, expand home visiting services targeting low-income pregnant women at risk of Zika virus, and provide targeted maternal and child health.
U.S. Agency for International Development–$335 million
The request includes investments to support affected countries’ ability to control mosquitoes and the transmission of the virus; support maternal health; expand public education on prevention and response; and create new incentives for the development of vaccines and diagnostics. The request would also provide flexibility in the use of remaining USAID Ebola funds. Activities would focus particularly on South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and would:
·Implement integrated vector management activities in countries at-risk of Zika virus;
·Stimulate private sector research and development of vaccines, diagnostics, and vector control innovations through public private partnerships and mechanisms to provide incentives such as advance market commitments or volume guarantees;
·Support training of health care workers in affected countries, including providing information about best practices for supporting children with microcephaly;
·Support for pregnant women’s health, including helping them access repellant to protect against mosquitos.
·Establish education campaigns to empower communities in affected countries to take actions to protect themselves from Zika Virus as well as other mosquito-borne diseases; and
·Issue a Global Health Security Grand Challenge calling for groundbreaking innovations in diagnostics, vector control, personal protection, community engagement and surveillance for Zika and other infectious diseases.
U.S. Department of State – $41 million
The funding request includes support for U.S. citizens in affected countries, medical support for State Department employees in affected countries, public diplomacy, communications, and other operations activities. State would also support the World Health Organization and its regional arm, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), to minimize the Zika threat in affected countries while reducing the risk of further spreading the virus. These resources will support critical public health actions underway, including preparedness, surveillance, data collection, and risk communication. Activities would also include support for UNICEF’s Zika response efforts in Brazil; activities to bolster diagnostic capabilities through deployment of equipment and specialized training.
For more information on the Zika virus and CDC guidance about how Americans can protect themselves, visithttp://www.cdc.gov/zika/.
We’ve heard a whole lot from the Republican presidential hopefuls, one more absurd than another, of what they would do to “keep our nation safe” – devoting an entire 2 hour debate to the subject. Donald Trump would bring back waterboarding and torture, would kill family members of suspected terrorists. Ted Cruz would “carpet bomb” cities held by ISIS, even if there are tens of thousands of civilians being occupied by the terrorists. Chris Christie, staring into a camera to “intimidate” Vladimir Putin, says he would create a no-fly zone and shoot down any Russian plane that penetrates it (“That’s great if you want a candidate to start World War III,” was Rand Paul’s response.) Carly Fiorina would rehire generals who have resigned or retired.
And yet, Republicans in Congress refuse to do some of the most basic things to actually keep us safe. Senate Republicans have blocked the confirmation – and gone home for the holidays – of Adam Szubin as the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, the post in charge of tracking down and stopping the funds going to terrorist organizations. And Republicans in both houses have blocked legislation which would keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists on the no-fly list (if there is a problem with the list, they should fix it by giving the individual recourse to defend themselves, and that would be sufficient in fact to uncover actual terrorists). But there is no common sense. It makes you wonder whether Republicans like an atmosphere of terror because they think that fear whips up votes in their favor.
The Republicans also have been stingy in funding the very services they are faulting for being inadequate – visa services, State Department security (Benghazi, Benghazi).
But in a speech on the same day as the Republican debate, December 15, Hillary Clinton, Democratic candidate, gave a thoughtful speech outlining her previously stated overall anti-terrorism strategy, and a more intensively focused “360-degree strategyto keep America safe.” The speech received virtually no coverage, but she repeated the strategy in an op-ed published December 18.
Hillary for America released a new web video comparing Hillary Clinton’s recent remarks in Minnesota with Republican candidates, who were exposed as unfit and ill-prepared during this week’s Republican debate. In the remarks, Clinton said that shallow slogans don’t add up to a strategy, and bluster and bigotry are not credentials for becoming commander-in-chief. Republican candidates, on the other hand, have offered fear instead of facts. (Here are some other reviews of the Republicans’ performance this week HERE)
Here are highlights from Hillary Clinton’s speech in Minneapolis:
“I want to begin by saying, we cannot give in to fear. We can’t let it stop us from doing what is right and necessary to make us safe, and doing it in way that is consistent with our values.
We cannot let fear push us into reckless actions that end up making us less safe. Americans are going to have to act with both courage and clarity…..
The threat we face is daunting. But America has overcome big challenges many times before. Throughout our history, we’ve stared into the face of evil and refused to blink. We beat Fascism, won the Cold War, brought Osama bin Laden to justice.
