Southwest Arkansas Daily
Update from Washington
From Senator John Boozman
Arkansas Delegation Responds to Misconduct at Fayetteville VA
WASHINGTON –U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton along with U.S. Representatives Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman released the following statement after the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced misconduct by a former VA pathologist at the Fayetteville Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
“This alleged gross negligence by a physician charged with caring for our veterans is a disturbing revelation and a clear failure to uphold the Department of Veterans Affairs mission to the men and women who served our nation in uniform. The errors and reckless actions of this former VA pathologist put the health of our veterans at risk and will not be tolerated.
“Unfortunately, at this time, we don’t know the extent of this doctor’s misconduct. We call on the VA to notify patients whose cases were evaluated by this pathologist to thoroughly and expeditiously review their results so veterans can get the appropriate care they earned. Those impacted deserve nothing less.
“Congress has provided the VA with the tools to remove bad actors. Failing to dismiss physicians and any other employees whose work is unsatisfactory does a disservice to our veterans. We are committed to rigorous oversight to protect the men and women who sacrificed and served our country and will hold those who break the law and undermine the mission of the VA accountable.”
Veterans who have questions or concerns can call 479-582-7995 or 866-388-5428. This call center is staffed by VA nurses specifically to answer questions and address patient concerns about this review process.
June 15, 2018
Countering the Role of Opioids in the Veterans’ Mental Health Crisis
This is the final in a series of columns on efforts to help veterans struggling with mental health
issues. Read the first entry on veteran suicides here, the second one on PTSD here and the third
one on homelessness here.
It is clear that our nation is in the throes of a deadly and dangerous epidemic. Widespread abuse
of opioids has fueled a major spike in overdoses across the United States, both accidental and
intentional. Our veterans’ population is not immune to this horrific trend.
Veterans, particularly those from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, often return home with high
levels of chronic pain. Frequently, they were prescribed a pain management routine during active
duty that placed a heavy emphasis on opioids. For far too long, the Department of Veterans
Affairs (VA) followed suit with a reliance on opioids to help veterans continue to cope with
chronic pain. This is a dangerous road to continue down.
Several large studies have shown an increased risk of suicides among Americans, including
veterans, addicted to opioids. For example, one National Institutes of Health (NIH) study which
examined five million veterans struggling with substance use disorders found women were eight
times as likely as others to be at risk for suicide, while men face a twofold risk.
The question this study, and others like it, have not been able to answer is whether this trend is
the result of underlying mental health issues or if an opioid addiction triggers a mental health
crisis for an individual. Equally as hard to pin down is an accurate number of intentional versus
unintentional opioid overdose deaths. What is clear is that opioid addicts struggling with despair
have the means by which to carry out suicide at the ready and we should be doing more to reduce
that tragic ending.
For its part, VA is making strides, albeit belatedly. Earlier this year, VA became the first healthcare
system in the country to publicly post information on its opioid prescribing rate. At the time
of the announcement, the administration called it “an innovative way to raise awareness, increase
transparency and mitigate the dangers of over-prescribing.” This effort, along with others to
address over-prescribing, has helped the VA reduce its opioid prescription rate by 41 percent
over the past five years.
Among those other efforts is a program to educate VA providers on best practices related to pain
management and the optimal use of opioids. This is welcome news. I have long advocated that
VA needs to “think outside the box” and seek alternatives to opioids as part of its comprehensive
pain management practices. Treatments such as physical therapy, acupuncture and yoga are now
among the therapies VA considers for veterans to manage chronic pain.
This is not to say there isn’t a need for medication in VA’s pain management treatment practices,
but that must be moderated given the mounting evidence of the dangers of long-term opioid use.
Mental health concerns aside, VA’s data suggests veterans are twice as likely to die from an
accidental overdose compared to the rest of the population. That alone would be enough to
trigger concern about prescription rates. Add to it the link between opioid abuse and suicide, and
you have reason to sound the alarm.
I am pleased to see the VA taking steps to turn the corner. These efforts will clearly help us save
lives. I am committed to working with the VA to build on this progress and help our veterans
recover from their physical ailments without putting their mental health in jeopardy.
June 14, 2018
Countering the Role of Opioids in the Veterans’ Mental Health
This is the final in a series of columns on efforts to help veterans struggling with mental health issues. Read the first entry on veteran suicides here, the second one on PTSD here and the third one on homelessness here.
It is clear that our nation is in the throes of a deadly and dangerous epidemic. Widespread abuse of opioids has fueled a major spike in overdoses across the United States, both accidental and intentional. Our veterans’ population is not immune to this horrific trend.
Veterans, particularly those from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, often return home with high levels of chronic pain. Frequently, they were prescribed a pain management routine during active duty that placed a heavy emphasis on opioids. For far too long, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) followed suit with a reliance on opioids to help veterans continue to cope with chronic pain. This is a dangerous road to continue down.
Several large studies have shown an increased risk of suicides among Americans, including veterans, addicted to opioids. For example, one National Institutes of Health (NIH) study which examined five million veterans struggling with substance use disorders found women were eight times as likely as others to be at risk for suicide, while men face a twofold risk.
The question this study, and others like it, have not been able to answer is whether this trend is the result of underlying mental health issues or if an opioid addiction triggers a mental health crisis for an individual. Equally as hard to pin down is an accurate number of intentional versus unintentional opioid overdose deaths. What is clear is that opioid addicts struggling with despair have the means by which to carry out suicide at the ready and we should be doing more to reduce that tragic ending.
For its part, VA is making strides, albeit belatedly. Earlier this year, VA became the first health-care system in the country to publicly post information on its opioid prescribing rate. At the time of the announcement, the administration called it “an innovative way to raise awareness, increase transparency and mitigate the dangers of over-prescribing.” This effort, along with others to address over-prescribing, has helped the VA reduce its opioid prescription rate by 41 percent over the past five years.
Among those other efforts is a program to educate VA providers on best practices related to pain management and the optimal use of opioids. This is welcome news. I have long advocated that VA needs to “think outside the box” and seek alternatives to opioids as part of its comprehensive pain management practices. Treatments such as physical therapy, acupuncture and yoga are now among the therapies VA considers for veterans to manage chronic pain.
This is not to say there isn’t a need for medication in VA’s pain management treatment practices, but that must be moderated given the mounting evidence of the dangers of long-term opioid use. Mental health concerns aside, VA’s data suggests veterans are twice as likely to die from an accidental overdose compared to the rest of the population. That alone would be enough to trigger concern about prescription rates. Add to it the link between opioid abuse and suicide, and you have reason to sound the alarm.
I am pleased to see the VA taking steps to turn the corner. These efforts will clearly help us save lives. I am committed to working with the VA to build on this progress and help our veterans recover from their physical ailments without putting their mental health in jeopardy.
June 14, 2018
Senate Approves Boozman Amendment to NDAA to Deter Russian
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) applauded the inclusion of his amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to require the Pentagon to conduct an assessment of the need for combat enablers as it examines the feasibility and advisability of permanently stationing a U.S. Army brigade combat team in Poland. The Senate approved the amendment by voice vote.
“Combat enablers are the essential non-combat force that help to maintain our defense posture around the globe. They can help us prepare for the serious threats Russia poses to our allies and interests in Eastern Europe. The United States needs to turn the page and set a clear course to deter Russia over the long term,” Boozman, chairman of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, said.
Read the text of the amendment here.
Boozman visited Poland at the end of May and saw first-hand the work being done by U.S. forces to sustain operations in Europe to ensure we have a credible force to deter Russian aggression.
June 13, 2018
Boozman Praises Committee Passage of
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement after joining his colleagues on the Senate Agriculture Committee to approve the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which is commonly referred to as the Farm Bill:
“The farm economy is in a much different place than the last time the committee gathered around the table to debate a Farm Bill.
Net farm income is approximately half of what it was then; farm bankruptcies are up by 39 percent since 2014; financing is becoming more expensive; input costs are rising; and the trade outlook is volatile and uncertain.
Farmers, across the country—regardless of which state they reside in and what crops they grow—are hurting. As members of this committee, we must produce a Farm Bill in a timely manner to provide certainty to the folks who feed and clothe our nation and the world.
I commend the leadership of Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow. They had a heavy lift to find common ground amongst the committee. The overwhelming bipartisan support at the mark-up shows they were successful in drafting a Farm Bill that meets the diverse needs of producers across all regions of the country.”
June 12, 2018
Park Service Agrees Butterfield Overland Trail Worthy of National Recognition, Preservation
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) announced that the National Park Service (NPS) has determined the trail that carried the longest stagecoach operation in history, which traveled through a significant portion of Arkansas, meets the requirements to become a national historic trail.
NPS concluded the Butterfield Overland Trail meets the requirements after conducting a study to evaluate the significance, feasibility, suitability and desirability of designating the routes associated with it as a national historic trail. The study was required by a provision of Public Law 111-11 that was authored by Boozman during his tenure as Congressman for the Third District of Arkansas in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“The first overland transcontinental mail by stagecoach was carried on the Butterfield Trail. The trail played an important role in our nation’s westward expansion and certainly made major contributions to the development and settlement of Arkansas during its short time in existence. I am pleased to see the National Park Service agrees those contributions merit preservation for future generations,” Boozman said.
From 1858-1861, the Butterfield Overland Mail Company held a U.S. Mail contract to transport mail and passengers between the eastern termini of St. Louis and Memphis and the western terminus of San Francisco.
It became known as the “ox-bow route” due to its curved path comprised of approximately 3,553 miles of trail routes in eight states: Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
The routes from St. Louis and Memphis merged in Fort Smith and the Butterfield Overland Express stagecoaches traveled through much of the state. Stagecoaches made stops between Memphis and Fort Smith in St. Francis, Prairie, Lonoke, Faulkner, Conway, Pope, Yell, Logan and Franklin counties. The northwestern route that came out of Missouri included stops in Benton, Washington and Crawford counties.
Four segments of the roads that the Butterfield Overland Express traveled over in Arkansas have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Potts home, a well-preserved Arkansas way station for the Butterfield Express, is still standing in Pope County and is maintained as the Potts Inn Museum on Highway 247 by the Pope County Historical Foundation.
Congress must approve the designation before it can become a national historic trail.
June 8, 2018
Time, Bipartisanship, Good Faith: The Recipe for Government
I’ve been calling for Congress to break the cycle of continuing resolutions and omnibus spending deals for quite some time. For too long, we’ve relied on these short-sighted solutions to fund the government rather than approving the 12 individual appropriations bills. I’m pleased to see that there is a renewed commitment to return to this regular process.
In his announcement canceling the August in-state work period, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed his “goal of passing appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year.” As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I believe this is a worthwhile and attainable goal.
Continuing resolutions prevent Congress from reining in spending and wasting taxpayer dollars, because they maintain current funding levels for outdated and inefficient programs and restrict agencies from launching new initiatives since they are required to operate under last year’s priorities.
For months, the Senate Appropriations Committee has held hearings with agency officials about the funding needs for the next fiscal year which starts in October. My colleagues and I have spent countless hours crafting appropriations bills that reflect today’s priorities and return predictability to agency leaders.
In early June, committee members advanced funding bills for transportation infrastructure development, housing assistance and community development as well as military construction and veterans’ programs.
As chairman of the Senate Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Subcommittee, I am proud of the bill we crafted that supports critical housing, infrastructure and facilities for U.S. military forces and their families and provides increased funding for veterans’ health care and benefits.
Keeping the promise we made to our veterans is an important responsibility of the federal government. Just as essential is that we ensure our military has the infrastructure it needs to defend our nation and its allies. This bill reflects these priorities by increasing resources to prevent veteran suicide, increasing rural access to healthcare, supporting critical mental health programs, preventing veterans homelessness and providing robust funding for innovative medical research.
This is particularly important as it also initiates funding to support reforms to the VA’s healthcare delivery system that was signed into law by President Trump this month. This will provide our veterans with more choices and fewer barriers to care.
Four appropriations bills, including those that support federal agriculture and nutrition programs and our energy and water infrastructure, have been approved by the committee and are ready to be considered on the Senate floor. I am pleased that Leader McConnell intends to put the appropriations bills at the top of the Senate's to-do list for the summer. I look forward to debating the MilCon-VA bill and other appropriations bills in the coming weeks.
Debating and passing these funding bills is a basic responsibility of the federal government that provides accountability and transparency. Having the ability to amend these bills before the full chamber allows all senators a voice in the spending process, regardless of whether or not they serve on the Appropriations Committee.
Before signing the Fiscal Year 2018 spending bill in March, President Trump made it clear that he would not approve another last-minute funding package. Having more time this summer to advance appropriations bills will ease that concern.
June 7, 2018
Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Boozman Bill to Fund
Military Construction & Veterans Programs
WASHINGTON- The Senate Appropriations Committee approved legislation produced by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) that supports critical housing, infrastructure and facilities for U.S. military forces and their families and provides increased funding for veterans’ health care and benefits.
Boozman, chairman of the Senate Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Subcommittee, crafted legislation that provides critical funding for construction of national defense facilities, family housing, and military hospitals and schools. The bill also provides funding for veterans’ health care, veterans’ benefits, medical and prosthetic research, the National Cemetery Administration, information technology and the VA Inspector General.
“Keeping the promise we made to our veterans is an important responsibility of the federal government. Just as essential is that we ensure our military has the infrastructure it needs to defend our nation and its allies. This bill reflects these priorities by increasing resources to prevent veteran suicide, increasing rural access to healthcare, supporting critical mental health programs, preventing veterans homelessness and providing robust funding for innovative medical research. Our bill will also give the Department of Defense the resources it needs to project power globally, enhance our warfighting capabilities and train our servicemembers,” Boozman said.
Military Construction – Resources to fund 169 military construction projects. This includes funds for construction and renovation projects on military bases within the United States and around the globe.
European Reassurance Initiative – Funding for construction projects in support of U.S. allies through the European Reassurance Initiative.
Overseas Contingency Operations – Funding for construction projects in direct support of military operations in the Middle East.
Military Family Housing – Funding for construction, operation and maintenance of military family housing. The bill includes construction funding for nine family housing projects.
Military Medical Facilities – $366 million for construction or alteration of military medical facilities. This funding will allow for continued support and care for 9.8 million eligible beneficiaries, including wounded U.S. troops abroad.
Department of Defense Education Facilities – $388 million for essential safety improvements and infrastructure work at four overseas military schools.
Guard and Reserve – $487 million to support the construction needs of National Guard and Reserve forces.
NATO Security Investment Program – Funding to provide infrastructure for training, deterrence, and the NATO Alliance’s response to challenges posed by Russia and threats from the Middle East and North Africa.
Veterans Affairs (VA) – The legislation includes a record level of $86.4 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, an increase of $5 billion above the FY2018 level. These resources will provide the healthcare, benefits, and memorial services earned by U.S. service members and veterans.
VA Medical Care – $78.3 billion to support medical treatment and healthcare for approximately 9.3 million enrolled patients in FY2019. The bill includes: $8.6 billion for mental health; $860.8 million for the Caregivers Program; $400 million for opioid misuse prevention and treatment; $779 million for medical and prosthetic research; $525 million for health care specifically for women veterans; and $270 million for rural health initiatives.
Veterans Homelessness – Funding for VA Homelessness programs including $450 million for the Supportive Services for Veterans Families program.
Claims Processing – Funding to ensure that proper staffing and resources are utilized to reduce the wait time and backlog of disability decisions on appeal, and to meet the demand for other benefit programs.
Construction – $1.8 billion for major and minor construction associated with VA hospital replacement, correction of seismic deficiencies, scores of projects to improve access to VA health care, and the VA’s National Cemeteries. The bill also includes $150 million in construction grants for State Extended Care Facilities.
VA Mandatory Funding – The bill fulfills mandatory funding requirements, including veteran disability compensation programs for 4.9 million veterans and 432,000 survivors; education benefits for nearly one million veterans; guaranteed home loans for 519,000 veterans; and vocational rehabilitation and employment training for more than 149,000 veterans.
Advance Appropriations – $75.6 billion in FY2020 advance discretionary funding for veterans health care, and $121.3 billion in FY2020 advance mandatory funding for veterans benefits.
Related Agencies – The legislation also includes funding for:
American Battle Monuments Commission
U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
Arlington National Cemetery
Armed Forces Retirement Home
June 5, 2018
Boozman Visits U.S. Military Installations in
Europe, Africa and Middle East
Meets with Troops, Receives Mission & Security Briefings
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) and several colleagues visited
American military posts in Europe, Africa and the Middle East to receive updates
on the vital missions of these command units and visit with American troops,
including several Arkansans, serving abroad.
Boozman, along with Sens. James Inhofe (R-OK), Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), took part in a congressional delegation trip during the week of May 28 that made stops at military installations in Poland, Italy, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Spain.
“Meeting with our military leaders at these bases and talking with the service members under their command gives me great confidence in the ability of our Armed Forces to deter, prevent and respond to threats and provocations against the United States and our allies,” Boozman said. “Our national security interests must be protected and supported amid growing concerns about the activities of countries including Russia and Iran, as well as non-state actors like ISIS, Boko Haram and other radical groups. The work being done by our military personnel at these posts is ensuring that our nation is prepared to meet any crisis or challenge to ourselves or our allies head on.”
For more photos from the congressional delegation’s trip, click here.
Boozman also had the opportunity to meet with Arkansans serving at several of the installations as well as Air Force C-130 crews deployed to Djibouti from Little Rock Air Force Base’s 19th Airlift Wing. The C-130 flight crews provided transportation to the delegation during parts of the trip.
