Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) joined 28 colleagues, led by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Susan Collins (R-ME), in introducing legislation to guarantee back pay as soon as possible for federal workers who go without a paycheck during the current government shutdown. The Government Employee Fair Treatment Act also clarifies that employees who had previously scheduled approved leave occurring during a shutdown may take that leave without undue penalty. 

“Federal employees have worked hard to serve our country and we must ensure they don’t go without the pay their families were counting on just because of the President’s irresponsible actions,” said Warner and Kaine.  

View text of the Government Employee Fair Treatment ActHERE.

 

###

 

WASHINGTON – Responding to changes in the economy and the nature of work, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Congressman Jim Himes (D-CT) today released a proposal for portable accounts that would make saving for retirement easier for American workers who can increasingly expect to work multiple jobs for multiple employers over the course of a career. 

In a white paper, Sen. Warner and Rep. Himes put forward a proposal for a new type of retirement savings vehicle, the Portable Retirement and Investment Account (PRIA). The accounts – which would be universal for all Americans, and travel from job to job over the course of a lifetime in a workforce – would offer those workers who are not currently well-served by existing retirement programs a new avenue to save and manage their retirement assets. The accounts would not replace 401(k)s, IRAs, and other existing retirement accounts and would also make it easier for employees to consolidate their existing retirement accounts if they change jobs. 

“Changes in the nature of work mean that Americans are more likely to change jobs and be engaged in non-traditional forms of work than they were a generation ago, but our policies haven’t kept up with these shifts. As more and more Americans can expect to hold multiple jobs across a career, a year, and even a day, we need to provide them with access to flexible, portable benefits such as retirement savings that will carry with them from employer to employer and gig to gig,” said Sen. Warner. “Input from stakeholders will be critical as we look towards developing functional solutions that will work for employers and employees alike.”

“Millions of Americans are not properly preparing for retirement and need a mechanism that makes it easier to save throughout their lives. To achieve this, Congress should create a portable retirement account that is personalized and independent from employment status. I’ve introduced a version in the House as a first draft and am grateful to Senator Warner in joining me to develop the idea further in a bicameral way. Today’s release of our white paper is a call to partnership for all interested parties who know our system isn’t working and are committed to fixing it,” said Rep. Himes. “With input from experts and stakeholders, we’ll be able to create a new, flexible and portable plan that will be an integral part of overcoming the challenges facing our retirement system.”

American workers are increasingly likely to hold several different jobs over the course of their careers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, younger baby boomers held, on average, 12 jobs by the time they turned 50 – and current economic trends indicate that younger workers can expect to change jobs even more frequently. At the same time, fewer companies now offer traditional defined benefit pensions to their workers, and, whether by choice or necessity, a growing number of Americans are also engaged in alternative work arrangements that offer little or no access to retirement benefits. These trends all point to the need to offer workers a new option to save for their retirement in addition to or in lieu of traditional employer-based plans.

Sen. Warner and Rep. Himes are now seeking input from stakeholders regarding their proposal with an eye towards potential legislation. Submissions can be made to Sen. Warner’s office at PRIA@warner.senate.gov and to Rep. Himes’ office at Mark.Snyder@mail.house.gov by Friday, January 11.

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sent another letter to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joseph J. Simons pressing the leader of the agency to use the authorities granted to it by Congress to protect American businesses and shoppers from digital advertising fraud, which reached $7.4 billion in 2016 – costs that are later passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. Today’s letter follows an earlier Oct. 25 letter urging the FTC to do more to respond to the prevalence of digital ad fraud, in light of inaction by major industry players like Google to voluntarily curb the problem.

Sen. Warner noted that in large part because of enforcement decisions made by the FTC, Google has come to dominate the digital ad market, but has done little to crack down on fraud. Google was the only major social media company absent for a September hearing in the Senate Intelligence Committee, on which Sen. Warner serves as Vice Chairman.

Sen. Warner today criticized the FTC’s failure to take action, writing, “As long as Google stands to profit from the sale of additional advertisements, the financial incentive for it to voluntarily root out and address fraud remains minimal. It was thus enormously discouraging to read your own response to my [Oct. 25] letter, which did nothing to address the inaction of major industry stakeholders in curbing these abuses. Instead, your letter appeared to suggest that your authority to address deceptive and unfair practices does not apply to this conduct; rather, your letter portrays the FTC as successfully addressing online fraud through workshops and education campaigns. Neither suggestion inspires confidence in the FTC’s efforts as digital ad fraud has continued to proliferate.”

“In recent congressional testimony, you have urged Congress to provide the FTC with additional authority related to promoting competition and consumer protection in the digital age. Increasingly, I am not convinced the Commission is adequately utilizing the authority it already has to crack down on fraud and other misbehavior,” Sen. Warner added. “The FTC is the agency explicitly empowered to address fraud and deceptive practices, and Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act was written in broad terms precisely for this purpose. Since 1938, Congress has given your agency broad enforcement authority to protect consumers and expects you to use it. I would like to sit down with you in the next month to discuss how the FTC can ensure it does the job Congress intended it to do.” 

The full text of today’s letter is available here, and also appears below.

In October, Sen. Warner wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joseph Simons expressing concern following a report published by Buzzfeed detailing continued prevalence of digital advertising fraud and inaction by Google to curb these efforts. AccordingBuzzfeed, this scheme has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent advertising revenues, with operations spanning more than 125 Android apps and websites. The FTC’s November response can be found here. 

In July 2016, Sen. Warner and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote to then-FTC Chairwoman Ramirez calling on the agency to protect consumers from the growing digital ad fraud phenomenon. Since then, reports have estimated that digital ad fraud has only grown to $7.4 billion in 2017 – and projected to rise to $10.9 billion by 2021.

 

The full text of today’s letter follows:

 

December 6, 2018

 

The Honorable Joseph J. Simons

Chairman

Federal Trade Commission

600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20530

 

Dear Chairman Simons,

 

On October 25th, I wrote to you to express grave concerns with the growing phenomenon of digital ad fraud, and in particular my frustration with the ways that large intermediaries have turned a blind eye to, and in certain cases helped enable, this fraud. This letter followed concerns Senator Schumer and I raised in a 2016 letter to your predecessor about the negative economic impact of ad fraud on end users, advertisers, and publishers. I was deeply disappointed by your November 19th response, which failed to substantively address any of the concerns that I have been raising for two years now regarding the Federal Trade Commission’s failures to crack down on digital advertising fraud.

 

The digital advertising market has come to be largely dominated by one company,  in part because of enforcement decisions by the FTC.  The FTC’s failure to act has had the effect of allowing Google to structure its own market; through a series of transactions, the company has accomplished a level of vertical integration that allows it in effect to act as the equivalent of market-maker, commodities broker, and commodities exchange for digital advertising – in the process creating a range of conflicts of interest. While the company controls each link in the supply chain and therefore maintains the power to monitor activity in the digital advertising market from start to finish, it has continued to be caught flat-footed in identifying and addressing digital ad fraud. As we’ve seen in other contexts – such as the rampant proliferation of online disinformation – major platforms including Google have often proved unwilling to address misuse of their platforms until brought to the wider public’s attention by Congress or media outlets. As long as Google stands to profit from the sale of additional advertisements, the financial incentive for it to voluntarily root out and address fraud remains minimal.

 

It was thus enormously discouraging to read your own response to my letter, which did nothing to address the inaction of major industry stakeholders in curbing these abuses. Instead, your letter appeared to suggest that your authority to address deceptive and unfair practices does not apply to this conduct; rather, your letter portrays the FTC as successfully addressing online fraud through workshops and education campaigns. Neither suggestion inspires confidence in the FTC’s efforts as digital ad fraud has continued to proliferate.

 

In recent congressional testimony, you urged Congress to provide the FTC with additional authority related to promoting competition and consumer protection in the digital age.  Increasingly, I am not convinced the Commission is adequately utilizing the authority it already has to crack down on fraud and other misbehavior. The FTC is the agency explicitly empowered to address fraud and deceptive practices, and Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act was written in broad terms precisely for this purpose. 

 

Since 1938, Congress has given your agency broad enforcement authority to protect consumers and expects you to use it. I would like to sit down with you in the next month to discuss how the FTC can ensure it does the job Congress intended it to do.   

 

Sincerely,

 

Mark R. Warner

United States Senator

 

 

###

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, released the following statement after the Senate voted to advance the nomination of Kathy Kraninger to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB):

“Director Mulvaney has been a disaster for consumers as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He has dramatically reduced enforcement against banks and other financial institutions, weakened the law that protects servicemembers and their families from predatory lending, and rendered the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity quite toothless, to name just a few examples. 

“In her hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, Ms. Kraninger testified that she ‘cannot identify any action’ that Director Mulvaney ‘has taken with which I disagree.’ The CFPB is responsible for making sure that banks and big corporations can’t rip off American consumers. It should have a Director who shares that mission.”