So no one should ever underestimate the determination of the American people. And I am confident we will once again choose resolve over fear. And we will defeat these new enemies, just as we’ve defeated those who’ve threatened us in the past.
Because it is not enough to contain ISIS, we must defeat ISIS, break its momentum and then its back. And not just ISIS, but the broader radical jihadist movement that also includes al Qaeda and offshoots like al Shabaab in Somalia.
Now, waging and winning this fight will require serious leadership. But unfortunately, our political debate has been anything but serious.
We can’t afford another major ground war in the Middle East. That’s exactly what ISIS wants from us.Shallow slogans don’t add up to a strategy. Promising to carpet bomb until the desert glows doesn’t make you sound strong, it makes you sound like you’re in over your head. Bluster and bigotry are not credentials for becoming Commander-in-Chief.
And it is hard to take seriously senators who talk tough but then hold up key national security nominations, including the top official at the Treasury Department responsible for disrupting terrorist financing.
Every day that’s wasted on partisan gridlock could put Americans in danger. So, yes, we need a serious discussion. And that’s why in a speech last month before the Council on Foreign Relations I laid out a three-part plan to defeat ISIS and the broader extremist movement.
One, defeat ISIS in the Middle East by smashing its stronghold, hitting its fighters, leaders, and infrastructure from the air, and intensifying support for local forces who can pursue them on the ground.
Second, defeat them around the world by dismantling the global network of terror that supplies radical jihadists with money, arms, propaganda, and fighters.
And third, defeat them here at home by foiling plots, disrupting radicalization, and hardening our defenses.
Now, these three lines of effort reinforce one another. So we need to pursue all of them at once, using every pillar of American power.
It will require skillful diplomacy to continue Secretary Kerry’s efforts to encourage political reconciliation in Iraq and political transition in Syria, enabling more Sunni Arabs and Kurdish fighters to take on ISIS on both sides of the border, and to get our Arab and Turkish partners to actually step up and do their part.
It will require more U.S. and allied airpower, and a broader target set for strikes by planes and drones, with proper safeguards.
It will require Special Operations units to advise and train local forces and conduct key counterterrorism missions.
What it will not require is tens of thousands of American combat troops. That is not the right action for us to take in this situation.
So there is a lot to do, and today, I want tofocus on the third part of my plan, how we defend our country and prevent radicalization here at home.
We need a comprehensive strategy to counter each step in the process that can lead to an attack like the one in San Bernardino.
First, we have to shut down ISIS recruitment in the United States, especially online.
Second, stop would-be jihadists from getting training overseas, and stop foreign terrorists from coming here.
Third, discover and disrupt plots before they can be carried out.
Fourth, support law enforcement officers who risk their lives to prevent and respond to attacks.
And fifth, empower our Muslim-American communities, who are on the front-lines of the fight against radicalization.
This is a 360-degree strategyto keep America safe, and I want to walk through each of the elements, from recruitment to training to planning to execution.
First, shutting down recruitment. We have to stop jihadists from radicalizing new recruits in-person and through social media, chat rooms, and what’s called the “Dark Web.”
To do that, we need stronger relationships between Washington, Silicon Valley, and all of our great tech companies and entrepreneurs. American innovation is a powerful force, and we have to put it to work defeating ISIS.
That starts with understanding where and how recruitment happens. Our security professionals need to more effectively track and analyze ISIS’s social media posts and map jihadist networks, and they need help from the tech community.
Companies should redouble their efforts to maintain and enforce their own service agreements and other necessary policies to police their networks, identifying extremist content and removing it.
Now, many are already doing this, and sharing those best practices more widely is important.
At the State Department, I started an interagency center to combat violent jihadist messages, to have a better way to communicate on behalf of our values, and to give young people drawn to those messages an alternative narrative.
We recruited specialists fluent in Arabic, Urdu, and Somali to wave online battles with extremists to counter their propaganda.
Now, those efforts have not kept pace with the threat, so we need to step up our game, in partnership with the private sector and credible moderate voices outside government.
But that’s just some of what we have to do. Experts from the FBI, the intelligence community, Homeland Security, DOD, the State Department, and the technology industry should work together to develop a unified national strategy to defeat ISIS in cyberspace, using all of our capabilities to deny jihadists virtual territory, just as we work to deny them actual territory.
And at the same time, we also have to do more to address the challenge of radicalization, whatever form it takes.
