U.S. Rep. Billy Long, R-Missouri, one of the 85 freshman Republicans in the 112th Congress, went to work quickly to address a top campaignpriority by securing an appointment to theHouse Homeland Security Committee. Rep. Long said he and his Republican colleagues on the committee would assert their authority to set spending priorities and address substantive issuesareas they found lacking inthe performance of the Democrat-controlled committee from the previous session.
"I campaigned on strong borders, secure borders," Rep. Long said during an interview on January 20, just hours after receiving word of his subcommittee assignments. Committee Chairman Peter King, R-New York, appointed Rep. Long to Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management.
"Peter King was looking for people who could take the tough votes," Rep. Long said. "So, for me to be named Vice Chairman for a freshman, that's a pretty tall honor." Rep. Long's other subcommittees are: Counterterrorism and Intelligence; and Cyber Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies. At the time of the interview, the committee was just beginning to kick into gear. Rep. Long did "We will be looking at things that really do matter for homeland security."
In the previous session of Congress, the House Homeland Security Committee failed to use its full authority, Rep. Long said. Not only that, but the previous committee spent much of its time on inconsequential matters, he said. Rep. Long made it clear that he was fed up with that manner of conducting the nation's business. "We're going to have a real, operational committee-instead of window dressing and fluff" he said
"We're going to be dealing with the border. Threats without and within this country. We've made it a little tougher for people to hit us from the outside. Now they're trying it through the back way," he said, calling for stronger, more definite measures for border security:
"We need to help our border agents. They're trying to defend an invisible line. We need a fence, whether it's real or virtual, so they'll know what they are defending. Right now, it's mass confusion."
The new committee will exercise its full authority on
budget matters, which the previous committee failed to do, Rep. Long said. As created by Congress, the committee has the task to authorize the budget for the Department of Homeland Security. In this function, the committee sets priorities and gives direction for the appropriations committees, effectively taking control of how the money is spent.
In early January, as the 112th Congress opened, Rep. Long learned that he had received the committee assignments he had requested: Transportation and Infrastructure, along with Homeland Security.
Rep. Long requested the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee because of the importance of highways to Missouri's commerce and tourism sectors, he said. His interest in homeland security goes to the core of the issues he embraced from the beginning.
"I want to make sure that all the brave Americans who are serving and protecting us have every tool at their disposal," he said, including military personnel, first responders, and government agents in homeland security roles.
"The No. 1 priority for our government is to keep the people safe," Rep. Long said. "Without safety, we have nothing."
"I'm thrilled to be on the Homeland Security Committee," he said, noting that he looked forward to working with Rep. King.
When Rep. King made the appointment, he issued this statement about Rep. Long:
"Billy will be a true asset to the Homeland Security Committee as we work to protect our homeland from terrorists who continue to plot and execute attacks against our nation. As a business owner, he understands the importance of sound management. His business experience and skills will be critical as we oversee the Department of Homeland Security to ensure its programs are managed in an efficient and cost-effective manner. I look forward to working with Billy as we work to ensure the security of our homeland."
Congressman Long spoke highly of his colleagues on the committee. He mentioned Rep. King, who for nine terms has represented a district on Long Island, just a few miles from Ground Zero. Rep. Long also mentioned Rep. Dan Lungren, a California Republican.
"Ever since 9/11, Peter has made himself an expert in homeland security," Rep. Long said. "And Dan Lungren—he came back into politics because of 9/11. It's an honor to be serving with them."
Rep. Lungren had a long career in California politics and government, known for his crime-fighting efforts that led to the state's "three strikes" law aimed at repeat criminals and Megan's Law to identify sexual predators, the biography on his Web site explains. He left politics for several years, then he returned after 9/11, acting on his belief that each of us had to respond in the most effective way to the terrorist threat. In a similar way, the American Board for Certification in Homeland Security (ABCHS) took shape out of the same conviction held by the association's founder, Dr. Robert O'Block.
Rep. Long recently met with officials from the Israeli Embassy, which led to an invitation to participate in an ongoing technology exchange between Israel and the United States. The program involves congressional delegations and also agents on the ground. For example, Border Patrol agents have traveled to Israel to learn from their counterparts. The congressman said he plans to travel to Israel and study security techniques.
On the Republican wave that swept over the 2010 midterm elections, Rep. Long, a political newcomer from Springfield, Missouri, surfed into Congress as part of the GOP's biggest freshman class in decades.
"Fed up"—his campaign slogan—could stand for the entire political shift of 2010.
He headed to Washington early this year, bringing with him a practical, no-nonsense personal style—tell it like it is, stick to your guns, never fear to make tough decisions—tempered with an expansive sense of humor.
In the "tell it like it is" category, Rep. Long enjoys celebrating America's greatness.
"We have the best military in the world, bar none," Long said. "You know, there's a lot of talk about American exceptionalism. Some people don't like it when we talk about it. But there are two things that we have that are exceptional: our military and our health system—and it's not a government-run health system."
The headquarters of ABCHS, along with its leadership and staff members, falls into Rep. Long's 7th District in the Ozarks region in southwest Missouri, and they have been following his progress with great interest and enthusiasm. Along with the personal and local interest, Rep. Long typifies the freshman class with his defiantly independent style and outsider political orientation.
"I have known Billy for almost 20 years as a self-made businessman, neighbor, and friend," Dr. O'Block said. "I am very proud that an American with....?