The first priority of the federal government is the security of our nation and the safety of our citizens. Terrorist attacks continue to strike countries and communities around the world, and we know too well the risks we face right here in the United States. We must take steps now to improve our counterterrorism efforts, to enhance our screening processes, and to give law enforcement and intelligence communities with the tools they need to prevent terrorist attacks. That’s why I supported H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act, to close gaps in our screening processes and keep our country safer. It's also why I support efforts, including the recently enacted National Defense Authorization Act, to rebuild and modernize our military and offer our troops a much deserved pay raise.
In addition to providing for our national defense, we must prepare for other threats like biological weapons, epidemics and outbreaks, and natural disasters. I am leading efforts in Congress to strengthen our national biodefense capabilities. Biodefense is our readiness for and protections against biological threats like Ebola, anthrax and other dangerous and deadly diseases and pathogens.
Last year, we enacted a bill I led, H.R. 3299, the Strengthening Public Health Emergency Response Act, to improve our ability to respond to and prepare for pathogens that present a risk to our national security and health. Ensuring faster development of critical medical countermeasures like vaccines and treatments, and eliminating bureaucratic red tape, this law improves our national security and better protects the health of every American. H.R. 3299 expands the Priority Review Voucher program for material threats to our national security identified by the Department of Homeland Security. Expanding the program incentivizes the development, testing and distribution of vaccines and treatments for dangerous diseases.
There’s still work to be done to improve our national readiness and biodefense capabilities. Given reports that ISIS and other terrorist groups are pursuing chemical and biological weapons, we must act now to prepare ourselves for the challenges that these kinds of weapons pose to our collective health and national security.