U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today praised the committee’s Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes key provisions Kaine supported that benefit Virginia’s defense community. The bill was reported out of committee today with a bipartisan vote of 25 to 1. Prior to the markup, Kaine sent a letter to Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) voicing support for these priorities and advocating for necessary resources.
“I’m very happy with the outcome of this bipartisan bill, particularly the support it provides for our servicemembers and the inclusion of my amendments to authorize funding for the refueling and overhaul of the USS George Washington, which sends a clear signal to the Administration and the Appropriations Committees that we need an 11 carrier Navy,” said Kaine. “This was the right thing to do for the defense of our nation, it’s consistent with the statutory requirement for an 11 carrier Navy, and it’s great for the shipyard in Newport News where our talented shipbuilders build and maintain nuclear aircraft carriers – the most visible symbol of American naval power. I’m also pleased we successfully fought against cuts to commissary benefits for military families and that servicemembers of all ranks will have their pay and benefits preferences taken into account before recommendations are issued by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission next year.”
The following list includes many of the programs and provisions Kaine requested in the letter to Levin and during the markup process that were included in the final bill:
Refueling and Overhaul of the USS George Washington (CVN 73): After months of advocating for the CVN 73 refueling and complex overhaul to preserve the Navy’s 11 operational aircraft carrier fleet, Kaine’s efforts authorized $696 million for this purpose in the final committee bill. It is the Committee’s intent that the Navy will proceed with the refueling and maintain the statutory requirement for the 11 carrier fleet.
Ensures Servicemember Benefit Preferences are Considered by DoD Review Panel: The defense bill includes an amendment that mirrors Kaine’s Servicemembers’ Compensation Empowerment Act, recently introduced with Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). The authorization encourages the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission to formally take preferences of military personnel on their pay and benefits into account as the Commission prepares to issue a comprehensive set of cost-saving recommendations in February 2015.
Rejects DoD Proposals to Reduce Commissary Subsidies and Consolidate TRICARE: These changes, which the committee deemed structural in nature, are not authorized in the defense bill. The committee believes these decisions should be deferred to allow the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission to do its work.
Addresses Overmedication of Prescription Drugs in Treatment Plans for Servicemembers: To address concerns about overmedication among our servicemembers, this provision requires the Secretary Of Defense to carry out a program of comprehensive medication management in military treatment facilities. The Secretary also must issue a report on the risks associated with medication administration and management, including accidental and intentional overdoses.
No BRAC Round: The bill rejects DoD proposals for a new Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round.
Paves Way for Expansion of Arlington National Cemetery: The defense bill includes a provision that paves the way for a land exchange agreement 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.
Improves 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. However, as Kaine noted during the Personnel Subcommittee markup earlier this week, an amendment allowing Tuition Assistance funds to be used by active duty military for credentialing or licensing exams was not included in the authorization bill. He has vowed to continue working with DoD to ensure support for servicemembers interested in pursuing career and technical education, using Tuition Assistance funding.
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 is 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 so that the U.S. can keep its promise to the individuals and their families who served alongside Americans overseas.
Humanitarian Demining Training Center: The bill also includes a measure introduced by Kaine supporting the efforts and activities of the Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Training Center (HDTC) and the support it provides to allied armed forces in demining activities. The HDTC is undergoing relocation to Ft. Lee, just outside of Petersburg, Virginia where it can more effectively operate in concert with other Department of Defense and Department of State personnel.
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.