 

###

Washington, DC – Top Senate and House Democrats today released a new letter to the Department of Justice’s Chief Ethics Official, Assistant Attorney General Lee J. Lofthus, in which they outline the number of serious ethical considerations that should preclude any involvement by President Trump’s handpicked Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker with the Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, and that require Mr. Whitaker’s immediate recusal. In the letter, the Democrats also request that the Department of Justice’s chief ethics officer immediately notify them whether he has advised Mr. Whitaker to recuse himself from supervision of the special counsel’s investigation.

The letter, signed by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Member Adam Schiff and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, includes a number of examples of Mr. Whitaker’s many conflicts of interest and hostile statements toward Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. These include Mr. Whitaker’s televised statement suggesting that the investigation be defunded or subjected to strict limitations on its scope, a published online opinion piece referring to the investigation as a witch hunt, and a statement in which he pre-judged the outcome of the investigation.

 

The full text of the Democrats’ letter can be found here and below: 

 

November 11, 2018

 

The Honorable Lee J. Lofthus
Assistant Attorney General for Administration 

  and Designated Agency Ethics Officer

Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.
Washington, DC 20530

 

Dear Assistant Attorney General Lofthus:

We are writing to you in your capacity as the Justice Department’s Designated Agency Ethics Official regarding the supervision of Special Counsel Robert Mueller by Mr. Mark Whitaker, the newly appointed Acting Attorney General.  There are serious ethical considerations that require Mr. Whitaker’s immediate recusal from any involvement with the Special Counsel investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.  

 

Mr. Whitaker has a history of hostile statements toward Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, including televised statements suggesting that the investigation be defunded or subjected to strict limitations on its scope.  On June 9, 2017—not even a month after the Special Counsel was appointed—Mr. Whitaker stated on a radio show:  “There is no criminal obstruction of justice charge to be had here.  The evidence is weak.  No reasonable prosecutor would bring a case.”[1]

 

On July 26, 2017, Mr. Whitaker stated that he “could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment and that attorney general doesn't fire Bob Mueller but he just reduces his budget so low that his investigations grinds to almost a halt.”[2]  Mr. Whitaker has also made reference to the Special Counsel investigation as “a mere witch hunt” and published an opinion article entitled “Mueller’s Investigation of Trump Is Going Too Far” in which he argued that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should place limits on the scope of the investigation.[3]  He has even claimed publicly that “[t]he left is trying to sow this theory that essentially Russians interfered with the U.S. election. Which has been proven false. They did not have any impact in the election that is very clear from the Obama Administration.”[4]  This statement demonstrates plainly that Mr. Whitaker has pre-judged the outcome of the Special Counsel investigation.

In addition to his public criticism of the Special Counsel investigation, Mr. Whitaker appears to have troubling conflicts of interest that may also require his recusal from the investigation.  In 2014, Mr. Whitaker served as chairman of the campaign of Sam Clovis to be Iowa State Treasurer, and Mr. Whitaker and Mr. Clovis have reportedly remained in close contact.[5]  Mr. Clovis served as a national co-chairman of the Trump presidential campaign, and in that capacity supervised George Papadopoulos, the Trump foreign policy advisor who sought to set up a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, and who has pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI regarding his contacts with agents of the Russian government.[6] As you know, following advice from career Department ethics officials, Attorney General Sessions recused from the Special Counsel investigation given his senior role on the Trump campaign and a series of undisclosed contacts with Russian government officials.[7] 

The official supervising the Special Counsel investigation must be – in both fact and appearance – independent and impartial.  Regrettably, Mr. Whitaker’s statements indicate a clear bias against the investigation that would cause a reasonable person to question his impartiality.  Allowing a vocal opponent of the investigation to oversee it will severely undermine public confidence in the Justice Department’s work on this critically important matter.  Mr. Whitaker’s relationship with Mr. Clovis, who is a grand jury witness in the Special Counsel investigation, as well as Mr. Whitaker’s other entanglements, raise additional concerns about his ability to supervise the investigation independently and impartially.  

For these reasons, we request that you immediately notify us in writing regarding whether you, or any other ethics officials at the Justice Department, have advised Mr. Whitaker to recuse from supervision of the Special Counsel investigation, and the basis for that recommendation.  We also request that you provide us all ethics guidance the Department has provided to Mr. Whitaker to date.

Sincerely,

 

Charles E. Schumer

Democratic Leader

U.S. Senate

 

Nancy Pelosi

Democratic Leader

U.S. House of Representatives

 

Dianne Feinstein

Ranking Member

Committee on the Judiciary

U.S. Senate

 

Jerrold Nadler

Ranking Member

Committee on the Judiciary

U.S. House of Representatives

 

Mark R. Warner

Vice Chairman

Select Committee on Intelligence

U.S. Senate

 

Adam B. Schiff

Ranking Member

Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

U.S. House of Representatives

 

Elijah Cummings

Ranking Member

Committee on Oversight &

Government Reform

U.S. House of Representatives

 

###

 

 

 



[1] The David Webb Show (June 9, 2017) (online at www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYQzupQzNOQ).

[2] CNN Tonight, CNN (July 26, 2017) (online at http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1707/26/cnnt.01.html).

[3] Matthew Whitaker, Mueller’s Investigation of Trump Is Going Too Far, CNN (Aug. 6, 2017) (online at www.cnn.com/2017/08/06/opinions/rosenstein-should-curb-mueller-whittaker-opinion/index.html).

[4] The Chosen Generation Radio Program (Mar. 3, 2017) (online at www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCA120DtAhI).

[5] See, e.g.Whitaker’s Friendship with Trump Aide Reignites Recusal Debate, Reuters (Nov. 8, 2018) (online at www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-whitaker/whitakers-friendship-with-trump-aide-reignites-recusal-debate-idUSKCN1ND2SN).

[6] Statement of the Offense, United States v. Papadopoulos (D.D.C. Oct. 5, 2017) (online at www.justice.gov/file/1007346/download).

[7] Attorney General Sessions Statement on Recusal, Department of Justice (Mar. 2, 2017) (online at www.justice.gov/opa/pr/attorney-general-sessions-statement-recusal).

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) has pressed the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) regarding recent reports documenting serious hazards in military housing at several bases in Virginia.

An investigation by Reuters revealed significant problems in base housing such as cockroaches, mice, mold and leaks, and described the difficulty that military families have encountered in getting the private management companies that own and operate the housing to address issues posing health hazards for families living in the homes. As part of its investigation, Reuters identified problems at several facilities across the country, including Fort Belvoir, Quantico, Oceana Naval Air Station, and other Hampton Roads naval bases. Most of the issues Reuters uncovered involved contractor Lincoln Military Housing, which manages 36,000 military family homes nationwide, including thousands of rental units in Hampton Roads.

In a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis addressing what the Senator termed “unacceptable conditions” in the homes, Warner demanded a briefing from the Defense Department on the current situation as well as a plan from DoD to ensure the safety of military families residing in private housing moving forward.

“The health and safety of our service members and their families are of the utmost importance. Our nation’s military families deserve safe and healthy housing.  It is imperative that you determine a plan to alleviate these issues in the coming weeks,” Sen. Warner wrote.

This isn’t the first time Sen. Warner has intervened on behalf of military families experiencing health hazards in military housing. Back in 2011, dozens of military families stationed in Norfolk described problems with the same contractor identified in Reuters’ recent report, Lincoln Military Housing. As now, the affected families – experiencing issues such as leaks, mold, and infestation – recounted major difficulties in getting the company or the Navy to  take the complaints seriously. After Sen. Warner got involved, however, Navy brass and Lincoln executives pledged to improve their responsiveness, and the company took steps to address mold and other hazards. 

“As a result, [Lincoln Military Housing] agreed to offer free mold inspection to any resident requesting the service, to hire an independent professional engineering firm to survey the conditions, to update training for maintenance teams and more; the Navy also committed to improving tracking tools and enhancing oversight of property management performance. But today it appears that these changes were insufficient or ignored,” Sen. Warner noted in this week’s letter to the Secretary of Defense

In August of this year, Sen. Warner – along with Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), David Perdue (R-GA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) – alsopressed Secretary of the Army Mark Esper to address problems with lead poisoning affecting families at several Army bases around the country, including Fort Belvoir.

The full text of the letter appears below. A signed copy of Sen. Warner’s letter to Sec. Mattis is available here

 

The Honorable James N. Mattis

Secretary of Defense

U.S. Department of Defense

1000 Defense Pentagon

Washington, D.C. 20301

 

Dear Secretary Mattis:

 

I am writing to express my deep concern over a recent Reuters article alleging pervasive health hazards in private military housing across the country, including at Fort Belvoir, Oceana Naval Station, Quantico, and in additional areas in Hampton Roads Virginia. The article documents unacceptable conditions such as rodents and mold in housing and describes the difficulties military families face in ensuring these hazards are addressed by private real estate companies.

 

This is not the first time that unhealthy conditions in military housing have been documented. In November 2011, I was made aware of similar complaints regarding mold in private military housing in the Hampton Roads area in Virginia. Working with Navy officials and impacted military families, I strove to ensure that both the Navy and Lincoln Military Housing, a residential real estate management company responsible for the housing, implemented a plan to reduce these hazards. As a result, LMH agreed to offer free mold inspection to any resident requesting the service, to hire an independent professional engineering firm to survey the conditions, to update training for maintenance teams and more; the Navy also committed to improving tracking tools and enhancing oversight of property management performance. But today it appears that these changes were insufficient or ignored. 