“It was my honor to spend some time with Arkansans and other service members who have a connection to the state and get their perspectives and insights on the missions they are being asked to carry out. We want to be certain they feel that they have all the tools and resources needed to see their missions through to completion. I invited them to offer feedback and will take their candid responses and questions back to Washington so that we can address them,” Boozman said. “I also expressed to these brave men and women how proud of and grateful we are for their service and that we look forward to their safe return home.”
(Left: Boozman with Arkansan & Navy Chief Petty
Officer Jeffrey Wisdom in Afghanistan;
Right: Boozman and the flight crew of the C-130 that flew the congressional delegation to Ethiopia. The crew, deployed to Djibouti in support of Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, is from Little Rock Air Force Base’s 19th Airlift Wing)
June 1, 2018
Working Together for Rural Arkansas
Washington is working together to help our rural communities, which is good news for the forty-two percent of Arkansans who live outside our urban areas. When we work together in a bipartisan manner, we can get a lot accomplished that will help rural America, and in turn rural Arkansas, continue to grow.
Infrastructure investment is one way to bring enormous benefits to our rural communities. Not only do smart infrastructure investments boost our economy and create immediate jobs, but they produce long-term positive results as well. The quality of a state’s infrastructure is near the top of the list of factors that business owners consider when deciding where to locate a business or enterprise. Sensible, productive investments in our state’s infrastructure will foster economic development in rural Arkansas.
Those benefits are easy to see with the traditional three R’s of infrastructure—roads, runways and rails. But we are working to broaden the scope of traditional infrastructure investment to also include water and broadband, both of which are vital to rural Arkansas’s future and can earn bipartisan support.
Recently we scored a major bipartisan victory with the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee’s unanimous approval of a comprehensive bill to address shortfalls in our nation’s water infrastructure.
The bill includes a provision I authored that proposes an innovative solution to updating our water and wastewater infrastructure in a way that communities of all sizes can afford. By including my bill in the committee’s comprehensive water infrastructure bill, state and local governments will be able to more effectively meet underserved or unmet infrastructure needs.
On the broadband front, we are working on bipartisan solutions to close the digital divide in rural America. The bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus, of which I am a co-chair, is leading the charge to encourage President Trump to include initiatives to promote the deployment of high-speed, reliable broadband for all Americans as part of the conversation for our nation’s overall infrastructure plans.
The Farm Bill is another area where we can typically find bipartisan agreement to help rural America. Agriculture is Arkansas’s largest industry, adding around $16 billion to our economy every year and accounting for approximately one in every six jobs, so this legislation is extremely important to the economic livelihood of rural Arkansas.
The current Farm Bill is set to expire at the end of September so I am working with my colleagues on the Senate Agriculture Committee to write a new one that is fair, equitable and addresses the key needs of farmers and ranchers. Programs authorized by the Farm Bill are vital to making sure that, as a nation, we do not become dependent on other countries for our food supply.
The legislation is responsible for much more than just risk management tools for our farmers. The Farm Bill also helps our rural communities by authorizing key economic development and job creation programs. It helps rural Arkansans with everything from home financing to internet access to small business loans.
There is a consensus building around this legislation in the Senate and it is my hope that it will be the next bipartisan victory for rural Arkansas. Working together is the strategy we need to continue to follow to create opportunities for our rural communities to succeed. If our rural communities are prosperous, the entire state of Arkansas will see the benefits.
May 25, 2018
A Unified Effort to Help Veterans Receive Quality Care
Congress recently came together to uphold a promise to our veterans by passing the VA MISSION Act. The bill, which is set to become law, will strengthen and streamline the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare services and its community care programs.
This is important because veterans should have access to the best healthcare and services in a timely manner regardless of where they live.
With these reforms, a veteran and his or her doctor will decide where that veteran will receive care—taking into consideration the veteran’s healthcare needs and the availability and quality of both VA and community care.
For largely rural states like Arkansas, this makes all the sense in the world.
We have two VA Medical Centers in the Natural State—Little Rock and Fayetteville—as well as facilities in neighboring states that often serve Arkansas veterans. The healthcare providers and staff at those facilities, and our Community-Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs) in Arkansas, truly do an excellent job in caring for our veterans.
But the VA Medical Centers are in populated areas, which in cases where veterans need more advanced care than a CBOC can provide, means a full day trip for many veterans. It is unnecessary when a veteran could receive similar quality care outside the VA system in his or her community.
The service options provided in this bill will give veterans who live far from a VA facility and need frequent follow-up care easier access to local providers and walk-in clinics.
As noted in a letter signed by over thirty VSOs supporting the VA MISSION Act, the legislation is an effort to “supplement, not supplant VA healthcare.”
That is important to highlight. Much like the Choice Program that preceded it, the new system that will be established by the VA MISSION Act is not meant to replace VA healthcare. Rather it builds on the foundation laid out by the Choice Program, which addressed many shortcomings within the VA system that led to the wait time crisis.
Last year, I launched a listening tour to hear from Arkansas veterans about their experiences with the Choice Program so we can better meet their needs. I heard from Arkansas veterans who have been able to get quality care from private providers in their own community when the VA system could not meet their needs. That is a good thing.
But as the veterans I met with noted, the Choice Program has its share of troubles. I heard repeated stories of difficulties navigating the complex and confusing bureaucratic process. This legislation aims to alleviate those problems.
While VA implements the new system, we cannot afford to let care slip for our veterans. That is why we made sure that the VA MISSION Act authorizes funding to continue the current Choice Program for one more year.
In addition to the improvements to healthcare delivery, the VA MISSION Act will enable us to conduct better and more consistent oversight into how the VA spends money on veterans’ healthcare, improve the VA’s ability to hire high-quality professionals and create a process to evaluate and reform VA facilities so they can best serve veterans.
These are all big steps in the right direction and the unified efforts of both parties, in both chambers of Congress, made sure the VA MISSION Act would pass. If we continue to work together in this vein, we can help ensure our nation’s promises to our veterans are kept.
May 23, 2018
Boozman Supports Landmark Legislation to Reform VA Community
WASHINGTON –U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, applauded passage of the John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (MISSION) Act, known as the VA MISSION Act for short. The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 92 to 5.
The VA MISSION Act improves the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) current healthcare delivery system and helps provide veterans with more choices and fewer barriers to care.
As Boozman noted in a floor speech in advance of the vote, for veterans in largely rural states like Arkansas, it allows easier access to healthcare. “The service options provided in this bill will give veterans who live far from a VA facility and need frequent follow-up care easier access to local providers and walk-in clinics,” Boozman said.
The VA MISSION Act also improves the VA’s ability to hire high-quality healthcare professionals, expands VA caregiver benefits to veterans of all generations and creates a process to evaluate and reform VA facilities so they can best serve veterans. It also includes funding for the Choice Program so veterans will have access to care while we transition to an easier-to-use community care program.
The legislation is headed to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law.
May 22, 2018
Boozman’s Water Infrastructure
Investment Legislation Included in Committee-Passed Water Infrastructure Bill
WASHINGTON—The Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee approved the inclusion of legislation introduced by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) that will modernize investment in water infrastructure in its comprehensive water infrastructure bill.
America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, which was unanimously reported out of committee on Tuesday, includes Boozman’s Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now (SRF WIN) Act as a provision in the bill.
“The SRF WIN Act is an innovative solution to updating our water and wastewater infrastructure in a way that communities of all sizes can afford. I’m pleased that Chairman Barrasso and Ranking member Carper recognize that fixing our crumbling infrastructure is a national priority. By including this legislation in the committee’s comprehensive water infrastructure bill, state and local governments will be able to more effectively meet underserved or unmet infrastructure needs,” Boozman said.
Boozman’s work was praised by both EPW Chairman Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Thanks to Senator Boozman, [America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018] enhances the effectiveness of federal investments in our nation’s failing drinking water and wastewater infrastructure,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
The provision in the committee-passed legislation would:
Authorize $100 million annually over two years to support state revolving fund projects exclusively.
Encourage states to bundle their projects by waiving the $100,000 application fee and streamlining the application process to a maximum 180-day turnaround.
Promote transparency by requiring EPA to post the list of project applications received and those selected to receive funds.
Help communities, both big and small, receive funding for their vetted drinking water and wastewater projects.
Preserve the successful state revolving funds (SRFs) and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan program.
Earlier this month, EPW Committee leaders received a letter from the nation’s leading construction, engineering, municipal, conservation, public works, infrastructure finance, labor and manufacturing organizations urging members to include the SRF WIN Act as a provision in the committee’s Water Resources Development Act legislation.
The SRF WIN Act was introduced in February by Boozman and Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Cosponsors include Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), John Barrasso (R-WY), Bob Casey (D-PA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).
The legislation empowers states to invest in multiple water infrastructure projects. The bill combines the best aspects of state revolving funds (SRFs) with the leveraging power of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) to make the process easier and more affordable for states to meet their underserved or unmet water infrastructure needs.
May 15, 2018
Boozman Honors Law Enforcement Community
During National Police Week
WASHINGTON – In recognition of National Police Week, U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) honored the service and sacrifice of our law enforcement community and reflected upon the lives of Arkansans whose names are newly added to the walls of the National Law Enforcement Memorial.
Four Arkansans are among the list of 360 members of law enforcement whose names have been added to the memorial:
Drew County Sheriff’s Deputy Timothy Braden
Lieutenant Patrick Weatherford of the Newport Police Department
Yell County Sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Mainhart
Turrell Police Chief Keith Bradford Sr.
The following are Senator Boozman’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
Mr. President, this is National Police Week. A time for recognizing the men and women in law enforcement who serve and protect our nation.
National Police Week is a solemn occasion to honor those who tragically lost their lives while serving in the line of duty.
The names of those men and women are carved on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Memorial.
Each year during this week, families and colleagues of the fallen travel to our nation’s capital for this special commemoration.
This year 360 names will be added including four officers who served the citizens of Arkansas.
We remember Arkansans whose names are newly etched onto the walls of this treasured memorial. Now, I would like to recognize these heroes.
Drew County Sheriff’s Deputy Timothy Braden gave his life while serving and protecting the citizens of Arkansas. Deputy Braden unfortunately passed away in a car crash after attempting to stop a vehicle whose driver refused to stop; leading him on a high-speed chase.
Deputy Braden had recently joined the Drew County Sheriff’s Office after serving three years at the McGehee Police Department.
His commitment to enforcing the law, helping those in need and protecting the community touched the lives of those he served with. They will remember him as a kind and hardworking officer who performed his job with a positive attitude.
Lieutenant Patrick Weatherford of the Newport Police Department responded to a call of a vehicle break-in when he was fatally shot.
He proudly served in law enforcement for 15 years. Throughout his time in uniform, he continued to pursue opportunities to better serve the community.
He was a 2016 graduate of the FBI National Academy and was working toward a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice.
I would also like to honor the dedication and service of Kevin Mainhart, a Yell County Sheriff’s Deputy. He was responding to a domestic disturbance call and initiated a traffic stop of a vehicle connected to the situation when he was fatally shot.
Mainhart spent more than 20 years serving and protecting Arkansas communities in law enforcement and was a veteran of the Air Force.
The selfless service of Keith Bradford Sr., Turrell Police Chief is also worthy of recognition.
The chief is one of 231 members of the law enforcement community who died in a previous year, but whose sacrifice will be documented on the memorial this year.
Chief Bradford helped launch the law enforcement agency in 2012. In 2014 he responded to a call to assist officers from another local jurisdiction with a high-speed chase.
He checked the safety of the officers, but according to a police report, Bradford was left shaken. Hours later, he suffered a fatal heart attack. Chief Bradford had dedicated more than 20 years of his life to law enforcement.
Each of these officers demonstrated courage and determination in the face of danger.
These heroes, like all members of the law enforcement community, commit their lives to protecting the public. In their profession there is no such thing as an off-duty officer. Answering a call for help is ingrained in who they are.
As a member of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, I am committed to providing our first responders with the tools, resources and training to help them prepare for unpredictable circumstances.
These men and women are brave and selfless heroes who risk their lives every day to keep our communities safe.
This Congress I was proud to cosponsor the Honoring Hometown Heroes Act to give their home states the opportunity to provide a fitting tribute for their service should they make the ultimate sacrifice. This bill would allow governors to order the American flag to fly at half-staff in recognition of first responders who are killed in the line of duty.
Those who are called to serve and protect have earned this honor.
I’m pleased it was included as a provision in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 that was signed into law earlier this year. We can all agree that these courageous first responders deserve this powerful acknowledgment in recognition of their sacrifice.
On behalf of all Arkansans, I thank law enforcement officers at the local, state and federal levels for all they do to keep us safe. We appreciate your dedication and the heroism you display each and every day. Thank you for doing whatever it takes to protect and serve your families, neighbors and fellow citizens.
May 15, 2018
Boozman’s Water Infrastructure Bill Gains
Support from 29 Organizations Including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American
Society of Civil Engineers, Ducks Unlimited and the National Rural Water
WASHINGTON—The nation’s leading construction, engineering, municipal, conservation, public works, infrastructure finance, labor and manufacturing organizations shared their support for legislation introduced by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) that will modernize investment in water infrastructure. In a letter sent to leaders of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, the groups urged members to include Boozman’s Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now (SRF WIN) Act as a provision in the committee’s Water Resources Development Act legislation.
“We believe the inclusion of the SRF WIN Act in the America’s Water Infrastructure Act will make a really good bill even better,” the letter states noting that Boozman’s bill “is a fiscally responsible approach to providing States over $10 B (billion) annually for critical improvements to our nation’s rural and urban water infrastructure.”
The letter was signed by 27 organizations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Society of Civil Engineers, Ducks Unlimited, the National Rural Water Association and Arkansas Natural Resources Commission. For a complete list of signees click to read the letter here.
Additionally, the Associated General Contractors of America and California Association of State Agencies also sent letters to the EPW Committee advocating for the SRF WIN Act’s inclusion in the America’s Water Infrastructure Act.
The Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now (SRF WIN) Act—introduced by Sens. Boozman, Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)—rejects the fix-as-fail approach currently used to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure and instead empowers states to invest in multiple water infrastructure projects.
The bill combines the best aspects of state revolving funds (SRFs) with the leveraging power of the Water Infrastructure and Innovation Act (WIFIA) to make the process easier and more affordable for states to meet their underserved or unmet water infrastructure needs.
The SRF WIN Act would:
Authorize $200 million annually over five years to support state revolving fund projects exclusively, creating over $50 billion in project money.
Encourage states to bundle their projects by waiving the $100,000 application fee and streamlining the application process to a maximum 180-day turnaround.
Simplify the federal approval process by allowing thousands of vetted drinking water and wastewater projects to receive funding, eliminating the need for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to process thousands of additional loan applications.
Preserve the successful state revolving funds (SRFs) and the Water Infrastructure and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan program.
May 11, 2018
Honoring Law Enforcement Officers
In 1962, Congress passed a joint resolution establishing the week of May 15 as “National Police Week” to pay special recognition to law enforcement officers who tragically lost their lives in the line of duty. The names of those men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice are etched on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Memorial. Each year during this week, families and colleagues of the fallen travel to our nation’s capital for this fitting tribute.
This year, 360 names have been added to the memorial including four officers who served the citizens of Arkansas.
Drew County Sheriff’s Deputy Timothy Braden gave his life while serving and protecting his community. Deputy Braden unfortunately passed away in a car crash after attempting to stop a vehicle whose driver refused to stop; leading him on a high-speed chase. His commitment to enforcing the law, helping those in need and protecting the community touched the lives of those he served with. They will remember him as a kind and hardworking officer who performed his job with a positive attitude.
Lieutenant Patrick Weatherford of the Newport Police Department responded to a call of a vehicle break-in when he was fatally shot. He proudly served in law enforcement for 15 years.
Throughout his time in uniform, he continued to pursue opportunities to better serve the community. He was a 2016 graduate of the FBI National Academy and had been working toward a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice.
Yell County Sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Mainhart was responding to a domestic disturbance call and initiated a traffic stop of a vehicle connected to the situation when he was fatally shot. Mainhart spent more than 20 years serving and protecting Arkansas communities in law enforcement and was a veteran of the Air Force.
Keith Bradford Sr., Turrell Police Chief helped launch the community’s police department in 2012. In 2014, he responded to a call to assist officers from another local jurisdiction with a high-speed chase. Chief Bradford checked to ensure the other officers involved in the incident were safe, but he was left shaken. Hours later, he suffered a fatal heart attack. He had dedicated more than 20 years of his life to law enforcement.
He is one of 231 members of the law enforcement community who, though he died prior to this past year, his sacrifice had not been previously documented on the memorial.
These heroes, like all members of the law enforcement community, commit their lives to protecting the public. In their profession there is no such thing as an off-duty officer. Answering a call for help is ingrained in who they are.
This year, Congress passed the Honoring Hometown Heroes Act to give first responders’ home states the opportunity to provide a fitting tribute for their service should they make the ultimate sacrifice. This allows governors to order the American flag to fly at half-staff in recognition of first responders who are killed in the line of duty. We can all agree these courageous public servants deserve this powerful acknowledgment in recognition of their sacrifice.
On behalf of all Arkansans, I thank law enforcement officers for all they do to keep us safe. We are grateful for their dedication and heroism they display every day.
May 3, 2018
Arkansas Congressional Delegation Urges U.S.
Trade Representative to Defend Catfish Inspection
WASHINGTON – Arkansas Congressional members U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton and U.S. Representatives Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman urged U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to defend food safety inspections of catfish by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS). The program has most recently come under attack by Vietnam, which is legally challenging the catfish inspection program at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
In a letter to Ambassador Lighthizer, the members urged him to safeguard the program that has kept hundreds of tons of tainted catfish out the U.S. food supply since 2016.
