Protecting the Homeland & Honoring Veterans

Protecting Ohioans, Honoring Veterans & Making America Stronger

Senator Portman is committed to keeping Ohioans safe and giving our men and women in uniform the resources they need to protect themselves and best complete their mission.  As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Portman has consistently advocated for rebuilding our military and a more robust and comprehensive American strategy to protect our allies and deter our adversaries.

Supporting Ohio’s Defense Installations

Portman has worked to increase the range of capabilities for military installations throughout Ohio, and create jobs and opportunity for Ohio’s servicemembers.

  • Portman continued his strong advocacy on behalf of the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima through the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). In 2019, Portman championed legislation to authorize $1.7 billion in funding to upgrade 165 Abrams tanks — increasing the rate of production of the newest upgraded Abrams tanks in Lima in order to ensure that our forward-deployed tanks have the most cutting-edge capabilities.  The measure also includes $917 million for upgrading Stryker Vehicles. The NDAA passed the Senate in December and was signed into law on December 20, 2019 as part of the FY 2020 NDAA conference report. Portman has made clear he will continue to keep fighting for more funding for Lima.
  • In 2019, Portman championed legislation to authorize $120.9 million in funding to finish the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) project located at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. In August, Portman visited Wright-Patt and met with Air Force leadership who oversee NASIC and the F-35 Hybrid Product Support Integrator. The NDAA passed the Senate in December and was signed into law on December 20, 2019 as part of the FY 2020 NDAA conference report.
  • In November 2019, Portman visited the Youngstown Air Force Reserve Station to discuss the importance of YARS to the community and to our country. The focus of the discussion was on the current Wing mission, the potential for upgrades to the C-130 fleet and future vision of the aerial spray mission. In 2018, Portman announced that the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act included $8.8 million to relocate the main gate at YARS to improve security and the flow of people and cargo on and off this busy facility. Portman has long fought for YARS, which employs more than 1,800 people, to ensure it has the resources it needs to perform its mission. The FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act includes the production of four highly capable C-130J’s which Portman will advocate to be assigned to one of our very deserving, hardworking Ohio squadrons.

Supporting America’s Veterans

Portman has worked in a bipartisan way to honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans.  This includes the following:

  • In December, the Senate approved Portman’s legislation called the Fallen Warrior Battlefield Cross Memorial Act to prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from denying veterans the honor they have earned by allowing fallen heroes to be honored at their gravesite with a replica of the Battlefield Cross. The Battlefield Cross is a memorial marker typically consisting of a soldier’s helmet, rifle, identification tag, and pair of boots that serves to honor and respect servicemembers who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. The legislation responds to a 2017 incident at Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery (OWRNC) in Rittman, Ohio, where OWRNC administrators infuriated veterans by removing a battlefield cross replica from the cemetery. The replica was replaced soon after Portman and former Congressman Jim Renacci’s (R-OH) office got involved. The entire Ohio congressional delegation backs the measure.
  • In April 2019, Portman introduced the Gold Star Spouses and Spouses of Injured Servicemembers Leasing Relief Expansion Act which amends the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to expand existing financial protections for military families’ residential and car leases. The authorization passed the Senate in December and was signed into law on December 20, 2019 as part of the FY 2020 NDAA conference report.
  • In November 2019, Portman joined his colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter to the United States Department of the Air Force and the Air Force Reserve Personnel Command (ARPC) expressing concern regarding delays in determining veterans’ military pensions and asking for immediate action to ensure that our retired service members receive the benefits they have earned.
  • In July 2019, Portman praised Senate passage of the 9/11 Victims Fund Compensation legislation, which he cosponsored.
  • In December 2019, the president signed into law Portman’s bipartisan legislation calling for the posthumous promotion of Dayton, Ohio native Lieutenant Colonel Richard E. Cole.  This bipartisan legislation also recognizes the accomplishments, sacrifices, and legacy of Lt Col. Cole, the last of the living Doolittle Raiders until he passed away earlier this year at the age 103. The Doolittle Raiders consisted of 80 U.S. Military volunteers, commanded by Lt Col. James Doolittle, who led the first strike on mainland Japan in World War II, bolstering morale back home and changing the tide of the war in the Pacific. Lt Col. Cole served valiantly as Lt Col. James Doolittle’s co-pilot and together they led the Squadron of 16 Army Air Force bombers from the U.S.S. Hornet to Tokyo.

