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Video: Kaine’s Military Housing Reforms Pass Congress

Legislation will now go to the President for signature

You can watch video of Kaine talking about the legislation here 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), released the following statement after Congress passed the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes Kaine’s provisions to improve military housing and many of his other priorities for Virginia, including paid family leave for federal employees and support for shipbuilding. The bill now heads to the President’s desk for his signature. 

“Every year, I’m proud of the bipartisan work that goes into delivering a national defense bill that helps support our servicemembers and protect our country. This year, one of my top priorities was addressing the dangerous conditions that I saw firsthand in military housing across Virginia, including mold issues and safety concerns. I’m thankful that my colleagues supported my provisions to tackle this issue. These reforms will go a long way towards fixing the problem, and we need to stay on this to ensure safer housing for our troops and their families,” said Kaine.

The final legislation includes two Kaine amendments to address dangerous 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 verify that outstanding maintenance needs are fixed and that the tenant is leaving the home in good condition. This would address concerns Kaine has 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. This provision would help prevent housing companies from charging former tenants 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 second 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. During Kaine’s visit to Naval Station Norfolk, where military housing is often located outside the base’s gate, Kaine heard confusion about who had law enforcement responsibility in those neighborhoods – base police or Norfolk police. This provision 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 by 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 shared what he learned with military leaders and members of the Armed Services Committee to underscore the severity of the housing problems.

The following list includes additional programs and provisions Kaine supported that were included in the final bill:

Supports Shipbuilding and Repair: Provides over $13 billion for Virginia shipbuilding priorities, including carrier refueling and overhaul, new carrier construction, Virginia-class and Columbia-class submarines. Authorizes nearly $11 billion for ship repair.

Paid Family Leave for Federal Employees: Provides 12 weeks of paid parental leave to all federal civilian employees.

Authorizes Military Construction (MILCON): Authorizes over $540 million for 15 critical military construction projects throughout the Commonwealth, including at Ft. Belvoir, the Pentagon, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, Dam Neck, Quantico, Yorktown, and Richmond.

Blocks President from Withdrawing Troops from NATO: Expands upon a Kaine amendment to prevent the President from withdrawing from NATO for one year. Kaine introduced legislation earlier this year to explicitly prohibit any President from withdrawing from NATO without congressional approval. The legislation passed the Foreign Relations Committee last week.

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 at Bien Hoa, which will remediate land contaminated during the war by dioxin. The clean-up is being accomplished with help from innovative Virginia companies.

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 in order to provide lasting stability.