“USDA-FSIS is currently determining equivalency of foreign importers of catfish and catfish-like products, including Vietnam. Throughout this process, safe catfish imports have continued to come into the U.S. from Vietnam and other countries. The catfish and catfish-like products that have not been approved to enter our food supply contain unapproved animal drugs, carcinogens and other harmful contaminants,” members wrote in the letter.
Due to public health concerns, Congress included provisions in the 2008 and 2014 farm bills to transfer catfish inspection authority to the USDA-FSIS from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which inspected less than two percent of imported catfish and relied solely on point-of-entry inspection.
In 2016 the American Cancer Society announced its support for the USDA authorized catfish inspection program.
In addition to members of the Arkansas Congressional Delegation the letter was also signed by Senators Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Doug Jones (D-AL), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Representatives Ralph Abraham, M.D. (R-LA) Bradley Byrne (R-AL), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Gregg Harper (R-MS), Trent Kelly (R-MS), Martha Roby (R-AL), Steve Palazzo (R-MS), Mike Rogers (R-AL), Terri Sewell (D-AL) and Bennie Thompson (D-MS).
Full text of the letter is below and here.
Dear Ambassador Lighthizer,
As you know, following Congressional intent in the 2008 and 2014 Farm Bills, the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) has taken over the inspection of catfish and catfish-like products from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The program is working efficiently and effectively to ensure the safety of catfish in our food supply, and we ask that you defend this necessary food safety program.
Vietnam recently requested consultations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) regarding USDA-FSIS catfish inspection. Disappointingly, this action by Vietnam has nothing to do with trade and everything to do with politics. In fact, USDA-FSIS is currently determining equivalency of foreign importers of catfish and catfish-like products, including Vietnam. Throughout this process, safe catfish imports have continued to come into the U.S. from Vietnam and other countries. The catfish and catfish-like products that have not been approved to enter our food supply contain unapproved animal drugs, carcinogens and other harmful contaminants.
USDA-FSIS inspection, which has kept hundreds of tons of tainted catfish out of the U.S. food supply since officially beginning operations in 2016, has unfortunately continued to come under attack. The most often cited statement is an outdated Government Accountability Office (GAO) study, which noted that the USDA-FSIS catfish inspection system is duplicative with FDA inspection. However, this could not be further from the truth. The FDA no longer inspects catfish or catfish-like products, only USDA-FSIS inspects these products.
Lastly, the timing of Vietnam’s request for consultations is suspiciously close to the time in which the Vietnamese government was expected to demonstrate that its regulatory food safety inspection system is equivalent to that of USDA-FSIS. Given the fact that the concept of equivalence originated with the WTO, and that Vietnam has yet to demonstrate it, we believe Vietnam’s request for consultation lacks merit and respect for U.S. food safety laws.
Going forward in these consultations, we ask you to stand with U.S. catfish farmers and USDA-FSIS inspection of catfish to ensure a safe, wholesome food supply for U.S. consumers. Thank you for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to your response.
May 4, 2018
Mental Health Care Key Part of Helping Homeless
This is the third in a series of columns on efforts to help veterans struggling with mental health issues. Read the first entry on veteran suicides here and the second one on PTSD here.
We can’t talk about how to help homeless veterans without incorporating mental health solutions into the conversation. The two issues go hand-in-hand.
Some homeless veterans may have been dealing with mental health struggles before they even transitioned to post-service life. For others, it’s brought on by a struggle to return to civilian life. The mounting anxiety and stress only gets worse with an inability to provide a home for oneself. Homelessness can easily lead to severe depression and despair. In too many instances, homeless veterans turn to destructive means to cope, such as substance abuse. These are serious issues that only get worse as time without a place to call home drags on.
That is why it is crucial to include mental health care in our overall strategy to help reintegrate homeless veterans and reach those at risk of homelessness. For the past two sessions of Congress, Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and I have introduced legislation that would ensure key Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) programs that help homeless veterans are allowed to continue.
One of those programs we’ve sought to reauthorize—the Healthcare for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) program—offers outreach, exams, treatment, referrals and case management to veterans who are homeless and dealing with mental health issues, including substance use. At more than 135 HCHV sites, VA specialists provide the tools and support necessary for veterans to get their lives on a better track.
HCHV is just one of a number of programs offered by the VA to help homeless veterans and those at risk of homelessness overcome mental health struggles. The oldest program—The Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans (DCHV) Program—dates back to the Civil War. Established to provide services to economically-disadvantaged veterans, it has evolved over time from a "Soldiers' Home" to an active clinical rehabilitation and treatment program providing state-of-the-art, high-quality residential rehabilitation and treatment services for veterans with mental health and addiction issues.
Programs such as these provide essential services that are necessary for homeless veterans to rebuild their lives. Through these programs, VA employees and their partners conduct outreach to identify those in need or at risk and help give them new lives. Those partners in Arkansas include organizations like St. Francis House in Little Rock and Seven Hills Homeless Center in Fayetteville, which get a portion of their funding from Congressionally authorized programs that have a proven track record of effectiveness. The VA’s Vet Centers also provide community-based counseling, outreach, and referral services to help connect homeless veterans with all kinds of services, including mental health and housing. It is important that we continue programs that enable private organizations and the VA to provide services to help get veterans into housing and on a track to healthier lives.
We have seen successes in the effort to end homelessness among our veterans, in part because we have taken a holistic approach. We must continue to move forward in this direction. If we fail to recognize the need to include mental health care in our strategy, then we will fail to help homeless veterans restart their lives. We owe them more than that.
April 30, 2018
Boozman and Westerman Launch #TalkSmallYall
Small Business Tour
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) and U.S. Representative Bruce Westerman (AR-04) will focus on the challenges and successes of small businesses in Arkansas, as we recognize National Small Business Week.
On May 2 and 3, Boozman and Westerman will tour Arkansas companies and meet with business owners to explore how recent tax reforms are impacting them and what regulatory burdens they face in the current business climate. More than 90 percent of Natural State businesses are small businesses and they employ nearly half of Arkansas’ workers.
Events, photos and more information will be on social media throughout the week at: #TalkSmallYall.
The media is invited to attend the following:
WEDNESDAY, MAY 2nd
EVENT: Tour of Bayou Pumps
TIME: 9:30 a.m.
LOCATION: 171 Mims Drive
Boozman and Westerman will visit this small manufacturing facility that provides products to the oil and gas industry around the world.
MEDIA NOTE: Media is welcome at the beginning of this visit. If planning to attend, please arrive early. Media will not accompany on the tour.
EVENT: Small Business Roundtable
TIME: 12 - 2 p.m.
LOCATION: People’s Bank Expansion
500 North Jackson Street
Local business owners will discuss their concerns. The meeting will take place at the People’s Bank Expansion, which was made possible by the passage of the recent tax reform legislation.
EVENT: Visit to Liberty Supply Company
TIME: 2 p.m.
LOCATION: 1003 Vine Avenue
This small company provides equipment for the oil and gas industry throughout the region.
MEDIA NOTE: Media is welcome at the beginning of this visit. If planning to attend, please arrive early. Media will not accompany on the tour.
EVENT: Tour of Eagle Distributing
TIME: 4:30 p.m.
LOCATION: 45 Globe Avenue
Visit to regional beverage distribution company.
MEDIA NOTE: Media is welcome at the beginning of this visit. If planning to attend, please arrive early. Media will not accompany on the tour.
THURSDAY, MAY 3rd
EVENT: Bankers Roundtable
TIME: 8:30 – 10 a.m.
LOCATION: Texarkana Chamber of Commerce
819 North State Line Avenue
Listen to local concerns of bankers regarding recent and upcoming legislation impacting small banks and community lenders.
EVENT: Timber Automation
TIME: 1 p.m.
LOCATION: 400 Aviation Plaza
This company provides custom engineered equipment and control systems for the timber industry. In January, the company announced an investment of more than $3.5 million in its 145,000 square foot facility in Hot Springs.
EVENT: Visit to Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce
TIME: 2:30 p.m.
LOCATION: 101 Reserve Street, Suite 200
Brief visit with local Chamber officials and businesses before attending events.
EVENT: 100th New Business Ribbon Cutting Celebration
TIME: 3 p.m.
LOCATION: The Vault
723 Central Avenue
Boozman and Westerman will join local leaders to celebrate the 100th business to open since the Majestic Fire.
EVENT: Walking Tour of Downtown Businesses
TIME: 3:45 – 5 p.m.
LOCATION: Hot Springs
April 27, 2018
A Bright Future for Arkansas
Arkansas students are actively playing a positive, productive role in their communities, our state and country. I’ve been impressed by the many young Arkansans I meet who identify a problem and take action to be part of the solution. With their hard work and dedication, they are improving the lives of their neighbors, friends and others who need a helping hand.
I recently had the opportunity to meet Arkansas youth who are dedicating their time to personal growth and public service through their participation in the Congressional Award program. This award recognizes excellence and service among young Americans who are challenged to set goals and achieve them in specific areas. The program encourages our youth to make positive choices and reinforces the values that set the foundation for the next generation of leaders. It is a worthwhile experience that is incredibly fulfilling for our youth and the organizations where they dedicate their service.
The Congressional Award is celebrating its partnership with 4-H. This collaboration will open more doors to students interested in improving themselves and their community. I am proud to support this program that challenges young Arkansans to develop valuable skills that will help shape their future.
This school year my office launched our inaugural Congressional Youth Cabinet, a nonpartisan initiative that has allowed young people first-hand experience to engage in the democratic process. Students from each of Arkansas’s four congressional districts participated in the program, which provided them with exposure to the legislative process and presented opportunities to seek out advocacy and civic engagement.
My goal is that this program will fosters lifetime commitment to civic engagement and public service. I have been impressed with these students as they have grown in their knowledge of how our government works and the role that public policy plays in their everyday lives.
The students worked together to craft their proposals on these topics, drawing on their own research and background knowledge. I helped them refine their ideas and offered my advice as to how they could make adjustments to their proposal so as to have the best chance of garnering bipartisan support. I was pleased to join the students recently to hear their ideas for legislation on the issues of rural broadband and internet sales taxes in a final presentation that marked the completion of the program.
I’m proud of these Arkansans for taking a proactive step to learn more about how they can make a difference and be a force for good. Their participation in the Congressional Youth Cabinet is something they and all of us can be very proud of. I hope their participation in the Congressional Youth Cabinet is something they can point to as having made a distinct and significant contribution to their development as students and informed, engaged citizens.
It is exciting and encouraging to see young Arkansans are taking advantage of opportunities to improve themselves and their communities. Their actions to make the world a better place continue to give me confidence that a bright future lies ahead for Arkansas.
April 27, 2018
Boozman Applauds Congressional Youth Cabinet
LITTLE ROCK – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) wrapped up the first year of his Congressional Youth Cabinet on Friday listening to presentations from 32 high school juniors at the Arkansas State Capitol. The students met with Boozman to share their ideas for legislation regarding rural broadband and internet sales taxes.
“I am proud of these young leaders for their hard work and dedication to the Congressional Youth Cabinet,” Boozman said. “I have enjoyed visiting with them throughout the school year and was impressed with their policy presentations. I am confident these students will continue to be leaders and doers who give back to their communities. I hope their participation in the Congressional Youth Cabinet is something they can point to as having made a distinct and significant contribution to their development as students and informed, engaged citizens.”
The Congressional Youth Cabinet is designed to give students first-hand experience in the democratic process and a chance to understand how public policy impacts them, their families and their communities. The students selected issues to address at their first meeting and worked in teams divided by congressional district throughout the year. In addition to policy suggestions, the students had to describe how their proposal would be funded and implemented.
April 20, 2018
Prescription Drug Take-Back Day
Last month, I had the pleasure of spending some time with several mayors and local leaders who were in Washington with the Arkansas Municipal League. We had a lively and informative discussion on ways to continue the economic growth that has been taking off throughout Arkansas. While much of our conversation was focused on forward-thinking ways to continue these positive trends, there was also a frank and candid discussion about an issue that is currently holding our communities back—the opioid crisis.
Policy makers across our state have been struggling to help confront Arkansas’s heroin and opioid epidemic. The Natural State has been hit particularly hard by this national crisis. Retail data collected from pharmacies shows Arkansas has one of the highest per capita opioid consumption rates in the nation. Data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows we have the second highest prescribing rate in the country—enough for each Arkansan to have more than one opioid prescription in his or her name.
It’s an issue that all of us—from city leaders, to lawmakers in Little Rock, to our Congressional delegation in Washington—continue to work tirelessly to confront because we’ve seen how pervasive this crisis is and how devastating its effects are.
In Washington, our latest move ensured that substantial resources for a wide-ranging strategy to counter the epidemic, nearly $4 billion, was included in the recent spending agreement.
The funding bill—which was signed into law by President Trump—increases resources for law enforcement, allocates money to important grant programs that help state and local governments offset the costs of opioid abuse and provides funds for research into opioid addiction and alternative treatments.
While we continue to look for new ways to tackle this problem, one step Washington took years ago continues to help. The “National Prescription Take-Back Initiative”—an effort spearheaded by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)—has helped remove expired, unused and unnecessary opioids from homes. Research has found that the majority of opioid abusers get their drugs from friends and family, often lifting pills from a familiar medicine cabinet. Removing them from homes helps reduce experimentation and overdoses.
In early 2010, a coalition of federal and state law enforcement officials, prevention professionals and private organizations launched an ongoing education program to encourage Arkansans to monitor, secure and dispose of their prescription medications. The coalition organized Arkansas’s participation in the DEA’s “National Prescription Take-Back Initiative” and has hosted collection events for eight years. Despite our state’s small population size, Arkansas ranks thirteenth in the nation in total weight collected over the course of 14 statewide take-back events. That’s a testament to the coalition’s efforts.
These events have produced the return of almost 132 tons of unneeded medications, which amounts to over 400 million pills. This campaign is clearly succeeding at getting unnecessary prescription drugs out of circulation and helping break the cycle of addiction in our communities.
The next take-back event is Saturday, April 28. There are more than 130 permanent drop-off sites across Arkansas and many law enforcement agencies host temporary drop-off sites at this event.
We all have a role to play in this effort. Arkansas Take-Back Day is an easy way each of us can do our part.
April 18, 2018
Boozman Appointed to Migratory Bird Conservation Commission
WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) has been appointed to serve on the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, the organization responsible for directing funds raised by the sale of the Duck Stamp to waterfowl habitat and hunting conservation.
“I am honored to serve on the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission and be a voice for Arkansas wetlands, which are extremely important to the Natural State’s wildlife, tourism industry and economy. As a duck hunting destination, it’s critically important that we protect waterfowl habitat in order to continue attracting sportsmen to our state. I look forward to working with commission members to preserve our lands for outdoor enthusiasts,” Boozman said.
Established in 1929, the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission was created and authorized to consider and approve the purchase of wetlands and other areas recommended by the Secretary of the Interior for purchase or easement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), as well as establish new waterfowl refuges.
The Duck Stamp is a major source of revenue that helps fund the purchase of migratory bird habitat. Since the commission's establishment, more than 5.6 million acres have been acquired by FWS for addition to the National Wildlife Refuge System.
The commission typically meets three times a year.
In addition to Boozman, members of the commission are:
Chair – Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior
Martin Heinrich, Senator from New Mexico
Robert J. Wittman, Representative from Virginia
Mike Thompson, Representative from California
Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture
Scott Pruitt, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency
April 14, 2018
Boozman Statement on Military Action Against Assad Regime
WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement following missile strikes by the U.S. military, in coordination with U.S. allies France and the United Kingdom, against the Syrian regime and President Bashar al-Assad:
“Chemical attacks by Bashar al-Assad on the Syrian people must be met with aggressive action to deter these atrocities in the future. This joint operation, with our steadfast allies the UK and France, delivered that message in a very measured and direct manner. It is past time for Russia and Iran to end their support of this brutal regime.
“As always, we are grateful to the men and women of our military whose skill and dedication are instrumental in defending our country and national interests.”
April 13, 2018
Arkansas Congressional Delegation Secures $48
million for Flood Recovery
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) and U.S. Representatives Rick Crawford (AR-01), French Hill (AR-02), Steve Womack (AR-03) and Bruce Westerman (AR-04) announced more than $48 million in federal funding was approved for Arkansas to rebuild and repair roads and critical infrastructure damaged from heavy rains and floods.
“These funds are critical to assist in the rebuilding and construction of roadways damaged by abnormally high amounts of rainfall and other effects of severe weather. Restoring our transportation infrastructure and other related facilities comes at a tremendous cost to our communities. These grants will assist in decreasing the burden placed on local, county and state governments,” Boozman said.
“Last year's flooding caused millions of dollars in damage to our state's roads and bridges, and nearly a year later much repair work remains to be done. These grants will be vital to the recovery effort, and it's good to see the people of Arkansas get the federal assistance they need,” Cotton said.
“As Arkansans recover from unprecedented flooding, this grant will ensure their communities can be restored. Grants like these not only help communities become functional again but help remove financial stress put on local government,” Crawford said.
“The last few years of abnormally severe weather conditions have had a substantial impact on communities throughout Arkansans. These grants are critical to assisting our local recovery efforts and will help facilitate the repair of our most vital infrastructure,” Hill said.
“In recent years, Arkansas has been hit by a wave of severe weather and flooding events, and the northwest corner of the state I represent in Congress is no exception. These storms caused severe damage to federal-aid highways, roads on Federal lands and Federal Lands Management Agencies transportation facilities that still require repair. The funding from the Department of Transportation will be put to good use in the Natural State,” Womack said.
“The floods of 2017 were devastating to the Fourth Congressional District, leaving millions of dollars in damage and scars that will not easily heal. As the recovery effort continues, these grants will help local governments replace necessary infrastructure,” Westerman said.
