Webb: Conference report on defense bill supports troops, strategic posture overseas

jim-webbSen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) today voiced strong support for the conference report of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. The legislation was reported out of the Senate-House conference committee last night and is expected to pass both houses of Congress this week.

“The conference report for the defense authorization bill demonstrates a strong and consistent bipartisan commitment to supporting our troops, their families, and critical defense programs,” said Webb, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and chair of its Personnel Subcommittee. “Overall, the bill will sustain important quality-of-life programs for our people and their families, address the needs of our warfighters, and sharpen the Defense Department’s proper focus on advancing our national-security interests in the Asia Pacific region. We will also strengthen the federal government’s stewardship of taxpayer dollars during military contingencies overseas.”

The conference report includes several provisions championed by Senator Webb, including a unanimously approved provision to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Japan under Article V of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, and to firmly counter any attempts to challenge Japan’s administration of the Senkaku Islands.

“Over the past several years, China has taken increasingly aggressive actions to assert its claim over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and in a broad expanse of the South China Sea,” said Webb, who has expressed numerous concerns over maritime territorial disputes in this region for more than 16 years. “With passage of the conference report, the U.S. Congress will unequivocally state that the United States acknowledges the administration of Japan over the Senkaku Islands, and that this position will not be changed through threats, coercion, or military action.”

The report also authorizes a Marine Corps military construction project for aircraft ramp parking at Andersen Air Base on Guam and use of FY 2013 funds for the planning and design of other projects.  Webb has consistently supported a faster timeline to realign Marines to Guam and to reduce the number of Marines on Okinawa as soon as possible. Though a legally mandated master plan for realignment that identifies costs, schedules and other requirements has not been submitted by the Department of Defense, Webb has expressed support for “independent Marine Corps projects on Guam that serve important training and operational mission in their own right.”

The report establishes cost-sharing rates under the TRICARE pharmacy benefits program for FY 2013 and limits any annual hikes in pharmacy copayments to increases in retiree cost-of-living adjustments between fiscal years 2014 to 2022. It also authorizes a 1.7 percent across-the-board pay raise for all members of the uniformed services. “Personnel and health-care provisions in the conference report for this year’s bill reflect what I have long called our moral contract with our men and women in uniform and their families,” Webb said.  “It was a great honor for me to fight hard on their behalf chairing the Personnel Subcommittee for the past three years.”

In addition, the conference bill includes provisions that directly benefit Virginians, including:

·         Repealing flawed provisions in the FY 2012 NDAA relating to depot-level maintenance retroactive to date of enactment; this will benefit Virginia’s shipbuilding and ship-repair industries and workers;

·         Funding the construction of 10 U.S. Navy ships, with advance procurement funding authorized to support buying an additional Virginia-class submarine in FY 2014 and a 10-ship, multi-year procurement contract for DDG-51 guided-missile destroyers that should generate enough savings to purchase an added ship in FY 2014.

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