National Record of Accomplishments
When Fred Thompson ran for the Senate he promised the people of Tennessee that he would work to protect our national security, make government work for families, and improve the way Washington does business. Since he took office in 1994, he's made good on those promises with a record of achievement and leadership.
Protecting National Security
Senator Thompson is a well-respected and knowledgeable leader on foreign policy and national security affairs. He was recently named to serve on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as well as the prestigious National Security Working Group, which observes and monitors Executive Branch negotiations with foreign governments on a range of national security topics.
Senator Thompson believes that the United States has a unique role in the world given our economic prosperity, military power, and the strength of our principles, democratic ideals, and values. He believes the United States should be active in promoting the concepts of free trade and open markets, holding other countries responsible for their actions and affairs, yet acting firmly and clearly where our national interests and values are at stake.
As Chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, Senator Thompson held more than a dozen hearings on important national security issues, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons) and missile technology and the relaxation of export controls and sensitive "dual use" items.
Last year, he introduced the China Nonproliferation Act, which confronts proliferation by "key supplier" countries like China and Russia to rogue nations like Iran, Iraq, and Libya. This is a dangerous problem that threatens our nation's security and important interests. The bill requires an annual review of these countries' proliferation activities, establishes clear standards, reasonable penalties, adequate presidential waivers, congressional oversight, and much-needed transparency.
In September, Thompson was successful in bringing the measure to the floor during the debate on Permanent Normal Trade Status for China. The debate on the Thompson amendment provided the Senator with a valuable opportunity to bring the proliferation issue to the forefront and highlight the problem for his colleagues and the nation. In the coming year, Thompson will continue his efforts to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Senator Thompson has also been at the forefront of the debate on national missile defense. The threats to our country are growing largely because of weapons proliferation to rogue states. The Intelligence Community and a variety of independent commissions have determined that North Korea may have the means of striking the U.S. with a missile by 2005. As a result of these threats, Thompson is a strong supporter of a robust, multi-tier national missile defense.
He also supports increased funding for the military, with particular emphasis on expanding the force structure to deal with known threats, building new weapons and providing better training for our armed forces. Most importantly, he believes that our military personnel deserve higher pay, better benefits, improved health care, and more predictability for themselves and their families. This also includes providing military retirees and veterans with the programs and benefits that our country owes them for their service.
Thompson was successful in the 106th Congress in leading a bipartisan effort to pass legislation requiring the federal government to take responsibility for illnesses incurred by men and women who worked Department of Energy (DOE) facilities in Tennessee and across the country. His legislation establishing a compensation program for workers suffering from illnesses linked to their service at DOE facilities was approved as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.
"This is a victory for the men and women who helped this country win the Cold War," Thompson said. "It's been a long, hard fight, but Congress made good on its obligation to those who are suffering as a result of their service to our country."
In 1998, Thompson was chosen by Senate leadership to serve on the special Senate task force to examine whether the Chinese government improperly obtained American satellite and missile technology. His Governmental Affairs Committee and the Subcommittee on International Security and Proliferation held hearings to determine whether export control laws are effective in keeping dangerous, dual-use military technology out of the hands of potential adversaries. As a result, Congress returned satellite export control authority to the State Department.
Making Government Work for Families
In 1999, Senator Thompson joined the Senate Finance Committee, where he is working to cut taxes and reform our Social Security and Medicare programs so they will be there for future generations. Thompson is a member of a bi-partisan group of senators endorsing a plan to reform Social Security by cutting payroll taxes and allowing workers to invest in personal savings accounts, while at the same time making structural reforms to the program to ensure its solvency for future retirees.
Thompson has teamed up with Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM) to push for a biennial budget. This bipartisan measure would end the yearly budget battle in Congress and replace it with a less repetitive process that enacts a two-year budget every other year.
"We create a lot of expensive agencies and programs, and then we pretty much turn our backs on them while they run for years and years," Thompson said. "A biennial budget would give us time to delve into what's working and what's not ? and it would also encourage members of Congress to stay in closer contact with constituents by freeing up more time for them to spend in their home states."
Improving the Way Washington Does Business
Senator Thompson came to Washington with a basic belief that the federal government should be smaller, more efficient, and more accountable. To make that goal a reality, he has worked for and achieved a string of significant reforms, becoming what USA Today called, "a leader on a range of clean-up Washington issues."
Thompson has taken the lead on the issue of campaign finance reform, consistently co- sponsoring a bipartisan bill to ban "soft money," the unlimited, unregulated cash raised by political parties. Thompson said, "We must get back to winning elections, not on the basis of who can raise the most money, but on the basis of competition of ideas." He believes that reform of the way in which campaigns are financed is critical to Congress' accountably in other areas. He recently cosponsored the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2001, the latest version of the McCain-Feingold campaign reform bill, which bans soft money contributions, restricts corporate and union spending on campaign ads, and provides for greater disclosure and stronger election laws.