It’s imperative that the Saudis, the Qataris, the Kuwaitis and others stop their citizens from supporting radical schools, madrassas and mosques around the world, once and for all, and that should be the top priority in all of our discussions with these countries.
Now, second, we have to prevent ISIS recruits from training abroad, and prevent foreign jihadists from coming here.
Most urgent is stemming the flow of fighters from Europe and America to Iraq and Syria, and then back home again.
The United States and our allies need to know the identities of every fighter who makes that trip, and then share information with each other in real time.
Right now, European nations don’t always alert each other when they turn away a suspected extremist at the border or when a passport is stolen. They have to dramatically improve intelligence sharing and counterterrorism cooperation. And we’re ready to help them do that.
We also need to take down the network of enablers who help jihadists finance and facilitate their travel, forge documents, and evade detection. And the United States and our allies should commit to revoke the passports and visas of jihadists who have gone to join ISIS or other groups, and bring the full force of law against them.
As I’ve said before, the United States has to take a close look at our visa programs. And I am glad the administration and Congress are stepping up scrutiny in the wake of San Bernardino. And that should include scrutinizing applicants’ social media postings. We also should dispatch more Homeland Security agents to high-risk countries to better investigate visa applicants.
For many years, America has waived visa requirements for travelers from countries with reliable security procedures, including key allies in Europe and Asia. That makes sense. But we also have to be smart. Except for limited exceptions like diplomats and aid workers, anyone who has traveled in the past five years to a country facing serious problems with terrorism and foreign fighters should have to go through a full visa investigation, no matter where they’re from.
We also have to be vigilant in screening and vetting refugees from Syria, guided by the best judgment of our security and diplomatic professionals. Rigorous vetting already takes place while these refugees are still overseas, and it’s a process that historically takes 18 to 24 months.
But Congress needs to provide enough resources to ensure we have sufficient personnel deployed to run the most thorough possible process.
And just as important, we cannot allow terrorists to intimidate us into abandoning our values and our humanitarian obligations.
Turning away orphans, applying a religious test that discriminates against Muslims, slamming the door on every single Syrian refugee; that is not who we are. We are better than that.
It would be a cruel irony indeed if ISIS can force families from their homes and then also prevent them from finding new ones. So after rigorous screening, we should welcome families fleeing Syria just as the Twin Cities and this state have welcomed previous generations of refugees, exiles, and immigrants.
Of course, the key is to prevent terrorists also from exploiting our compassion and endangering our security. But we can do this. And I think we must.
Third, we have to discover and disrupt jihadist plots before they can be carried out. This is going to take better intelligence collection, analysis, and sharing. I’ve proposed an “intelligence surge” against ISIS that includes more operations officers and linguists, enhancing our technical surveillance of overseas targets, intercepting terrorist communications, flying more reconnaissance missions to track terrorists’ movements, and developing even closer partnerships with other intelligence services.
President Obama recently signed the USA Freedom Act, which was passed by a bipartisan majority in Congress. It protects civil liberties while maintaining capabilities that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies need to keep us safe. However, the new law is now under attack from presidential candidates on the left and right. Some would strip away crucial counterterrorism tools, even with appropriate judicial and congressional oversight. Others seem eager to go back to discredited practices of the past.
I don’t think we can afford to let either view prevail. Now, encryption of mobile devices and communications does present a particularly tough problem with important implications for security and civil liberties. Law enforcement and counterterrorism professionals warn that impenetrable encryption may make it harder for them to investigate plots and prevent future attacks. On the other hand, there are very legitimate worries about privacy, network security, and creating new vulnerabilities that bad actors can exploit.
I know there’s no magic fix to this dilemma that will satisfy all these concerns. But we can’t just throw up our hands. The tech community and the government have to stop seeing each other as adversaries and start working together to keep us safe from terrorists. And even as we make sure law enforcement officials get the tools they need to prevent attacks, it’s essential that we also make sure jihadists don’t get the tools they need to carry out attacks.
It defies common sense that Republicans in Congress refuse to make it harder for potential terrorists to buy guns. If you’re too dangerous to fly, you’re too dangerous to buy a gun, period. And we should insist on comprehensive background checks and close loopholes that allow potential terrorists to buy weapons online or at gun shows. And I think it’s time to restore the ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines.
I know this will drive some of our Republican friends a little crazy. You’ll probably hear it tonight. They will say that guns are a totally separate issue, nothing to do with terrorism. Well, I have news for them, terrorists use guns to kill Americans. And I think we should make it a lot harder for them from to do that ever again.
