Kaine Announces Virginia Wins In 2020 Defense Bill, Celebrates Military Family Housing Reforms
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement on the Committee’s Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes numerous provisions he championed to benefit Virginia’s defense community, shipbuilding industry, and military families. The bill was reported out of committee on a bipartisan vote and will now advance to the full Senate for consideration.
“Each year, the national defense bill is a key opportunity to support our servicemembers, strengthen our defense assets, and make our nation safer. This year, I am proud that we are continuing the tradition of passing another strong, bipartisan bill out of the Armed Services Committee. After hearing firsthand from too many military families in Virginia about the awful conditions they faced in base housing, I got to work to include reforms in this must-pass bill to ensure safe housing for our troops and their loved ones. I’m thankful that my colleagues supported amendments I offered to address this issue. Military families make tremendous sacrifices for our nation, and we owe them our full support.”
Kaine introduced an amendment to prohibit funding from being used for hostilities against the Government of Iran or its armed forces except in self defense or pursuant to a specific congressional authorization. In a 14-13 vote, the committee ruled this amendment was not in SASC’s jurisdiction.
The following list includes many of the programs and provisions Kaine advocated for during the markup process that were included in the final bill, which will directly aid Virginia’s defense industry:
Improves Military Family Housing: Includes two Kaine amendments to address horrific conditions in military family housing. The first amendment would require DOD to establish a “move-out checklist” so that both the tenant and military housing office must verify that outstanding maintenance needs are fixed and that the tenant is leaving the home in good condition. This would address concerns Kaine heard from military families who moved into homes with unsatisfactory maintenance conditions and others who were charged unjustifiable maintenance fees that were difficult to dispute because they had already moved out of the home and relocated. This provision would help prevent housing companies from charging former tenants potentially unjustifiable move-out fees or failing to repair outstanding maintenance items. It would also help ensure that tenants meet their obligations of leaving the home in an acceptable condition for the next tenant. Kaine’s other military housing amendment will require the Secretary of Defense to work with local law enforcement to ensure military police can patrol locations where privatized military housing is not located on a military installation. This would address residents’ concerns that neither local law enforcement nor military police were responding to security incidents at off-base military housing because neither believed they had jurisdiction. Kaine has been a leader in supporting military families with safe housing, including urging Armed Services Committee leaders to protect military families in the defense bill and introducing a bill with Senator Warner to protect military families living in private housing. Kaine toured privatized military housing near Naval Station Norfolk and visited Fort Belvoir to hear from military families about their experiences with military housing. He then shared what he learned with military leaders and the Armed Services Committee to underscore how serious the housing problems are.
Supports Shipbuilding and Repair: Provides over $13 billion for Virginia shipbuilding priorities, including carrier refueling and overhaul, new carrier construction, Virginia-class submarines and Columbia-class submarines. Authorizes nearly $11 billion for ship repair.
Authorizes Military Construction (MILCON): Authorizes over $430 million for 12 critical military construction projects throughout the Commonwealth, including at Ft. Belvoir, the Pentagon, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, Dam Neck, Quantico, Yorktown, and Richmond.
Addresses Sexual Assault in the Military: Includes a Kaine amendment that requires DOD to report on a plan to create a “duty to report” to require servicemembers to intervene if they are aware of sexual assault in the armed forces.
Delays Any President From Removing NATO Troops From Europe: Includes a Kaine amendment to prohibit the withdrawal of troops from Europe for one year following any presidential decision to withdraw troops from NATO. The one year period would allow Congress time to reverse such a decision. Kaine has led efforts to prevent any President from leaving NATO and introduced legislation earlier this year to explicitly prohibit any President from withdrawing from NATO without Senate approval.
Supports Training for Defense Jobs: Includes a Kaine amendment to require DOD to develop a plan to train skilled technicians for immediate placement in the Defense Industrial Base, including welding, machining, and additive manufacturing by partnering with state training and education programs. This was inspired by efforts at Danville Community College.
Provides Financial Relief To Civilian Federal Employees: Includes legislation Kaine introduced with Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) to provide financial relief to certain civilian federal employees who move for work. The Relocation Expense Parity Act would close a loophole that prevents certain federal workers from having additional taxes on their moving expenses fully reimbursed.
Cleans Up Dioxin at Bien Hoa Air Base: Includes a Kaine amendment to provide funding for USAID to clean up dioxin – a byproduct of Agent Orange – at Bien Hoa Air Base near Ho Chi Minh City, which was one of the largest U.S. military bases during the Vietnam war. In April, Kaine participated in the formal inauguration of the second U.S.-funded dioxin remediation project in Vietnam, at Bien Hoa, which will remediate land contaminated during the war by dioxin.
Addresses Recurring Areas of Instability: Includes a Kaine proposal which finally allows DOD to better transition to stability operations following conflict. A key lesson learned from the Iraq War was that the U.S. military was not equipped to conduct post-conflict stability operations which contributed to a resurgence of violence. Agencies like the Department of State and U.S. Administration for International Development (USAID) are equipped to handle stability operations in post-conflict zones, but lack the resources and security to access the areas where assistance is needed. Kaine’s provision will finally authorize DOD to properly support State and USAID in their efforts to access hard to reach areas in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia to provide lasting stability.