Enhancing Border Security

Portman introduced legislation in January 2019 that would establish a $25 billion trust fund to enhance U.S. border security. The legislation would also codify protections for those individuals who, through no fault of their own, entered the United States illegally as children and are currently covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Senator Portman visited the Southern border in McAllen, Texas in July.

 

Promoting Electronic Verification of Employment to Stem Illegal Immigration

Portman introduced the E-Verify Act, legislation to require employers to use an electronic employment verification (E-Verify) system in order to stem the tide of illegal immigration. Currently, the E-Verify program is an optional pilot program for most employers, and it has significant limitations—primarily, it does not sufficiently validate the authenticity of the identity documents new employees present to their employers.  Senator Portman’s version of E-Verify will validate each new employee’s identity and work authorization status.  Federal Reserve economists found that when states have mandated the use of E-Verify, it “reduces the total number of likely unauthorized immigrants who stay in that state by about 10 percent.”

 

Standing Up for Ukraine

Portman, who is co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, has continued to be Ukraine’s strongest advocate in Congress. In May 2019, Portman visited Ukraine to meet with newly-elected Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Ruslan Khomchak, Minister of Finance Oksana Markarova, and other Ukrainian leaders.  During his meetings, Portman congratulated the new government on their peaceful, free, and fair elections, pledged continued support from the U.S. Senate, and encouraged them to continue the anti-corruption efforts and structural reforms of the economy and the military.

  • For the past three years, Portman has successfully introduced amendments to the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that expanded U.S. military aid to Ukraine. These provisions helped build the primary statutory framework for U.S. security assistance to Ukraine, the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. In addition, he has repeatedly written letters, delivered multiple floor speeches, and pressed senior administration officials on the importance of providing meaningful assistance to help Ukraine stand up to Russia’s military aggression, and has praised its recent decisions to provide lethal assistance to the country. The Senate passed FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes $300 million in security assistance for Ukraine to fund additional training, equipment, and advisory efforts for Ukraine’s forces. The bill was signed into law in December as part of the FY 2020 NDAA conference report.
  • In June 2019, Portman praised the Department of Defense’s release of $250 million in security assistance to fund additional training, equipment, and advisory efforts for Ukraine’s forces. Portman has led efforts in the Senate to ensure these Ukraine security assistance funds were authorized and obligated pending critical defense reforms at the Ukrainian parliament.  
  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed Portman’s bipartisan resolution commemorating the fifth anniversary of Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity recognizes the bravery of the people of Ukraine who participated in the Maidan protests and honors the memory of the more than 100 protestors who were killed. Additionally, it encourages Ukraine to continue its progress over the past five years in implementing crucial reforms to strengthen the rule of law and align the country with Euro-Atlantic norms and standards. Finally, the resolution condemns continuing efforts by Russia to destabilize Ukraine and hamstring its efforts at Euro-Atlantic integration.  The resolution passed the Senate is July 2019.
  • In September, Portman sent a bipartisan letter with his Senate colleagues to the Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, urging the Trump administration to release $250 million in authorized military security assistance for Ukraine. The Senators’ letter came in response to media reports that the administration was holding up the funds, which were authorized and appropriated by Congress on a bipartisan basis.  Portman played a role in urging the president to release the security assistance funds when they were held up by the White House.

Supporting Israel

After getting his bill to help combat the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement signed into law in 2016, Portman continued his longstanding support for Israel, making it clear that if another country wants close economic ties with the United States, they cannot support efforts to weaken the economy of our ally Israel. Last year, Portman supported the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act, which allows state and local governments to divest from entities that engage in boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) activities against Israel.  He also introduced a resolution with Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) expressing support for a democratic, Jewish State of Israel, and opposing efforts designed to delegitimize Israel or circumvent direct negotiations, specifically the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel.  The bipartisan measure has 69 cosponsors.  

Holding North Korea Accountable

Portman co-sponsored the Otto Warmbier BRINK Act along with Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) which passed the Senate in the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report. This legislation will strengthen and expand mandatory sanctions on foreign banks and companies that facilitate illicit financial transactions for North Korea and hold North Korea accountable for their actions and human rights abuses against Cincinnati-native Otto Warmbier as well as other illegally held prisoners. The bill was signed into law on December 20, 2019. 

