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Murphy and Salazar Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Require Congressional Notification if Foreign Government Seeks to Kill U.S. Servicemembers

Legislation would require Secretary of Defense to inform Congress if an adversary nation, acting directly or through proxies, targets American troops

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Washington, July 13, 2021 | comments

WASHINGTON—U.S. Representatives Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., and Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., today filed bipartisan legislation to require the Secretary of Defense to swiftly brief key Members of Congress if the Secretary determines with high confidence that a foreign government is deliberately seeking to kill or severely injure U.S. servicemembers, either directly or indirectly through proxy forces. Once notified, Congress will be in a position to take action to deter and respond to such aggression.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our troops. If the Secretary of Defense has high confidence that a foreign government—whether Russia, Iran, or any other country—is sponsoring lethal attacks against our servicemembers, Congress should immediately be notified so we can take all appropriate steps—on a bipartisan basis—to protect our troops and hold the perpetrators accountable,” said Murphy, a Member of the House Armed Services Committee.

“Our servicemembers and their families are deployed across the globe defending our freedom and put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe. We must notify our troops when foreign nations target American lives. I’m proud to co-lead this bill so the Secretary of Defense will notify Congress immediately when foreign governments take aim at our soldiers. Doing so will help save lives,” said Salazar, a Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The Murphy-Salazar bill, called the Deadly Escalation by Foreign Entities Notification and Disclosure (DEFEND) Act, is a modified version of a bill that Murphy introduced last Congress in response to U.S. intelligence reporting that a Russian military intelligence unit paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill American and coalition troops in Afghanistan. In April of this year, the Biden administration said the administration was “responding to the reports that Russia encouraged Taliban attacks against U.S. and coalition personnel in Afghanistan based on the best assessments from the Intelligence Community.”

In addition, Iran is known to have supplied weapons to Iran-backed militias used to kill hundreds of American troops in Iraq between 2003 and 2011. Iran continues to provide support to Iraqi-based militants who are conducting sophisticated attacks against U.S. military and diplomatic personnel in Iraq, which in turn has led the United States to conduct airstrikes against facilities used by those militants.

Under the DEFEND Act, if the Secretary of Defense, after consulting with the Director of National Intelligence, concludes with high confidence that a foreign government—with which the United States is not at war—is planning to take or has already taken steps to kill or severely injure U.S. servicemembers though direct or indirect means, then the Secretary of Defense would be required to notify top congressional leaders in the House and Senate, the armed services committees, the intelligence committees, and the foreign affairs committees.

The notification to Congress would include:

  • A description of the nature and extent of the foreign government’s effort to target U.S. servicemembers.
  • An assessment of the specific officials, entities, agencies, and departments within the foreign government that ordered, authorized, or had knowledge of the effort.
  • An assessment of the foreign government’s motivations for undertaking the effort.
  • An assessment of whether the foreign government’s effort was a substantial factor in the death or serious bodily injury of any United States servicemember.

Once this initial notification is provided, any Member who receives the notification shall, upon the Member’s request, receive a more detailed briefing from the Secretary of Defense. The information provided to Congress will enable congressional leaders, on a bipartisan basis, to make better-informed decisions relating to authorizing legislation, appropriations legislation, and oversight of the executive branch.

To read the DEFEND Act, click here.

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