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Kaine Applauds Senate Passage of National Defense Act, Including His Bills to Prevent Any U.S. President from Leaving NATO and Address Fentanyl Crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and Chair of the SASC Subcommittee on Seapower, applauded the Senate’s bipartisan vote to pass the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bipartisan bill includes several provisions secured by Kaine to support our national security and Virginia’s defense community. As a member of SASC, Kaine played a key role in shaping the legislation and served as a member of the conference committee working to reconcile differences between the House and Senate-passed versions of the bill.

“Every year, the defense bill provides us with the opportunity to strengthen our national security and better support our nation’s servicemembers and their families. As a member of the Armed Services Committee and senator from one of the most military-connected states, I’m proud of the bipartisan work we’ve done to provide a pay raise for servicemembers, support Virginia’s defense community, fund important projects at Virginia military installations, and help ensure the Navy and Marine Corps have the ships they need to keep us safe. The legislation also bolsters our alliances, as it includes my bipartisan bill to prevent any U.S. President from withdrawing from NATO, as well as provisions I secured to support the Australia-U.K-U.S. (AUKUS) agreement. Our NATO and AUKUS alliances are critical to our national security and economic growth in Hampton Roads, which is home to the only operational NATO command in the U.S. and the best shipbuilders in the world. I also fought to include my bipartisan bill to direct increased federal attention to combat the fentanyl crisis, which is hurting so many communities in Virginia. I urge the House to pass this bill and get it to the President’s desk as soon as possible.”

Kaine successfully secured the following provisions in the legislation:

NATO: Includes Kaine’s bipartisan legislation with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) to prevent any U.S. President from unilaterally withdrawing from NATO without congressional approval.

Disrupt Fentanyl Trafficking Act: Includes provisions from Kaine’s bipartisan bill with Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) to direct increased federal attention to fentanyl trafficking by utilizing Pentagon tools like counter-drug intelligence and involving Mexico as an active partner to combat the crisis and disrupt cartel activity in Mexico. Specifically, the Disrupt Fentanyl Trafficking Act of 2023 will work to strengthen these efforts by:

  • Highlighting the need to address the threat to national security posed by fentanyl trafficking
  • Directing the Pentagon to develop a fentanyl-specific counter-drug strategy, including enhanced cooperation with Mexican defense officials,
  • Requiring the Secretary of Defense to enhance security cooperation with the Mexican military, and
  • Addressing coordination efforts between the military and federal law enforcement agencies.

Australia and U.K. Partnership: Strengthens the United States’ partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom in the implementation of the AUKUS agreement, in which the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia will share and collaborate on technologies crucial to the allies’ long-term security. Because a significant portion of Virginia-class submarines are built in Hampton Roads, the AUKUS agreement creates opportunity for further job creation and economic growth in Hampton Roads.

Shipbuilding: Authorizes investments to help meet the congressionally mandated requirement to have 31 operational amphibious warfare ships for the Navy and Marine Corps, by restoring funding for LPD-33 and strengthening oversight of the Navy’s shipbuilding plan. Improves acquisition processes, expands defense industrial base capacity, and supports workforce development initiatives.

Pay Raises: Authorizes a 5.2 percent pay raise for military servicemembers and the Department of Defense (DOD) civilian workforce. Requires a review of military pay rates to determine if the current basic pay table adequately compensates junior enlisted personnel in pay grades E-1 through E-4.

Recruitment: Establishes an Enlisted Training Corps demonstration program for the purpose of introducing community and junior college students to the military and preparing selected students for enlisted service in the Armed Forces. This follows conversations Kaine has had in Hampton Roads about tackling the recruitment and retention challenges in the military.

U.S. Posture in Indo-Pacific: Expands cooperation and engagement to ensure the Indo-Pacific remains free and open. Extends the Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI), which enhances U.S. force posture, infrastructure, readiness, capacity, and capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region, through Fiscal Year 2024 and authorizes the full budget request for Fiscal Year 2024. Establishes the Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness Initiative (IPMDA) to improve maritime security and boost information-sharing among partners in the region. Includes bipartisan legislation cosponsored by Kaine to increase coordination and boost cooperation with Pacific Island nations on emergency humanitarian response, law enforcement and maritime security activities, and counterintelligence.

Taiwan: Establishes a comprehensive training, advising, and institutional capacity-building program for military forces of Taiwan. Improves U.S.-Taiwan cooperation related to military cybersecurity activities.

Support for Ukraine: Extends Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) through Fiscal Year 2027 and authorizes the full budget request in Fiscal Year 2024. Extends waivers for the streamlined acquisition of defense stocks related to Ukraine and authorizes additional munitions eligible for multiyear procurement contracts.

Servicemember Health Care: Includes various provisions to strengthen and expand access to quality health care for servicemembers and dependents with a focus on improving mental health services.

  • Requires a study in military treatment facilities on the efficacy of opioid alternatives for pain management department assessment on the rates of opioid prescriptions to servicemembers. 
  • Allows licensed Military and Family Life Counselors to provide non-medical counseling services outside of the state in which they are licensed.
  • Provides career flexibility for the services’ mental health workforce to increase retention.

Military Construction: Includes over $561 million for military construction (MILCON) in Virginia. 

  • $23M for Maritime Surveillance System Facility at Dam Neck Annex
  • $57M for Child Development Center at Joint Expeditionary Base (JEB) Little Creek-Fort Story
  • $37M for Water Treatment Plant at Marine Corps Base Quantico
  • $157M for Child Development Center, MQ-25 Aircraft Facilities, and a submarine pier at Naval Station Norfolk
  • $46M for weapons magazines at Naval Weapons Station Yorktown
  • $81M for Drydock Saltwater System at Norfolk Naval Shipyard
  • $25M for Defense Intelligence Agency headquarters annex at Fort Belvoir
  • $61M for Special Operations Forces Seal Delivery Vehicle Team 2 Operations Support Facility at JEB Little Creek-Fort Story
  • $30M for pedestrian access at the Pentagon
  • $12M for Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar support facilities at Dam Neck
  • $4M for an Equine Training Facility at Fort Belvoir
  • $20M for an Aircraft Maintenance Hangar at Virginia Army National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility in Sandston
  • $4M to complete maintenance and readiness centers at Virginia Army National Guard’s Roanoke Regional Readiness Center in Troutville
  • $4M for the Army Reserve Center in Richmond

Military Families:

  • Expands servicemember eligibility to receive reimbursement for qualified spouse relicensing or business costs when the servicemember relocates as the result of reassignment or a transfer from active duty to the reserves—making it easier for military spouses to continue their careers.
  • Makes mental health care more accessible and affordable for beneficiaries in the active duty family members category and TRICARE Young Adult program, by waiving cost sharing requirements for the first three outpatient mental health visits each year.
  • Directs a review and report on access to resources and services related to mental health for students of Department of Defense Education Activity Schools.

Military Housing:

  • Improves military housing for servicemembers E-6 and below without dependents whose ships are undergoing maintenance by providing the authority to allow these junior enlisted servicemembers to collect a Basic Housing Allowance (BAH) and not live aboard the ship. This follows conversations that Kaine had with servicemembers in Hampton Roads about mental health challenges while living aboard ships during long maintenance periods.
  • Authorizes improvements to the quality and oversight of military enlisted barracks, including the replacement of substandard barracks.
  • Requires that unaccompanied housing meets the same basic standards as all other military housing.
  • Improves the calculation of BAH rates with respect to junior enlisted members, by delinking that calculation from specific housing types and provides additional flexibility to ensure equitable housing rates can be calculated in markets with limited housing inventory.