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Monday, November 19, 2018

Senator Lankford, Intel Committee Unveil Recommendations To Secure Election Infrastructure

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today participated in a Senate Intelligence Committee press conference to unveil Committee recommendations to secure America’s election infrastructure.

“It is vitally important that we secure our elections systems in America,” said Lankford. “This isn’t just about Russia – they were the ones to pursue these efforts in 2016, but it is just as likely that another state actor like North Korea or Iran or a hacktivist group will attempt these same things in 2018, 2020, and beyond. We must secure our infrastructure so that no nation-state or other actor has the ability to sow distrust or uncertainty to the very foundations of our democracy.”

In December, Lankford introduced the Secure Elections Act, a bipartisan bill that mirrors many of the Committee recommendations to strengthen election cybersecurity in America and protect against foreign interference in future elections. The original co-sponsors of the Secure Elections Act are Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

During the 2016 election, intelligence reports have established that Russia hacked presidential campaign accounts, launched cyber-attacks against at least 21 state election systems, and attacked a US voting systems software company. While there is no evidence that a single vote outcome was tampered with, this dangerous precedent should be a wake-up call going into the 2018 election cycle. To protect against these threats, the bipartisan Secure Elections Act seeks to fix the existing problems and aims to bolster election systems against future threats while protecting states’ primacy in running elections.

Sen Lankford’s Statement on North Korea

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) made the following statement on today’s South Korean announcement regarding the possibility of North Korea denuclearization:

“The US wants a world safe for all families, including the people of North and South Korea. Currently the people of North Korea live under the oppressive reign of a dictator that has been determined to threaten the world with a nuclear weapon. I welcome any conversations that could lead to a path to denuclearization, but I am also acutely aware that North Korea has deceived the international community about its nuclear program in the past. We should maintain sanctions and tenaciously verify any ‘promise,’ but remain open to potential paths to denuclearization.”

Senator Lankford visited South Korea and the Korean Demilitarized Zone last winter. Lankford serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

National Security Superiority

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For decades, the United States has enjoyed uncontested and dominant military superiority. But just as we have come to depend on a rules-based security order, there are countries working to turn the tide and upend it. Global stability is in question with a rising China and a resurgent Russia, and provocative actions sponsored by North Korea and Iran.

Our world is now experiencing a return to a great power competition dynamic. While our military is strong, our competitive edge continues to erode as our challengers move to close the gap. We must meet these growing security challenges and fund the largest military modernization plan since the 1980’s. This is necessary in order to keep pace with technological changes and roll back the negative impacts to military readiness from years of budget gaps.

America’s military budget must be both robust and predicable. The recent bipartisan, two-year budget deal sets defense spending at $700 billion for 2018 and $716 billion for 2019, which is in line with the National Defense Authorization Act for 2018 and President Donald Trump’s budget recently presented to Congress. The budget deal also supports the President’s priorities defined in the National Security and Defense Strategies, which directs our military to protect the American homeland, promote American economic prosperity and advance American influence throughout the world.

The increase in the defense budget will provide the resources needed to fund the largest military modernization efforts. In Fiscal Year 2019, the Army active force will increase by 4,000 soldiers to 487,500 troops. The service will continue to increase its size by 4,000 troops each year to reach a force of 495,500 by 2021. Additionally, it provides for Long-Range Precision Fires and short-range air defense programs which are top priorities and key to missions at Fort Sill.

Additionally, the Air Force budget will fund 1.5 million flying hours at a cost of $8.7 billion. The modernization and recapitalization of key aircraft will support buys of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the KC-46 Tanker, as well as funding for upgrades to 4th Generation Fighters. In the near term, it will reduce the back long in aircraft maintenance and improve sustainment and logistics, which plays a critical role at Tinker Air Force Base. The size of the Air Force will increase by 4,700 military personnel to include Active Duty, Guard and Reserve Airmen.

In peace and war, America’s military has operated around the world protecting our homeland from attack and advanced our interests to include defending our allies from military aggression. The current bipartisan defense budget provides for a resilient and lethal military to keep peace: now and in the future, at home and abroad.