 

In 2015, the Department of Defense’s own Inspector General expressed concerns about unsafe military housing, specifically related to Fort Belvoir and Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. More recently, I was in touch with the U.S. Army regarding another Reuters article, alleging lead poisoning at a number of Army installations across the country.   

 

I ask that you provide our office with a detailed briefing as soon as possible outlining the immediate and long-term mitigation strategy to ensure military housing – both public and private – is safe and secure for our servicemembers and their families, and to provide legislative proposals or guidance on legislation needed to ensure that there is increased accountability for private companies. Please contact Caroline Wadhams in my office with questions. She can be reached at 202-224-2418.   

 

The health and safety of our servicemembers and their families are of the utmost importance. Our nation’s military families deserve safe and healthy housing.  It is imperative that you determine a plan to alleviate these issues in the coming weeks.

 

Thank you for your attention to this serious matter. I look forward to your timely response.

 

Sincerely,

Mark R. Warner

 

 

###

 

WASHINGTON – Bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) to address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at the National Park Service (NPS) now has the support of over 100 groups, adding momentum to a bill that has 32 bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate and is supported by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and the Trump Administration. The Restore Our Parks Act passed the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on a bipartisan 19-4 vote earlier this week. The bill will now be referred to the full Senate. 

National Association of Counties: “Our National Park System serves as the crown jewel of our national conservation legacy. We must ensure that future generations can see and appreciate our rich natural history, and to learn more about the people and lands that have shaped us as a nation. Counties urge Congress to enact S. 3172 to protect our national parks, and ensure we continue to provide the best outdoor recreation and conservation experience in the world.”

National Parks Conservation Association: “The importance of preserving our history, culture and public lands is something we can all agree on. Tackling the deferred maintenance in our national parks is not a political issue but an American one, and all who are supporting this important legislation recognize that. We commend the dedication and leadership of Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King for working to push this important bill through congress, and making a strong investment in our national parks.” 

The Pew Charitable Trusts: “Key committees in the Senate and House of Representatives have given their bipartisan stamp of approval to legislation to fix our aging and deteriorating national parks. With strong bipartisan support for our parks not only on Capitol Hill but in communities across the nation, Congress should act now to get the legislation over the finish line this year.”

US Travel: “Our national parks are a huge attraction for visitors from all over the world. Not only are our national parks environmental treasures, but they are also an incredible economic engine for our country. In 2017 alone, the national parks generated $18 billion in economic demand, supporting thousands of local jobs and businesses. The Restore Our Parks Act, would help protect our National Parks for future generations by investing in their maintenance. We applaud Sen. Portman and bill supporters for ensuring our parks can be accessed and enjoyed well into the future.”  

America Outdoors Association: “On behalf of hundreds of outfitters who are members of our respective organizations, we are writing to express our support for S. 3172, The Restore Our Parks Act. The fund established by this Act will cover about half of the $11.6 billion in deferred National Park maintenance of trails, visitor centers, campgrounds, water and sewer, and visitor facilities backlogs. It will create a dedicated fund that may be used by the NPS year after year without further appropriation to enable the planning and completion of multi-year projects.” 

The Outdoor Industry Association: “OIA applauds this bipartisan effort to solve the National Park Service backlog issue and appreciates the dedication of Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King to this effort. The backlog impacts the recreation economy and Americans’ ability to explore and enjoy their public lands. As we know, and passage of bills like the Restore Our Parks Act out of committee shows, the health and vitality of America’s public lands system is a bipartisan issue that unites us. We look forward to continued progress and appreciate the Senate bill Sponsors’ focus on the critical infrastructure that supports the growing $887 billion outdoor recreation economy.”

The Corps Network: “We applaud the Senate’s work on this bipartisan legislation to address the multi-billion maintenance backlog plaguing the National Park Service. We welcome support of the Secretary of the Interior to move these issues forward and bring them much needed attention.”

National Trust for Historic Preservation: “We strongly endorse the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act (S. 3172) introduced by Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander, and King that we believe makes a substantial and meaningful investment in our national parks. Further, we are pleased the legislation provides dedicated funding financed by unobligated federal mineral revenues in such a way that allocations to the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Historic Preservation Fund are not impacted. The National Trust is a strong supporter of both these programs and believes that both should receive the dedicated funding they have long been promised.”

Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks: “The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks supports S. 3172, the Restore Our Parks Act, which is a bipartisan effort led by Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander, and King to establish a fund to address the deferred maintenance backlog of the National Park Service.”  

The following groups support the Restore Our Parks Act: The Pew Charitable Trusts, National Parks Conservation Association, National Trust for Historic Preservation, U.S. Travel Association, National Association of Counties, American Council of Engineering Companies, American Society of Civil Engineers, American Planning Association, Outdoor Industry Association, The Mission Continues, Public Lands Alliance, Vista Outdoor, Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, Southeast Tourism Society, The Corps Network, RV Industry Association, Land Improvement Contractors of America, Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute, American Forests , American Hiking Society , International Inbound Travel Association , National Park Hospitality Association , Asian American Hotel Owners Association, Student Conservation Association , United States Tour Operators Association, Western States Tourism Policy Council, National Association of Women in Construction, American Segmental Bridge Institute, Outdoor Research, American Foundry Society, American Mountain Guides Association, The Chickasaw Nation, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, Skal International USA, National Asphalt Pavement Association, The Associated General Contractors of America, National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds, American Cultural Resources Association, American Anthropological Association, Society for American Archaeology, Society for Historical Archaeology, Xanterra Parks & Resorts, Delaware North Parks& Resorts, Historic Tours of America, Hornblower Cruisers and Events, Forever Resorts, American Society of Landscape Architects, American Institute of Architects, American Battlefield Trust, National Marine Manufacturing Association, Sierra Club, Evangelical Environmental Network, New Mexico Business Coalition, Friends of Acadia, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Atomic Heritage Foundation, Friends of Fort McHenry, Friends of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, The Shenandoah National Park Trust, Timucuan Parks Foundation, Voyageurs National Park Association, Washington’s National Park Fund, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, Orange County Taxpayers Association, Montana Contractors' Association, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Conservation Northwest, Dade Historic Trust, Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Maine Tourism Association, Maine Innkeepers Association, Maine Restaurant Association, Michigan Bed and Breakfast Association, Alger County Chamber of Commerce, REI, Greater Munising Bay Partnership for Commerce Development, Munising Downtown Development Authority, Raton Chamber of Commerce, Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Dayton Development Coalition, Ohio Cast Metals Association, Associated Builders and Contractors - Northern Ohio Chapter, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 48, United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 555, Visit Bend, Central Oregon LandWatch, Columbia Pacific Building Trades, Texas Society of Architects, Associated Heating-Plumbing-Cooling Contractors of Texas, Washington's National Park Fund, Washington Wild, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Wisconsin Counties Association, Friends of the Mississippi River, Recreation Northwest, Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, American Society of Landscape Architects – Florida, Pacific NW Regional Council of Carpenters, Orange County Business Council, North Orange Council Chamber of Commerce, Washington Trails Association, California Asphalt Pavement Association, The Conservation Alliance , California Parks Company, Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Fort Sumter Tours, Redwood Parks Company, Gettysburg Tours, TRF Concession Specialists of Florida, Grand Teton Lodge Company, Fresno Chamber of Commerce, Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce, The Friends of the Oregon Caves and Chateau.

Due to years of chronic underfunding, NPS has deferred maintenance for a year or more on visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds in Virginia, as well as transportation infrastructure operated by NPS such as Blue Ridge and George Washington Memorial Parkways. In the last year, the maintenance backlog at Park Service sites in Virginia grew by $250 million, to over a billion dollars and the Commonwealth now ranks third among all states in total deferred maintenance, trailing only California and the District of Columbia. That figure includes roughly $80 million of overdue maintenance at Shenandoah National Park, one of the crown jewels of our nation’s park system. 

Virginia contains 22 national parks and affiliated areas that are spread throughout the Commonwealth. In addition, the Park Service maintains over 120 National Historic Landmarks throughout Virginia, including Mount Vernon, Montpelier, Monticello, and the State Capitol Building. In 2017, over 24 million individuals from around the world visited national parks in Virginia, spending over $1 billion. National parks in Virginia helped support more than 15,000 jobs and contributed over $1.4 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy.  

For more information on the Restore Our Parks Act or for a list of NPS operated sites in Virginia, click here. 

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) to address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at the National Park Service (NPS) cleared a major legislative hurdle. The Restore Our Parks Act, which is cosponsored by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Angus King (I-ME), and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), passed the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on a bipartisan 19-4 vote. The consensus proposal is the product of bipartisan discussions among the senators who had previously introduced bills to address the Park Service’s deferred maintenance backlog. The bipartisan bill, which will now be referred to the full Senate, is supported by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Outdoor Industry Association, and dozens of additional conservation and recreation organizations. 

