Legislation from U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY) to aid in closing overseas security gaps moved unanimously out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday.
H.R. 4314, the Counterterrorism Screening and Assistance Act, was introduced by Katko and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and emerged from recommendations from the Task Force on Combating Foreign Fighter Travel, chaired by Katko.
“Not only must Congress act to bolster our country’s counterterrorism efforts, but it is vital that we take action to close security gaps in international travel,” Katko said. “This legislation does that by helping to ensure that our overseas partners have the tools that are needed to prevent terrorists and foreign fighters from traveling between countries. This effort is the result of collaboration in the House, and I thank my colleague from New York, Rep. Lee Zeldin, for his leadership in helping to combat foreign fighter travel and to keep America safe.”
The legislation would help foreign nations enhance their counterterrorism screening abilities to make it harder for terrorists to cross borders undetected. In addition, it requires that U.S. security assistance be directed based on risk to the places it is most needed while giving the secretary of state the authority to suspend certain types of foreign aid to countries that fail to close security gaps.
The Counterterrorism Screening and Assistance Act also requires that U.S. agencies fully coordinate their efforts abroad to fight terrorist and foreign fighter travel so as to prevent government waste, overlap and duplication.
The legislation comes as a direct result of close collaboration between the House Homeland Security Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“I commend Congressman Katko for his hard work on this legislation and his strong leadership as the head of the Task Force on Combating Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel,” Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee Michael McCaul (R-TX) said. “His panel identified overseas security gaps that are enabling terrorists and foreign fighters to sneak across borders undetected. These weaknesses put our country and our allies in danger. We saw this happen with the attacks in Paris, which were perpetrated by jihadists who moved freely between Europe and the terrorist safe haven in Syria. This commonsense legislation will help our allies ramp up screening of travelers and enhance counterterrorism vetting, which will ultimately help keep terrorists and foreign fighters from reaching the battlefield—and returning to our shores.”