Promoting Responsible Use of AI and Emerging Technology

As co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus, Senator Portman has worked in a bipartisan manner on several key measures to set high-quality standards around emerging technology, including cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. Building upon his bipartisan Hack Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Act and Public-Private Cybersecurity Cooperation Act, both of which were signed into law in late 2018, Portman is now helping lead federal efforts to promote the responsible use of artificial intelligence both inside and outside the federal government.

Ensuring the Federal Government Has AI Expertise

In September 2018, Portman introduced the bipartisan Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Government Act along with Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI).  The legislation is designed to improve the use of AI across the federal government by providing resources to agencies seeking to deploy AI, and ensuring that agencies have governance structures in place to ensure AI is used in a responsible way. Artificial intelligence will have significant impacts on our country, economy, and society.  Ensuring that our government has the capabilities and expertise to help navigate those impacts will be important in the coming years and decades. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in November 2019 and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform approved the legislation in December 2019.

Assessing and Addressing the Rising Issue of DeepFakes

The Senate approved Portman and Senator Brian Schatz’s (D-HI) bipartisan Deepfake Report Act, which will require the Department of Homeland Security to conduct an annual deepfake report. Deepfakes are hyper-realistic, digital manipulations of real content that depict events that did not actually occur. This report will assess the technology used to generate deepfakes; the uses of deepfakes by foreign and domestic entities with a focus on the way this technology can be used to threaten national security and the integrity of U.S. elections; and available countermeasures to deepfakes. In October, the bill passed the Senate, becoming the first deepfake-related bill to pass a chamber of Congress.  

 Prioritizing Explainable Artificial Intelligence

The Senate passed Portman and Senator Martin Heinrich’s (D-NM) bipartisan amendment on explainable artificial intelligence in the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment requires the Department of Defense to brief Congress on a number of factors related to its use of explainable AI, including the extent to which the Department of Defense currently uses and prioritizes the use of explainable AI, the limitations of explainable AI, and potential roadblocks to the effective deployment of explainable AI. The president signed it into law on December 20, 2019.

Developing a National Strategic Plan for AI Research and Development

In May 2019, Portman introduced the bipartisan Artificial Intelligence (AI) Initiative Act with Senator Heinrich, which will organize a coordinated national strategy for developing AI and authorize a $2.2 billion federal investment over five years to build an AI-ready workforce, accelerating the responsible delivery of AI applications from government agencies, academia, and the private sector over the next 10 years. 

Bolstering Cybersecurity in the Public and Private Sector

In an effort to codify the existing Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber Hunt and Incident Response Teams, Portman introduced the bipartisan DHS Cyber Hunt and Incident Response Teams Act along with Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH).  This legislation requires that DHS make permanent “cyber hunt” and “cyber incident response” teams to work to help prevent cyberattacks at all levels of government and the private sector, and help mitigate the impact of such attacks when they occur. This legislation was signed into law on December 20, 2019.

Promoting Stronger Cybersecurity Coordination Between DHS and State and Local Governments

Introduced in June 2019, Portman introduced the bipartisan State and Local Government Cybersecurity Act with Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) to encourage national cybersecurity watchdogs to share information regarding cybersecurity threats, vulnerabilities, breaches, and resources to prevent and recover from cyberattacks with states and localities who are increasingly targeted by bad actors. The Senate unanimously passed this bipartisan legislation in November 2019.

Incentivizing & Prioritizing the Recruitment and Retention of AI Experts in the U.S. Military

In response to recommendations from U.S. military experts to ensure that our armed forces make computer science and digital engineering skills a priority for recruitment and training, Portman introduced the bipartisan Armed Forced Digital Advantage Act with Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM). This legislation will modernize the Department of Defense (DoD) workforce by adding a recruitment focus and establishing military career tracks for digital engineering. This legislation was signed into law on December 20, 2019.

Understanding Current Trends in AI Developments in Both the U.S. and China

The Senate-passed FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act includes Portman and Senator Michael Bennet’s (D-CO) amendment that directs the Secretary of Defense to undertake a comprehensive and national-level review of current trends in AI developments in both the U.S. and China, and an assessment of predicted implications to national security should the current trends continue.  It also pushes the Department to consider what types of relationships – in both the public and private sector – they need to develop in order to ensure the U.S. keeps pace with global AI development trends. The president signed this legislation into law on December 20, 2019.  

Summary
Senator Portman is committed to keeping Ohioans safe and giving our men and women in uniform the resources they need to protect themselves and best complete their mission.