U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement on the Senate passage of the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes numerous provisions he supported in the Committee markup to benefit Virginia’s shipbuilding industry, defense community, servicemembers, and their families.
“We delivered many wins for our servicemembers in this bill, but we still owe them a very important debate and vote on an Authorization for Use of Military Force. There are thousands of American troops fighting across the world, willing to sacrifice so much, and they deserve to know Congress is behind them, not just with funding, but in support of their missions. Instead Congress is punting—allowing the President to wage war anywhere, anytime, against any terrorist group, and for however long he wants. Supporting our troops and our national defense is about ensuring they have the resources they need, but it’s also about showing them we have their backs, and I hope now we have the momentum for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to finally take up the authorization Senator Flake and I have proposed.”
The following list includes many of the programs and provisions Kaine advocated for during the markup and amendment process that were included in the final bill, which will directly affect Virginia’s defense industry:
- Supports Shipbuilding: Funds the procurement of USS John F Kennedy (CVN-79) and USS Enterprise(CVN-80), and the refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) of USS George Washington (CVN 73) andUSS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). The bill also provides an additional $450 million for procurement of either a third Virginia-class submarine or to expand the submarine industrial base in preparation for the Columbia-class submarine program. The bill also authorizes over $9 billion in ship depot maintenance and operations support.
- Supports Servicemembers and Military Families: Funds a 2.1% pay raise for servicemembers and requires the Department of Defense (DoD) to begin evaluating a process to assist military spouses with transferring professional licenses and credentials across state lines. Kaine heard from military spouses about this issue in Hampton this spring. After hearing the concerns of constituents and military family advocacy groups, Kaine worked to include a provision in the bill that would authorize hospice care services for TRICARE beneficiaries under the age of 21. The NDAA also includes an amendment by Kaine that directs the Secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs to discover new areas of cooperation on suicide prevention.
- Builds on Kaine’s Work to Improve Credentialing for Servicemembers: Requires DoD to update Congress on its progress toward implementing veterans’ credentialing provisions championed by Kaine in previous defense bills, which will reduce veterans’ unemployment by ensuring that servicemembers receive high-quality accredited credentials for a more successful transition to civilian employment.
- DoD Cyber Scholarship Program Act: Includes key provisions of Kaine’s bill, the DoD Cyber Scholarship Program Act, which would boost the cybersecurity workforce by reinvigorating a DoD cyber scholarship program that was threatened by sequestration cuts and directing five percent of scholarships toward community college students. DoD has not previously awarded scholarships to community college students; expanding the program to these students will broaden the talent pool and fill key cyber workforce gaps at DoD. There are fifty-two, two-year institutions that would qualify for scholarships, including four in Virginia: Danville Community College, Lord Fairfax Community College, Northern Virginia Community College, and Tidewater Community College.
- National Science Foundation’s Cyber Scholarship Program: Includes a Kaine amendment to enhance the cybersecurity workforce pipeline by improving and expanding the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) CyberCorps: Scholarship-for-Service Program, which awards grants and scholarships to students in exchange for government service in cybersecurity roles. The bill’s key provisions would expand scholarships to community colleges, increase resources for K-12 cyber education, improve cyber teacher recruitment, and boost much-needed support for critical infrastructure at risk of cyberattacks.
- Boosts Ability to Deter Russia: Includes a Kaine provision that would direct the Minerva Research Initiative, DoD’s social science research program, to expand research on the social forces behind information warfare. Citing the Director of National Intelligence’s report on Russia’s hacking operation during the 2016 election, the bill directs Minerva to fund research on ways to identify and counter fake media, misinformation, and other technical aspects of information operations. The NDAA also increases the strength of U.S. partnerships with European Allies by stabilizing funding for the European Deterrence Initiative and improves cooperation with European forces to help respond to Russian military aggression.
- Puts Committee on Record Against Sequestration: Includes an amendment demonstrating the Committee’s support for the unconditional repeal of the Budget Control Act.
- Authorizes Military Construction (MILCON): Authorizes over $350 million in critical military construction projects throughout the Commonwealth including Dam Neck, Portsmouth, Yorktown, Ft. Belvoir and Joint Base Langley-Eustis.
- No BRAC Round: The Senate did not take up Senator McCain’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) proposal and Rejected DoD proposals for a new BRAC round.
- Marine Corps War Memorial: Kaine proposed an amendment to authorize the National Park Service to construct a permanent restroom facility at the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, VA.