The following organizations were awarded Department of Transportation grants to repair, reconstruct and rebuild roads and facilities in Arkansas:
Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department: $40 million
National Park Service: $41,490
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: $5 million
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: $715, 226
U.S. Forest Service: $3.165 million
The following counties were approved for disaster assistance last year; Baxter, Benton, Boone, Carroll, Clay, Cleburne, Conway, Craighead, Cross, Faulkner, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Lawrence, Madison, Marion, Mississippi, Montgomery, Newton, Ouachita, Perry, Poinsett, Prairie, Randolph, Saline, Washington, White and Woodruff Counties.
Over the last several years, Arkansas has experienced several rounds of adverse weather that dramatically affected many communities across the state. Governor Asa Hutchinson issued disaster declarations for 36 counties and two cities in May 2017 after severe weather conditions resulted in widespread damage to many areas. He had previously designated 17 counties as disaster areas in 2015 following severe storms, flooding and tornadoes.
April 13, 2018
Urging Caution on Tariffs
The benefits of free and fair trade are numerous. Our economy grows when American manufacturers, agricultural producers and small businesses can fairly compete in today’s global marketplace. Americans are safer when we have strong trading partners who are in our corner. When fair trade agreements are negotiated with nations that are not natural allies, it enables us to not only trade goods, but ideas. The last point is particularly salient when it comes to our current impasse with China.
When it comes to playing by the rules of fair trade, there is no doubt that China is a bad actor. Among other things, the Chinese government has subsidized its steel and aluminum production, blocked importation of certain U.S. agricultural products and imposed significant trade barriers to hurt foreign pharmaceutical companies. By engaging in widespread theft of trade secrets and intellectual property, China has earned the label of “the world’s principal IP infringer.”
In an effort to protect American workers and force China to comply with proper trade practices, President Trump has threatened to impose as much as $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods. I certainly agree with the president’s goal, but I have serious concerns about the means to achieve it.
It’s important to note the same commitment to protect American workers and promote America’s economic interests has led the president to join with us to pass historic tax reform and cut regulatory red tape. These efforts have unleashed economic growth. I fear applying broad tariffs would be a setback.
There is no doubt that American businesses lack a level playing field in China. However, that can be accomplished without descending into a full-fledged trade war. I’m wary that we could be heading in that direction as the Chinese government has responded with its own proposed tariffs hikes, including some that could hit Arkansas farmers especially hard.
Agriculture is Arkansas’s number one industry. Soybeans, our state’s largest row crop, are among China’s targets for proposed tariffs. Arkansas is the 10th largest soybean producing state and approximately 50 percent of our crop is exported. Other Natural State products like cotton, corn and beef are also on the proposed tariff list, while pork exported to China is already facing a 25 percent tariff.
For the past five years, Arkansas farmers and rural families have been struggling with low commodity prices, high input costs and non-tariff barriers to trade. Now, additional retaliatory tariffs could become part of that list. This amounts to kicking farmers when they’re already down.
We can appropriately hold China accountable for its unfair trade practices without holding our agricultural industry hostage. I will continue to express to the administration how important it is to help ensure that our nation’s farmers, ranchers and producers do not suffer while we work to establish responsible, reciprocal trade with China and our other trading partners across the globe.
Fair trade deals, when properly negotiated, should be given a chance to succeed. If one partner is not acting in good faith, the chance at success is significantly impaired. I support the president’s goal of getting China to comply with its obligations and remain hopeful that can be accomplished while avoiding an all-out trade war. The escalation in trade rhetoric alone is negatively affecting markets and creating uncertainty. We need to continue to build off the economic momentum of the tax cuts and regulatory reforms, not stifle it.
April 5, 2018
Reaching More Veterans in Need of PTSD Care
This is the second in a series of columns on efforts to help veterans struggling with mental health issues. The first entry on veteran suicides can be found here.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), as many as 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
PTSD is a mental health problem that can develop after individuals experience or witness a life-threatening event. This understandably affects a large number of combat veterans.
While it is certainly not out of the ordinary for anyone to have stress reactions after a traumatic event, PTSD is much different. Upsetting memories, sleep issues and extreme nervousness and anxiety are symptoms that often worsen over time.
Veterans and active duty service members living with the invisible battle scars of PTSD are hard to identify. The perceived stigma associated with seeking help only adds to the challenge. Too often, we find out who needed help too late.
Congress passed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act in 2015 to change this trend. Since then, the VA has been hard at work implementing the programs authorized by this landmark law, but it still struggles to meet the needs of our veterans—especially those in less populated areas.
Offering access to doctors outside of the VA is essential to rural states like Arkansas, but the tremendous shortage of mental health providers in our nation is a serious problem for veterans and individuals all across the country. In an effort to bridge the gap in care in areas that lack providers, the VA is turning to technology.
As part of a suite of mobile apps to support veterans and their families, the VA launched the “PTSD Coach” app as a joint project with the Department of Defense (DoD). The app is a tool for self-management of PTSD and includes a self-assessment and educational tools; relaxation and focusing exercises; and immediate access to crisis resources, personal support contacts and professional mental health care.
The VA has also recently launched a pilot telehealth program that will give rural veterans with PTSD remote access to therapy and related services. The therapy is delivered via interactive video from a VA medical center to a community-based outpatient clinic (CBOC) or the veteran’s home. The Little Rock CBOC is one of 12 locations selected to participate in the program.
Congress is working to reach more veterans in need as well. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, which was signed into law late last year, included provisions that ensure at-risk veterans can access critical mental health care that had previously been unavailable to them.
Washington will not be able to solve this problem alone. Thanks to the efforts of veterans’ service organizations and committed advocates, we have made strides to remove the stigma of PTSD and reach veterans in need of help.
One organization doing great work in this area is Rivers of Recovery. I’ve seen firsthand how the program empowers our veterans to change their lives. Using outdoor therapy as an innovative alternative to medicine, Rivers of Recovery helps our veterans heal and take control of their lives through empowerment, fraternity and an appreciation for the outdoors—a combination that has already changed the lives of so many veterans.
These methods should be the focus of treatment plans for more veterans suffering from PTSD. Our veterans should never face an uphill battle when seeking access to mental health care. We have a responsibility to provide care that supports the needs of those who have served in the defense of our nation, and I will continue to advocate for programs that achieve this goal.
March 27, 2018
Boozman Highlights Arkansas Air Force Installations and
State’s Cyber Capabilities During Air Force Secretary’s Visit
WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), a co-chairman of the Senate Air Force Caucus, welcomed Air Force Secretary Dr. Heather Wilson to Arkansas and touted the missions of the Little Rock Air Force Base (LRAFB), the 188th Wing in Fort Smith and the important national security role of the state’s cyber security programs.
“I’m proud to support the missions of Arkansas Air Force installations and the many airmen and civil servants who work tirelessly to keep our country safe. I appreciate Secretary Wilson’s time and attention in visiting Arkansas to see how our state supports the national security interests of the United States,” Boozman said.
As threats against our country and its interests evolve, the Air Force is leading the development of cyber capabilities to enhance its air superiority. Boozman helped procure a cybersecurity mission at LRAFB to train more cyber warriors. Last year, the Air National Guard Cyber Skills Validation Course graduated its inaugural class of students.
“I look forward to working with Secretary Wilson to examine how the Air Force and Arkansas can partner together to provide critical cybersecurity training and expertise. As the home of the sole cyber skills validation course, Arkansas plays a vital role in training tomorrow’s military and industry leaders,” Boozman said.
Arkansas continues to strengthen its role in support of our national security with increased development of cyber programs. The University of Central Arkansas received a $500,000 grant from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education in 2017 to help launch its cyber range, educating students to identify potential cyberattacks and stop them before they begin. On Tuesday, Boozman, Secretary Wilson and Congressman French Hill (AR-02) joined UCA leaders to learn more about the program and how its partnership with the Center for Cyber Futures is advancing cyber education.
In addition to LRAFB and UCA visits, on Monday, Boozman and Congressman Steve Womack (AR-03) joined Secretary Wilson in Fort Smith to highlight the capabilities of the 188th Wing.
March 23, 2018
Applauds Termination of DOE/Clean Line Partners Agreement
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) and U.S. Representatives Rick Crawford (AR-01), French Hill (AR-02), Steve Womack (AR-03) and Bruce Westerman (AR-04) released the following joint statement on the termination of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) partnership with Clean Line Energy Partners for development of the Plains and Eastern Clean Line Project:
“This is a victory for states’ rights and a victory for Arkansas. We are pleased that the Department of Energy responded favorably to our request to terminate this agreement. We support policies that put our nation on the path to energy independence, but they should not cost Arkansas landowners a voice in the approval process.”
Earlier this year, members sent a letter DOE Secretary Rick Perry urging him to pause or terminate the Project. This follows additional efforts pressing the Secretary to preserve states’ rights.
The Arkansas Congressional Delegation has fought against this federal overreach by introducing the Assuring Private Property Rights Over Vast Access to Lands (APPROVAL) Act, for the past two Congresses. This legislation would restore states’ rights. It would require the DOE to obtain the approval of both the governor and the state’s public service commission before exercising the federal power of eminent domain to acquire property for Section 1222 transmission projects.
March 21, 2018
Boozman, Leahy Introduce Legislation to Extend Assistance for
Program Helps Connect Ag Producers with Technology to Improve Methods, Teaches Vets to Start or Expand Farming Operations
WASHINGTON- U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, introduced the Veteran and Beginning Farmers Technical Assistance Act. This bipartisan legislation would reauthorize the Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA) program to continue educating farmers and ranchers on farming practices and assist veterans in becoming successful producers.
“Arkansas farmers and ranchers feed the world. Providing access and connecting producers to information helps them make smart business decisions, which is important to our economy and our food supply,”Boozman said. “Developing veterans’ agriculture skills equips them to become the next generation of producers. I’m pleased to work with Sen. Leahy to advance this legislation and preserve this critical program.”
Leahy said, “Farmers are constantly learning and searching for ways to improve their operations and strengthen their profitability. The valuable information and resources that ATTRA provides to Vermont farmers and to farmers across the country -- for free, on a wide range of farm topics -- is vital for American farmers’ survival, particularly as they work to diversify and thrive in competitive markets.”
ATTRA’s Armed to Farm program assists veterans in the transition to civilian life by training them for a career in farming. More than 20 participants in Arkansas have been trained through the program.
"ATTRA has served our nation's farmers for thirty years through training and technical assistance. In addition, we have been honored to assist military veterans as they enter farming careers through our ATTRA-supported Armed to Farm. We have seen veterans start and expand farming operations, enter new markets, and contribute to their local economies. We look forward to continuing this work for Arkansas farmers, and all the farmers and veterans across the country," said Margo Hale, Southeast Regional Director of the National Center for Appropriate Technology.
ATTRA was reauthorized in the 2014 Farm Bill. The program is set to expire this year.
March 16, 2018
It’s National Nutrition Month. In a 2017 study that looks at household food
security for the previous year and found that food security in Arkansas is
higher than the national average. Senator Boozman, a co-chair of the Senate
Hunger Caucus, is committed to fighting hunger and food insecurity and has
promoted, crafted and supported policies to reverse these numbers.
Creating opportunities to access healthy, nutritious food
March is recognized as National Nutrition Month. This is a time to focus attention on the importance of a balanced diet and healthy eating choices. As a co-chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus, I am committed to supporting and raising awareness of efforts that provide healthy meals, creating policies that fight hunger and advocating for programs that have proven to be successful.
I’ve seen how community involvement in Arkansas is fighting food insecurity. Efforts like the “Cooking Matters at the Store” initiative launched by the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance teaches families to compare prices, read food labels and buy fruits and vegetables on a budget. These skills seem basic, but they go a long way in helping families maximize precious resources. Grocery stores are also allowing SNAP beneficiaries to purchase locally grown produce at a discount, which promotes health and affordability at the same time.
State educators know how essential breakfast is to students’ progress, so they’re implementing programs to promote breakfast. They are also helping grow gardens where the food produced is used in school lunches.
Proper nutrition is crucial to our wellbeing. Creating opportunities to access healthy, nutritious food is also important to our state’s and the nation’s economic development.
The Department of Agriculture’s Child and Adult Care Food Program is a unique effort that uses public-private partnerships to meet the nutritional needs of vulnerable children and adults. It has become a critical tool in the fight against hunger. I was pleased to support this program and recognize the important role it plays in the health and wellness of those in Arkansas and throughout the country with a Senate resolution acknowledging its contribution.
Studies show that access to the Child and Adult Care Food Program can measurably and positively impact the cognitive, social, emotional and physical health and development of children, leading to more favorable outcomes such as decreased likelihood of being hospitalized, an increased likelihood of healthy weight gain and an increased likelihood of a more varied diet.
As a member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, I will continue to press for flexibility in the Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, so children who rely on school meals when class is in session can access healthy, nutritious meals during the summer.
In Arkansas, more than fifty thousand children receive nutritious meals through this program. For many rural areas of the country, including communities in the Natural State, this one-size-fits-all approach fails the children most in need. More than 60 percent of Arkansas children rely on free or reduced-price meals during the school year. We need to modernize the program so that summer meal sites are available to children, no matter where they live.
It’s time that federal policy provides the flexibility necessary to reach students in their communities.
In order to break the cycle of food insecurity we must work together. Hunger knows no boundaries, but it is preventable and we have the tools to help fight it. We’ve made significant gains in Arkansas, across the country and throughout the world to improve nutrition for the most vulnerable in our society and I will continue to be a champion of efforts to improve access to healthy, nutritious foods.
March 9, 2018
Committing to Ending Veterans Suicide
This is the first in a series of columns on efforts to help veterans struggling with mental health issues.
In 2016, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released the findings of the nation’s most comprehensive analysis of veteran suicide rates in the United States.
VA examined over 55 million records from 1979 to 2014 in an effort to better inform its suicide prevention programs. The study’s findings were nothing short of alarming.
We know that 20 veterans commit suicide each day, and the vast majority of those veterans have not sought care with the VA. In fact, 14 of those 20 are not under the care of the VA.
In Arkansas, where they represent about eight percent of the state’s population, veterans account for about 20 percent of suicides.
Based on this data and other trends, the VA has been stepping up efforts to develop meaningful suicide prevention programs.
For starters, VA expanded the 24/7 Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) which provides immediate access to mental health crisis intervention and support. The VCL is a critical tool, a last line of defense in the sense that it allows veterans in distress to connect with highly skilled responders before something tragic happens. I’m supporting an effort in the Senate that would authorize a formal study and report on how to maximize the effectiveness of the VCL.
VA has also stepped up its efforts to identify at-risk veterans and provide assistance before they reach the point of desperation. Screening and assessment processes have been set up throughout the system to help identify patients at risk for suicide. The goal is to determine veterans who run the highest risk of suicide to head off a tragedy. Veterans who have been identified as being high-risk receive an extra level of care to ensure that every effort is made to help them with their struggles.
Congress is working to provide VA with the personnel, services and proper tools to help veterans facing mental illness struggles, but Washington can’t do it all. That was the message shared by Robert Wallace, the Executive Director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Washington Office, during his recent testimony before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
During the hearing, I asked Mr. Wallace what we need to focus on to reduce the high rate of suicides among the veteran population. I noted that Congress is appropriating resources and VA is turning that into action, but the numbers continue to trend in the wrong direction. I wanted to find out what he felt we need to do to reverse those numbers.
Mr. Wallace’s message was that Washington is doing the right things, but government can’t do it all. It takes all of us working together and much of the heavy lifting needs to be done at the grassroots level. This is especially true since most of the veterans who commit suicide are not under the care of the VA. He highlighted the work VFW has undertaken to eliminate the stigma around mental health issues and the organization’s ongoing efforts to bring clinicians into communities to provide screening and help for at-risk veterans. Mr. Wallace said that the government has some great programs, but it takes organizations like the VFW to fill in the gaps at the local grassroots level.
It truly is a team effort. Washington has the want to help, and I am truly committed to ensuring that the federal government exhausts every effort to that end. Veterans service organizations, however, have the heart. These organizations are on the ground and first touch capabilities that the federal government could never match. We need to help them, help us in this endeavor as even one veteran suicide is too many.
Boozman Recognizes Importance of National Child and Adult Care
Food Program During National Nutrition Month
WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), a co-chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus, is leading efforts to recognize the work of the Child and Adult Care Food Program in fighting hunger by introducing a resolution designating the week of March 11 as “National Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Week.”
“The Child and Adult Care Food Program plays a critical role in meeting the nutrition needs of those in Arkansas and throughout the country. As a co-chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus, I am committed to ending hunger both domestically and abroad, and the CACFP is one of the tools in our toolbox to achieve these results,” Boozman said.
The CACFP is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service. The program supports child and adult care facilities and family or group day care homes by providing healthy foods that contribute to the wellness, healthy growth, and development of young children, and the health and wellness of older adults and chronically impaired disabled persons.
An increasing number of studies have demonstrated that access to the CACFP can measurably and positively impact the cognitive, social, emotional and physical health and development of children, leading to more favorable outcomes such as decreased likelihood of being hospitalized, an increased likelihood of healthy weight gain and an increased likelihood of a more varied diet.
Through the CACFP, more than 4.2 million children and 130,000 adults receive nutritious meals and snacks every day.
The resolution that Boozman introduced with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) honors and raises awareness about the important role the CACFP plays in improving the health of children and adults in childcare centers, adult day care homes and after-school care programs by providing nutritious meals and snacks.
March 8, 2018
Boozman Statement on President Trump’s Steel &
Aluminum Tariffs Announcement
WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement regarding President Trump’s announcement of tariffs on steel and aluminum:
“I certainly agree with President Trump’s desire to protect American workers, but I do not believe that applying broad tariffs is the right means to that end. The economy is doing well as a result of the tax cuts and our efforts to cut regulatory red tape. We do not want to stop that growth by creating an all-out trade war, and there is considerable concern that far-reaching tariffs might escalate to that level. The President has suggested that his policy will be applied with discretion. I encourage him to implement it in a manner that does not result in a situation that will hurt American exporters.”
March 6, 2018
Fort Smith Awarded $8.5 Million Grant for Infrastructure Improvements
U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Congressman Steve
Womack (AR-03) announced that Fort Smith will receive a $8,527,893 grant from
the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to repair and rehabilitate three
rail bridges that cross Clear Creek and the Arkansas River.
One bridge spans the Arkansas River, and the project will rehabilitate many of its structural components, along with the electrical and mechanical systems controlling the lift span. The other two bridges cross Clear Creek, and the project will replace timber trestles approaching their spans, improving their safety and reliability.
“Upgrading our infrastructure is necessary to continuing and growing economic development in the region. This investment in Fort Smith will improve transportation routes to move Arkansas goods around the world,” Boozman said.
“Repairing these bridges will both protect the safety of all who use them and spur economic growth in the local community. This project is more than deserving of this assistance, and the people of Arkansas will put it to good use,” Cotton said.
“More than 50 Natural State businesses rely on these rail bridges for sending and receiving goods, and this funding will ensure that their products are able to move with greater efficiency, ultimately growing our local, regional, and national economy. I am confident it will have a positive impact on our communities,” Womack said.
The funding is awarded from the DOT’s TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Discretionary Grant program that invests in transportation projects that will have a significant economic impact.
“The highly competitive TIGER program recognizes projects that will have a significant impact on a region, metropolitan areas, or our country as a whole,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said.
March 2, 2018
Tax Reform is Working in Arkansas
When Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, there was a lot of talk about how detrimental it would be to our economy and to working Americans. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the tax cuts “open warfare” against the middle class and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi infamously described the tax plan’s benefits as “crumbs” and the passage of the plan as “The end of the world. Armageddon.”
Despite the dire warnings, it turns out that the economy is responding incredibly well to the changes we made to the tax code.
Now, businesses are beginning to do the math and are realizing that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will mean more savings. As a result, many have announced that they are passing some of these savings on to their employees or will now be seeking to grow and expand operations. As of today, more than 350 companies have announced pay raises, bonuses, and/or 401(k) increases, benefitting over 4 million Americans.
Recently, Entergy Arkansas announced that it plans to pass on savings from tax reform to its customers. It expects to save about $466 million as a result of tax reform and is acting on Governor Hutchinson’s request to send those benefits to ratepayers. Entergy officials estimate that residential customers will see savings of around $20 per month for every 1,000 kWh consumed and also expect bill reductions for commercial customers.
Small business owners are also feeling encouraged at where the economy is headed. Changes to the tax system and regulatory environment are positive indicators for them that the economic climate is becoming more advantageous. According to a recent National Federation of Independent Business survey, 32 percent of small businesses believe now is a good time to expand – the highest level ever recorded by this survey.
Companies of all sizes headquartered in Arkansas or with a sizable presence in the state are passing along savings to their employees through wage increases, bonuses and other benefits; giving to charity; and/or are making investments to grow their businesses and better serve customers.
Financial institutions like Bancorp South, Home Bancshares, People’s Bank, Bank of the Ozarks and Regions Bank are all announcing benefits for their employees and the communities they serve. Bonuses, wage increases and increased charitable giving are helping Arkansans and the towns and cities where they live and work.
Other businesses like Walmart, Tyson Foods, FedEx and UPS have also announced that they are investing in their employees and looking to grow their operations. This is a win for our state’s workforce and our economy. And lest anyone suggest otherwise, all these businesses have attributed their actions to the savings they are seeing thanks to tax reform.
There are other provisions in the law to be excited about as well. One in particular that could have an enormous impact on average Arkansans is a new incentive for employers to offer paid family leave benefits to their employees in exchange for a tax credit.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is proving to be anything but “crumbs” or “Armageddon.” It’s opportunity. It’s upward mobility. And it is what Americans deserve.
Learning about how tax reform is helping our economy and benefitting Arkansas families just confirms what we predicted would happen if we made American businesses more globally competitive and let average individuals and families keep more of what they earn. I welcome the positive news and trends we are already seeing and I’m confident that tax reform will have lasting, positive effects on our economy.
February 28, 2018
Boozman Leads Bill to Incentivize Businesses to Hire Military
Spouses and Improve Access to Childcare
WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, joined Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Jon Tester (D-MT) to introduce the Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act of 2018. This legislation would change the tax code to incentivize businesses to hire military spouses and make it easier for military families to afford childcare.
Military families frequently face financial insecurity due to spousal unemployment, which impacts the overall success of our military. Somewhere between 12 and 25 percent of military spouses are unemployed.
“Military spouses are vital to our all-volunteer force. They make sacrifices, like taking on family duties during long deployments and supporting frequent moves, and they do it mostly without recognition. As a result, they face a unique set of challenges that make career advancement more difficult. This is a thoughtful approach to help ease the burden on our military families by improving employment opportunities for spouses,” Boozman said.
“The Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act encourages businesses to step up and play a bigger role in hiring military spouses who already sacrifice so much,” Kaine said. “And it further addresses a real obstacle to professional success for many military families: access to quality, affordable childcare. Addressing these issues will help military spouses advance in their careers despite frequent moves, and if we can do something to make life easier for our country’s military families, we should.”
“Our nation’s military spouses are no stranger to service and sacrifice,” Tester said. “This bipartisan bill will help provide more opportunities for them and ease the financial stress that so many military families face in the defense of our nation.”
Specific provisions of the Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act:
Work Opportunity Tax Credit
Expands the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to incentivize businesses to hire military spouses, similar to veterans and other populations that face employment obstacles.
Dependent Care Savings Accounts
Makes flexible spending accounts available to military families so they can opt in to reserve pre-tax dollars from their paychecks to pay for out-of-pocket childcare expenses.
The Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act is endorsed by Blue Star Families, Military Officers Association of America, National Military Families Association and the Military Family Advisory Network.
February 23, 2018
Community Health Centers Deserve Our Support
With the rising costs of healthcare coupled with high premiums and even higher deductibles, many hardworking American’s are being priced out of having access to health care. While members of Congress disagree about the best policies to create a patient-centered health care system that is affordable and contains costs, there is one solution that has widespread support to meet patient needs; community health centers (CHCs).
Created more than 50 years ago, CHCs represent the nation’s largest primary care network. More than 27 million low-income patients including eight million children are served at more than 10,000 sites nationwide. In Arkansas there are 135 facilities that help nearly 200,000 people.
CHCs provide an effective and cost-efficient solution in meeting the challenges facing the delivery of affordable health care services. Nationwide, CHCs serve one in six people living in rural communities. For many of those individuals, CHCs provide health care that would otherwise be financially out of reach. In rural states like Arkansas, where provider shortages and expensive mandates limit services, CHCs are even more crucial to health care delivery.
These facilities are an important part of our health care system and a worthwhile investment. Besides saving lives, they also save taxpayer dollars. CHCs keep health care costs low and help our health care system save money in the long term by providing important preventative and comprehensive services many rural Arkansans can’t get anywhere else. Health centers generate $24 billion in savings annually for our health care system.
In addition to medical, dental and vision care, CHCs provide behavioral health care. In June 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it would provide $195 million in grants to CHCs to increase access to mental health and substance abuse services, including opioid addiction treatment.
Innovative, effective approaches are necessary to address the ever-evolving opioid crisis, especially in rural areas where the risk of abuse is higher. Through their work in mental and behavioral health and giving addicts seeking treatment a place to go, no matter what their circumstances are, CHCs are on the front lines of this battle.
These facilities are unique to the communities they serve, providing for the specific needs and challenges of the people who go there to receive care. Local community leaders have a stake in ensuring those they represent have access to quality care. If the people living in the community are living healthier lives, they’ll be able to be more productive citizens, and help the community thrive.
I understand the importance of this funding. That’s why I joined my colleagues on a bipartisan letter calling for action to extend critical funding that expired in September 2017. While funding was not approved by the end of the fiscal year, Congress recently passed, with my support, legislation that reauthorizes increased funding of CHCs for two years. This will ensure that CHC patients have stable access to care.
I’m grateful for the services and role CHCs play in providing access to quality health care and will continue to support them so Arkansans have a reliable and affordable health care option.
February 15, 2018
Boozman Statement on Senate Immigration and Border Security
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement after the Senate failed to pass legislation that would resolve the status for DACA-eligible individuals while strengthening border security and enforcement measures to reduce illegal immigration:
“For months, Congress has been working very hard to try to help individuals who were brought here as minors through no fault of their own.
We all want to resolve the status of DACA beneficiaries with a long-term fix that ensures we are not right back in this situation again. That solution must address chain migration and the diversity visa lottery program, while providing our nation with desperately-needed, commonsense border security.
President Trump presented a thoughtful framework to accomplish these shared goals and Senator Grassley’s amendment, which I supported, turned that framework into legislation that could become law. Given our mutual goals, it should have passed the Senate in a bipartisan manner. I am disappointed that it did not.”
February 9, 2018
Boozman Statement on Budget Agreement
“Year after year, Congress struggles to reach a consensus on how to fund our national priorities. As each side digs in further, that commitment to come together becomes harder to find. This agreement is a breakthrough in that regard.
This bill ensures, that for two years, our military will no longer be hindered by sequestration. It allows us to uphold our promise to the men and women who served our nation in uniform, fight the opioid epidemic that is devastating our communities and begin to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.
In addition, the bill includes disaster relief for the states and territories hit hard by last year’s hurricanes, a long-term reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), greater stability for community health centers and a one-year extension of recently expired tax provisions. The agriculture provisions will provide a workable safety net for cotton producers in Arkansas and throughout the Cotton Belt.
Getting an agreement on all these big-ticket items takes considerable effort. It is my hope that by removing these obstacles, we can return to regular order, where we are no longer governing by crisis and funding decisions are made in a timely and responsible manner with proper congressional oversight.”
February 9, 2018
Why DOJ Needs to Restore Critical Grant Funding
The role of law enforcement is changing. Today we ask the men and women who serve and protect our communities to perform a variety of roles from emergency response to public safety and community outreach. As a member of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, I am committed to supporting our officers and advocating for policies and resources to help them successfully carry out their missions. This is why I recently called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to restore critical Department of Justice (DOJ) funding that Arkansas law enforcement agencies rely on.
The Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) program was created more than a decade ago to help states and local law enforcement agencies purchase essential equipment and support drug treatment and enforcement activities. It is the largest source of federal justice funding to provide law enforcement officers with the tools and training to protect our communities.
Arkansas law enforcement agencies have received millions of dollars through this program to support training, personnel, equipment, supplies and information sharing. Our state is eligible for more than $2 million in funding from Fiscal Year 2017. Unfortunately, DOJ has frozen payments nationwide because some communities and states are violating federal immigration law. This leaves states like Arkansas, scrambling to continue funding crucial safety programs.
In the Natural State, Byrne JAG helps fund multi-jurisdictional programs like Drug Task Forces. In a meeting recently in Washington, Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane said limited funds threaten the ability of the task forces to accomplish their missions. This spring, matching funds from the state will run dry, so unless DOJ releases Byrne JAG funds, the critical work done by officers who are a part of theses task forces to fight the opioid epidemic and other drug abuses will be out of business.
Law enforcement leaders across the state have similar concerns. The Byrne JAG program is vital to supporting their agencies and combatting drug problems and violent crime in Arkansas. DOJ needs to reconsider withholding these funds because of the long-term negative consequences to the safety of our communities. Denying these resources is counterproductive to fighting crime. Byrne JAG is an investment in our safety and our law enforcement officers.
The tradition of courageous public service is carried on today by the men and women who keep communities across the country safe and who are always ready and willing to respond to a call for help. We need to continue our commitment to ensuring they have the tools and the resources they need to do their jobs so they can return home to their families. It’s time that DOJ does its part to make this a reality.
February 2, 2018
WATER INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT REFORMS NEEDED
In the State of the Union address, President Donald Trump urged Congress to send him a bill that will provide “safe, fast, reliable and modern infrastructure.” I agree that we need to make critical infrastructure investments. As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, I’m working to do just that because infrastructure investment boosts our economy, creates immediate jobs and produces decades of economic opportunity. Since being elected to Congress, I have been a constant advocate for increased investment, particularly in our nation’s water resources.
In water infrastructure funding alone, the United States faces an over $500 billion shortfall, which includes drinking water, wastewater, stormwater and water supply projects. This funding shortage is reflected in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ overall grade for America’s infrastructure, a D+.
This is a national emergency. We need to prioritize and fund our nation’s water infrastructure. The EPW Committee has already held two hearings this year on the needs and challenges of our nation’s water infrastructure. As we work to craft and pass a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), we are examining water infrastructure requirements nationwide.
In Arkansas, this means funding the 12-foot channel for the Arkansas River. Arkansas and Oklahoma have been working for years to deepen the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) so barges and boats can carry larger loads. Deepening the channel would provide a 40 percent increase in the capacity of river barges to transport products for Arkansas farmers and factories and reduce the price of goods for consumers across the country. I’ve long supported this initiative and will continue to prioritize and advocate for the project.
I’m also leading a new bipartisan effort to reject the fix-as-fail approach currently used to maintain the nation’s infrastructure by introducing the Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now (SRF WIN) Act. This legislation would modernize water infrastructure investment by empowering states to invest in multiple water infrastructure projects. The bill combines the best aspects of state revolving funds (SRFs) with the leveraging power of the Water Infrastructure and Innovation Act (WIFIA) to make the process easier and more affordable for states to meet their underserved or unmet water infrastructure needs. This bill is an innovative approach to helping communities of all sizes, in every state secure loans so they can improve their aging infrastructure.
Water infrastructure investment needs to be a priority. Access to safe and reliable water is critical for all Americans. It is time for leaders across the country to be realistic about our water problems and commit to funding this vital building block. Clean water and safe roads, railways and bridges are important to public safety. I am hopeful that comprehensive legislation to repair to our nation’s infrastructure will have bipartisan support. Improving, upgrading and investing in our water infrastructure is a great place to start.
January 30, 2018
Boozman: State of the Union Address ‘Call to Work Together’
WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) issued the following statement in response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address:
“President Trump’s address was a positive, optimistic message to all Americans. It laid out an opportunity to work together on many pressing issues facing our country. I look forward to working with the president and my colleagues to build on policies that have helped create jobs, grow our economy, improve consumer confidence and let hardworking Americans save and plan for the future. We can continue this momentum by rebuilding our infrastructure. I am encouraged by President Trump’s commitment to improve our crumbling roads and bridges and protect our water supply.
“We also have a lot of work ahead of us to protect our homeland and all Americans. We must continue to use every tool available to combat terror which includes maintaining Guantanamo Bay as a detention facility for the world’s most dangerous terrorists. I am pleased President Trump is reversing the Obama administration’s decision to close Gitmo.
“I appreciate the president’s dedication to work with Congress to restore the integrity of our nation’s immigration system and his efforts to end chain migration, the diversity visa lottery and secure the border.”
January 25, 2018
Boozman, Cotton Join Efforts to Encourage Action to Improve Drug Pricing Transparency in
Medicare Part D
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) joined a bipartisan group of senators in expressing support for a proposal from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that would help increase the transparency and accuracy of prescription drug costs in Medicare Part D.
“Pharmacy price concessions account for real differences between the listed prices of prescription drugs and those drugs’ final, actual costs,” the senators wrote in a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “By requiring that all of these pharmacy price concessions be reflected in the negotiated price at the point of sale, CMS’s proposal will help increase the transparency and accuracy of prescription drug costs in Medicare Part D, and help significantly lower American seniors’ out of pocket drug costs.”
The letter was led by Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Jon Tester (D-MT) and also signed by Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Susan Collins (R-ME), Steve Daines (R-MT), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), John Hoeven (R-ND), John Kennedy (R-LA), Angus King (I-ME), James Lankford (R-OK), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jerry Moran (R-KS), David Perdue (R-GA), John Thune (R-SD), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).
The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Administrator Verma:
We write to express our support for the proposal related to pharmacy price concessions in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service’s (CMS) proposed rule for the 2019 Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit program. Pharmacy price concessions account for real differences between the listed prices of prescription drugs and those drugs’ final, actual costs. By requiring that all of these pharmacy price concessions be reflected in the negotiated price at the point of sale, CMS’s proposal will help increase the transparency and accuracy of prescription drug costs in Medicare Part D, and help significantly lower American seniors’ out of pocket drug costs.
In June 2016, a bipartisan group of Senators raised concerns with the current lack of transparency in pharmacy price concessions in Medicare Part D. In the letter, the Senators noted the impact these concessions had on beneficiaries’ cost sharing, federal reinsurance payments, and additional cost-sharing assistance for low-income beneficiaries. Many of these same Senators have also proposed legislation to bring greater transparency to pharmacy price concessions, lower seniors’ out of pocket costs, and bring certainty to the community pharmacies who serve them.
We thank CMS for hearing these concerns and taking concrete steps to address them. We are particularly pleased that the proposal would effectively prohibit retroactive pharmacy Direct and Indirect Remuneration (DIR) fees. Part D plan sponsors, often through their pharmacy benefit managers, claw these price concessions back from pharmacies well after they have already sold and dispensed the drugs. These claw backs sometimes occur as much as six months after Medicare beneficiaries fill their prescriptions.
We have heard from numerous pharmacies in our communities—many of which are rural or medically underserved—that these claw back fees cause so much uncertainty that they do not know if they can continue to serve American families. They do not know when the fees will be collected, how large a fee they will have to pay, and if the final amount they are paid will actually cover the cost of dispensing the drugs. This sort of opacity in the real cost of prescription drugs and the method of paying for them is exactly why Americans are so frustrated when they try to fill a prescription.
