Tester Questions Homeland Security Nominee General John Kelly

Senator Calls on Trump Nominee to Strengthen National Security, Crack Down on Insider Threats

(U.S. Senate)-In his first meeting with a Presidential nominee in the 115th Congress, Senator Jon Tester today met with General John Kelly, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to discuss how they can work together to strengthen Montana’s border and national security.

The meeting follows Tester’s decision to post a portal on his website to get feedback from Montanans on the President-elect’s nominees.

Kelly’s confirmation hearing will be held in front of Tester’s Senate Homeland Security Committee in the coming weeks.

“The security and safety of all Montanans is a responsibility I never take for granted, and I will be working closely with the next Homeland Security Secretary to ensure that our borders are secure and law enforcement agencies are fully prepared to protect Montana and our nation,” Tester said after the meeting. “As General Kelly goes through this nomination process, I am honored to play an active role in his confirmation process – on behalf of all Montanans — to ensure he understands the unique security threats that face rural states like ours.”

During his meeting with Kelly, Tester focused on four major aspects of national security that impact Montanans.

Border Security

Tester pushed Kelly to address staffing shortages along the northern border, and to work more closely with communities across the Hi-Line to recruit more Montanans to join the Border Patrol so they can remain in their communities and serve the nation.

Tester also encouraged Kelly to support responsible investments in Operation Stonegarden Grants, which help coordinate security efforts between federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement officials along the northern border.

Visa Waiver Program

Tester sought commitment from Kelly to take further steps to reform the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which allows citizens from certain countries to enter the United States as temporary visitors without first obtaining a visa from a United States consulate. The perpetrators of the November 2015 attacks in Paris, for example, were French citizens and may have been eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP.

To prevent radicalized individuals from entering the U.S., Tester has led the charge to strengthen the VWP by requiring all travelers who have visited Iraq or Syria within the past five years to acquire a visa and submit fingerprints and a photograph to the Department of Homeland Security before traveling to the United States. Tester emphasized during the meeting that the next Homeland Security Secretary must be committed to thoroughly vetting countries that participate in the VWP.


Tester also expressed to Kelly his concerns regarding the REAL ID Act and the Department of Homeland Security’s role in establishing a nationwide driver’s license standard and storing personal information on a national database.

Tester has opposed the REAL ID Act since entering the Senate, and he told Kelly that he remains committed to working with the next Homeland Security Secretary to ensure that Montanans’ right to privacy is protected, and that Montanans will continue to be able to travel via commercial airlines.

Insider Threats

Tester urged Kelly to improve efforts to strengthen the background security clearance process to prevent insider threats from breaching our national security.

Tester has been a leader in security clearance reform and successfully passed legislation to ensure that local law enforcement shares criminal records with security clearance background investigators to better protect against insider threats.

Tester also asked Kelly to ensure that individuals who protect our borders and secure our airports are provided the most thorough background check necessary to do their job and keep our nation safe.

Background on Kelly

Kelly retired in 2016 after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps for 45 years-both as an enlisted infantryman and an infantry office. He served one tour of duty in Iraq and was the Brigadier General of the U.S. Southern Command.