And there’s a question, a question they should be asked: Why don’t the Republican candidates want to do that? You see, I have this old fashioned idea that we elect a President in part, in large part, to keep us safe, from terrorists, from gun violence, from whatever threatens our families and communities. And I’m not going to let the gun lobby or anyone else tell me that’s not the right path for us to go down.
Now, the fourth element in my strategy is supporting law enforcement officers who risk their lives to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks.
In San Bernardino, city, county, state, and federal authorities acted with speed and courage to prevent even more loss of life. Like Detective Jorge Lozano, a 15-year police veteran, who assured terrified civilians, “I’ll take a bullet before you do.” There is no limit to the gratitude we owe to law enforcement professionals like that Detective Lozano who run toward danger to try to save lives. And not just in the immediate wake of an attack. Our police, firefighters, and emergency responders will keep putting their lives on the line long after the cameras move on.
It’s disgraceful that Congress has thus far failed to keep faith with first responders suffering from the lasting health effects of 9/11. Many of them were men and women I was so proud to represent as a Senator from New York. The Zadroga 9/11 Health Act never should have been allowed to lapse. It looks like Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may have finally dropped his opposition. And I hope the American people will hold him to that. And we will continue to honor the service and sacrifice of those who responded to the worst terrorist attack in our history.
We have to make sure that local law enforcement has the resources and training they need to keep us safe. And they should be more closely synced up with national counterterrorism experts, including with better use of “fusion centers” that serve as clearinghouses for intelligence and coordination.
And we need to strengthen our defenses and our resilience wherever we’re vulnerable, whether it’s “soft targets” like shopping malls or higher-profile targets like airports, railways, or power plants. We have to build on the progress of the Obama Administration in locking down loose nuclear materials, and other WMD, so they never fall into the hands of terrorists who seek them actively around the world.
So we should be providing the Department of Homeland Security with the resources it needs to stay one step ahead, not trying to privatize key functions, like TSA, as some Republicans have proposed.
And it’s important for us to recognize that when we talk about law enforcement, we have made progress in being sure that our federal authorities share information with our state and local authorities, but that was an issue I tackled after 9/11, and we have to stay really vigilant so that information is in the hands where it needs to be.
Finally, the fifth element in the strategy is empowering Muslim-American communities who are on the front-lines of the fight against radicalization. There are millions of peace-loving Muslims living, working, raising families, and paying taxes in our country. These Americans may be our first, last, and best defense against home grown radicalization and terrorism. They are the most likely to recognize the insidious effects of radicalization before it’s too late, intervene to help set a young person straight. They are the best positioned to block anything going forward.
That’s why law enforcement has worked so hard since 9/11 to build up trust and strong relationships within Muslim-American communities. Here in the Twin Cities, you have an innovative partnership that brings together parents, teachers, imams, and others in the Somali-American community with law enforcement, non-profits, local businesses, mental health professionals and others to intervene with young people who are at risk.
It’s called the Building Community Resilience Pilot Program, and it deserves increased support. It has not gotten the financial resources that it needs to do everything the people involved in it know they can do. And we’ve got to do a better job of supporting it.
Now I know that like many places across the country, there’s more work to do to increase trust between communities and law enforcement. Just last month, I know here a young African American man was fatally shot by a police officer. And I understand an investigation is underway. Whatever the outcome, tragedies like this raise hard questions about racial justice in America and put at risk efforts to build the community relationships that help keep us safe from crime and from terrorism.
When people see that respect and trust are two-way streets, they’re more likely to work hand-in-hand with law enforcement. One of the mothers of the 10 men recently charged with conspiring with terrorists said, “We have to stop the denial,” she told other parents that. “We have to talk to our kids and work with the FBI.” That’s a message we need to hear from leaders within Muslim-American communities across our country.
But we also want to highlight the successes in Muslim American communities, and there are so many of them. I just met with the first Somali-American council member of the City Council here. And he was proudly telling me how much change Somali immigrants, now Muslim-Americans have made in parts of the city and neighborhoods that had been pretty much hollowed out. Let’s look at the successes.
If we’re going to full integrate everyone into America, then we need to be seeing all their contributions, too. And that is one of the many reasons why we must all stand up against offensive, inflammatory, hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric. You know, not only do these comments cut against everything we stand for as Americans, they are also dangerous.