While CMS’s proposal will provide much needed certainty to the community pharmacists who serve American seniors, it will also reduce Medicare beneficiaries’ out of pocket drug costs. CMS has noted that this proposal would reduce total beneficiary drug costs by $10.4 billion. Seniors should no longer have to bear the burden of artificially inflated drug prices when they go the pharmacy counter. This proposal will help reduce the financial strain on seniors with fixed incomes and protect them from exposure to the Part D coverage donut hole.
For these vital reasons, we encourage CMS to adopt its proposal on pharmacy price concessions. We thank you for hearing concerns about the negative impacts of concessions like retroactive DIR fees, and look forward to the implementation of the proposed changes to address these concerns.
January 24, 2018
Boozman Supports National School Choice Week
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) joined his Senate colleagues to introduce a resolution declaring this week, January 21-27, National School Choice Week.
“I am proud to support school choice policies. As a former school board member, I understand that education decisions should be handled at the state and local level. The flexibility provided in Arkansas empowers parents to choose the best education options that meet the needs and learning styles of their children,” Boozman said.
The resolution introduced by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) is also cosponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Richard Burr (R-NC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Steve Daines (R-MT), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), James Lankford (R-OK), John McCain (R-AZ), Rand Paul (R-KY), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Todd Young (R-IN).
January 23, 2018
Arkansas Congressional Delegation Presses DOE to Pause or
Terminate Clean Line Project
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) and U.S. Representatives Rick Crawford (AR-01), French Hill (AR-02), Steve Womack (AR-03) and Bruce Westerman (AR-04) sent a letter today to Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry outlining Clean Line Energy Partners’ failure to comply with the agreement signed with the Department and urged Secretary Perry to pause or terminate the Plains and Eastern Clean Line Project.
Late last year, Clean Line Energy Partners sold its Oklahoma assets to a company not mentioned in the agreement with the DOE. It also dropped its interconnection agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority, the most significant potential energy customer for the Project.
“With the Project eminently unable to reach the pre-conditions set out in the Agreement, and the uncertainty of an altered Clean Line Project which has not been properly studied, the Arkansas delegation requests that the DOE pause the Project to either study or terminate its participation before the deadline,” members wrote.
The Arkansas Congressional Delegation has fought against this federal overreach by introducing the Assuring Private Property Rights Over Vast Access to Lands (APPROVAL) Act, for the past two Congresses. This legislation would restore states’ rights. It would require the DOE to obtain the approval of both the governor and the state’s public service commission before exercising the federal power of eminent domain to acquire property for Section 1222 transmission projects.
Last year, members sent a letter to Secretary Perry urging him to review the project. In September 2017, members met with the secretary about this project.
The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Secretary Perry,
Following our September 25, 2017 meeting regarding the Plains and Eastern Clean Line Participation Agreement (Agreement), we write today to bring new developments to your attention concerning the Department of Energy’s (DOE) participation in the Plains and Eastern Clean Line Project (Project). We appreciate the time and diligence you’ve given to our concerns.
First you should be aware that in December, Clean Line Energy Partners announced it had sold the entirety of the Project’s Oklahoma assets to a company unmentioned in the Agreement. Also late last year, Clean Line Energy Partners dropped its interconnection agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the Project’s most significant potential customer on the eastern end of the 700-mile transmission line. Without an interconnection agreement, it is reasonable to conclude the Project’s ultimate delivery of energy is not expected to occur for at least several more years.
Meanwhile in Arkansas, there are landowners who agreed to easements, who now face an uncertain future, due to the circumstances in Oklahoma and Tennessee. The essentially new Clean Line Project has put these landowners in a special predicament where they face potentially debilitating outcomes with indefinite resolution.
We understand this is a problem your agency inherited from the previous Administration. Therefore, we have included suggestions to either pause the project or detach the DOE from this case of gross federal government overreach. We request that you give our suggestions your full consideration.
The Clean Line Energy Partners’ sale of Oklahoma assets changes the current version of the Project from the one in which DOE originally agreed to participate. It is clear this drastically changes the Project scope originally agreed to by the DOE. Therefore, we request that the DOE immediately pause the Project and conduct a new study to see if the scope of the altered Project is achievable. If you are unwilling or unable to conduct a new study, we ask that you explain the DOE’s justification of participation following this sale.
Additionally, Article VII of the Agreement enumerates many occurrences where the DOE may terminate its participation. We believe one option is especially pertinent as follows: “(B) the Commencement Date has not occurred by December 31, 2018.” In light of the recent events previously mentioned, it is reasonable to anticipate failure to achieve this deadline.
With the Project eminently unable to reach the pre-conditions set out in the Agreement, and the uncertainty of an altered Clean Line Project which has not been properly studied, the Arkansas delegation requests that the DOE pause the Project to either study or terminate its participation before the deadline.
Once again, we appreciate the time and diligence you and the DOE have given to this matter. We believe that Clean Line Energy Partners will be unable to meet the pre-conditions set out in the Agreement and the DOE is justified in terminating the Agreement by the end of this year. As a champion of states’ rights throughout your career, we ask that you continue to work with us to end this lingering overreach of the previous Administration.
Bringing Broadband to All Corners of Arkansas
Arkansas students now have access to high-speed broadband
in the classroom thanks to the completion of the Arkansas Public School Computer
Network (APSCN) championed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. This provides students in
public and charter schools across the state access to the internet for
schoolwork and allows their teachers to bring in educational resources available
Unfortunately, some students only experience the benefits of high-speed broadband while at school. Arkansas is among the first states to achieve 100 percent connectivity in its schools. This impressive and important achievement highlights the great need and continued work necessary beyond the walls of our schools to accomplish connectivity for all Arkansans.
Arkansas is ranked as the 48th most connected state according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). As a rural state, there are more challenges to providing access to the minimum speed of wired broadband that experts agree is functional: 25 megabits per second.
As a founder and co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, a group launched in 2016 to strengthen broadband infrastructure and deployment across the country, I’m leading efforts to extend broadband service to Arkansans all across the state.
The co-chairs of the caucus recently urged President Donald Trump to include dedicated, stand-alone funding for broadband deployment in an infrastructure proposal. In a letter to the President, we encouraged him to prioritize funding for broadband deployment to help close the digital divide that exists, especially in rural America.
This follows efforts initiated by the caucus last year calling on the administration to prioritize policies that will promote high-speed broadband in an infrastructure plan. The letter we sent was signed by more than 40 of our colleagues.
There is widespread support in Congress for improving broadband deployment, and the White House is on board too.
In a recent speech at the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention, President Trump expressed his support for rural connectivity and signed two executive orders to expand broadband to rural America. These executive orders will help streamline and expedite requests by cutting red tape to encourage private sector investment in high-speed internet.
I’m pleased to see the administration is joining our efforts to improve rural broadband. Having the ability to get online is as essential as having modern roads and bridges and it’s a key component of economic development.
For every $5 billion invested in broadband infrastructure, 250,000 jobs are created; and with every percentage point increase in new broadband distribution, employment expands by 300,000 jobs. Yet, according to the FCC’s 2016 Broadband Progress Report, one in ten Americans lacks access to sufficient broadband. In rural America, it’s even higher at 30 percent.
Broadband investment strengthens our economy and expands opportunities for healthcare, agriculture and education.
Arkansas students shouldn’t have to rely on high-speed internet access only at school to complete their homework and expand their horizons. They deserve to continue to hone the skills they learn in the classroom at home, but that requires expanding broadband access. Increasing the availability of affordable, high-speed internet will close the digital divide. I’m committed to working with my colleagues to accomplish this goal.
January 12, 2018
Boozman Recognizes Arkansas Korean War Veteran
WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the
service and sacrifice of Korean War veteran E.L. Heffley in ‘Salute to
Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.
Heffley, the youngest of seven siblings, grew up on his family’s farm in Newton County.
He worked in a factory, earning 40 cents an hour, but he wanted something better. So, he and a friend went to Russellville to look for work. “We were going down past the courthouse and they had a sign out [that read] ‘Uncle Sam needs you.’ That’s what got us,” Heffley said.
As a 17-year-old, Heffley needed the permission of one of his parents to enlist in the Army. After his dad signed the paperwork, he was sent to Camp Chaffee, now known as Fort Chaffee, before basic training at Fort Ord, California. “It was eight weeks of pretty hard training,” he recalled.
Less than two years later, in 1950, he was training to deploy to Korea. “We went through two weeks of the hardest training that I ever went through,” Hefley said.
Heffley and his fellow soldiers got on a ship in San Francisco, but they didn’t know where it was going. One day before shore, they learned it would land at Pusan, Korea, today known as Busan.
“Our first contact in battle was just a day after we had landed,” Heffley said. “When we got in combat we found out we were a disorganized unit. They withdrew us and brought us back and reorganized. Some of our officers got relieved, some of our noncommissioned officers got relieved.” Heffley, a gunner on the 81mm mortar, was also reassigned. “The lieutenant called me over to the tent and he said ‘would you volunteer to be the forward observer?’ I said I won’t volunteer, but I’ll do what you ask me to do.”
Heffley attained the rank of sergeant during his one year deployment in Korea. For his service, he was awarded several military medals including the Korean Service Medal with six bronze service stars.
While some of his friends were interested in reenlisting after their tour, Heffley had no interest. His time in combat is something he tries to put out of his mind. He admitted that he talked more about it during the interview, than any time before. “War was not good for me,” Heffley said. “I think about the young people that got killed that didn’t have a chance in life.”
“I am grateful for E.L. Heffley’s dedication and service to our nation. His memories of his military service are an important part of our history and I am pleased to be able to collect and preserve his stories,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit Heffley’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.
January 5, 2018
National Slavery and Human Trafficking
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrote in the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report that “Human trafficking is one of the most tragic human rights issues of our time.” I agree. Human trafficking, the criminal enterprise of smuggling people for forced labor and sex slavery, is a heinous crime. These atrocities are happening all across the globe including, unfortunately, the United States. Congress is making progress to combat this modern-day slavery and President Trump is raising awareness by declaring January National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
An estimated 25 million people are victims of human trafficking around the world. It’s hard to believe, but it’s also happening in Arkansas. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 19 cases of human trafficking in Arkansas were reported through June 2017. Fortunately, our state is fighting back. Last year Arkansas legislators approved a law requiring state-licensed truckers to be trained in spotting the red flags of human trafficking. Using their position on the road, these drivers have the tools to recognize the signs of human trafficking and alert the authorities to any suspicious activity.
Congress is also increasing efforts to combat human trafficking. In September, the Senate unanimously passed two pieces of legislation to renew existing programs in support of survivors of human trafficking and help bring perpetrators of these horrific crimes to justice.
The Abolish Human Trafficking Act provides more resources to law enforcement in their effort to combat human trafficking and establishes Human Trafficking Justice Coordinators at every U.S. Attorney’s office and at the Department of Justice. In addition, the legislation helps survivors rebuild their lives by extending the Department of Justice Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act reauthorizes key programs to help survivors in their recovery as well as offering specialized training on human trafficking to judges and federal investigators on human trafficking.
We have made progress, but more needs to be done. That’s why I’m a cosponsor of the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act. This legislation would eliminate federal liability protections for websites that assist, support or facilitate online sex trafficking and allow prosecution of these offenders. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation unanimously approved the bill late last year. I looking forward to supporting it when it comes before the full Senate.
This fiscal year, the Senate Appropriations Committee included at least $90 million in federal funding to combat human trafficking. As a member of the committee, I will continue to support funding for these important programs and look forward to the Senate completing work on fiscal year 2018 funding bills.
We can be proud of the United States’ leadership in combatting human trafficking worldwide. This fight requires attention from the international community. That’s why last Congress we passed the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act to partner with governments and private organizations to assist in ending trafficking. This helped establish the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery. The U.S. and the United Kingdom have contributed $25 million to the fund which will be used to formulate a global strategy to eliminate this crime.
I’m pleased to see all levels of government lending their support to help fight this crime. Together we can end this attack on human rights in our state, our country and around the world.
December 28, 2017
America’s Economic Revival is Just Beginning
The positive strides our economy has made over the past twelve months is perhaps the most underreported story of 2017.
Over 1.7 million new jobs have been created since the start of the year—including 159,000 new manufacturing jobs. Unemployment has decreased to 4.1 percent, a 17-year low. Consumer confidence and investor optimism are both at 17-year highs, which has sent the stock market soaring to new heights. The Dow Jones increased by 5,000 points in one year. This has never happened in the index’s 121-year history.
This progress didn’t just happen in a vacuum.
President Trump and a Republican-led Congress have promoted a pro-growth agenda that has put the economy on the right path. Since the moment the new session of Congress began, we have been moving to undue the regulatory abuses of the previous administration that killed jobs, forced businesses overseas and cost our economy trillions of dollars.
The constant flow of overreaching rules and regulations from President Obama’s administration continuously thwarted Main Street’s attempts to get our economy moving again. When agencies overregulate, our economic growth comes to a grinding halt. Overbearing, excessive regulations take farmers away from tending to their crops, slow the lines at manufacturing plants and sap resources from small business owners that could otherwise be put toward hiring more Americans.
Our move to eliminate and overturn regulations has been met with an overwhelming positive reaction for our economy. Congress passed, and President Trump signed into law, 14 resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to overturn Obama-era rules—many of which had very damaging effects on our economy. Along with that, the Trump administration has cancelled or delayed over 1,500 planned regulatory actions.
This new approach out of Washington is creating an economic environment that allows a recovery to take hold on Main Street. If fourth quarter gross domestic product growth hits the estimated growth rate of 3.8 percent, it will be the third consecutive quarter of over three percent growth.
Throughout the Obama years, many middle-class Arkansans struggled in an economy that was stuck in neutral. Our outdated, inefficient and ineffective tax code has played a large role in preventing a full economic recovery from taking hold.
The historic tax reform bill recently passed by Congress and signed by President Trump is the push the recovery needs to get across the finish line.
First, it means hardworking Arkansans will keep more of their money in their own pockets. It nearly doubles the standard deduction, lowers rates and eliminates loopholes.
But it also will help our economy build on the gains achieved over the past year. By permanently reducing the corporate tax rate, currently the highest in the developed world, we will make American businesses more competitive and keep well-paying jobs here at home.
This type of strong economic recovery has been a long time coming. It has been held back for too long by poorly designed regulations and misguided policies, but Washington is finally getting out of the way. With comprehensive tax reform and regulatory relief on the books, we are in a position to really see the economy take off.
December 21, 2017
USS Little Rock Added to Navy Fleet
Despite the cold weather in Buffalo, New York, there was a warm welcome for the USS Little Rock, its crew and myself and fellow Arkansans who traveled to celebrate the commissioning of the Freedom-class littoral combat ship earlier this month.
It’s been more than four decades since the Navy had a ship named after the City of Little Rock, and it is an honor to have one of its more versatile warships named after our state’s capital city.
The commissioning of the USS Little Rock marked the first time in the history of the Navy that a ship was commissioned alongside her namesake. This special occasion brought together crew members of the original USS Little Rock and those like Lieutenant Robert Dyer from Mountainburg, Arkansas who is a member of the current crew.
During its time as a light cruiser and then as a guided missile cruisier, the original USS Little Rock and its crew were vital to defeating growing threats.
The new USS Little Rock is just as critical to our Navy’s sea power. This ship, and the strength and resolve of its Warhawg crew, is the future of the Navy, offering unique capabilities to defend against evolving threats around the globe.
In order to protect our national security, the Navy needs the resources to stay ahead of the threats our adversaries pose to us and our allies. We also need the resources to work toward the goal of a 355-ship fleet.
Achieving this larger, more capable fleet will take decades to complete, but Congress can make it easier by passing individual appropriations bills instead of relying on continuing resolutions.
Earlier this month, Navy Secretary Spencer said the service has wasted $4 billion since 2011 because of continuing resolutions. This could have gone a long way toward growing our fleet.
A continuing resolution means that the Navy is operating on the previous year’s budget level and last year’s priorities. It means delays in shipbuilding and ship repair. It also means reducing training opportunities, flying hours, and steaming days. That forces more requirements onto the operational fleet, which is already stretched thin after decades of constant worldwide deployment.
Funding the government is the basic responsibility of Washington. It’s an obligation that my colleagues and I on the Senate Appropriations Committee take very seriously as we craft the appropriations bills, set priorities and make difficult decisions on how to spend taxpayer dollars.
We must return to a process in which we debate and pass annual spending bills in order to provide much needed predictability to our military leaders. We can make this happen by returning to regular order and passing individual appropriations bills.
We owe it to our service members, their families and all Americans. We owe it to the crew of the USS Little Rock.
Admittedly, Little Rock is not the first place most people think of when you mention the Navy. Our state doesn’t border an ocean, but now the state capital will once again have a place on the high seas. This is a tremendous honor for the City of Little Rock, and I know that the ship and its crew will make Arkansas proud.
December 20, 2017
Boozman Applauds Senate Passage of Tax
WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement after the U.S. Senate gave its final approval to a comprehensive tax reform package:
“Historic tax relief is not far from being signed into law. This is great news for hardworking Arkansans and it is great news for our state’s economy.
For too long, middle-class Arkansans have struggled in an economy that feels like it is stuck in neutral. Our outdated, inefficient and ineffective tax code has played a large role in preventing a full recovery from taking hold.
Tax reform will change that. It will help hardworking Arkansans keep more of their money in their own pockets by nearly doubling the standard deduction, lowering rates and eliminating loopholes. By permanently reducing the corporate tax rate, currently the highest in the developed world, we will make American businesses more competitive and keep well-paying jobs here at home.