Putting More Pressure on North Korea

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After the recent closing of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, its neighbor, North Korea, continues to pose one of the most persistent U.S. foreign policy challenges which has spanned the past four U.S. administrations. It is the only country to have tested nuclear weapons this century and remains the greatest and most immediate threat in the Indo-Asia-Pacific area. The hope that North Korea will resume and continue talks with South Korea after the Olympics remains a question. Whatever the outcome, confronting the North Korean threat is critical, and the U.S. must be guided by a strong sense of resolve.

While North Korea’s weapons program has been the main focus of concern, illicit activities such as narcotics trafficking, counterfeiting, and human rights violations still abound. In a recent round of new sanctions, the Trump Administration announced that it will target the illicit shipping practices of at least 56 shipping and trading companies (including vessels) that have been complicit in supporting the development of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. In addition to already imposed economic sanctions, these maritime sanctions are some of the strongest put in place to hinder North Korea’s ability to work globally and expand its nuclear capability. Robust coordination between our allies and other countries in the region is essential to applying pressure to North Korea, and China plays a key role as well.

China has provided food, crude oil, and other essential lifelines to North Korea as its largest trading partner; however, North Korean exports to China have declined by nearly 30% in 2017. China still continues to control trade between the two countries as a way to put pressure on the Kim regime and prevent “chaos and war.” If open conflict was to occur, there would be catastrophic and significant refugee flow over the borders from the Korean peninsula into China, which would have destabilizing effects throughout the region. Some Chinese leaders see strategic value in preserving North Korea as a “buffer” between China and South Korea. For this reason, China has not been a reliable partner in exerting and implementing U.N. sanctions, although it remains essential to diplomatic engagement and economic sanctions. The United States continues to emphasize cooperation with Japan and South Korea, and U.S. diplomats continue to rally the international community to loudly condemn North Korea’s unacceptable behavior. With U.S. and international sanctions, China’s ability and willingness to pressure North Korea could not be more critical.

North Korea’s emphasis on strategic and military capabilities comes at the expense of its own people, who continue to struggle with a lifeless economy and international isolation. Reports by the U.S. government and private organizations portray extreme human rights abuses by the North Korean government over many years. These reports describe a system of prison camps that house approximately 100,000 political prisoners. However, one hopeful note is that North Korea appears to be losing its ability to control information coming into North Korea from the outside world. Defectors have revealed that growing numbers of North Koreans are wary of government propaganda and have ways to access outside sources of news.

The ongoing progress of North Korea’s nuclear and missile program, provocative and destabilizing behavior, and a burgeoning biological weapons program are all reasons why engagement and the pressure of sanctions are essential. Peace will not be achievable without the complete cooperation and elimination of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and the end of its radical regime.

The Need To Reform The Drivers Of Our Debt

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There is no question Congress must put our fiscal house in order. The debate surrounding spending cuts and increases, fundamental budgetary reform, and raising revenue will only intensify in the face of an exploding debt.

Each February, the President submits a budget to Congress outlining spending proposals for the upcoming fiscal year. The President has just submitted the budget for fiscal year 2019 to Congress and the document includes some shared goals with the Administration, such as fortifying our borders, investing in infrastructure and combating the opioid epidemic just to name a few. Republicans have also supported the President’s goal for increased defense spending and improving our national security. The budget caps agreement recently passed by Congress allows for $700 billion and $716 billion respectively for defense in the next two years. This provides the necessary funding to restore readiness and improve war-fighting capabilities. President Trump’s recently submitted budget advocates for $686 billion for the Department of Defense, which is in line with the recently agreed-upon budget deal.

However, in light of our country’s mandatory spending and massive interest payments on the debt, I do have concerns long-standing on the budget. The White House budget proposal, sent to Congress last Monday, is projected to have $3.1 trillion in outlays in mandatory spending, including interest, out of the $4.4 trillion budget for fiscal year 2019. The Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney says erasing the budget shortfall in a decade isn’t realistic, and our national debt continues to grow, eating into other budget areas.

We can all agree that we should make necessary cuts to programs that contribute to wasteful spending, but the only solution is to recognize and address the real drivers of our debt – major entitlement spending. Without reforms, areas like the Social Security Trust Fund will be depleted by 2034 according to the latest Social Security Trustees’ Report.