As the Director of the FBI told Congress recently, anything that erodes trust with Muslim-Americans makes the job of law enforcement more difficult. We need every community invested in this fight, not alienated and sitting on the sidelines.
One of the community leaders I met with told me that a lot of the children in the community are now afraid to go to school. They’re not only afraid of being perceived as a threat, they are afraid of being threatened because of who they are. This is such a open-hearted and generous community, I hope there will be even more efforts perhaps under the aegis of the university and certainly Governor Dayton and others, to bring people together to reassure members of the community, particularly children and teenagers that they are welcome, invited and valued here in this city and state.
Now Donald Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States has rightly sparked outrage across our country and around the world. Even some of the other Republican candidates are saying he’s gone too far. But the truth is, many of those same candidates have also said disgraceful things about Muslims. And this kind of divisive rhetoric actually plays into the hands of terrorists. It alienates partners and undermines moderates we need around the world in the fight against ISIS.
You know, you hear a lot of talk from some of the other candidates about coalitions. Everyone seems to want one. But there’s not nearly as much talk about what it actually takes to build a coalition and make it work. I know how hard this is because I’ve done it. And I can tell you, insulting potential allies doesn’t make it any easier.
And demonizing Muslims also feeds a narrative that jihadists use to recruit new followers around the world, that the United States is at war with Islam. As both the Pentagon and the FBI have said in the past week, we cannot in any way lend credence to that twisted idea. This is not a clash of civilizations. It’s a clash between civilization and barbarism and that’s how it must be seen and fought.
Some will tell you that our open society is a vulnerability in the struggle against terrorism. I disagree. I believe our tolerance and diversity are at the core of our strength. At a Naturalization ceremony for new citizens today in Washington, President Obama noted the tension throughout our history between welcoming or rejecting the stranger. It is, he said, about the meaning of America, what kind of country do we want to be? And it’s about the capacity of each generation to honor the creed as old as our founding, E Pluribus Unum. Out of many we are one.
President Obama is right, and it matters. It’s no coincidence that American Muslims have long been better integrated and less susceptible to radicalization than Muslims in less welcoming countries.We can’t give in to demagogues who play on our basest instincts. We must instead rely on the principles written into our American DNA. Freedom. Equality. Opportunity.
America is strongest when all our people believe they have a stake in our country and our future, no matter where they’re from, what they look like, how they worship, or who they love. Our country was founded by people fleeing religious persecution. As George Washington put it, the United States gives “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” So to all our Muslim-American brothers and sisters, this is your country too. And I am proud to be your fellow American.
And I want to remind us, particularly our Republican friends, that George W. Bush was right. Six days after 9/11 he went to a Muslim community center and here’s what he said, those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take their anger don’t represent the best of America, they represent the worst of human kind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior….
“We are Americans.” We are the greatest nation on earth not in spite of the challenges we’ve faced, but because of them. Americans will not buckle or break. We will not turn on each other or turn on our principles. We will pursue our enemies with unyielding power and purpose. We will crush their would-be caliphate and counter radical jihadism wherever it takes root. We’re in it for the long haul. And we’ll stand taller and stronger than they can possibly imagine.
That’s what we do here. It’s who we are. That’s how we’ll win, by looking at one another with respect, with concern, with commitment. That’s the America that I know makes us all so proud to be a part of.”
A new “See Something, Send Something” campaign by New York State encourages New Yorkers to report suspicious activity through a simple mobile app on their smart phone. The app is available for download here.
It is one of two new State efforts to enhance its ability to fight terrorism.
Additionally, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will hire 46 more Police Officers to increase counterterrorism capabilities at Grand Central Terminal, Penn Station and throughout the Metro-North Railroad, Long Island Rail Road and Staten Island Railway systems.
“These new efforts are essential pieces in our fight against terrorism,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “We have stepped up our preparedness in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, and we continue to remain vigilant against those who seek to spread fear and violence. Despite the tremendous pain and loss that terrorist attacks around the world have caused the people of this state, the family of New York stands stronger than ever before.”
“See Something, Send Something” allows anyone to capture suspicious activity as a photo or written note and send the information to the New York State Intelligence Center. From there, the tip will be reviewed and if relevant, sent to the appropriate law enforcement agency. Public service announcements promoting the campaign (view here and here) will be played at DMV offices and service areas along state highways.
