Kaine on Senate passage of annual defense bill

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, comments on final Senate passage of 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 support for shipbuilding.

While the Senate passed the national defense bill today, the Senate will vote tomorrow on a bipartisan amendment Kaine sponsored with Senator Tom Udall to prohibit funds from being used for military operations against Iran without explicit authorization from Congress. If the amendment passes, it will be retroactively added to the national defense bill.

“Every year, I’m proud of the bipartisan work that goes into passing the national defense bill and keeping Americans safe. This year was no exception. We included strong provisions to support our military and strengthen our national security. After listening to military families at Naval Station Norfolk and Ft. Belvoir about their issues with military housing – like mold and safety concerns  I worked to include reforms in this must-pass bill to help ensure these problems are addressed. There’s still one amendment to the defense bill that we have yet to take up – my amendment to prevent the President from going to war with Iran without Congress doing its constitutional duty and voting on it. Americans don’t want another war in the Middle East and I’m going to do everything I can to block President Trump from unilaterally starting one. I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this amendment tomorrow,” Kaine said. 

The following list includes many of the programs and provisions Kaine advocated for during the markup process that were included in the final bill, which will directly aid Virginia’s defense industry:

  • Improves Military Family Housing: Includes two Kaine amendments to address horrific 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 must verify that outstanding maintenance needs are fixed and that the tenant is leaving the home in good condition. This would address concerns Kaine 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 and relocated. This provision would help prevent housing companies from charging former tenants potentially unjustifiable move-out 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 other 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. This 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 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 then shared what he learned with military leaders and the Armed Services Committee to underscore how serious the housing problems are.
  • Supports Shipbuilding and Repair: Provides over $13 billion for Virginia shipbuilding priorities, including carrier refueling and overhaul, new carrier construction, Virginia-class submarines and Columbia-class submarines. Authorizes nearly $11 billion for ship repair.
  • Authorizes Military Construction (MILCON): Authorizes over $430 million for 12 critical military construction projects throughout the Commonwealth, including at Ft. Belvoir, the Pentagon, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, Dam Neck, Quantico, Yorktown, and Richmond.
  • Addresses Sexual Assault in the Military: Includes a Kaine amendment that requires DOD to report on a plan to create a “duty to report” to require servicemembers to intervene if they are aware of sexual assault in the armed forces.  
  • Delays Any President From Removing NATO Troops From Europe: Includes a Kaine amendment to prohibit the withdrawal of troops from Europe for one year following any presidential decision to withdraw troops from NATO. The one year period would allow Congress time to reverse such a decision. Kaine has led efforts to prevent any President from leaving NATO and introduced legislation earlier this year to explicitly prohibit any President from withdrawing from NATO without Senate approval.
  • Supports Training for Defense Jobs: Includes a Kaine amendment to require DOD to develop a plan to train skilled technicians for immediate placement in the Defense Industrial Base, including welding, machining, and additive manufacturing by partnering with state training and education programs. This was inspired by efforts at Danville Community College. 
  • 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 in Vietnam, at Bien Hoa, which will remediate land contaminated during the war by dioxin. 
  • 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 to provide lasting stability.

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