ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I will use all measures available to ensure our nation’s security and stability, while maintaining a commitment to our values of freedom, democracy and human rights.
In order to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex world, we must maintain our military readiness, technological capability and flexibility. As Virginians, we are a proud home to every branch, including the largest naval station in the world, premier Army, Marine Corps and Air Force installations and a robust Coast Guard presence. I am committed to providing top quality resources to our servicemembers and their families. I understand the importance of strong and smart national security decisions, which is why I will carefully consider all options before making any decision to send our troops into harm’s way.
Additionally, I was proud to support more than two dozen historic reforms to address sexual assault in the military that were signed into law as part of the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). No servicemember should feel unsafe while serving to protect our nation, and I am committed to protecting and empowering the survivors of military sexual assault, increasing reporting and putting perpetrators behind bars.
I’m proud to represent the thousands of shipbuilders who manufacture the largest and most complicated items on the planet: nuclear air craft carriers and submarines. The Fiscal Year 2017 NDAA included a number of provisions that will benefit Virginia’s shipbuilding industry and defense community, including funding for procurement and sustainment of the statutory requirement to maintain the 11-carrier fleet. The bill also authorizes full funding for the Virginia-class and Ohio-class submarine programs, the LHA-8 amphibious assault ship and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.
I’ve also been outspoken on the need to make our military more inclusive and integrated. I strongly support the Department of Defense’s decision to open all combat jobs to women because it is time for this barrier to be eliminated. I’ve also requested that the Department of Defense change its policy banning practicing Sikhs from serving in the military. Under current policy, implemented in 1988, members of the Sikh faith are unable to serve in the military unless they abandon their articles of faith—namely maintaining unshorn hair, beards, and wearing a turban—or secure a special exemption. While I applaud the Department for providing long-term religious accommodations to some Sikhs, I do not believe that any American should have to choose between his or her religion and service to country and will continue to urge the Department to change its policy.
Also, we should do everything we can to keep our promise to our veterans and reward them for their hard work and sacrifice. Last year, I joined Senate colleagues to call on the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission to survey servicemembers about their compensation preferences. I am proud that the commission has decided to move forward with surveys because servicemembers deserve to have their voices heard as the Commission holistically considers compensation and benefits.