After Pensacola Terrorist Connected to Al Qaeda, Florida Republicans Push Bill Reforming Training for Foreign Nationals

After news broke that the terrorist behind the attack at NAS Pensacola was in contact with a suspected al Qaeda operative., Republicans in the Florida doubled down on their proposal to reform how foreign nationals are trained at American bases.

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., introduced the “Secure U.S. Bases Actback in March. U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, is cosponsoring the bill.

“The Secure U.S. Bases Act requires a thorough vetting process before a foreign student enters the U.S.; creates a special, limited visa for foreign students; and establishes a review process so that DOD is not operating training programs in the U.S. that would be better operated abroad,” Scott’s office noted when he brought it out.

The terrorist behind the December attack was a lieutenant in the Saudi Arabian Air Force who was training at NAS Pensacola.

“The safety and security of American men and women in uniform is always a priority for me, and it should be a priority of our entire government. The tragic terrorist attack in Pensacola last year revealed an unnecessary risk. This terrorist should never have been allowed in our country, let alone on an American military base with easy access to American military men and women. The Secure U.S. Bases Act will make sure foreign military students training at U.S. bases are thoroughly vetted and monitored, and that our troops are protected and never have to experience a tragedy like this again,” Scott said when he introduced the proposal.

“Foreign military programs have valuable benefits—providing our partners around the world the opportunity to train and learn from the best here in the U.S.—but the tragic events at Pensacola underscore the unacceptable shortfalls in our security standards and vetting procedures. We must do more to protect our military personnel and ensure the security of our facilities. This bill addresses those shortfalls—creating a more thorough vetting and monitoring process that keeps our servicemembers and military bases secure and safe,” Ernst said.

The bill would create a new visa category for foreign military students training on American bases and will ensure they do not have firearms except when training. Foreign nationals must have the clearance and endorsement of their country’s intelligence leaders to be considered to train on American bases. “The U.S. Director of National Intelligence will be responsible for the final decision on whether to admit an applicant into the program,” Scott’s office noted.

Scott weighed in on the bill on Monday.

“Today’s announcement confirmed our worst fears – the NAS Pensacola attack was an act of terror on American soil. And it confirms that now is the time to take action to correct the unnecessary risk revealed by this attack. This terrorist should never have been allowed in our country, let alone on an American military base with easy access to American military men and women. Congress needs to pass my Secure U.S. Bases Act, which will make sure foreign military students training at U.S. bases are thoroughly vetted and monitored, and that our troops are protected and never have to experience a tragedy like this again,” Scott said.

Scott’s bill was sent to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee where it has been since early March. So far, Ernst is the only cosponsor.

U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., introduced the companion bill in the U.S. House at the end of March.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., is cosponsoring the bill and he weighed in on it on Monday.

“The 2019 NAS Pensacola terrorist attack was an assault on our military, our nation, and freedom itself. Today, it was revealed the coward who carried out this senseless act of violence was fueled by radical ideology and enabled by al Qaeda as far back as 2015. I am grateful for the FBI’s diligence in seeking to gain access to the terrorist’s mobile devices and secure the invaluable evidence held within. I’m also grateful to President Trump for delivering a swift and devastating blow to al Qaeda’s leadership days after the attack by eliminating Qasim al-Rimi, who claimed responsibility for the attack. While our hearts were broken by the loss of three American patriots, our resolve to defeat terrorism was not shaken. Our law enforcement and military remain vigilant in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism, and we will continue to meet any attack against our nation with overwhelming retribution,” Gaetz said.

Waltz’s bill is before the U.S. House Judiciary and the Armed Services Committees. So far, Gaetz is the only cosponsor.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

 

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