June 18, 2015

Kaine Statement On Defense Bills

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, applauded Senate passage of the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) today, which includes amendments he introduced condemning sequestration cuts and strengthening credentialing programs, as well as a number of other provisions that benefit Virginia’s shipbuilding industry and defense community. Following passage of NDAA, Kaine voted against a motion to begin debate on the Fiscal Year 2016 Defense Appropriations Bill in hopes of reaching a larger budget deal that provides sequestration relief for both defense and non-defense priorities.

“I’m very pleased with the bipartisan effort that went into this year’s defense authorization bill.  From protecting our shipbuilding and repair industry to modernizing facilities at vital military installations across Virginia, we were able to work together to ensure those who work tirelessly on behalf of our nation’s defense receive the support they deserve and that critical national security measures are implemented. I was also pleased that through the defense appropriations bill we were able to protect much of the funding that others on the Armed Services Committee sought to cut, potentially putting civilian workers from Virginia at risk and threatening many programs our servicemembers rely on throughout their career and into retirement.

“I am particularly pleased that today 49 of 54 Republican Senators supported legislation containing the Kaine-King amendment (Sec. 1004) to fix the sequester that imposes harsh and arbitrary budget caps on both defense and non-defense priorities. The sequester caps make us less safe and hurt our economy. Together with the unified Democratic caucus, we now have a unique moment with 95 Senators having supported or voted for legislation that makes clear sequester must be fixed.

“Since there is near unanimity in the Senate that the budget caps must be fixed, we should not vote for appropriations bills that are drawn to the outdated budget figures. For this reason, I will oppose all 12 regular appropriations bills, including the defense bill considered today, until we sit down in a budget summit and find an appropriate resolution.”

The following list includes many of the programs and provisions Kaine advocated that were included in the final defense authorization and appropriations bills:

NDAA:

Protects Commissaries:  Senator Kaine co-authored an amendment along with Senator Inhofe and Senator Mikulski revising the Chairman’s language in the Defense Authorization to require a comprehensive study on impacts of commissary privatization prior to any plans or pilot programs being enacted.

Improves Background Checks and Combats Insider Threats:  Includes a provision authored by Senator Kaine and Senator Tester requiring that the Secretary of Defense implement improvements to the security clearance process and insider threat protections to better secure federal workplaces and security facilities.

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.

Defense Appropriations:

Protects Headquarters Funding: Restores more than 80% of the funding that Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain sought to cut from critical Operations and Maintenance accounts.  No study or commissioned report had advised these cuts or assessed their impacts.

Supports Commissaries: Includes an additional $322 million in commissary funding. 

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