This bill is the push our economic recovery needs to get across the finish line.”
December 15, 2017
End the Diversity Visa Lottery
The bombing at New York City’s Port Authority is the second terrorist attack in the Big Apple in as many months. These are reminders that our homeland continues to be the target of violence by individuals who are intent on threatening our nation and its ideals. While the methods our enemies use continue to change, we must ensure our national security officials are able to stay one step ahead of these evolving dangers.
Our national security is the number one responsibility of the federal government. As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, I’m pushing for the necessary resources to meet the needs of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and advocating for policies that safeguard American soil.
The recent attacks make it clear that we need to improve our immigration policies to reflect the fact that we face very real threats. That begins with eliminating the Diversity Visa program. This lottery system is based on random chance rather than merit-based criteria which allows citizens of certain countries to attain permanent resident status in the U.S.
This is how Uzbekistan native Sayfullo Saipov, accused of attacking innocent people on a New York City bicycle path on Halloween, legally entered our country. The alleged terrorist who attacked the New York Port Authority six weeks later, Akayed Ullah, was also a beneficiary of the Diversity Visa program. He was permitted to enter the U.S. in 2011 because a relative, who won a visa through the lottery, sponsored family to immigrate to the country through a process known as chain migration.
A 2007 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report raised concerns about potential security risks because of the Diversity Visa program’s vulnerability to fraud. The State Department’s Office of Inspector General reported in 2013 about an investigation that “produced a detailed portrait of [a] pervasive and sophisticated fraud scheme" affecting the program in Ukraine.
The alarms have been sounding for more than a decade, but the recent terror attacks put the problems with this program in the spotlight. It’s clear that we must end this program.
Earlier this month, the Senate approved confirmation of Kirstjen Nielsen to serve as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She called the program “misguided” during a press conference the day after the latest New York attack and agrees that ending it and modifying chain migration will lead to improved national security.
I’m pleased to support Secretary Nielsen and President Trump in their call to reform our immigration policies so that we can prohibit individuals who are intent on attacking the United States from entering our country.
Americans have stood strong in the face of terrorism and we will continue to be resilient. The terrorists will not win, but that won’t keep them from trying to attack us and our way of life. Terrorists groups like ISIS will continue to radicalize supporters and recruit within our borders. We must remain vigilant and take the necessary measures to protect our homeland.
December 11, 2017
Boozman Leads Call for Nationwide Review of VA
Providers in Light of USA Today Report
WASHINGTON—A bipartisan group of U.S. senators are calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct a nationwide review of its providers after a USA Today investigation found multiple providers hired by the Department had at least one state medical license revoked due to malpractice.
In a letter to VA Secretary David Shulkin authored by Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), the senators presented a series of questions.
“For years, states have experienced provider shortages across many different medical specialties, and like the private sector healthcare industry, the VA has faced similar provider shortages,” the senators wrote to Shulkin. “As such, we request information about the VA’s oversight of provider hiring guidelines to ensure that the pressure to fill shortages has not led to insufficient health care quality controls.”
In addition to Boozman, the letter was signed by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), John Barrasso (R-WY), Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Full text of the letter can be found here and below:
December 8, 2017
The Honorable David Shulkin
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Ave NW
Washington, DC 20420-0001
Dear Secretary Shulkin:
We write to express our serious concerns regarding recent media reports suggesting that the Department of Veterans Affairs offers employment to medical practitioners with a known history of licensure revocation by a state medical licensing board. The national reporting also highlighted cases of the VA hiring providers with known conduct and performance deficiencies that resulted in sanctions and criminal charges of the individuals.
For years, states have experienced provider shortages across many different medical specialties, and like the private sector healthcare industry, the VA has faced similar provider shortages. For states, such as Arkansas, in which many veterans eligible for VA care are rural, the provider shortage is even more pronounced. As such, we request information about the VA’s oversight of provider hiring guidelines to ensure that the pressure to fill shortages has not led to insufficient health care quality controls.
We request that the Department of Veterans Affairs conduct a nationwide review to identify all providers by state and specialty, who were known to have had adverse actions taken against their clinical privileges, to include the revocation of state medical licensure, and were subsequently hired by the Department. Of the individuals identified by the aforementioned report, what is the employment status of each individual identified? What additional oversight measures are required for providers identified through this review who remain employed by and practicing within the VA?
In addition to a review to determine the current status of providers within the VA, we would also like information relevant to oversight of VA policies regarding hiring of individuals who have disciplinary or performance deficiencies that resulted in sanctions, claims, or charges. At what level is a final personnel decision approved? Does the VA have regular reporting and review of any providers hired under these circumstances? How is the performance and conduct of such individuals tracked, including the healthcare outcomes they deliver for veterans? When the VA intends to hire a provider with known medical malpractice claims, what additional scrutiny or consideration are such applicants subjected to?
Does the VA have authority to hire a provider whose license has been revoked? When the VA considers hiring these providers, at what level does the VA approve a final offer of employment? Are such hiring decisions subject to reporting requirements to the Department? If so, to what level? Following the employment of such a provider, does the VA require any probationary periods of review or mandatory consultation prior to authorizing the direct provision of care to patients? Do these positions include any responsibility for the direct provision of medical care?
Please confirm the status of this request and provide a timeline for completion of the requested review. We ask that you please keep our offices updated on this issue. Thank you for your consideration of this request.
December 11, 2017
This week the Senate voted to send the
Senate-passed tax reform bill to conference committee with the House. This is an
important step toward delivering tax relief to hardworking Arkansans.
In this column, Senator Boozman talks about the comprehensive tax reform plan passed by the Senate and the next steps to completing this overhaul.
Tax Reform: One Step Closer
It’s the season of giving, and Congress wants to celebrate it by giving you more of your money back. This year, Congress is on track to provide historic tax relief to hardworking Americans by passing the first comprehensive legislation to overhaul our tax code in over 30 years.
Our current tax code makes it difficult to get ahead in today’s economy and to save for the future. That’s why the Senate spent significant time developing a comprehensive tax reform plan that will allow families to keep more of their money rather than send it to Washington.
This tax overhaul has been a thorough, years-long process. The Senate Finance Committee has held 70 hearings on how to simplify the tax code and make it fair and more efficient for all Americans. The committee’s working groups created bipartisan solutions that were used to help guide members as they crafted legislation that will lower federal income taxes across the board.
I was pleased to support the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act because of the relief it will provide to middle-income Arkansans. The standard deduction doubles to $24,000 for married couples. This means that families aren’t subject to federal income tax for the first $24,000 they make. Similarly, the standard deduction increases to $18,000 for single parents. The Senate plan also doubles the child tax credit to $2,000. These improvements will help families keep more of their hard-earned money to help make ends meet or save for the future.
According to the Tax Foundation’s state-by-state analysis, the Senate bill will add 7,800 new full-time jobs to the Arkansas economy and middle-income Arkansas families would see a $2,020 increase in income.
In addition to providing relief to the middle-class, this update to our tax code will help grow the economy. The bill permanently reduces the corporate tax rate, currently the highest in the developed world. The lower corporate tax rate will make American businesses more competitive and keep well-paying jobs here at home. It will also help small businesses expand, invest in their employees and increase wages.
While the federal government cannot create jobs, it can implement policies that create an environment that encourages job creators to expand and invest. This overhaul of the tax code is an invitation to do business in the United States.
This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. While members of both chambers have to hammer out the differences between the Senate and House bills before delivering a final package to President Trump for his signature, our goal remains the same - provide Americans with a more fair, simpler tax system that encourages job growth while keeping more money in the pockets of hardworking individuals. I look forward to supporting a final bill that achieves this.
December 8, 2017
Boozman Presses for Extension of Secure Rural
WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) joined a group of senators in sending a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), urging them to include a reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Program in any end-of-year legislation. SRS supports public schools, public roads, forest health projects, emergency services and many other essential county services for more than 775 counties across the country including 27 in Arkansas.
The SRS program expired on September 30, 2015, and has not been reauthorized. Forest counties and schools received their last authorized SRS payment in 2016. Without the SRS program, existing revenue-sharing payments are not sufficient to support the critical services that these counties must provide.
The Senators wrote:
“The SRS program continues to be a critical safety-net for forest counties as we work to diversify rural economies, improve forest management and forest health, strengthen historic forest revenue sharing with local governments, and ensure that our forests provide a range of values such as clean water, jobs, and wood fiber for local economies.
“In the interest of working together in a bipartisan way to support local rural communities, we ask that you include a reauthorization of Secure Rural Schools in any end-of-the-year legislation. We appreciate your assistance with this matter.”
Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) led the bipartisan letter that in addition to Boozman was signed by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael F. Bennet (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Steve Daines (R-MT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Dean Heller (R-NV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Joe Manchin III (D-WV), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Jeffery A. Merkley (D-OR), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), James E. Risch (R-ID), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).
The full letter is as follows:
Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer:
We write to strongly urge the inclusion of at least a two-year reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program, which enjoys tremendous bipartisan support, in any end-of-the-year legislation.
On U.S. Forest Service land, the federal government has historically shared 25 percent of timber harvest revenues with counties to compensate for federal ownership. On certain land managed by the Department of Interior, the Bureau of Land Management shares 50 percent of the revenue from federal timber sales with counties. Due to declining timber harvests, a critical source of funding for rural counties, sometimes referred to as “forest counties,” has seen significant decreases, often decimating impacted county budgets.
In 2000, Congress passed SRS with broad bipartisan support as a fiscal solution to help fund essential services resulting from the reduced revenue-sharing receipts. Since then, SRS has been a critical lifeline for over 775 counties in over 40 states across the country by helping fund more than 4,400 schools, road maintenance, law enforcement, and search and rescue operations. However, SRS authorization lapsed last year and rural counties are now back to simply receiving the timber revenue-sharing receipts. These receipts are up to 80 percent less than what forest counties received under SRS.
We are now witnessing firsthand the hardships rural
counties face as a result of SRS authorization lapsing. Without the certainty of
SRS payments, schools, libraries, and jails are closing. Schools that remain
open will see a reduction of teachers. Roads go unpaved and become unsafe.
Mental and physical health services are scaled back or even ended. Fewer and
fewer law enforcement officers are forced to patrol larger and larger areas.
The SRS program continues to be a critical safety-net for forest counties as we work to diversify rural economies, improve forest management and forest health, strengthen historic forest revenue sharing with local governments, and ensure that our forests provide a range of values such as clean water, jobs, and wood fiber for local economies.
In the interest of working together in a bipartisan way to support local rural communities, we ask that you include a reauthorization of Secure Rural Schools in any end-of-the-year legislation. We appreciate your assistance with this matter.
November 22, 2017
Boozman Promotes Small Business Saturday
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) is leading efforts to recognize Small Business Saturday and encourage Arkansans to shop locally on Saturday, November 25.
“Small Business Saturday is an opportunity to show our appreciation for the contributions local retailers and neighborhood businesses make in our communities. The success of small businesses depends upon customers willing to support them. Giving our business to local merchants helps our neighbors, friends, church family and budding entrepreneurs who want a piece of the American dream. We can do our part to help them thrive. I encourage Arkansans to join me in supporting our small businesses this holiday season,” Boozman said.
Boozman is a cosponsor of the Senate-passed resolution that designates Saturday, November 25, 2017 as Small Business Saturday, encourages consumers to shop locally and highlights the importance of small business to our economy.
Committed to Improving Veteran Services
November 22, 2017
Honoring our veterans is one of the greatest privileges I have as a U.S. Senator. Earlier this month, President Trump proclaimed November “National Veterans and Military Families Month.” As we recognize our veterans and honor the sacrifice and heroism of those who answered the call to serve our nation in uniform, we must recommit ourselves to fighting on their behalf.
As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I am committed to honoring the promise made to our veterans. We’ve made tremendous progress during this Congress. In June, President Trump signed the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. This law strengthens accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by allowing the Department to dismiss bad employees while protecting those who expose wrongdoing.
We have also enhanced post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to increase educational opportunities. I’m proud to have played a role in crafting this law, along with my colleague Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). This bipartisan legislation is a great example of how we work across the aisle to get things done. For several years, we championed fixing an oversight that prevented combat-injured members of the National Guard and Reserve from receiving the same GI Bill benefits as active duty military members. Wounded and injured service members were being unfairly penalized from accruing educational benefits they rightly earned while in recovery. This was a priority for us because these men and women deserve better. To correct this injustice, we introduced legislation earlier this year as well as in the last Congress. I’m pleased it was included in the comprehensive GI Reform bill that was signed into law this summer.
While we’ve made improvements, there is still more that needs to be done including the expansion of VA services for female veterans. I encourage my colleagues to support the Deborah Sampson Act to address these concerns, and I urge VA Secretary Shulkin to implement reforms written in the bill that don’t require congressional action.
In the coming days, the Senate VA Committee will consider bipartisan legislation to consolidate and improve access to community care – a must needed update to the Choice Program, created by the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act. That law was passed by Congress in 2014 to expand access to community health care for veterans. We knew then that this was just the first step. We’ve made incremental improvements to the program since then, but more must be done.
The VA estimates that one third of enrolled veterans live in rural areas. We must improve how we are meeting their needs, especially how we deliver treatment and care. Earlier this year I hosted listening sessions with Arkansas veterans to obtain their input on the strengths and weaknesses of the program as we continue to expand access to adequate health care options for veterans. I am committed to ensuring our veterans are getting the very best care so hearing input directly from veterans was tremendously helpful.
This country made a promise to our veterans that we must live up to and I’m proud to be a champion for them to ensure we follow through with our commitment. Working together, we can find solutions that deliver the results they expect and earned.
November 17, 2017
Shop Locally on Small Business Saturday
Our holiday shopping habits have changed over the years. Instead of waiting until Thanksgiving to unveil the season’s sales, we’ve seen more stores offering online deals, advertising the big bargains days in advance of Black Friday and opening their doors before the Friday morning rush. While the Friday after Thanksgiving has long been the unofficial kick-off to holiday shopping, recent efforts are continuing that momentum into the weekend. Since 2010, the Saturday after Thanksgiving has been known as Small Business Saturday.
The idea behind this initiative is to promote and encourage us all to shop at our locally-owned small businesses. It’s paying off; more shoppers are spending money at small businesses. According to 2016 results by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and American Express an estimated 112 million people reported shopping at a small business on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, a 13 percent increase from 2015.
Money spent at our small businesses gets reinvested in the community and draws attention to local merchants. By taking the small step of shopping locally this holiday season, we can make a big impact on our communities.
To highlight the many important contributions of our local businesses and neighborhood retailers, I cosponsored the Senate-passed resolution in support of Small Business Saturday. It’s important to recognize the significant contribution our small businesses make to our economy. Arkansas is home to nearly 250,000 small businesses that employ more than 400,000 people. Nationwide, small businesses account for 55 percent of all jobs in our economy and have provided 66 percent of all new jobs in the U.S. since the 1970s. I am committed to creating a climate where businesses can succeed and consumers feel confident about spending their hard-earned income.
This can be accomplished by preventing the inefficient, ineffective and unnecessary regulations that are keeping our small businesses from expanding and reforming our tax code to make it more fair and easier for all Americans. NFIB, the nation’s leading small business advocacy organization, supports the tax reform legislation that recently passed the House of Representatives as well as the Senate’s plan. These bills provide tax relief to small business owners which allows them the opportunity to invest more money in their businesses and employees.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving and think of what we’re thankful for, add small businesses to the list. They are owned and operated by our neighbors, friends, church family and budding entrepreneurs who want a piece of the American dream. We can do our part to help them thrive.
Let’s continue the success of Small Business Saturday and on Saturday, November 25, shop at our locally owned businesses and retailers.
Senate Approves National Defense Authorization Act with Boozman Provision for Pine Bluff Arsenal
November 16, 2017
U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) supported the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report. The bill, which passed the Senate on Thursday, includes an important provision introduced by Boozman to study the viability of developing a Chemical-Biological Defense Logistics Center at the Pine Bluff Arsenal.
“Arkansans have a proud history of defending and protecting our nation and troops and want to continue this commitment. Securing and maintaining missions for Arkansas military installations must be a priority. Pine Bluff Arsenal plays a critical role in maintaining the readiness of our troops. Studying the viability of expanding its mission will allow us to better prepare for tomorrow’s challenges,” Boozman said.
The bill requires the Department of Defense to deliver a report by March 2018 on the need and requirements to centrally locate manufacturing, storage and distribution of designated Chemical Biological Defense Equipment at defense department arsenals, like Pine Bluff Arsenal.
The bill also includes $129 million to modernize the C-130 Hercules fleet to continue the Air Force mission at Little Rock Air Force Base and $20 million to build a dormitory at the base.
Other NDAA highlights include:
Authorizes a 2.4 percent pay raise for our troops;
Preserves basic allowance for housing (BAH) benefits for military families;
Preserves Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) payments to surviving military spouses;
Supports the Arkansas defense industrial base by authorizing an additional $183.5 million to address an Army unfunded requirement to maximize production capacity of Excalibur 155mm precision guided artillery rounds.
“I am proud to support this bill that prioritizes modernization and military readiness so we can be prepared for today’s missions and the evolving threats facing our nation,” Boozman said.
The House of Representatives approved the NDAA conference report on Tuesday. It now heads to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law.
November 10, 2017
My Highest Priority is Helping You
Elected officials are entrusted by the public to represent their interests and fight for them. Throughout our nation’s history, we’ve seen public figures take different approaches and embody different styles of public service. I’d like to take a moment to share with you what I see as my number one job as one of your United States Senators: helping you.