“For over a year, I’ve led bipartisan efforts in the Senate to address the state of disrepair of critical infrastructure in the National Park System. It’s alarming the rate at which the maintenance backlog at the Park Service continues to grow, with Virginia adding $250 million in the last year, surpassing a billion dollars and ranking third among all states in total deferred maintenance,” said Sen. Warner. “We can no longer wait to fix the $12 billion maintenance backlog at our national parks and ignore the long-term effects of allowing these national treasures to simply crumble. I’m very pleased that the bipartisan, consensus bill we introduced earlier this year has now cleared this important hurdle and look forward to working with my colleagues from across the aisle and the Administration to make sure it becomes law.” 

“Today’s committee approval is good news and an important step forward in our efforts to address the long-delayed maintenance projects at our national parks,” Sen. Portman said.  “For more than a century, the National Park Service has been inspiring Americans to explore the natural beauty of our country.  But in order to keep that work going, we need to ensure that they have sufficient resources to maintain our national parks. This bipartisan legislation will help tackle the more than $100 million maintenance backlog at Ohio’s eight national park sites. I’d like to thank Senators Warner, Alexander, and King as well as the cosponsors of this legislation for their leadership on this issue and urge my colleagues to support it when it comes to the floor.”

“Rebuilding National Parks infrastructure has been at the top of my priority list since before I was even sworn in to office. I'm happy to see the Restore our Parks Act pass with such strong bipartisan support. We have 417 national parks across the country, unfortunately we also have a $12 billion backlog in maintenance needs spanning everything from roads and bridges to visitors centers and restrooms. Thanks to Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander, and King national parks are one step closer to getting the vital funding they need to rebuild the aging infrastructure,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.

The importance of preserving our history, culture and public lands is something we can all agree on,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association. “Tackling the deferred maintenance in our national parks is not a political issue but an American one, and all who are supporting this important legislation recognize that. We commend the dedication and leadership of Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King for working to push this important bill through congress, and making a strong investment in our national parks.”

"Key committees in the Senate and House of Representatives have given their bipartisan stamp of approval to legislation to fix our aging and deteriorating national parks,” said Marcia Argust, who directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ campaign to restore America’s parks. “With strong bipartisan support for our parks not only on Capitol Hill but in communities across the nation, Congress should act now to get the legislation over the finish line this year.”

“OIA applauds this bipartisan effort to solve the National Park Service backlog issue and appreciates the dedication of Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King to this effort,” said Amy Roberts, Executive Director of the Outdoor Industry Association. “The backlog impacts the recreation economy and Americans’ ability to explore and enjoy their public lands. As we know, and passage of bills like the Restore Our Parks Act out of committee shows, the health and vitality of America’s public lands system is a bipartisan issue that unites us. We look forward to continued progress and appreciate the Senate bill Sponsors’ focus on the critical infrastructure that supports the growing $887 billion outdoor recreation economy.”

“Our nation’s parks can be key economic engines for many gateway counties across the country,” said National Association of Counties Executive Director Matthew Chase. “With National Park Service infrastructure in need of repair, the visitor experience is diminished, and surrounding communities see declines in tourism. We thank Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King for sponsoring the Restore Our Parks Act. Counties urge action on this legislation to strengthen our national parks, support conservation and cultivate outdoor experiences that are second to none.” 

Due to years of chronic underfunding, NPS has deferred maintenance for a year or more on visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds in Virginia, as well as transportation infrastructure operated by NPS such as Blue Ridge and George Washington Memorial Parkways. In the last year, the maintenance backlog at Park Service sites in Virginia grew by $250 million, to over a billion dollars and the Commonwealth now ranks third among all states in total deferred maintenance, trailing only California and the District of Columbia. That figure includes roughly $80 million of overdue maintenance at Shenandoah National Park, one of the crown jewels of our nation’s park system.  

Over the past decade, Congressional financial support for park maintenance has decreased by 40 percent, and the last time Congress directly addressed the infrastructure needs of the park system was in 1956. The Restore Our Parks Act would establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” to reduce the maintenance backlog by allocating existing revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury, providing up to $6.5 billion over the next five years specifically to address deferred maintenance needs of the National Park Service. 

Virginia contains 22 national parks and affiliated areas that are spread throughout the Commonwealth. In addition, the Park Service maintains over 120 National Historic Landmarks throughout Virginia, including Mount Vernon, Montpelier, Monticello, and the State Capitol Building. In 2017, over 24 million individuals from around the world visited national parks in Virginia, spending over $1 billion. National parks in Virginia helped support more than 15,000 jobs and contributed over $1.4 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy.  

A list of Virginia organizations supportive of addressing the NPS backlog can be found here

 

Full text of the bill can be found here.

 

VA National Park Deferred Maintenance as of 2017*

 

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

$1,998,224

Assateague Island NS

$2,774,577

Blue Ridge Parkway

$186,619,608

Booker T Washington National Monument

$1,370,913

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove NHP

$327,072

Colonial National Historical Park

$421,872,932

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

$1,848,864

Fort Monroe National Monument

$2,280,548

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Battlefields Mem NMP

$10,371,731

George Washington Birthplace National Monument

$1,306,614

George Washington Memorial Parkway

$233,441,316

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

$64,760

Maggie L Walker National Historic Site

$531,648

Manassas National Battlefield Park

$6,516,560

Petersburg National Battlefield

$11,754,041

Prince William Forest Park

$18,619,932

Richmond National Battlefield Park

$6,581,205

Shenandoah National Park

$79,208,621

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

$31,149,289

Total

$1,018,629,457


*Due to the continuously changing nature of facilities data, only final, year-end data is reported by the National Park Service. The last year for which data is available is FY 2017.

 

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) in requesting that the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigate a decision by the General Services Administration (GSA), made at the request of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to rescind a long-studied proposal for consolidation of the FBI Headquarters at a new facility in either Springfield, VA, Greenbelt, MD or Landover, MD. Specifically, the Senators are asking DOJ to examine the extent to which President Trump and the White House were involved in the abrupt decision to reverse course on plans for the FBI consolidation project, and whether that involvement was appropriate. 

Warner and Kaine have for years worked with the Maryland Senators as well as the bipartisan Virginia delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives to secure funding for a new FBI headquarters to replace the current, deteriorating J. Edgar Hoover building in Washington D.C., which was built in 1974. In 2014, the General Services Administration (GSA) announced that a site in Springfield, VA was one of three finalists for a consolidated HQ that would house all 11,000 area FBI employees, who are currently scattered across multiple sites in D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. However, in July 2017, the Trump Administration abruptly backed away from more than five years of government preparations to relocate the FBI HQ, announcing instead in February 2018 plans to demolish the existing FBI headquarters in Washington and build a new facility in its place.  

“Many resources have been devoted over the last decade to this project for which there is consensus that the FBI’s existing Headquarters building is in serious disrepair and must be replaced,” the Senators wrote. “Despite reaching significant milestones in this process, earlier this year, the GSA reversed course and revised its plan for the FBI Headquarters consolidation project. This announcement was met with much confusion and skepticism.” 

The Senators continued, “In light of the [GSA] IG’s findings, we believe it is critical that your office conduct an investigation into the decision-making process the FBI used to produce the revised plan for consolidation of the FBI Headquarters, as well as the extent to which influence from or communications with the White House impacted this process.”

The Senators’ request follows a formal review of the GSA’s decision-making process by the GSA Inspector General that found that a GSA Administrator’s testimony before the House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee may have been misleading with regard to the White House’s involvement in the project. The review also found discrepancies in the cost comparisons between previous cost estimates and the revised plan for consolidation.

A copy of the letter can be found here, and the full text of the letter is below:

 

 

September 20, 2018

 

The Honorable Michael Horowitz

Inspector General 

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20530-0001 

 

Dear Mr. Horowitz,

 

We write today to request that you initiate an audit of the recent decision by the General Services Administration (GSA), made at the request of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to rescind a long-studied proposal for consolidation of the FBI Headquarters.  Specifically, we ask that you examine the extent to which President Trump and the White House were involved in the abrupt decision to reverse course on plans for the FBI consolidation project, and whether that involvement was appropriate. 

 

In 2011, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report stating “the FBI’s headquarters facilities—the Hoover Building and the headquarters annexes—do not fully support the FBI’s long-term security, space, and building condition requirements.” In response, the GSA and the FBI conducted a thorough review of FBI’s facility needs.

 

Many resources have been devoted over the last decade to this project for which there is consensus that the FBI’s existing Headquarters building is in serious disrepair and must be replaced. Despite reaching significant milestones in this process, earlier this year, the GSA reversed course and revised its plan for the FBI Headquarters consolidation project. This announcement was met with much confusion and skepticism.[1]

 

In reaction to this reversal, and the issuance of a revised FBI Headquarters consolidation plan, the GSA Inspector General (IG), Carol Ochoa, reviewed the GSA’s decision-making process. The IG’s review[2] found[3] that GSA Administrator Emily Murphy’s testimony before the House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee “was incomplete and may have left the misleading impression that she had no discussions with White House officials in the decision-making process about the project.”[4] In addition, the IG found discrepancies in the cost comparisons between previous cost estimates and the revised plan for consolidation, concluding that officials are greatly underestimating the cost of keeping the headquarters in the District. Specifically, the GSA excluded the $750 million value for the J. Edgar Hoover Building exchange in its total shortfall calculation, and did not acknowledge the $65,000 per person increase associated with rebuilding in a new location.

