Weekly Round[s] Up: July 24-30, 2023
It was a busy final week of July as the Senate worked to wrap up our version of the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This annual, bipartisan legislation is crucial to the defense of our nation. We were able to secure a number of wins for South Dakota in this legislation, including over $400 million in funding for construction projects in our state. Much more on that later. Now, we’re back to work in South Dakota for the month of August where I’ll be making my rounds (pun intended) across the state. I’m looking forward to seeing familiar faces and catching up with you at fairs, conventions and events in all corners of South Dakota. It will be a busy month, but it’s always more fun to “get my steps in” and be on the move in South Dakota than in Washington, D.C. Here’s my Weekly Round[s] Up:
South Dakota groups I visited with: President and Vice President of South Dakota Future Farmers of America (FFA); South Dakota members of the American Forest Foundation; and South Dakota’s delegates to American Legion Boys & Girls Nation. We also said goodbye this past week to Josee Compton, a student at Watertown High School who paged in DC for a few weeks this summer.
Meetings this past week: Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack; Shane Smith, CEO of Smithfield Foods; Victor Negrescu, Member of European Parliament from Romania; Charles Beames, Chairman of SpiderOak Cyber Technologies; Craig Froelich, Chief Information Security Officer at Bank of America; Mathilde Mukantabana, Rwanda’s Ambassador to the United States; Collin Peterson, former Congressman from Minnesota; and Robin Vince, CEO of BNY Mellon.
We also had our Senate Prayer Breakfast, where Senator Cynthia Lummis from our neighboring state of Wyoming was our speaker this week.
AI Briefing: We hosted our third and final all-senators briefing on artificial intelligence (AI). This particular one was special because it was moderated by none other than Dr. José-Marie Griffiths, President of Dakota State University in Madison. We heard from officials with the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The purpose of these briefings is to grow our knowledge on AI as we prepare for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
I also attended an additional AI roundtable discussion with Dario Amodei, CEO of Anthropic, and a group of other senators.
NDAA: As I mentioned, the big event of the week was passing the NDAA, the legislation that authorizes funding for our military programs and the Department of Defense for the upcoming fiscal year. As part of my work on the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), I spent time last month helping draft this bill in committee, which allowed me to work directly on the NDAA to secure wins for South Dakota. I’m happy to report that several of these provisions made it into the version of the bill that passed on the Senate floor this past week. The NDAA contains over $400 million in funding for construction projects in South Dakota. Most of this funding will support the bed down of the B-21 Raider stealth bomber at Ellsworth Air Force Base.
The Senate also included a number of my amendments to the bill. One of my amendments bans China, Russia, Iran and North Korea from purchasing American farmland and agricultural businesses. These four adversaries view America as their top competitor and only wish to gain advantage and opportunities to surveil our nation’s capabilities and resources. This commonsense provision will make our homeland more secure. Additionally, we were able to secure inclusion of my legislation that would create a congressional charter for the National American Indian Veterans. The NDAA also includes a number of my amendments that pertain to AI.
You can find a full list of all my amendments, as well as the other victories included in the NDAA that will benefit South Dakota and the nation HERE.
Met with South Dakotans from: Aberdeen, Belle Fourche, Black Hawk, Corona, Frederick, Rapid City and Sioux Falls.
Topics discussed: Protecting our farmland from foreign adversaries; the work being done at Dakota State University; the potential impact of artificial intelligence.
Votes taken: 17 – with the exception of the final vote, all of these were on amendments to the NDAA. The last vote was on final passage of the NDAA. It passed with overwhelming support by a vote of 86-11.
Hearings: Most of my time this week was spent on the Senate floor. We only had two hearings this past week: one in the Armed Services Committee and one in the Select Committee on Intelligence. Both were on nominations.
Classified briefings: I had one classified briefing with Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick, Director of All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office.
My staff in South Dakota visited: Aberdeen, Corsica, Gettysburg, Selby, Sioux Falls and Watertown.
Steps taken this week: 61,655 steps or 28.31 miles.
Video of the Week: As I mentioned, the Senate passed my amendment that would prevent China, Russia, North Korea and Iran from buying American farmland and ag businesses. Prior to passage, I gave a speech about the amendment on the Senate floor, which you can watch here: