Kaine highlights compromise defense bill

congressU.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today welcomed compromise defense bill language announced by House and Senate negotiators. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2015 is substantially based on the two bills passed last spring by the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, respectively, and includes important provisions Kaine advocated for on behalf of Virginia in the Senate version. The full House of Representatives is expected to consider the defense bill this week followed by Senate consideration next week.

“I’m proud of the bipartisan work that went into this bill, which provides critical support to our military personnel and civilians, especially shipbuilders, and includes my amendments to maintain our 11-carrier fleet and improve the credentialing process for servicemembers so employers better understand their skills when they transition into the civilian workforce,” said Kaine. “This legislation includes important provisions to protect commissary subsidies, improve policies for prosecuting sexual assault, and give our troops a pay raise. While I’m pleased that we are directing resources to the fight against ISIL, Congress should have had a debate on an authorization for our mission in Iraq and Syria, which has continued for nearly four months without approval from Congress. It is the height of public immorality to ask servicemembers to risk their lives when we’re not willing to debate and vote on this issue.”

The following list highlights many of the programs and provisions included in the final compromise authorization language which Kaine pushed for during the markup process:

Refueling and Overhaul of the USS George Washington (CVN 73): Following Kaine’s successful efforts in the Senate Armed Services Committee to authorize the refueling and complex overhaul of CVN 73 and preserve the Navy’s 11 operational aircraft carrier fleet, $795 million has been authorized in the compromise defense bill for this purpose.

Improved Credentialing Process for Servicemembers: The authorization includes provisions of an amendment Kaine introduced with Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) that requires the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security to create a program for active duty servicemembers to obtain professional credentials while serving.

Supports Shipbuilding Priorities: Authorizes funding for three Littoral Combat Ships and allows two cruisers to enter modernization next year.

Raises Servicemembers’ Pay: Authorizes a one percent pay raise for most servicemembers.

Protects Commissary Subsidies & Rejects Proposal to Consolidate TRICARE: The compromise bill restores $200 million for commissaries and defers any other changes to the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, which is preparing to issue a comprehensive set of cost-saving recommendations in February 2015.

Improves Policies on Sexual Assault in the Military: Requires the Secretary of Defense to consider the preference of sexual assault survivors regarding whether offenses should be prosecuted by court-martial or in a civilian court. Allows a victim of sexual assault, who believes that their rights were violated during the court martial process, the ability to petition the Court of Criminal Appeals to require the court martial to comply with the Military Rules of Evidence. Provides an appeal process for individuals who were victims of a sex-related offense and were discharged from the military for what they believe is a side-effect of their assault, such as psychological struggles. Requires the establishment of a Defense Advisory Committee on Investigation, Prosecution, and Defense of Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces.

Addresses Overmedication of Prescription Drugs in Treatment Plans:  Authorizes a pilot program to evaluate medication therapy management for servicemembers.

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

Authorizes Expansion of Arlington National Cemetery:  Authorizes the land exchange between Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington County, and the Commonwealth of Virginia, supporting both Army efforts for expanded cemetery grounds and Arlington County efforts for a variety of public uses.

Suicide Prevention: Authorizes $53.3 million toward behavioral and psychological health programs for military personnel.

Supports Expansion of Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program: The bill includes provisions co-sponsored by Senators Kaine and Shaheen extending the Afghan SIV program, which was set to expire at the end of the fiscal year. The program provides visas to Afghans who have provided faithful and valuable service to the U.S. forces mission in Afghanistan and face threats as a result. The provisions extend the program and provide authorization for additional visas to be issued, increasing the total to approximately 4,000 per year.

Establishes a Commission on the Future of the Army: The bill establishes a National Commission on the Future of the Army and places limits on the transfer of aviation assets from the National Guard.