 

In light of the IG’s findings, we believe it is critical that your office conduct an investigation into the decision-making process the FBI used to produce the revised plan for consolidation of the FBI Headquarters, as well as the extent to which influence from or communications with the White House impacted this process. Specifically, we request your office assess the following:

 

1.      The detailed process the FBI followed to determine, over a matter of months, that rebuilding in place at the J. Edgar Hoover Building was preferable to its original plan to move to a consolidated campus.

2.      How the new plan accounts for prior documentation outlining unresolvable security deficiencies at the J. Edgar Hoover Building. The GAO highlighted these issues in its November 2011 report, “Actions Needed to Document Security Decisions and Address Issues with Condition of Headquarters Buildings”.[5] In response to that report, the FBI agreed and wrote: “[T]he operations impact of a fragmented workforce located at multiple sites across a wide geographic area is the FBI’s primaryconcern and is the driving force behind our urgency of finding a long term resolution to this situation. . . . The FBI’s current headquarters is both inefficient and expensive. The inadequate design of the J. Edgar Hoover Building does not support an agile workforce in the 21st Century. This poor design coupled with the redundancies and the inefficiency associated with 22 separate locations, 3,092,654 Rentable Square Feet (RSF), costing $170 million annually in rent and operating expenses support the need for a new FBI headquarters.”

3.      Whether the cost justifications provided support the revised plan.

4.      The sequence of events that led to the current state of affairs, beginning, with the issuance of the GSA prospectus in 2016.

5.      The origin of the revised plan at the FBI:

o    Who was involved in the decision to reverse course?

o    Did the proposal to remain at the current FBI location emanate from or was influenced by entities outside the FBI or the Department of Justice? If so, who, when, and in what manner?

o    Who first brought forward the idea to keep the FBI Headquarters at its current location, and when and under what circumstances?

6.      Whether the Director or any Department of Justice or FBI official received direction or suggestions from the President of the United States or senior White House staff with regard to this project. If so, who? What was the specific direction or suggestion?

7.      Whether the FBI participated in the preparation for Ms. Murphy’s testimony regarding this project. If so, which staff participated and what counsel did they provide?

8.      Whether the testimony of Mr. Richard L. Haley, II, Assistant Director, FBI Finance Division, to Congress on February 28, 2018 was complete, accurate, and transparent. 

 

It is our hope that these questions can begin to provide transparency on the decision-making process for the consolidation of the FBI Headquarters. The process is rife with inconsistencies and questions, and raises concern that there is a coordinated effort to conceal facts or mislead members of Congress. For these reasons, we request that your office conduct a thorough investigation. If you have any questions regarding this request, please contact Michal Freedhoff and Kenneth Martin on the Environment and Public Works Committee staff at 202-224-8832.

 

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

###

 

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) met with David Vela, President Trump’s nominee to be the Director of the National Park Service (NPS) to discuss the need to address the $12 billion NPS maintenance backlog. Due to years of chronic underfunding, the Park Service has deferred maintenance on tens of thousands of visitor centers, rest stops, trails, and campgrounds, as well as thousands of miles of roads and countless bridges. In Virginia, the backlog has grown to more than $1 billion and the Commonwealth now ranks third among all states in total deferred maintenance, trailing only California and the District of Columbia.

Sen. Warner is the author of the Restore Our Parks Actbipartisan bill that would address the growing maintenance backlog. Over the years, Sen. Warner has been a strong advocate for protecting NPS infrastructure, originally introducing the legislation that became the basis for this consensus proposal. The Restore Our Parks Act is the product of months of bipartisan discussions among senators who had previously introduced legislation and the Trump Administration. The bipartisan bill is supported by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Outdoor Industry Association, and dozens of additional conservation and recreation organizations. 

“For years, I’ve been sounding the alarm on the need to address the growing NPS maintenance backlog and urging the Senate to pass our bipartisan bill,” said Sen. Warner. “I was pleased to hear that Mr. Vela understands the devastating effects this chronic underfunding can have on an already old and crumbling NPS infrastructure and has vowed to be a partner so we can work with the Administration to get this done. If confirmed, I look forward to working with Mr. Vela to draw down the maintenance backlog and find a long-term maintenance funding structure for the Park Service that preserves our national treasures for generations to come.”  

Virginia contains 22 national parks and affiliated areas that are spread throughout the Commonwealth. In addition, the Park Service maintains over 120 National Historic Landmarks throughout Virginia, including Mount Vernon, Montpelier, Monticello, and the State Capitol Building. In 2017, over 24 million individuals from around the world visited national parks in Virginia, spending over $1 billion. National parks in Virginia helped support more than 15,000 jobs and contributed over $1.4 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy. 

On August 31, 2018, President Trump announced David Vela as his nominee to lead the National Park Service. If confirmed, Mr. Vela would be the first Hispanic Director of the National Park ServiceHis nomination was formally submitted to the Senate on September 6, 2018. A confirmation hearing has not yet been scheduled. 

 

###

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine celebrated final Senate passage of a bill to fund the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Education, and Labor for Fiscal Year 2019, which begins on October 1, and to fund the rest of the government through December 7 as negotiations continue. If the legislation is signed into law, it will avoid a government shutdown at the end of September—something Warner and Kaine have long called for—and offer the Department of Defense and other agencies some clarity on 2019 spending levels in regular budget order, helping to keep the country safer. President Trump has threatened to veto any spending bills that do not fund a border wall.  

“Despite the President’s continued attempts to cut vital federal programs, this bipartisan agreement upholds many defense, education, and workforce priorities that are important for Virginians,” said Warner. “As we continue to tackle the opioid crisis and combat the resurgence of black lung disease, this bill upholds our promise to save more lives. I’m also pleased to report that this bipartisan legislation provides the necessary resources to protect our men and women in uniform and supports Virginia’s critical national security footprint. While the Senate did its part to fund these programs, it’s now up to the House and the President to move swiftly and keep the government open.” 

“I’m proud that we were able to pass this legislation to avoid a shutdown and fund so many of the programs that Virginians care about,” Kaine said. “Health care, defense, education, and worker protections are all huge priorities as we ensure Virginians have access to the resources they need and that we are investing in the right ways to keep our country safe. I’m glad we were able to swiftly pass these bills, and I hope that President Trump will drop his threats to shut the government down over funding for his wall and quickly sign them into law.”

Warner and Kaine pushed for many priorities through the appropriations process that were included in this final bill:

 

Health Care:

  • Funds childhood disease research: The bill provides $12.6 million for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Pediatric Research Program to conduct pediatric cancer and disease research. Warner and Kaine worked to enact the legislation authorizing this program, named for 10-year-old Gabriella Miller of Loudoun County, who passed away from cancer in October of 2013.
  • Early detection of black lung disease: The bill also includes a provision Warner and Kaine advanced to improve the participation rate of coal miners in federal health surveillance programs that detect and treat black lung. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for coal miners and their families, supporting legislation that ensures they retain the health and retirement benefits they deserve. 
  • Protects the ACA, Medicare, and Medicaid: The Senators ensured that the bill did not include proposed language that would have restricted HHS’s authority to administer or enforce the ACA.  The bill keeps funding and program authorities consistent with 2018, thereby protecting Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ ability to administer Medicare, Medicaid, and the ACA. 
  • Provides $5.7 billion to combat substance abuse:  The bill provides $5.7 billion for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which is $584 million more than Fiscal Year 2018. This includes $1.5 billion for State Opioid Response Grants, an increase of $50 million for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, and $105 million for the National Health Service Corps. It also expands loan repayment eligibility requirements to include substance use disorder counselors, which will support recruitment and retention of health professionals needed in underserved and rural areas.
  • Increases funding for Alzheimer’s and brain research: The bill provides $39.1 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an increase of $2 billion from last year’s level and $4.5 billion above the President’s suggested budget. The increase includes an additional $425 million for Alzheimer’s research for a total of $2.34 billion and an increase of $29 million for the BRAIN Initiative.