At the start of the 105th Congress, Senator Thompson's colleagues elected him Chairman of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, making him among the most junior senators in history to serve as a major chairman. This Committee is charged with broad oversight of federal agencies, and Thompson used the post to demand accountability in government.
During the 106th Congress, he authored and passed several important pieces of legislation to change the way Washington works.
Following hearings in the Governmental Affairs Committee that highlighted our nation's vulnerability to computer attacks - from terrorists, crime rings, and hackers - Senator Thompson authored the Government Information Security Act. The legislation, which was signed into law, provides a new framework for protecting the government's computers from outside attack by hackers.
"Effective computer security starts with effective management and this legislation will help federal agencies get a handle on preventing hackers from wreaking havoc with citizens' sensitive information," Thompson said.
In the area of regulatory reform, Thompson joined a bipartisan group of Senators to pass the Regulatory Right-to-Know Act. The Act requires the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to disclose to the public the costs and benefits of regulatory programs, as well as an analysis of the impact of federal regulations on state, local, and tribal governments, small business, and economic growth.
"People have a right to know the costs and benefits of important regulatory decisions. This will help the Congress, the President, and the public better understand whether regulations are sensible and fair," Thompson said.
Thompson also scored a victory in the 106th Congress for those concerned about privacy protection on federal web sites. In December, Congress approved his legislation to ensure that Congress and the public are made aware of potential privacy violations on federal agency Internet sites. In October, Thompson released a General Accounting Office report revealing that many agencies were still using cookies - information-gathering devices that can be used to track the activities of Internet users - on their web sites without disclosing their use.
The American people have a right to know what information is being collected about them on federal web sites," Thompson said. "This bill will ensure that we know about agencies' data collection practices so that we in Congress can make sure that privacy rights of citizens are not being violated. The federal government should be setting the standard for privacy protection in cyberspace." The Thompson privacy amendment will require the Inspector General of each agency to report to Congress on how the agency collects and reviews personal information on its web site.
Shortly after he became chairman, Thompson worked with the General Accounting Office to unveil the first ever audit of the federal government. "The government failed miserably," Thompson said. "The government's deteriorating accounting systems put Congress at a severe disadvantage because we lack reliable information to assess program performance, control costs, and stop widespread waste, fraud, and abuse. We must do better."
Thompson has held a series of hearings and released numerous reports highlighting waste, fraud and abuse involving taxpayer dollars. In 2000, he introduced legislation that would require the use of a technique called ?recovery auditing,' which would be applied to a federal agency's records to identify improper payments or payment errors made by federal agencies.
"Over $20 billion in taxpayer dollars was lost by just a handful of federal programs in 1999," Thompson said. "Most agencies don't even know how much they're losing. This will provide a tool to help discover and eliminate this waste."
To address mushrooming federal regulations which are imposed with little public scrutiny, Thompson introduced the Regulatory Improvement Act. Thompson's bill promotes the public's right to know why agencies make regulatory decisions, improves the quality of government decision-making, and increases government accountability to the public.
"We all want clean air, clean water, and safer workplaces," Thompson said. "Smarter regulation could help us better achieve these goals." The Harvard Center for Risk Analysis has heartily endorsed the legislation, and estimates that 60,000 lives per year could be saved through smarter regulatory priorities.
In 1997, Thompson's committee was designated by the Senate leadership to conduct an investigation into alleged improper or illegal activities growing out of the 1996 federal campaigns.
The committee exposed a campaign system rife with abuse and open to foreign influence, and produced a 9,600 page report that led to several indictments and a number of on-going criminal investigations. The New York Times declared that Thompson "forced Attorney General Janet Reno and a snoozing FBI to quit ignoring any and all indications of corruption in the 1996 campaign."
Guiding all of Senator Thompson's efforts is a strong belief in the Tenth Amendment - that government closer to the people works best. He believes that federal and state government should be limited to their constitutionally defined roles, and that in recent years those roles have been distorted by interference from Washington. "Each level of government is uniquely qualified to do certain things," Thompson said. "And far too often, Washington politicians involved get involved in matters where they have no business, and where state and local governments are in a much better position to respond to people's concerns.
In the 107th Congress, Thompson will continue his efforts to change the way Washington does business, to let working families keep more of their hard-earned money, to ensure Congress works to protect our national security, and to make sure Social Security and Medicare are preserved for future generations.
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