Last Monday, a series of bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon taking the lives of three people, including an eight-year old child, and leaving over one hundred injured. The attack occurred on Patriot's Day, when the citizens of Massachusetts commemorate the battles of Lexington and Concord, which were the first of the Revolutionary War.
These senseless acts of violence have left an indelible mark on the city of Boston and have caused immense fear, sorrow, and disbelief across the country. Vicki and I pray for God's blessings on the victims and their families whose lives have forever been changed. Our nation will remain united in prayer and support for the people of Boston.
Every week, I receive thousands of letters and phone calls from constituents all across the Florida's First Congressional District. Without the input of hardworking Northwest Floridians, it would be nearly impossible for me to do my job. One topic that seems to be on the minds of many constituents is the Administration's continued attacks on our religious liberties.
I recently discovered that some U.S. Army Reserve training material list Catholics, evangelical Christians, Sunni Muslims, and some Jews in a "religious extremism" category along with groups like Al Qaeda, Hamas, and the Ku Klux Klan. Like most Americans, I find these attacks on religion astonishing and extremely offensive. Actions like this continue to demonstrate a troubling anti-religion bias within the Administration. Rest assured, I have joined with my colleagues in the House of Representatives in calling on Secretary of the Army John McHugh to rescind this training material immediately.
My work as Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs would not be possible without the input of Veterans Service Organizations (VSO). VSOs work tirelessly on behalf of our Nation's veterans, and it is important to listen to what they have to say. Last week, I hosted a roundtable event to bring representatives from nearly 30 VSOs together with congressional leaders for an off-the-record discussion regarding perennial veterans-related challenges such as VA's benefits claims backlog and mental health care access. Our roundtable was a successful opportunity to have a candid discussion about what we can do to improve the lives of veterans, and I look forward to strengthening the partnership between Congress and the many VSOs as we work to ensure our veterans receive the care and benefits they have earned.
Information technology is a crucial component of our daily personal and economic lives. Yet, each year our nation receives numerous cyber attacks that seek to steal vital information from American citizens and businesses. But, cyber attacks do not just threaten our national security, they also have an enormous negative impact on jobs and our economy.
These cyber attacks include Chinese and Russian-based intrusions into corporate business networks for the purpose of industrial espionage, as well as attacks from rogue hackers or attempts at state-sponsored intrusion from countries like Iran aimed at disrupting key internet functions or harming vital infrastructure. Each year, upwards of $300 billion worth of intellectual property is stolen from American businesses by cyber security intrusions emanating from abroad.
To help combat these serious threats to our national and economic security, the House passed cyber security legislation last week to curb costly cyber attacks on American intellectual property and to protect our national security.
On Tuesday, the House passed H.R. 756, the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2013, by a vote of 402-16. This bill would help coordinate our response to cybersecurity threats to our nation by creating a strategic cybersecurity research and development plan that addresses cybersecurity risks across the Federal government. The risk of cyber attacks, however, extends beyond the Federal government, and H.R. 756 also seeks to address attacks to the private sector by establishing a university-industry taskforce to deliver recommendations on how the private sector and educational institutions can best collaborate to protect vital information.
The House also passed H.R. 624, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. H.R. 624 seeks to establish voluntary information-sharing links between the private sector and the government. Rather than seeking to intrude on the private sector by mandating the sharing of information, this bill encourages companies to share cyber threat information by limiting the government's use of the information and protecting the companies from liability.
While combating cyber attacks is vital to our nation's interest, we must also ensure that our constitutional liberties are protected. During debate on H.R. 624, I was glad to support an amendment offered to improve the bill by clarifying that the federal government may not make use of any records with personal identifiable information--such as firearms sales records, tax return records, and medical records--shared under the legislation. I was also glad to see amendments offered to clarify that nothing in the bill authorizes the Department of Defense, National Security Agency or other Intelligence Community element to target an American citizen for surveillance, and that nothing in the bill authorizes companies receiving cyber threat information to sell the personal information of a consumer for marketing purposes.
In the Senate, a vote was held last Wednesday on their proposal to expand background checks on gun sales. This misguided proposal, which I was glad to see fail, would have actually penalized many law abiding citizens by criminalizing the private transfers of certain firearms. Expanding background checks by requiring friends or even family members to receive the federal government's permission to exercise their Second Amendment rights would do little if anything to reduce violence.
In the District
Pensacola Ice Flyers
Last Sunday, the Pensacola Ice Flyers defeated the Huntsville Havoc to claim the Southern Professional Hockey League's President's Cup Championship. I would like to congratulate the team for the win and for bringing the Cup home to Northwest Florida. The crowd of nearly 4,700 fans that packed the Pensacola Bay Center that night is also a testament to the strong support and appreciation the Ice Flyers have in this community. Thank you all for your hard work and dedication and for making Northwest Florida proud.
Seventy-one years ago on April 18, 1942, eighty brave men, now called the Doolittle Raiders, began the long journey to finish the fight that we as Americans did not ask for when Pearl Harbor was attacked in December 1941. This weekend, in Fort Walton Beach, I was honored to help celebrate this extraordinary group of American heroes.
Some might not realize how important the area around Eglin Air Force Base was to the success of their endeavor. The Raider's mission, thought by many to be near impossible, required innovations and extensive training to include secret preparations conducted in March 1942 right here at Eglin Field. These intensive preparations included training for accomplishing short takeoffs and landings and techniques for fuel efficient flying.
The Doolittle Tokyo Raiders mission success, requiring unbelievable acts of heroism and extraordinary airmanship while facing unimaginable odds, is recognized as a turning point in the war in the Pacific. Their skill, valor, and selflessness boosted the morale of our nation's military while causing the enemies offensive to pause. This morale boost helped fuel the growing American offensive, ultimately leading to the United States victory in the Pacific.
It was my distinct honor to pass on the sentiments of countless Americans of our enduring gratitude for the Doolittle Raider's service and sacrifice to our great nation. Thank you Mr. Richard E. Cole, Mr. Robert L. Hite, Mr.Edward J. Saylor and Mr. David J.Thatcher and God bless the Doolittle Raiders and all of our brave men and women who have and continue to defend the freedoms we enjoy today.
As always, I welcome your comments. To share your thoughts on legislation, votes or issues, please visit http://jeffmiller.house.gov/ to send an e-mail or call any of my offices.