As the late Arkansas Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt demonstrated, public service means more than just showing up to vote on legislation or appearing at local festivals, parades and public events to meet and greet voters. Those things are important, but there is another aspect of representation that goes on behind the scenes that can sometimes make a world of difference in someone’s life. I’m referring to the concept of “constituent service” that Congressman Hammerschmidt excelled at and which I have made it my goal to emulate for citizens across our state.
One of the mottos I have always carried with me during my time as an elected official is “to use the power of the office for good.” I’ve used this phrase to help foster a culture among my staff about the importance of serving and fighting for constituents. Our goal is always to be as helpful as possible whenever Arkansans turn to my office for assistance.
It’s important to note that this commitment to serve you transcends political parties, labels and ideologies. Whether or not we agree on a bill or a policy matter, it’s my job to be your advocate when you need a question answered or you’re having a problem with a federal agency.
Some of the most common forms of constituent service, or casework as it is sometimes referred to, are reaching out to federal departments and agencies like the IRS, Department of Veterans Affairs or the Social Security Administration when constituents have questions or concerns that are not being addressed. I take these situations seriously because I believe that your government should be accountable to you. Sometimes it unfortunately takes an inquiry or request from my office to force the bureaucracy to act.
While I will continue pushing to streamline bureaucratic institutions and promote efficiency within the federal government, I remain committed as ever to being a voice for you if you’re facing a problem that I can help with.
There are lots of ways to reach out and let me know how I can help. You can visit my website or contact any of my offices across the state. Another way for you to share your input or take the first step in alerting me to the trouble you’re having is to visit one of my mobile office events which are designed to bring my staff and our resources to you if you can’t make it to us.
I frequently host mobile offices throughout the state, and there are five coming up in Madison, Phillips, Little River, Van Buren and Lincoln counties during the week of November 12th. Please reach out to my office for more information about these events or with questions about any other ways that I can help you. I will continue my efforts to provide unmatched assistance to Arkansans for as long as I hold public office and encourage you to take me up on the offer to fight for you.
November 3, 2017
Honoring Veterans One Memory at a Time
Arkansas veteran Garland
Gable was a member of the 69th Infantry Division during WWII. He lived through
some of the toughest battles in the European Theater, seeing and experiencing
the grim realities of war.
“We relieved the 99th Infantry Division. They’d been dug in for several weeks. They looked awful,” Gable recalled of his first trip to the frontlines. “While we were relieving them, the Germans turned loose the artillery. We had men killed before we got started.”
His memories depict the harsh realities of war, but also underscore his selfless sacrifice and dedication. Hearing the personal accounts of veterans like Garland is an unforgettable experience. Now the Conway resident’s memories will be something future generations can hear and learn from as part of the Veterans History Project (VHP), a program of the Library of Congress that preserves the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.
This project is a very healthy way for our veterans to share their memories and for families to hear about what their loved ones endured, sometimes for the very first time. As the son of a WWII waist gunner on B-17s, I didn’t hear my dad talk of his experiences during the war. I wish I had asked more about that time in his life. My office is working to make sure that other families don’t have this same regret.
Sharing the importance of this program increases participation by veterans and the volunteers interested in recording their memories. I’m proud of the work we’re doing to encourage more Arkansans to contribute to the VHP. We’re making sure that more Arkansas veterans are part of the collection by conducting interviews and hosting workshops around the state to teach others how to join this effort.
These events have inspired more Arkansans to capture these living histories. I’m pleased to see the enthusiasm for preserving the memories of our veterans, and I’m excited by the support of organizations around the state that are helping amplify this message.
As part of the launch of Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” documentary, Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) collaborated with my office to promote the VHP, hosting events across the state and including my staff in a recent live broadcast of “Arkansans Ask: Veterans History Project.”
The Library of Congress has recognized the work we are doing to feature this program and facilitate participation. My staff has shared our practices with other congressional offices so they can create their own programs to capture the memories of our veterans.
VHP Director Col. (ret.) Karen Lloyd saw the support from Arkansans for this project during a weekend visit to the state earlier this fall. She met with veterans and volunteers who are champions of the project and are contributing to the library’s collection.
Preserving the experiences of Mr. Gable and so many other veterans in our state is an honorable way to recognize their bravery and dedication to our country. As we celebrate Veterans Day, consider supporting this rewarding project and capturing the oral histories of the men and women who stand in defense of our nation.
Stop Confirmation Obstruction
The Senate has a unique responsibility in our constitutional system. We’re in the personnel business, or in other words, the Senate must approve many of the Officers of the United States who are nominated by the president as described in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution. It’s customary for senators to meet with executive branch nominees when the senator serves on a committee that oversees the department or agency at which the nominee will serve.
As chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, I recently met with Kirstjen Nielsen, President Trump’s nominee to serve as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. I appreciate her willingness to accept this call to serve our nation in an extremely challenging capacity. Given her experience, she is a worthy candidate for this role, but before she begins this job, she has to be confirmed by the Senate.
Considerable time is spent in committees reviewing the qualifications and backgrounds of presidential nominees. Within the last two weeks, the committees I serve on – the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Agriculture Committee and the Environment and Public Works Committee – all approved nominees to serve in various administration positions. It’s important that these positions are filled in order to carry out the work of the agencies. Unfortunately, the Senate has a logjam of nominees including federal judges, numerous unfilled agency positions and a U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas.
There is no reason for the needless delays and obstruction occurring on these nominees. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats are using procedural tactics to stall the confirmation of non-controversial nominees. The reality is the president’s nominees will be confirmed, so forcing these roadblocks won’t alter the result. Even nominees with bipartisan support from Senate committees and who would otherwise be confirmed by voice vote are awaiting approval by the full Senate.
Slowing down the process is an inconvenience that forces the Senate to spend more time on confirmations that would be better spent on debating legislation like appropriations bills and the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.
This obstruction has become too familiar in the Senate. In President Obama’s first year in office, Republicans used a procedural hurdle for one of his judicial nominees. This year, Democrats forced this maneuver for all of President Trump’s judicial nominees, except one.
This follows a desperate pattern by Democrats that began with stalling votes for Cabinet-level nominees, stricter scrutiny of candidates and boycotting committee hearings to vet President Trump’s Cabinet nominees.
There are more than 90 presidential nominees awaiting Senate approval. In early August, the Senate confirmed 60 nominees by voice vote in one day. Senate Democrats need to end their unnecessary delays that are preventing well-qualified individuals from getting to work so our federal departments and agencies have the fully functioning staff they require to advance the priorities of the administration.
October 25, 2017
Boozman Meets with Secretary of Homeland
(Pictured: U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) visits
with Kirstjen Nielsen in the Hart Senate Office Building after the two met in
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), Chairman of the Senate Committee
on Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, released the following
statement after meeting with President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Kirstjen Nielsen:
“Ensuring Americans are safe at home is one of the federal government’s most important responsibilities. I appreciate Ms. Nielsen’s willingness to accept this call to serve our nation in an extremely challenging capacity. Given her experience, she is a worthy candidate for this role. If confirmed, I look forward to working closely with Ms. Nielsen and her team to ensure that Congress is giving DHS all the support it needs,” Boozman said.
October 13, 2017
Cybersecurity Awareness Month
The internet has changed the way we live. It’s become common to manage banking transactions, shop for birthday presents and communicate with our friends and family, often times from our phones. While it’s convenient to conduct business over the internet, it also means we’re sharing more of our personal information. This includes bank accounts, social security numbers and home addresses which makes us more vulnerable to hackers trying to, and often succeeding at, stealing our information.
A 2016 Pew Research Center study found that 64 percent of Americans have been victims of a data breach that included fraudulent credit card charges, a compromised Social Security number and attempts to get loans or a line of credit fraudulently. Unfortunately, this is a problem that transcends industries, individuals and businesses. Equifax Inc. recently revealed that it was hacked over the summer, compromising the personal information of 143 million Americans. This is the latest in a string of high-profile breaches to hit our nation such as those at Yahoo! Inc. and Target which affected 1.5 billion and 41 million consumers, respectively.
We can all take measures to reduce the risk of our information being breached. October is recognized as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. This effort raises awareness of the importance of cybersecurity and encourages us all to take action to protect our information and our nation’s critical cyber infrastructure. Incorporating safety measures like creating strong password protection, securing our mobile devices and updating mobile apps are just a few steps we can take to safeguard our sensitive information.
Just as critical is protecting cybersecurity in the workplace. This is a shared responsibility among all employees, no matter where we work or our position. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reminds us that cybercriminals often rely on human error to gain access to systems, so it’s critical that everyone within the organization knows what to watch for in order to maintain safety. Installing software updates, deleting suspicious emails and reporting them to the IT Department and establishing a strong password are simple steps that go a long way to preventing a cyberattack and compromising the data of any organization.
The federal government has unfortunately fallen victim to cyberattacks. Our cyber-networks are under constant attack. We must continue developing capabilities to protect our information as attacks evolve and become more sophisticated.
A February 2017 Government Accountability Office (GAO) study recommended actions to strengthen our cybersecurity and protect critical infrastructure which includes the electrical grid, banks and traffic lights that connect to the internet. A breach of our infrastructure could have serious consequences for our economy. As Chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, I’m working with my colleagues to ensure we have the resources and tools to safeguard our nation’s infrastructure.
We have made progress, but there is still much to be done to ensure we prevent cyberattacks. Our lives are more dependent on the internet than ever before. This trend will only continue. President Trump showed his commitment to cybersecurity with the nomination of Kirstjen Nielsen to serve as the next Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Nielsen has impressive national security and cybersecurity background which will be helpful as we secure our country against future cyberattacks.
October 2, 2017
Honoring the Legacy of the Little Rock Nine
It’s been 60 years since nine African American students integrated Little Rock Central High School. These courageous teens challenged the status quo, facing an angry mob and hostile classmates head-on. They were pioneers in the fight for equality and continue to be a voice for progress.
In its 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled “separate but equal” unconstitutional. The process of desegregating public schools was complex and faced incredible opposition. In September of 1957, the Little Rock Nine were determined to receive the same education that had only been available to their white peers, not knowing their memories of their first days of school would be something written about in history books and reflected upon decades later.
On the first day of class, Little Rock Central High School became ground zero in the movement for public integration. Governor Orval Faubus called in the Arkansas National Guard to block students from entering the school. Eventually, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army to Little Rock and federalized the Arkansas National Guard to protect the students and ensure public safety.
Even though they were allowed to attend Central High, the students were still subjected to daunting abuse and taunting from students and school leaders. Each of them chose to confront injustice and inequality in a very visible and courageous way.
The integration of Central High serves as a poignant reminder of where we’ve been as a country, but also where we are headed. The story of those students and their legacy is important to the history of our country and the fight for equality.
I’m proud to support legislation to expand the boundary of the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site in order to preserve the surrounding buildings as they looked on the first day of school for these nine students.
In addition to the Little Rock Central National Historic Site, the importance of this event to our nation is being told through an exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Several of the nine students donated items for display in order to tell their story about the fight to obtain the same quality education.
I am grateful that they are willing to share their memories for the entire country to observe and understand, and I encourage all Arkansans to tour this museum when visiting our nation’s capital.
This anniversary gives us all the chance to remember and reflect upon the Central High integration and the Little Rock Nine, and also to educate younger generations about the struggle for equal rights. I am eager to continue working with my fellow Arkansans and all Americans as we pursue a better future for our children, our grandchildren and ourselves.
September 25, 2017
Fly, Fight, Win: Air Force’s Missions Critical to National Security
For 70 years the United States Air Force has bravely fought to protect freedom, liberty and peace on every continent around the globe. From active participation in major international conflicts to providing humanitarian support throughout the world, the United States Air Force has continued to be the nation’s leading edge across every domain and throughout every location by meeting the challenges of an ever-changing world with limitless strength, resolve and patriotism.
As co-chair of the Senate Air Force Caucus and the son of a retired Air Force Master Sergeant, I have been personally touched by the storied history of this distinguished service. That’s why I was proud to recognize the 70th anniversary of the Air Force and support the needs of our Airmen.
Today, more than one hundred thousand Airmen are standing watch at 175 global locations -including members of the 189th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base and the 188th Wing in Fort Smith- committed to continuously defending the people and interests of the greatest nation in the world.
National security must be our top priority. To ensure our Air Force personnel have the critical resources needed to accomplish their missions, Congress and the Air Force must maintain an open dialogue so that we are always ready to take on today’s threats and tomorrow’s challenges.
The Senate recently passed the National Defense Authorization Act to provide our Airmen, and all of our troops, with the tools they need to stay one step ahead of evolving dangers. I was proud to support this bill because it prioritizes readiness and modernization, something Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and other Air Force leaders have been urging Congress to restore.
During President Obama’s tenure, our military shrunk to the smallest it has been in decades and is now operating with outdated weapons and equipment as in the case of the Air Force’s use of 55-year-old B-52 bombers.
It comes as no surprise that since these bombers were first used, the mission of the Air Force has evolved and its responsibilities have expanded beyond airpower to include space and cyberspace missions.
The Air Force has made tremendous strides in the technological innovation and operationalization of air, space and cyberspace warfighting capabilities, and we need to continue investing in and encouraging the development of advanced airpower capabilities.
We owe our Airmen a tremendous amount of gratitude for the sacrifices they have made in defending the greatest country on earth as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the United States Air Force.
As the leader in air, space and cyberspace, the Air Force continues to modernize and innovate to meet the growing challenges in defending our nation and its allies. Our Airmen deliver the best airpower the world has ever known, bravely protecting freedom and liberty in all corners of the globe. I’m proud to honor our Air Force and the men and women who make it truly exceptional.
September 19, 2017
Boozman Supports Passage of National Defense Authorization Act
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement in support of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):
“Protecting our national security must be a top priority. We face constantly evolving threats from around the world and we must provide the resources our military needs to stay one step ahead of these dangers. This bill prioritizes modernization and military readiness so we can be prepared for today’s missions and tomorrow’s challenges. Members of our Armed Forces are committed to serving our country and we must honor our obligation to ensure they have the tools and training necessary to be successful.”
The bill includes an amendment authored by Boozman that requires a report that will support a concept to centrally locate manufacturing, storage and distribution of designated Chemical Biological Defense Equipment at defense department arsenals, like Pine Bluff Arsenal.
September 15, 2017
Never Forgetting, Never Losing Hope for Our POWs/MIA
Few people understand the horrors of being held captive by our enemies. The courage of the men and women who have been victimized offer an inspiring example of the human will to survive. We recognize their bravery in September on National POW/MIA Recognition Day, but their service and sacrifice deserves more attention.
Chief Warrant Officer Austin Knapp served with the 109th Medical Battalion, 34th Division. He was captured by the Germans in North Africa during WWII and imprisoned for more than two years. He detailed his ordeal in a journal.
His granddaughter, Andrea Fisher, coordinates the POW/MIA Ceremony at the Arkansas State Capitol. For her family, his journal is a cherished possession that shows what he endured as a POW and what motivated him to survive.
On the one-year anniversary of his captivity he wrote “…through it all I've learned that ‘HOME’ is the most pleasant word in any language.”
The promise of making it back to see loved ones is what inspired him to stay strong.
Just like our POWs and those missing in action fought with resolve in defense of our nation and its ideals, so too shall we be determined to bring these men and women home. No matter where they are, or how long they have been gone, we must commit to never give up looking for them and give answers to the families waiting to hear their loved one has been found.
This is the reason the men and women of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency spend years investigating possible recovery sites. I am grateful for these efforts and committed to dedicating the resources necessary to bring our men and women home.
We simply do not leave anyone behind, and we do not abandon those who remain missing.
18-year-old Marine Corps Private First Class Larry Roberts of Damascus, Arkansas fought against the Japanese on the island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll in November 1943. He was one of one thousand Marines and sailors killed in the battle. In 1949 his remains were declared non-recoverable, but more than seven decades later, he was identified. In June, he was returned to his family and laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
Had we given up, Private Roberts’ family, friends and loved ones would not have had the opportunity to pay their final respects and give him a proper burial. Private Roberts gave everything for his country. While we cannot ever fully repay him, we must strive to fulfill our promise to him and all who are missing.
Each day when I walk by the POW/MIA flag outside my office, it is a reminder of the obligation we have to our prisoners of war, those missing in action, and their families. No one should ever wonder where their son, daughter, mother, father, husband or wife who served in uniform is, or when they will return home.
While fully aware of the dangers they face, our men and women bravely put themselves in harm’s way to defend our country, ideals and allies around the world. We continue to pray that our missing troops will be identified and return home soon.
September 8, 2017
SENATOR JOHN BOOZMAN NAMED 2017 "ARKANSAN OF
BY THE ABA
Arkansas Broadcasters Association recently named Senator John Boozman its
“Arkansan of the Year” for 2017. Senator Boozman accepted the award during the
group’s Awards Banquet at its Annual Convention.
The award is presented to a person who has made significant contributions to residents of Arkansas. In presenting the award, the ABA noted that Senator Boozman has always worked closely with Arkansas Broadcasters on issues affecting the industry, including signing on as a sponsor of the Radio Freedom Act which fights efforts to attach another “performance tax” to music played on radio and TV stations.
Past recipients of the, “Arkansas of the Year” were: Johnny Cash, John Paul Hammerschmidt, Lou Holtz, Governor Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Don Tyson, Patty Upton, Collin Raye, Senator David Pryor, Senator Dale Bumpers, Senator Blanche Lincoln, Senator Tim Hutchinson, Jerry Jones, Governor Mike Huckabee, Richard Davies, James L. "Skip" Rutherford, Jermain Taylor, Claiborne Deming, and Governor Mike Beebe.
Photo: Bob Connell with the Arkansas Broadcasters Association presenting award to Senator John Boozman at the ABA's Annual Convention