Warner statement on Senate passage of annual defense bill

mark warnerU.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) released a statement after Congress approved the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

“I’m glad that the Senate was able to work in a bipartisan way to improve national security, support our service members, and strengthen defense readiness.  

“Since the Administration has failed to listen to warnings from their own top intelligence officials about the dangers posed by Chinese telecom company ZTE, this legislation includes a bipartisan amendment – which I co-sponsored – to automatically reinstate trade restrictions on ZTE once this bill is signed into law. Importantly, this legislation would also ensure that neither ZTE nor Huawei will be eligible for government contracts in the future. To further prioritize our national security, I also supported the inclusion of a bipartisan CFIUS bill similar to what we passed in the Banking Committee to ensure that foreign investments in the U.S. do not pose a national security risk. I strongly encourage the Administration to consider the strong bipartisan support for these measures in the Senate before taking any hasty actions. Additionally, this bill urges the Secretaries of State and Defense to dedicate all necessary resources to complete its strategy to counter and deter future cyber aggression by Russia.” 

“This bill also funds several critical priorities important to Virginia’s shipbuilding footprint, including the procurement of two Virginia-class submarines. In addition, this bill pushes further action to make long-overdue investments in our nation’s public shipyards, authorizes more than $260 million towards 14 military construction projects across the Commonwealth, and includes a 2.6 percent raise for members of the armed forces. The NDAA also includes important reforms to modernize our antiquated security clearance system and to reduce the 700,000 person background investigation backlog. Although this bill is far from perfect, I commend my colleagues for passing this critical defense package,” said Sen. Warner.

Included in the NDAA are three provisions championed by Sen. Warner to address the security clearance backlog:

  • A provision requiring the Director of National Intelligence to improve information sharing regarding government and contract employees;
  • A provision requiring the Director of National Intelligence to provide a report on a clearance-in-person concept to accommodate a more modern mobile workforce;
  • And a provision creating a “rocket” clearance for mission-critical positions that can be processed in 15 days for SECRET and 45 days for TOP SECRET.

In addition, the bill includes a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Sen. Warner and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) that would improve access to cybersecurity scholarships for students at minority-serving institutions. With mounting demand across every industry for trained cyber workers, it’s particularly important that we invest now in developing a diverse cyber workforce.

Added Sen. Warner, “In order to address the nation’s increased cyber threats from foreign adversaries, this amendment will ensure the nation that the U.S. builds a strong and diverse pipeline of future talent to lead the nation’s strategy in the field of cybersecurity.”

“Norfolk State University is pleased to support this bipartisan proposal to recruit a more diverse pool of students to pursue cyber education,” said Dr. Melvin T. Stith, Interim President of Norfolk State University. “Strong cyber training and knowledge is essential for preparing students to compete and thrive in a 21st century economy. This effort by Senator Warner is a welcome boost to Norfolk State University’s ongoing efforts to produce a talented and representative cyber workforce.”

The amendment is similar to provision offered by Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) that was included in the House-passed version of the NDAA. The text of the amendment can be found here.


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