 

Defense:

  • Funds a 2.6 percent pay raise for servicemembers: Funds the pay raise that was authorized in the annual defense bill Kaine worked on with his colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Warner and Kaine strongly supported the pay increase.
  • Supports Virginia’s shipbuilding industry: Provides over $24 billion in Shipbuilding Accounts, with more than $12 billion going towards programs that will benefit Virginia like the Columbia & Virginia Class Submarines, Ford Class Carrier construction, and Nimitz Class overhaul. It also supports the Navy's goal of attaining a 355-ship fleet, which Warner and Kaine have both strongly endorsed.
  • Supports block-buy of Ford-class aircraft carriers:  The legislation preserves the Navy’s ability to pursue a block-buy of aircraft carriers once it completes an independent cost analysis and certifies that the strategy will save taxpayer dollars, as required by the 2019 Defense Bill.  
  • Offers budget certainty to our troops and military leaders: This legislation appropriates a full year of funds for the Department of Defense, addressing Warner and Kaine’s concerns, shared by military leaders, that Congress’ failure to return to regular budget order has interfered with DoD’s ability to plan ahead and that continuing resolutions have been painful to the country’s national security initiatives.
  • Addresses lead poisoning in military housing: Following reports of lead poisoning in military housing units, the legislation requires the Government Accountability Office in consultation with the Department of Defense to conduct an investigation and provide a report to Congress on toxic lead levels in all military housing. In August, Kaine and Warner sent a letter to the Secretary of the Army asking for a briefing after a report surfaced about lead poisonings and dangerous lead levels in housing on U.S. Army installations.
  • Improving cyber resiliency: This legislation provides $306 million in additional funding to expand and accelerate cyber research across the Department of Defense. Warner has been a strong advocate for cyber resiliency and stronger cyber tools at the DoD.
  • Defense Cyber Scholarship Program: The legislation includes Warner’s amendment to make available $7 million in funding for the DoD Cyber Defense Scholarship Program, bringing it in-line with the funding level from the House-passed appropriations package.  Warner successfully included a provision to boost the cyber scholarship program’s recruitment efforts in the FY19 National Defense Authorization Act. This amendment builds on the expansion of the program that Senator Kaine championed last year through his DoD Cyber Scholarship Program Act in the FY18 NDAA.

 

Education:

  • Provides funding to help teachers, social workers, military personnel, and other public servants cancel their student loan debt: For a second year includes $350 million for the Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program that mirrors Kaine’s bill to fix a technical glitch that will allow borrowers who were in the wrong repayment program to be eligible for PSLF. 
  • Includes language to help HBCUs access funds to make infrastructure improvements: Includes language from Kaine’s bill to require the HBCU Capital Financing Advisory Board, which provides financial guidance to the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), to provide Congress with a report on the loans granted under the program along with recommendations to address issues related to construction financing for HBCUs. 
  • Provides additional funding for the HBCU Capital Financing Program: Includes an additional $10 million to ensure that all eligible institutions—including Virginia Union University—are able to access the program’s deferment authority. Warner and Kaine both called for this supplementary funding to provide additional flexibility for eligible HBCUs to meet their infrastructure needs.
  • Increases access to Pell Grants: Increases the maximum Pell Grant award to $6,195, a $100 increase from FY18, and also includes support for year-round Pell Grant funding. 
  • Increases funding for Student Support and Academic Enrichment block grants: Includes $1.17 billion, a $70 million increase from FY18, for K-12 public schools to create a well-rounded education, ensure safe and healthy students and support the use of technology in the classroom.
  • Increases funding for career and technical education: Increases funding for the recently reauthorized Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act to $1.26 billion, a $70 million increase from FY18.

 

Workers:

  • Funds black lung health clinics: Authorizes black lung health clinics at $11 million, $1 million above its full authorization level.
  • Provides $30 million to train rural and Appalachian workers: Includes $30 million to provide workforce training to dislocated workers in rural areas with a specific priority for Appalachian communities.
  • Provides $160 million to support apprenticeships: Includes $160 million for registered apprenticeship programs.
  • Requires better tracking of career and technical occupations to help prepare the future workforce: Directs the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) to track and report on improvements they are making to the Current Population Survey (CPS) to collect data about career and technical occupations. With this data, the country will have more information to track where improvements are needed and ensure that the workforce is trained with the skills needed for jobs available in today’s economy.

 

###

 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded congressional passage of bipartisan legislation to fund federal programs and build new military construction and facilities under the Department of Veteran Affairs (V-A), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of Defense (DoD).

The conference report to accompany the Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations package that covers funding for energy and water development, military construction and veterans affairs (MilCon-V-A), the legislative branch, and all of their related agencies, passed in both chambers and now heads to the President’s desk for signature. 

“We are proud to have worked with our colleagues on a bipartisan funding agreement that upholds our promise to our nation’s veterans,” said the Senators. “Although the President has threatened to pull funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission time and time again, this legislation will continue to support this critical federal partnership to boost economic opportunity in Southwest Virginia. Additionally, this bill provides necessary funding for military maintenance, construction of new military facilities, and makes new investments to support research and development at J-Lab.”

The following list includes many of the provisions Sens. Warner and Kaine advocated for on behalf of Virginia that were included in the final appropriations package: 

Appalachian Regional Commission: Following President Trump’s attempts to defund ARC, the bill fully funds this successful federal-state partnership by providing $165 million to continue its efforts to increase employment and economic opportunities for those living in Appalachia, strengthen and maintain the region’s infrastructure, and provide additional educational and workforce opportunities for citizens of Appalachia so that they can compete in a 21st century global economy.

Military Construction: Provides more than $131 million in new construction throughout the Commonwealth. 

  • Joint Base Langley-Eustis: Funds nearly $23 million on three projects at the base.
  • Forts A.P. and Belvoir: Receive nearly $18 million to build new training facilities.
  • Portsmouth Ship Maintenance: Provides $26 million for a ship maintenance shop in Portsmouth, Virginia. 

Both Senators advocated for these projects, and more, when the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act passed the Senate.

Veterans Affairs: Provides $86.4 billion in funding for the V-A, an increase of $5 billion above fiscal year 2018. The bill would increase funding to several Veteran Health Administration priority areas, including $1.1 billion for electronic health record modernization and $8.6 billion to increase mental health services for veterans. It includes $1.8 billion for homelessness programs like the Supportive Services for Veterans and Families program, which provides assistance to homeless veterans; $206 million to increase suicide prevention outreach; $78 billion to help provide high-quality and timely health care services to veterans; $174 million to improve the veteran appeals process; and more than doubles FY18 funds to provide $1.8 billion for the construction of new V-A medical facilities.

Jefferson Lab Nuclear Physics Research: Provides $615 million for nuclear physics research within the Department of Energy’s Office of Science in order to fulfill DOE’s Long Range Plan for Nuclear Science. The funds will enable scientists at labs across the country, including at Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, VA, to engage in critical research that will maintain U.S. leadership and preeminence in this field.

Hampton Roads Infrastructure:

  • Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Projects: Provides $2.18 billion for construction of water infrastructure projects and $3.74 billion for operations and maintenance of existing infrastructure related to harbor maintenance, flood and storm damage control, and aquatic ecosystem restoration. Total funding for the Corps of Engineers is $171 million above the FY2018 enacted level and $2.2 billion above the President’s budget request. 
  • Donor and Energy Transfer Ports: Provides $50 million to ensure that ports like the Port of Virginia receive equitable levels of funding to reinvest in and modernize their infrastructure. 
  • North Landing Bridge: Provides $1.6 million for the Army Corps of Engineers to continue studying the feasibility of replacing the federally-owned North Landing Bridge, which connects Chesapeake, VA, and Virginia Beach, VA. Two years ago, Warner and Kaine were instrumental in securing federal funding to replace a similar Army Corps asset, the Deep Creek Bridge, which was a safety hazard and regional traffic bottleneck.
  • Norfolk Harbor: Includes $300,000 to conclude the study phase of – and advance to construction – the deepening and widening of navigation channels in Norfolk Harbor and tributaries, which will allow the largest deep-draft container ships to call on the Port of Virginia. This project, in concert with the expansion and new marine terminal at the Craney Island Dredged Material Management Area (CIDMMA), will be a generational investment in the infrastructure and economic competitiveness of the Port of Virginia.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today released the following statement on President Trump’s unilateral move to freeze federal employee pay in 2019: 

“Let’s be clear: the President’s decision to cancel any pay increase for federal employees is not motivated by a sudden onset of fiscal responsibility. Today’s announcement has nothing to do with making government more cost-efficient – it’s just the latest attack in the Trump Administration’s war on federal employees. 

“I’ve worked for years in the Senate to reduce duplicative and wasteful spending, and make government more efficient. If President Trump seriously wants to make that a priority, then I’d be happy to work with the White House on that effort. But let’s be honest: the President and his party, which controls both houses of Congress, have had every chance over the last 18 months to get serious about tackling our fiscal challenges. Instead, the President ballooned the deficit by trillions of dollars with a tax giveaway primarily benefitting big business and the wealthiest Americans. I can think of nothing more hypocritical or disingenuous than to turn around and throw hardworking federal employees under the bus on the pretext of fiscal responsibility.

“Congress can and must stand up to the President and reject this assault on our federal workers by passing the 1.9 percent pay raise that the Senate approved on August 1.”


###

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today released the following statement on today’s GSA Inspector General’s report on the FBI headquarters decision:

“The IG’s findings are extremely troubling. The IG report reinforces the concerns that I have had since the Trump Administration halted the consolidated FBI headquarters procurement process. It highlights problems – both procedural and financial – that have resulted from Trump’s impulsive decision to halt a process that was years in the making. It is clear that the Administration’s flawed approach has failed, and that our law enforcement and intelligence workforce would be best served by returning to plans to build a consolidated headquarters building.”