My colleague Congressman John Delaney of Maryland and I have introduced bipartisan legislation to create a national, bi-partisan commission composed of 13 members from both the Executive and Legislative branches with the goal to reform Social Security. The commission’s purpose would be to develop solutions that could achieve 75-year solvency within 1 year of enactment and force Congress to consider it under expedited procedures. Appointed by leaders in both parties, any recommendation by the commission must reach a 9 out of 13 vote threshold. The, Congress would vote up or down, without amendment the commission’s recommendations. Every year that we delay addressing the issue, the solutions become more expensive and more painful, and continue to put our children and grandchildren even deeper in debt.

Last week, the House Budget Committee held a hearing to discuss the President’s budget with Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. In his testimony, Director Mulvaney stated that the federal budget was just a ‘messaging tool.’ Indeed, the President’s budget requests have some good intentions, but Congress will have the final say with its own budget release in the coming months. It is in our hands to take the first step and finally do something about spending reforms and tackle the debate on debt. The long-term sustainability of mandatory spending programs like Social Security and Medicare is in danger if we do not make necessary reforms. Furthermore, it is imperative that any budget moving forward addresses the realities of mandatory spending and balances itself in the long term.

Senator Lankford and Rep. Walker to Co-Host Black History Month Event to Honor J.C. Watts and Sam Brownback

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WASHINGTON, DC – In honor of Black History Month, Senator James Lankford (R-OK) and Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) will join Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James to co-host an event tomorrow that honors former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK) and Ambassador Sam Brownback for their role in the creation of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

In 2003, Watts and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) introduced the National Museum of African American History and Culture Act, a bill to establish the Museumwithin the Smithsonian Institution. Former Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Max Cleland (D-GA) authored the bill in the Senate. It passed Congress and was signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 16, 2003. Watts retired from Congress in 2002, while Brownback went on to be Governor of Kansas, and was recently confirmed as the State Department Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom.

Tomorrow’s program is sponsored by INSIGHT America and will take place in the Oprah Winfrey Theater within the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Before the program, attendees will take a tour of the Museum. Photos will be available after the event.

The mission of the Museum is to provide an opportunity for those who are interested in African American culture to explore the history through interactive exhibitions; and to help all Americans see how their stories, their histories, and their cultures are shaped and informed by global influences.

In December of 2016, Lankford toured the Museum’s Tulsa Race Riot exhibit with one of the museum’s historians, John W. Franklin, son of the late historian, author, and Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree, Dr. John Hope Franklin. In Tulsa, the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation is named in his honor. Lankford also serves on the bipartisan Tulsa Race Riot Centennial Commission.

President Trump’s State of the Union

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After his first year in the White House, President Trump and his Administration have much of which to be proud. Their accomplishments have delivered actual results, and the country is continuing to reap the benefits of those changes. During his first State of the Union speech, the President reinforced those achievements – many of which will certainly be remembered as signature accomplishments of his Presidency. Looking forward, he outlined an optimistic future for our nation, with a strong legislative agenda for the next year.

There is no question that the spike in economic growth that we have seen in the past year is due in part to the Administration working with a Republican Congress to push tax reform and deregulation. The President’s efforts to cut red tape coupled with the passage of several Congressional Review Acts have allowed the burden of federal regulations and rules to be lifted from businesses small and large. Stock markets have closed at record numbers numerous times in the past year and unemployment levels have dropped dramatically. And the recently passed tax reform legislation is already spurring job creation, rising wages and generous bonuses at thousands of American businesses.

In addition to a strong economy, the President has made our nation safer by aggressively confronting our enemies across the globe, particularly North Korea and ISIS. North Korea has been challenged by the no-nonsense approach the President and his National Security leaders have employed. Furthermore, the President has played a large role in urging our European allies to increase their efforts to support our common defense.

Looking to the future, the President outlined an aggressive agenda for the next year. He and Congress will need to work on a comprehensive transportation bill to improve our railways, roads, bridges and airways. Even more timely, we will need to work together on an immigration plan that will address his four pillars of reform. We need to increase border security including a stronger wall, end the visa lottery system, reduce chain migration to the nuclear family and create a pathway to legal status for millions of eligible DACA recipients. A good, working immigration reform will need the contribution and support from both sides of the aisle.

Overall, the President delivered an optimistic outlook for our nation. He invoked the spirit of American ingenuity and laid out a vision for future prosperity.

There were many powerful moments throughout his speech that reminded us of the blessings we enjoy living in this great nation, and how we can all support the goals to make America great again. I believe that the President is right – the state of our union is strong.

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