As Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and a former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, Gary understands that our country faces serious national security challenges. He is committed to protecting the nation’s critical interests and making sure all Michiganders feel safe wherever they are, be it in their neighborhoods and homes, in transit, or in houses of worship. He has also worked to ensure secure trade and travel through Michigan’s ports of entry, which are critical to our state and regional economy.
Strengthening Border Security
One of Gary’s priorities through his work on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is strengthening our border security. The Northern Border is 5,500 miles long and has 120 land border crossings ranging from major exchanges to small and rural crossings. Michigan has the second longest section of the border behind Alaska and is home to two of the busiest Northern Border crossings—the Detroit-Windsor Crossing and the Port Huron-Sarnia Crossing. In July 2015, Gary helped lead introduction of bipartisan legislation, requiring a comprehensive examination of how to strengthen American security at the Northern Border and protect Michigan’s ports and prevent human trafficking. The Northern Border Security Review Act was signed into law in December 2016.
Strengthening Airport Security
After hearing from the Detroit Metro Airport that current airport funding sources often cannot be used for security projects in public spaces, Gary introduced legislation with U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) to increase safety and security for airport passengers and visitors outside of Transportation Security Administration (TSA)-screened areas. Incorporated into the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act that was enacted in October 2018, Peters’ measure allows airports to use Airport Improvement Program funds to update their security infrastructure to better protect public areas such as baggage claims or pick-up and drop-off areas. This has helped provide airports additional capacity to monitor, prevent and respond to potential attacks.
Strengthening Security at Ports of Entry
Gary has also focused on making sure our ports of entry are safe, secure and adequately staffed. Gary authored bipartisan legislation with Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) that was signed into law in December 2018 that required a comprehensive review of the strengths and potential vulnerabilities of the nation’s ports of entry in order to better facilitate international commerce while simultaneously targeting illegal activity. The United States Ports of Entry Threat and Operational Review Act required the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit a threat and operational analysis of ports of entry. In February 2019, Gary supported the bipartisan border security funding bill that was enacted with provisions included at his urging to hire additional Customs and Border Protection Officers to staff ports of entry. The legislation also included more than $560 million for inspection technology at ports of entry to better detect illegal drugs like opioids.
Protecting America’s Domestic Food Supply and Agricultural Industry
Gary knows that Michigan’s valuable agricultural industry depends on the safe and secure flow of goods and people through our nation’s border crossings, including the Detroit-Windsor crossing and the Blue Water Bridge. So in July 2019, Gary introduced the bipartisan Protecting America’s Food & Agriculture Act, which was signed into law by President Trump in March 2020. Working with the Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Gary authored legislation to address the shortage of agricultural inspectors who protect the nation’s food supply and agricultural industry at the border. His bill authorizes U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire 240 Agricultural Specialists a year until the workforce shortage is filled, and 200 Agricultural Technicians a year to carry out administrative and support functions. The bill also authorizes the training and assignment of 20 new K-9 teams a year, which have proven valuable in detecting illicit fruits, vegetables and animal products that may have otherwise been missed in initial inspections.
Cracking Down on the Transfer of Sensitive Technologies to Russia and China
As a Senator from Michigan, Gary has seen firsthand that firms across our state lead the nation in the development of cutting-edge technologies that will revolutionize the way we get around, as well as our military’s battlefield capabilities. It is critical that these technologies be protected from transactions that could erode America’s technological advantages. To address this threat, Gary introduced the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA) with Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) in November 2017. Signed into law as part of the annual national defense bill in August 2018, this bill increased scrutiny on the transfer of sensitive American technology by updating the process for the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) to approve acquisitions, mergers, and other foreign investments in the United States. Before Gary took action, the CFIUS review process had not been modernized in nearly a decade, resulting in substantial national security risk. And as part of the 2021 national defense bill, Gary was able to secure a provision he worked on banning Chinese-made boarding bridges, which present a potential national security risk.
Helping Faith-Based Organizations Secure Their Facilities against Terrorist Attacks
Following a surge in terrorist attacks targeting houses of worship, Gary joined U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) in introducing the Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations from Terrorism Act. This bipartisan bill provides additional resources to help religious and cultural institutions secure their facilities against potential terrorist attacks and was signed into law in January 2020. Gary also helped secure $90 million in funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant program in the December 2019 year-end funding bill.