Tester Leads Bipartisan, Bicameral Effort to Crack Down on Fentanyl Trafficking

Senator’s Securing America’s Borders Against Fentanyl Act would boost federal research and development of new technologies to restrict flow of fentanyl across America’s borders, ports of entry

As a part of his continued effort to strengthen border security and protect Montana communities from fentanyl, U.S. Senator Jon Tester this week led a bipartisan, bicameral letter urging U.S. Senate and House leadership to include his Securing America’s Borders Against Fentanyl Act in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) so it can be signed into law before the end of the year.

Tester was joined by Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ), and U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07), Andrew Garbarino (R-NY-2), and Patrick Ryan (D-NY-19) in the letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate Armed Services Committees.

“As leaders of the bipartisan Securing America’s Borders Against Fentanyl Act, we strongly believe the bipartisan bill would strengthen our nation’s response to illicit fentanyl entering through our borders and causing a tragic rise in fatal overdoses,” wrote the bipartisan group of lawmakers. “Overdose deaths in the United States, particularly due to fentanyl poisoning, continue to rise and pose a grave threat to our communities. Approximately two-thirds of overdose deaths last year involved synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, a figure that has been dramatically rising.”

The letter underscored the strong bipartisan support for the bill, and called attention to skyrocketing rates of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids and highlighted how the legislation would invest in the research and development of technologies and strategies that would improve law enforcement’s ability to deter, detect and interdict fentanyl shipments.

The Securing America’s Borders Against Fentanyl Act would require DHS, along with other relevant agencies to research and develop technologies and strategies to specifically aimed at targeting and detecting illicit fentanyl before it can be trafficked into the United States. Senator Tester has agreed to cosponsor the legislation, which will formally occur when the Senate is back in session later this month.

This bill would provide $20 million to:

  • Develop new technology to target and detect illicit fentanyl being trafficked into the U.S.;
  • Enhance targeting of counterfeit pills and illicit pill presses through nonintrusive and other visual screening technologies; and
  • Strengthen data-driven targeting to increase seizure rates of fentanyl.

The lawmakers continued, “Agency intelligence indicates the majority of drugs entering the United States come through ports of entry (POEs) along the Southwest Border. Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) technologies are a critical tool to enhance the ability of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to quickly detect illicit drugs and weapons. Due to fentanyl’s extremely small mass relative to its potency, it is crucial for CBP to have the advanced technologies necessary to detect it, even small amounts that are easy to hide. As transnational criminal organizations develop new ways and make use of modern technologies to smuggle illicit fentanyl across our borders, we must invest in research and development of the most advanced technologies and strategies to improve law enforcement’s ability to fight against criminals and their fentanyl trafficking operations.”

As the Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense and a former Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, Tester is a leading national voice on national defense and border security. In April, Tester cosponsored two bipartisan bills to increase the recruitment and retention of Customs and Border Protection officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents. Tester’s Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act will require CBP to hire additional agents to meet staffing needs, and his Border Patrol Pay Security Act will increase overtime pay for Border Patrol agents. In 2021, Tester also introduced his bipartisan Assisting Narcotics and Trafficking Officers in Interdicting (ANTI) Drugs Act which would help law enforcement combat drug trafficking by increasing resources for High Intensity Drug Task Forces (HIDTA), Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), and Operation Stonegarden – programs that support law enforcement efforts to combat the drug epidemic and boost border security.

Tester’s full bipartisan, bicameral letter can be found HERE.