By using the app, which can be downloaded for free for iPhone and Android phone users, there is no worry about who to send the tip to or what phone number to call—users can simply send a photo of the suspicious activity using their device’s camera, by choosing a photo from its library, or sending a written note. It also includes information on what to look for and when to report suspicious activity. The service is already available in Colorado, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
In order to keep the app focused on safety, users should report only suspicious behavior and situations (e.g., an unattended backpack or briefcase in a public place) rather than beliefs, thoughts, ideas, expressions, associations, or speech unrelated to terrorism or other criminal activity. The app does not replace 911 and should not to be used for someone needing immediate police action or to report an emergency. In the case of an immediate threat or emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately.
New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico said, “The crime-solving, tip-sharing process is evolving and so are the New York State Police. This app works just like a traditional telephone crime tip line or hotline, except it is available with the touch of a finger on a handheld device. If you see something that may be linked to terrorism, send something. Your tip could provide valuable information that could prevent a tragedy.”
“It is important to remember that all New Yorkers have a role in keeping our state safe. Citizens have an obligation to report suspicious activity if they see something out of the ordinary or something that may have the potential to harm others,” John P. Melville, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner, said. “The new app gives individuals an additional way to alert authorities about possible threats.”
The 46 new MTA Police Officers will staff counterterrorism surge assignments at Grand Central and Penn Station, as well as other deployments to ensure the traveling public is protected in the MTA network. The Officers are included in the MTA’s 2016 Final Proposed Budget and will have an impact of approximately $3 million. The budget is scheduled for consideration by the MTA Board in December.
All members of the MTA Police Department have been trained in techniques to counter active shooters, such as those who have been implicated in recent terrorist attacks elsewhere in the world. Rather than wait for heavily-armed Emergency Service Unit teams to arrive, officers are taught to immediately engage, pin down and neutralize any potential threat in order to minimize casualties.
In addition, more than 90 percent of frontline personnel in all MTA operating agencies have been trained in how to protect their customers and themselves from an active shooter. Workers on New York City Transit subways and buses, the Staten Island Railway, the LIRR and Metro-North have learned how to evaluate locations where they can safely flee or hide if gunfire occurs.
MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast said, “The MTA Police Department is a robust force of more than 700 officers dedicated to protecting our region’s rail transportation, and these dozens of new officers will bolster our regular counterterrorism patrols of high-visibility terminals. Our officers are well aware that they are protecting a vital public service, and their presence in major train stations serves as a visible deterrent as well as a decisive factor in quickly countering any threat.”
The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services has provided information on how to prevent terrorism and spot suspicious activity here.
Those tips include:
Know the normal routines of where you live and work.
· Be aware of what is going on around you, including suspicious or out of place individuals, vehicles, mail, packages; or luggage abandoned in a crowded place, such as an airport of shopping mall.
Be suspicious of individuals recording, watching or unusually photographing or monitoring activities, especially near critical infrastructure.
The uproar over the possibility of the United States accepting Syrian refugees has called attention to the rigorous 18-24 month vetting process that refugees have to go through with fewer than 2,000 Syrian refugees having come through already, in contrast to the 20 million foreign visitors who come in each year under the visa-waiver program.
The Obama Administration has announced new enhancements to the visa-waiver program to increase security, including modifying its Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) applications to capture information from VWP travelers regarding any past travel to countries constituting a terrorist safe haven.
FACT SHEET: Visa Waiver Program Enhancements
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) permits visa free travel for 20 million visitors per year to the United States for citizens of 38 program partner countries around the world. VWP utilizes a layered system of security to detect and prevent terrorists, serious criminals, and other potentially dangerous individuals from traveling to the United States. These layers of security include comprehensive screening of VWP travelers prior to departure for the United States, at various points throughout the traveler’s journey, and upon arrival at U.S. ports of entry.
Over the past year, the Administration has taken a series of steps to enhance the significant security measures in the VWP. In the wake of the attacks in Paris, the administration is announcing additional actions today that will further enhance and accelerate these changes. Additionally, the Administration is working closely with Congress to provide statutory authority for many of these security enhancements, which will further improve our ability to implement and enforce the changes.
How Does the Visa Waiver Program Work?
Every prospective VWP traveler undergoes counterterrorism screening and must receive approval through DHS’ Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Through ESTA, DHS evaluates whether individuals are eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP before they are allowed to board a carrier bound for the United States.
The counterterrorism screening draws on information from U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies. DHS uses this information to decide if the travel poses any law enforcement or security risks. Without DHS approval through ESTA, VWP travelers cannot travel to the United States and must appear in person for a visa interview before they can be authorized to travel to the United States.
