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GUEST COLUMN: Working to address the many threats our country faces

December 28, 2016 Updated: December 28, 2016 at 4:15 am
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Over the past two years, I have had the honor of representing the people of Colorado in the United States Senate. Looking back on the 114th Congress, I'm proud of the bipartisan work we were able to accomplish on behalf of Coloradans, and look forward to working with all my colleagues as we turn our focus to the work that lies ahead in 2017.

Earlier this month, the president signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law. This legislation provides our Armed Forces with the resources it needs to combat evolving security threats at home and abroad. I was particularly proud to vote for this year's NDAA because it also included the largest pay increase our troops have received in six years.

Just as it is important that we are providing adequate funding for our military, it's imperative that Congress works to address the many threats our country and its allies are facing around the globe. For too long, the Obama administration turned a blind eye to the murderous North Korean regime, and this has led to the rapid development of its arsenal of mass destruction. As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity, I spearheaded the effort to impose sanctions on North Korea and its enablers relating to the regime's nuclear weapons program, malicious cyber activities, and continued gross human rights abuses. In February, I was proud to see the president sign my legislation, the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act, into law and begin implementing the sanctions as directed by my legislation against North Korea. It's the first time Congress approved mandatory, standalone sanctions on North Korea, and it's the first bill to impose cyber sanctions to counter North Korea's increasingly sophisticated and malicious cyberattacks.

It is no secret that cybersecurity policy presents one of the most complex security challenges facing Congress. According to the Congressional Research Service, at least 19 standing committees between the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have held hearings related to cybersecurity. In order to address the diffuse and inefficient way that Congress tackles cyberattacks, I have repeatedly called for a permanent Select Committee on Cybersecurity in the United States Senate. I am eager to work with my colleagues to develop a strategy to deter North Korea, Iran, Russia, and other bad actors from continuing to launch cyberattacks on U.S. institutions and our allies. Fortunately, the Colorado Springs community understands the cyber threats our country faces better than most.

The National Cybersecurity Intelligence Center in Colorado Springs is extremely important because it not only aids our country's national security efforts, but also provides jobs and an economic boost to the local community. As a Colorado Springs Gazette story recently explained, "The opening of a National Cybersecurity Intelligence Center in Colorado Springs is expected to accelerate efforts to make the city a national hub for cybersecurity that will help the thriving local industry grow more quickly, officials say. . It would help businesses, nonprofits and government agencies combat and recover from cyberattacks, help public officials and bureaucrats learn more about cybersecurity and conduct research into cybersecurity threats." And I look forward to working with these partners in Colorado Springs to advance our nation's cybersecurity capabilities.

Another important priority of mine is ensuring our veterans are receive the best possible service and care that our country can provide. One of my most important responsibilities as a Member of Congress is to provide oversight of the Veterans Administration (VA), and I have worked with my colleagues to push for reforms to the VA's Choice Program to ensure veterans have access to care they need in a timely manner. I'll continue to fight for those who have fought for us, and work to see that the VA is accountable to those it was established to serve.

Throughout the 114th Congress, the Republican majority has proven that it can put politics aside and deliver real results for the American people. I look forward to getting to work in January, and am committed to working with my colleagues to deliver more results for Coloradans and Americans across the country.

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Colorado Senator Cory Gardner serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.

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