Sens. Warner and Tim Kaine have for years worked with the Maryland Senators as well as the bipartisan Virginia delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives to secure funding for a new FBI headquarters to replace the current, deteriorating J. Edgar Hoover building in Washington, which was built in 1974. In 2014, the General Services Administration (GSA) announced that a site in Springfield, Va. was one of three finalists for a consolidated HQ that would house all 11,000 area FBI employees, who are currently scattered across multiple sites in D.C., Virginia and Maryland. However, in July 2017, the Trump Administration abruptly backed away from more than five years of government preparations to relocate the FBI HQ, announcing instead in February 2018 plans to demolish the existing FBI headquarters in Washington and build a new facility in its place. The GSA has estimated that this new plan would cost $3.3 billion – including $1.9 billion in construction costs, added to the cost of temporarily relocating thousands of FBI employees while the existing structure is demolished and a new building constructed in its place.

 

###

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate in support of the federal workforce, which has been subjected to unprecedented attacks under the Trump Administration.

“The way our federal government treats its workforce, the way we manage and invest in the human capital of our federal government is not some kind of parochial issue. This is an issue that impacts all American who pay their taxes, follow the laws, and expect their federal government to work for them, and to work well,” Sen. Warner said on the Senate floor. “That’s why, Mr. President, I also rise with great concern about the recent efforts by this Administration to scapegoat and undermine the work of our public servants. It started with the hiring freezes that threw a wrench into the day-to-day operations of nearly every federal agency — with no apparent benefit to the taxpayers. It continued with executive orders undermining workplace protections for federal workers and their ability to organize as part of a union. And it culminated last month, with the Trump Administration’s plan to freeze federal employee pay and cut retirement benefits for 2.6 million federal retirees and survivors. This is the thanks our federal employees get for their service!” 

On May 4, OPM Director Jeff Pon outlined an Administration plan to freeze federal employee pay and cut retirement benefits for 2.6 million federal retirees and survivors. On May 25, President Trump signed three Executive Orders that would roll back protections for our federal workforce by making it easier to fire federal employees, restricting time employees can be compensated for union work and directing agencies to negotiate tougher union contracts. Today is the first day of oral arguments in a lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, challenging the executive orders.

Sen. Warner also addressed the Administration’s relentless attacks on federal law enforcement and the intelligence community ahead of “Intelligence Professionals Day,” which will be recognized tomorrow, Thursday, July 26, the 71st anniversary of President Truman signing the National Security Act of 1947.

“Unfortunately, in the months since Russia attacked the very institutions of our democracy, we’ve seen the most bizarre reaction from the President and his allies. Instead of uniting our country behind the cause of defending democracy and bringing our adversaries to justice, the President has led an all-out attack on the credibility of the FBI, the Justice Department, and our Intelligence Community,” said Sen. Warner.  “Demeaning career FBI officials who’ve saved countless American lives over their careers. Impugning the motives of Special Counsel Mueller, perhaps the most respected federal lawman of his generation. Worst of all, we saw the President of the United States stand onstage with Vladimir Putin last week and publically side with Putin over the career men and women of our intelligence community — many of whom risk their lives on a daily basis in order to keep our country safe.”

 

Below is the full text of his remarks as prepared for delivery.

Mr. President, I rise today with great gratitude for the men and women who serve all across our federal government.

 

Virginia is home to some 178,000 of these public servants, as well as over 90,000 active-duty members of our military.

 

And while many of those federal employees live in the national capital region, the truth is that the vast majority of federal employees — some 78 percent — live outside the beltway.

 

The way our federal government treats its workforce, the way we manage and invest in the human capital of our federal government is not some kind of parochial issue.

 

This is an issue that impacts all American who pay their taxes, follow the laws, and expect their federal government to work for them, and to work well.

 

That’s why, Mr. President, I also rise with great concern about the recent efforts by this Administration to scapegoat and undermine the work of our public servants.

 

It started with the hiring freezes that threw a wrench into the day-to-day operations of nearly every federal agency — with no apparent benefit to the taxpayers.

 

It continued with executive orders undermining workplace protections for federal workers and their ability to organize as part of a union.

 

And it culminated last month, with the Trump Administration’s plan to freeze federal employee pay and cut retirement benefits for 2.6 million federal retirees and survivors.

 

This is the thanks our federal employees get for their service.

 

President Trump campaigned on a promise to “drain the swamp.”

 

But the great irony is that the most glaring instances of failure and corruption at the federal level in recent months have not come from career federal employees.

 

They’ve come from the appointees installed by this administration.

 

Look no further than the EPA, where the American people saw some of the most blatant examples of waste and abuse from Mr. Pruitt.

 

We also saw that, with few exceptions, those at the EPA with the courage to stand up and say “this is not ok” were career federal employees.

 

And for that, some were demoted, some were reassigned in retaliation — all because they had the courage to speak up and do what was right.

 

This is the thanks our federal employees get for their service.

 

Unfortunately, Mr. President, these issues don’t appear to be confined to the walls of one agency with one rogue administrator.

 

We’ve seen disturbing reports of Trump political appointees purging career employees at the State Department and the VA.

 

These reports should concern all of us, Republican and Democrat alike, who believe in good, honest government, by and for the people. 

 

Before I close, I want to make another comment on this subject, because there is one part of our federal government in particular, where naked partisanship threatens not only the functioning of our government, but the rule of law itself. 

 

I’m speaking, of course, about the attacks on our federal law enforcement agencies and our intelligence community.

 

The Intelligence Community as we know it was founded 71 years ago tomorrow, when President Truman signed the National Security Act. That date, July 26, also marks the 110th birthday of the FBI, as well as Intelligence Professionals Day — a time to show our gratitude to those brave men and women who keep us safe every day.

 

If only this gratitude were shared by our Commander-in-Chief.

 

Unfortunately, in the months since Russia attacked the very institutions of our democracy, we’ve seen the most bizarre reaction from the President and his allies.

 

Instead of uniting our country behind the cause of defending democracy and bringing our adversaries to justice, the President has led an all-out attack on the credibility of the FBI, the Justice Department, and our Intelligence Community. 

 

Demeaning career FBI officials who’ve saved countless American lives over their careers.

 

Impugning the motives of Special Counsel Mueller, perhaps the most respected federal lawman of his generation.

 

Worst of all, we saw the President of the United States stand onstage with Vladimir Putin last week and publically side with Putin over the career men and women of our intelligence community — many of whom risk their lives on a daily basis in order to keep our country safe.  

 

And this is the thanks they get for their service.

 

Mr. President, the men and women of the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the Intelligence Community deserve better.

 

All of our public servants deserve better than what we’ve seen from this Administration.

 

My advice for this President, if he’s really serious about “draining the swap,” is to leave our federal employees alone and take a good long look in the mirror.

 

Thank you, Mr. President, I yield back.

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) introduced bipartisan legislation to provide financial relief to certain civilian federal employees who move for work. TheRelocation Expense Parity Act would close a loophole that prevents certain federal workers from having additional taxes on their moving expenses fully reimbursed.

The tax bill passed last year eliminated the deduction for job-related moving costs, as well as the exclusion for reimbursements or in-kind contributions made by employers to defray the cost of moving. As a result, employer reimbursements for moving costs – which were previously excluded – are now generally taxed at the same rate as ordinary income. This situation is causing a particular burden for civilian federal employees who, after being assigned to a new duty station, have discovered that hundreds or even thousands of dollars have been withheld from their paychecks, often with little advance notice, in order to cover the cost of taxes associated with moving reimbursements from the federal government. While the law excluded active-duty service members, the approximately 25,000 civilian federal workers — from military civilian employees to law enforcement and teachers — who move each year would have extra money withheld to cover the taxes on this “income” following the changes in the law. 

After receiving a letter from Sens. Warner and Kaine on this issue, the U.S. General Service Administration (GAO) clarified their rulesso that agencies can now reimburse roughly 95 percent of the affected federal workers for this additional cost. However, a small slice of workers who receive moving reimbursements, generally new and retiring employees, are still not eligible. These federal workers owe taxes on their moving costs, and the government cannot cover the costs. The Relocation Expense Parity Act closes this gap by making any federal employee eligible for having moving costs paid also eligible for reimbursement for the additional taxes.

“Civilian federal workers uproot their entire lives and move to distant locations in service to their country. They shouldn’t have to pay a price for their commitment to public service,” said Sen. Warner. “This bipartisan legislation closes a remaining gap that prevents all federal employees from being fairly compensated for their willingness to serve our country.”

“Some hardworking families from Virginia are being stuck with a surprise tax bill when they begin or end their public service,” Sen. Kaine said. “We need to do something to fix this mistake. Additionally, this burden has made it harder for federal agencies to recruit and retain a talented workforce. Families shouldn’t be forced to foot the bill for these moves, and I’m proud we have a bipartisan effort to fix it.” 