This process has been enhanced repeatedly to improve security and more effectively identify individuals who might pose a threat to the United States.
Travelers must be a citizen of a VWP country to use the program. Residence in a VWP country, or the possession of refugee travel documents issued by a VWP member state, does not qualify an individual for VWP travel.
Recently Enhanced Security Measures
DHS, in consultation with the Department of State, continuously adapts the VWP to address current threats. Over the last year, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, in coordination with several other federal agencies, have made a number of significant enhancements to the VWP to ensure our security apparatus continues to adapt in the face of evolving threats.
DHS introduced additional data fields to the ESTA application in November 2014 that already have produced security benefits.
DHS introduced new traveler screening and information sharing requirements for VWP countries in August 2015 specifically to address the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters.
DHS and the Department of State are working with VWP partners to implement the new VWP requirements, which will strengthen U.S. security and the security of our partners.
These security enhancements are part of our continuing assessments of U.S. security in the face of evolving threats and challenges, and our determination to stay one step ahead of those threats and challenges.
New Changes Announced Today
Given the terrorist attacks in Paris and the ongoing threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters, the United States is aggressively strengthening its Visa Waiver Program and bolstering our relationships with VWP partners by immediately moving forward on the following administrative actions:
DHS will immediately take steps to modify its Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) applications to capture information from VWP travelers regarding any past travel to countries constituting a terrorist safe haven. The Director of National Intelligence, in coordination with the Secretary of Homeland Security, will identify and regularly review these countries so that traveler risk assessments can be made on the most up-to-date information.
The Department of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and other appropriate agencies will accelerate its review process for VWP partner countries and within 60 days, will provide a full report to the President:
o Identifying possible pilot programs designed to assess the collection and use of biometrics (fingerprints and/or photographs) in the VWP to effectively increase security; and
o Identifying any countries that are deficient in key areas of cooperation, along with recommended options to engender compliance using a range of penalties and incentives available under his current authority including the more frequent submission of ESTAs and/or the suspension of ESTA issuances (new and/or renewals) for citizens of countries that fail to meet key metrics.
The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation will evaluate the terrorism information sharing that occurs between the United States and VWP countries, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, and provide a report to the President of the United States within 60 days identifying options to mitigate any deficiencies.
DHS will offer assistance to countries to better facilitate terrorism information sharing, specifically to include biometric pilots. For example, DHS and the Terrorist Screening Center will assist all interested VWP countries in screening refugees or asylum seekers, including through the application of extensive terrorism information already provided to VWP members and through piloting capability for conducting near real time biometric checks.
The Secretaries of DHS, State, and Commerce will promote the Global Entry program among VWP partners to further expand this trusted traveler program, which includes biometrics.
The Secretary of Homeland Security will work with Congress to seek authority to increase Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) fines from $5,000 to $50,000 for air carriers that fail to verify a traveler’s passport data.
The Departments of Homeland Security and State, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and U.S. intelligence community elements will deploy Foreign Fighter Surge Teams to work with countries to counter terrorist travel.
The Departments of Homeland Security and State will encourage and provide assistance as needed to enhance border security and legislation related to FTFs of our partner countries, and encourage more robust information sharing, better use of shared information, and more effective and efficient coordination between our partners.
Working with Congress to Enhance the Visa Waiver Program
The Administration is working with Congress to provide statutory authority for many of the key security enhancements to VWP, including:
Improving our ability to identify individuals who may have traveled to conflict zones to train or fight with terrorist organizations or other adversaries and increasing information sharing between our VWP partners and INTERPOL;
Maximizing the use of international agencies like INTERPOL to track lost and stolen travel documents, and to prevent their usage for illicit travel;
Encouraging VWP partner countries to share information and to use that information in their own border screening activities;
Accelerating the requirement for 100% of VWP travelers to use e-passports (i.e., passports with embedded security chips);
Exploring how biometrics could be effectively added to the VWP process; and
Expanding the use of the DHS’ Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Preclearance program, through which CBP law enforcement officers inspect passengers and their baggage – to include collecting and screening biometrics where appropriate – at foreign airports prior to departing for the United States
o Through the current round of expansion, CBP is in negotiations with airports in seven VWP participant countries (Belgium, Japan, Norway, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom). Support for Preclearance expansion will greatly increase border and aviation security in the United States and abroad.