Home Mark Warner Congress Passes 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, Including Military Housing Reforms, Other...

Congress Passes 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, Including Military Housing Reforms, Other Measures by Sen. Tim Kaine. Sen. Mark Warner

e.g., "Blocks President from Withdrawing Troops from NATO"; 12 weeks of paid family leave for federal employees

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VIDEO: KAINE’S MILITARY HOUSING REFORMS PASS CONGRESS

Legislation will now go to the President for signature

You can watch video of Kaine talking about the legislation here 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), released the following statement after Congress passed 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 paid family leave for federal employees and support for shipbuilding. The bill now heads to the President’s desk for his signature.  

“Every year, I’m proud of the bipartisan work that goes into delivering a national defense bill that helps support our servicemembers and protect our country. This year, one of my top priorities was addressing the dangerous conditions that I saw firsthand in military housing across Virginia, including mold issues and safety concerns. I’m thankful that my colleagues supported my provisions to tackle this issue. These reforms will go a long way towards fixing the problem, and we need to stay on this to ensure safer housing for our troops and their families,” said Kaine. 

The final legislation includes two Kaine amendments to address dangerous 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 verify that outstanding maintenance needs are fixed and that the tenant is leaving the home in good condition. This would address concerns Kaine has 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. This provision would help prevent housing companies from charging former tenants 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 second 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. During Kaine’s visit to Naval Station Norfolk, where military housing is often located outside the base’s gate, Kaine heard confusion about who had law enforcement responsibility in those neighborhoods – base police or Norfolk police. This provision 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 by 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 shared what he learned with military leaders and members of the Armed Services Committee to underscore the severity of the housing problems. 

The following list includes additional programs and provisions Kaine supported that were included in the final bill: 

Supports Shipbuilding and Repair: Provides over $13 billion for Virginia shipbuilding priorities, including carrier refueling and overhaul, new carrier construction, Virginia-class and Columbia-class submarines. Authorizes nearly $11 billion for ship repair.

Paid Family Leave for Federal Employees: Provides 12 weeks of paid parental leave to all federal civilian employees. 

Authorizes Military Construction (MILCON): Authorizes over $540 million for 15 critical military construction projects throughout the Commonwealth, including at Ft. Belvoir, the Pentagon, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, Dam Neck, Quantico, Yorktown, and Richmond. 

Blocks President from Withdrawing Troops from NATO: Expands upon a Kaine amendment to prevent the President from withdrawing from NATO for one year. Kaine introduced legislation earlier this year to explicitly prohibit any President from withdrawing from NATO without congressional approval. The legislation passed the Foreign Relations Committee last week.  

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 at Bien Hoa, which will remediate land contaminated during the war by dioxin. The clean-up is being accomplished with help from innovative Virginia companies. 

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 in order to provide lasting stability.

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SENATE PASSES WARNER-BACKED MILITARY HOUSING REFORMS IN ANNUAL DEFENSE BILL

~ Bipartisan defense bill increases oversight and accountability over plagued privatized military housing, provides robust funding for Hampton Roads shipbuilding community ~

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) applauded Congressional passage of the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). After the Senate approved the bill by a vote of 86-8, sending the legislation to the President’s desk for signature, Sen. Warner released the following statement:

“I’ve heard gut-wrenching stories from servicemembers and their families about being subjected to dangerous living conditions in privatized military housing. I’ve walked through these homes in communities across the Commonwealth and have seen firsthand mold and insect-infested conditions that no one should ever be exposed to. Military families shouldn’t have to worry that their homes might make their families sick, nor should they feel powerless when facing companies charged with providing high-quality housing. I’m proud to have secured large portions of my legislation within this bill to provide greater oversight over military housing and to live up to the promises we’ve made to our men and women in uniform.

“I’m also pleased that today’s bill provides a 3.1 percent pay raise for our military and repeals the unjust tax on more than 4,000 military widows in Virginia, which has prevented them from receiving all the benefits to which they are entitled. This bipartisan bill also guarantees 12 weeks of paid parental leave for Virginia’s 170,000 federal civilian employees, which will serve as an important recruitment and retention tool as more and more existing federal workers become eligible for retirement. Additionally, with the passage of today’s bill we are able to provide consistent funding to support our world-class shipbuilding fleet in Hampton Roads. This includes $11 billion for ship repair and the restoration of mid-life refueling for the USS Truman (CVN 75). It also provides funding to execute the Navy’s recently announced block buy of Virginia-class submarines, which will generate 25,000 jobs and save billions in taxpayer dollars. Collectively, these essential shipbuilding programs will support thousands of jobs in the region and help advance our nation’s security and military readiness.

“I also successfully pushed for the inclusion of the bipartisan Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) to provide our intelligence community with the resources they need to protect our country from emerging threats from countries such as China, Russia, and North Korea. The IAA also includes much-needed reforms to modernize our antiquated security clearance process to make sure we have the personnel we need to tackle emerging cyber and technology threats. While we’ve substantially reduced the background investigation backlog to under 300,000, down from 725,000, this bill includes many of my provisions to establish a vetting system that reflects today’s threats, supports our mobile workforce and capitalizes on modern technology.”

Following reports of health hazards in privatized military housing across the Commonwealth and the country, Sen. Warner has fought to improve housing conditions for servicemembers and their families, introducing the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act to make much-needed reforms to privatized military housing. After pushing Congressional negotiators to protect these vital military housing provisions from the NDAA that passed earlier this year in the Senate, Sen. Warner successfully secured large portions of his legislation in this annual defense bill.

In March, Sen. Warner joined then-Secretary of the Army, now-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper in visiting Fort Belvoir for a private tour and roundtable discussion to hear directly from military families about their experiences with military housing. Sen. Warner has also met with military families in Norfolk and at Fort Lee. To keep up the pressure on addressing the deplorable housing conditions, Sen. Warner wrote to four private military housing companies requesting a plan of action from each company, and has urged the Department of Defense to develop long-term solutions for fixing the overall privatized housing program by reopening and renegotiating the agreements with the private companies.

As a strong advocate of Virginia’s defense and shipbuilding community, Sen. Warner has supported a block buy of aircraft carriers, saving billions in taxpayer dollars, and pushed for robust funding for shipbuilding and ship-repair in the annual defense bill. In December 2017, Sen. Warner joined 16 Senators in a letter to then-Defense Secretary James Mattis to support a block buy. Last week, Sen. Warner praised the Navy’s block buy of nine Virginia-class submarines, poised to create 25,000 jobs in Hampton Roads, that was authorized in today’s defense bill package.

As Vice Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner also successfully pushed for the inclusion of the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Years 2018-2020, to ensure the intelligence community is postured to effectively address the growing array of threats to our national security. This includes provisions Sen. Warner sponsored to make the security clearance system simpler and more effective, including demanding plans to reduce the number of security “tiers,” creating an electronic portal for applicants to track their progress, and much more. The broader defense bill also carries a provision providing twelve weeks of paid parental leave to civilian federal employees. The IAA included an amendment offered by Senator Warner that would have provided a similar benefit to intelligence community employees.

Additionally, the final defense bill prevents the Trump Administration from merging the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) with the General Services Administration (GSA) without first providing Congress and the public transparency on the rationale behind the move, backed by sound, independent analysis of the potential costs and benefits. This mirrors an effort pushed by Sen. Warner to prevent the federal workforce from being subjected to continued political attacks and increased political interference by the Trump Administration. Also included in the legislation is a provision led by Sen. Warner to provide financial relief to certain civilian federal employees who have to relocate for work.