Actions to protect our homeland

Published 11:38 am Wednesday, June 22, 2016

In the early morning hours on Sunday, June 12, we were struck with the worst domestic terrorist attack since Sept. 11, 2001. This horrifying tragedy in Orlando, Fla., serves as another solemn reminder that there are imminent threats to our homeland which must be addressed immediately.

My thoughts and prayers remain with the families of those we lost, and our emergency first responders for their efforts to prevent further loss of life.

Sadly, this horrific attack resembles the recent murders in San Bernardino, as they were perpetrated by a disturbed individual who became radicalized through the influence of ISIS.

Our response must focus not only on the need to destroy ISIS and the hate it represents, but also the need to improve our ability to root out homegrown extremists before they can inflict terror.

Radical Islamic terror will continue to threaten innocents at home and abroad if we do not eliminate its leaders, centers of power and ability to influence others drawn to its evil teachings.

Time and again, I have stated that we must formally declare war on ISIS through congressional adoption of an Authorization of the Use of Military Force (AUMF), but we can only do so after having a thorough debate as a country on a comprehensive strategy offered by the president — something he has failed to do in the years in which we have been engaged in this fight.

Instead, the president has allowed political calculation and idealism to take precedence over military strategy and securing the homeland.

These issues are far too grave for wishful thinking, and it is my hope that this somber occasion will reopen the debate on our approach to destroying these agents of terror.

We must also rethink our approach to homegrown and so-called “lone wolf” terrorists and provide our intelligence and law enforcement personnel with the tools they need to keep us safe. Our approach must evolve as the threats evolve. Our public safety professionals need to be able to be more engaged in our communities to identify those that may radicalize and prevent them from carrying out evil deeds.

Now is not the time for vying to score political points, but rather, we must honor the victims of this attack by having a sober and clear-eyed debate on the best ways to prevent such despicable acts from occurring again.

Robert Hurt, represents Lunenburg in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached at (434) 395-0120.