May 14, 2015

Kaine Applauds Virginia Wins In 2016 Defense Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today praised the committee’s Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes amendments introduced by Kaine condemning sequestration cuts and strengthening credentialing programs, as well as a number of other provisions supported by Kaine that benefit Virginia’s shipbuilding industry and defense community. The bill was reported out of committee today and will now advance to the full Senate for consideration. Prior to the markup, Kaine sent a letter to Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) voicing support for these priorities and advocating for necessary resources.

“I’m proud we reported out a bill that includes many provisions that will benefit Virginia’s defense community, including support for our servicemembers and their families, funding to maintain our carrier fleet and bolster the shipbuilding industry, and my amendments to improve servicemembers’ post-service employment prospects through reforms to credentialing and put the committee on record against harmful sequestration cuts. Over the past two years, sequester cuts have disproportionately impacted Virginia and forced the Department of Defense to manage the complex challenges of today based on a spending plan set years ago before the rise of current national security threats. As a result of my amendment, our bill directs Congress to consider every mechanism available to enact relief from sequestration for both defense and non-defense programs. I’m also pleased we avoided a new BRAC round, which would have caused anxiety and inflicted harm on communities connected to any affected bases while costing billions of dollars to implement up-front.

“While I applaud Chairman McCain’s aggressive initiatives to make the Department of Defense more efficient, I am concerned that some of these reforms did not take the measured and thoughtful approach expected of this committee.  In an effort to streamline headquarters, the committee drastically cut $1.7 billion from operational accounts, which may impact a wide variety of critical programs including funeral honors for servicemembers and veterans, suicide prevention, and veterans’ hiring. I offered an amendment to take a more calculated approach that would have achieved similar results while protecting these programs, but unfortunately it was not adopted into the final bill.” 

The following list includes many of the programs and provisions Kaine requested in the letter to McCain and during the markup process that were included in the final bill:

Supports Shipbuilding: Provides funding for procurement and sustainment of the statutory requirement to maintain the 11-carrier fleet. The bill continues the refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) of CVN 73 and advanced procurement for RCOH on the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). The bill also authorizes an increase of $800 million for the Virginia Class Submarine program. The bill authorizes the purchase of one additional destroyer, the President’s budget request for the Ohio Class replacement program, the LPD-28 Class of ships and accelerates the LX(R) next generation amphibious ship program.

Improves Credentialing Process for Servicemembers: The authorization includes two provisions Kaine introduced to reduce veterans’ unemployment by ensuring that servicemembers receive high-quality, accredited credentials that will prepare them for a successful transition to civilian employment. The authorization also requires the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on how credentialing authorities have been implemented in the armed services and requires DoD to inform Congress on future credentialing plans. These provisions build on amendments Kaine successfully introduced during previous NDAA markups.

Bolsters Cybersecurity: The committee also adopted an amendment introduced by Senators Kaine and Gillibrand to increase the DoD’s ability to hire the talented cyber workforce necessary to confront today’s complex cyber threats. This provision will allow DoD to compete with civilian employers recruiting talented cyber workers and will strengthen a field which many transitioning servicemembers pursue after transitioning from active duty.

Puts Committee on Record Against Sequestration:  The committee adopted two Kaine amendments denouncing the shortsighted, non-strategic, and across-the-board sequestration cuts and their harmful impact on our national security. Kaine’s amendments state the committee’s belief that Congress should consider every mechanism available to enact relief from sequestration for both defense and non-defense programs. Expressing this position on sequestration through the committee builds on Kaine’s bipartisan amendment that was adopted during Senate consideration of the budget resolution this year.

No BRAC Round:  The bill rejects DoD proposals for a new Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round.

Adopts Compensation Proposals: Includes many proposals from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Committee, including a modified version of the Commission’s retirement plan. The bill includes a 1.3% pay raise and incorporates a 401(k)-styled matching Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) but allows for current servicemembers to remain in the existing retirement system.

Authorizes Military Construction (MILCON): The committee authorizes 17 critical military construction projects throughout the Commonwealth, including infrastructure facilities in Hampton Roads, Richmond, Quantico, Wallops Island, Ft. Belvoir, and Joint Base Langley-Eustis.