Making America safe again

Did you know only 50 percent of U.S. Air Force planes are combat ready?

That’s not all. Only 50 percent of Marine Corps and Navy training equipment is functional, and only three of 58 Army brigades are ready for combat. Today, our military’s readiness is at the lowest level since before World War Two.

This is a security crisis.

Defending America is my number one Constitutional duty. Military budget cuts by former President Obama put our country at risk against increasing foreign threats including ISIS, North Korea, Iran, and cyberattacks. We must appropriately increase defense spending to restore our military.

That’s why this week, I helped pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual defense funding bill, which will provide almost $696 billion for our military. We included provisions to reform how the Pentagon does business, upgrade military equipment, and significantly increase funding for readiness.

America’s true superheroes are the men and women who volunteer to risk their lives in defense of our freedom. In recognition, this year’s NDAA includes a 2.4 percent pay raise, which is the largest in eight years.

As Chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, I also introduced a key amendment to crack down on supporters of North Korean cyberattacks.

My amendment was simple and straightforward. If an international business willingly provides essential services to North Korea in support of their malicious cyberattacks, they should not be allowed to do business with the Defense Department.

Specifically, my amendment directs the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to create a list of telecom firms that provide essential services or have been otherwise complicit in enabling North Korean cyberattacks. The Department of Defense is then prohibited from doing business with those firms. For national security reasons, the President is allowed to grant waivers on a case-by-case basis.

My amendment was necessary because of countries such as China who attempt to play both sides. Congress gave unanimous approval to this amendment, joining me in demonstrating to China that we will no longer tolerate this behavior.

Four years ago, ISIS did not exist. Ten years ago, crippling cyberattacks did not exist. Fourteen years ago, North Korea did not have nuclear weapons. Today, all of these threats are real dangers for our families and community. This year’s National Defense Authorization Act, developed in partnership with President Trump, is a strong about-face from previous years of appeasement, apology, and budget cuts which did not recognize the reality of a dangerous world.

A key part of making America great again is to rebuild our military and restore its readiness. This week, my colleagues and I in the U.S. House of Representatives took an important step toward that goal.

The scourge of human trafficking

Sadly, North Carolina is a “top 10” state for sex trafficking, which has been called “modern day slavery.” This week, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved legislation I co-sponsored to increase funding for local law enforcement programs to combat this evil.

The Empowering Law Enforcement to Fight Sex Trafficking Act (H.R. 2480), which I co-sponsored with Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-04), expands a Justice Department program to provide grants for local law enforcement efforts to combat human trafficking, funds efforts to rescue victims, and ensures state and local law enforcement have access to the tools they need to fight sex trafficking.

This week, we also passed the Frederick Douglas Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Act (H.R. 2200), which reauthorizes $130 million to fund the prevention of human trafficking, and the Enhancing Detection of Human Trafficking Act (H.R. 2644), which ensures the Department of Labor trains employees to spot signs of human trafficking.

Congressman Robert Pittenger (NC-09) is Chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance, and serves on the House Financial Services Committee, with a special focus on supporting small businesses, community banks, and credit unions.