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Kaine Secures Wins in Bicameral, Bipartisan National Defense Bill

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, released the following statement after an agreement was reached between the Senate and House Armed Services Committees for the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill, which the full Senate voted to proceed on today, includes several provisions secured by Kaine to support 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.

“As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I’m proud of the bipartisan, bicameral work we’ve done to advance a defense bill that will protect our national security, strengthen our alliances, and support Virginia servicemembers, their families, and our robust defense community. The bill includes many provisions that I’ve fought for, including a well-deserved pay raise for servicemembers and Defense Department personnel, resources to improve access to mental health services, and funding to improve military installations across Virginia. It also includes support to implement the Australia-U.K.-U.S. agreement and my bipartisan bills to address the fentanyl crisis and ensure no President can unilaterally withdraw from NATO. I’m glad the Senate will debate the legislation on the Senate floor next week and urge my colleagues to pass this bill as soon as possible, so we can get it to the President’s desk to be signed into law.”

Kaine successfully secured the following provisions in the legislation:

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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 Mental Health: Includes various provisions to strengthen and expand mental health care for servicemembers and dependents regardless of their location.

  • 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.
  • 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. 

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.
  • 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.