“When federal employees are required to relocate to continue their public service in a different part of the country or the world, they should not have to pay additional federal taxes due to reimbursement for moving costs,” said Sen. Collins. “Although the vast majority of federal workers are fully reimbursed for this additional cost, our bipartisan bill would ensure that the remaining five percent of affected workers are fairly compensated for their moving expenses.” 

“Federal workers are tasked with the fundamental responsibility of serving to protect, promote, and preserve the rights and interests of the people of the United States. Employees ranging from FBI agents to teachers on our military bases can face a significant cost burden when moving to their duty stations or returning home,” said Sen. Van Hollen. “This legislation makes an important fix to ensure our federal employees are not doubly burdened through the new tax law. I was proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bipartisan legislation, and I will continue working to support our federal workforce with the resources they need to best serve the American people.”

“Hawaii’s civilian federal workforce plays a critical role in serving our veterans, protecting our environment, and keeping our country safe,” Sen. Hirono said. “Moving to Hawaii to assume a new role is often expensive, but our country is better off when our Federal workers are able to relocate for public service. At a time when Hawaii faces an overall provider shortage in our veterans’ health care system, this legislation helps to ensure that the cost of moving does not impede the important work federal employees do across the country every day.”

“The FBIAA supports the Relocations Expense Parity Act because it protects FBI Special Agents from new financial penalties resulting from mandatory relocation and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. As part of our work to protect the Nation, Special Agents sign mobility agreements that subject them to transfer to meet the needs of the FBI. These moves are often expensive for Special Agents and their families. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminates the moving expense deduction, which historically offset this financial burden. Now, Special Agents who relocate to serve the FBI will face thousands of dollars unnecessarily withheld from their pay because moving reimbursement is considered ordinary income. Special Agents make sacrifices for the nation every day and should not confront financial penalties as result of being willing to serve anywhere they are needed,” said Thomas O’Connor, President of the FBI Agents Association.

“Taxing moving allowances and benefits for new hires into the Department of Defense Education Activity will create a huge financial burden for these individuals and make the task of recruiting and hiring qualified employees for overseas locations much harder. Why would anyone agree to uproot themselves – and, in many cases, their families – in order to move halfway around the world if doing so will cause them to incur thousands of dollars in tax liability? And that’s on top of the enormous expenses and stresses anyone agreeing to relocate overseas for government work already faces. The fact is, DoDEA will find it increasingly difficult to find top-tier educators to come work in its schools and the military dependents who have come to rely on such excellent educators staffing DoDEA schools will the ones who suffer as a result,” said H.T. Nguyen, Executive Director of the Federal Education Association. 

“I worked for DoDEA schools for decades, ensuring military dependents received a great education, and it was always with the understanding that the government would pay to move my family and our possessions back home when my DoDEA career ended. Suddenly, just months before I was set to retire, I learned the new tax law would make such moving assistance taxable, causing my tax liability for this year to increase by thousands of dollars. Being saddled with this tax debt is a huge unforeseen cost to retirees like myself. It deals a severe blow to my financial situation for retirement and I believe it will cause other current employees to delay their retirements because they cannot afford the tax bill they would incur by moving back home. We’ve been told throughout our careers that the government would pay to ship our stuff home when we left DoDEA. To suddenly make those moving services taxable to us is unfair and hurtful!” said Alex Veto, recently retired teacher from Vilseck High School in Germany, a Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) school.

“NTEU appreciates Senators Warner, Kaine, Collins, Van Hollen, and Hirono’s bipartisan recognition that the recent tax code changes penalize federal employees who are required to move for work purposes risking their ability to continue to afford to perform their duties on behalf of the US government,” said Tony Reardon, President of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU).

“NARFE appreciates the hard work of Sen. Warner and his colleagues to correct an unintended consequence of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The legislation inadvertently eliminated the tax deduction for work-related relocation expenses for federal employees. This saddled civil servants with heavy expenses as they were called upon to relocate in order to fulfill the American public’s needs. Although most of the burden has been alleviated, some public servants were not afforded relief by an administrative change and require a legislative fix. To that end, NARFE supports the Relocation Expense Parity Act, sponsored by Sens. Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Susan Collins, Mazie Hirono and Chris Van Hollen, to provide relief to federal employees who are still not made whole from the increased tax expenses resulting from their work-related relocations. Federal employees should not have to foot the bill when they relocate in service to our nation,” said Richard Thissen, President of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE).

More information about this bill can be found here. For the text of the bill, click here. 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that Virginia has received $9,807,162 in AmeriCorps funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency responsible for AmeriCorps and other national service programs. 

These grants will ensure 1,448 AmeriCorps members can continue to volunteer their service to communities across the Commonwealth through nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and faith-based groups.

Since 2017, the Trump Administration advocated for drastic cuts to critical national service programs, including CNCS. Earlier this year, Sens. Warner and Kaine supported the omnibus spending bill that included more than $1 billion in funding for CNCS.

“AmeriCorps members across Virginia help create positive change for the communities they serve,” said the Senators.  “From helping to tackle the opioid crisis, to protecting our historic public lands, their volunteer work goes a long way to building a better, stronger Commonwealth. We are pleased to announce continued funding for this important work.”

The projects funded by the AmeriCorps grants are:

  • American National Red Cross DC, Red Cross Corps—Fairfax, Va.—$1,066,400 AmeriCorps Funding; $473,600 Education Awards: members will install and test smoke detectors in neighborhoods vulnerable to natural disasters, especially wildfires.
  • City of Richmond-Human Services Commission, Richmond Area Healthy Futures Project—Richmond, Va.—$138,186 AmeriCorps Funding; $59,200 Education Awards: members will help expand services geared towards the prevention of opioid and heroin addiction and assist in recovery efforts.  
  • CARITAS, CARITAS AmeriCorps—Richmond, Va.—$235,106 AmeriCorps Funding; $100,640 Education Awards: members will help provide services to individuals and families who are homeless achieve affordable housing, assist with job placement efforts, and mentorship programs to help substance abuse recovery.
  • Institute for Advanced Learning & Research, Dan River Year AmeriCorps—Danville, Va.—$235,444 AmeriCorps Funding; $93,655 Education Awards: members will assist with STEM literacy among children and adults.
  • Catholic Charities USA, CCUSA AmeriCorps Peer Navigators—Alexandria, Va.—$118,400 Education Awards: members will help veterans and military families with accessing their benefits and ensuring their educational, social services, and physical/emotional needs.
  • Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Charities USA Refugee Resettlement—Alexandria, Va.—$271,491 AmeriCorps Funding; $142,080 Education Awards: members will assist with the resettlement of 3,000 refugees and other eligible populations, by helping them to assimilate in the U.S. 
  • Student Conservation Association, Inc., SCA AmeriCorps—Arlington, Va.—$321,602 AmeriCorps Funding; $2,505,102 Education Awards: members will engage in a number of projects that aim to protect, restore, and enhance public lands and waterways.
  • Student Conservation Association, Inc., SCA AmeriCorps Stewardship Teams—Arlington, Va.—$177,600 Education Awards: members will help inspire future leaders to become good stewards of the environment.
  • The Nature Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy National AmeriCorps—Arlington, Va.—$328,504 AmeriCorps Funding; $130,240 Education Awards: members will engage in local, state, and national environmental conservation work.

CNCS will also provide an additional $3,800,517 in Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards, a post-service benefit that can be used to cover the costs of post-secondary education or help pay off student loans. In addition, the federal investment announced today will help generate an additional $18,211,236 from the private sector, foundations, and other sources – further increasing the return on the federal investment.

The federal investment today also includes $3,409,912 for the Virginia Office of Volunteerism and Community Service, the Governor-appointed state service commission, to support additional AmeriCorps programs in the state.

 

###

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Angus King (I-ME), and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, bipartisan legislation to address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at the National Park Service (NPS). The consensus proposal is the product of bipartisan discussions among the senators who had previously introduced bills to address the Park Service’s deferred maintenance backlog. The legislation has been praised by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Pew Charitable Trusts’ restore America’s parks campaign, and the Outdoor Industry Association. 

Due to years of chronic underfunding, NPS has deferred maintenance for a year or more on visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds in Virginia, as well as transportation infrastructure operated by NPS such as Blue Ridge and George Washington Memorial Parkways. In the last year, the maintenance backlog at Park Service sites in Virginia grew by $250 million, to over a billion dollars. That figure includes roughly $80 million of overdue maintenance at Shenandoah National Park, one of the crown jewels of our nation’s park system.

“In the last year, the maintenance backlog at Park Service sites in Virginia grew by $250 million, to over a billion dollars. Virginia now ranks third among all states in total deferred maintenance, trailing only California and the District of Columbia. The longer we wait to address the crumbling infrastructure in our national parks, the worse the problem gets. Today’s introduction marks a step forward in the process of finally fixing the $12 billion maintenance backlog at our national parks. I will continue to work with my colleagues to get this bill passed so that we can make much-needed investments in national treasures like Shenandoah National Park, which has nearly $80 million in overdue maintenance needs,” said Sen. Warner. 

“For more than a century, the National Park Service has been inspiring Americans to explore the natural beauty of our country,” Sen. Portman said. “But in order to keep that work going, we need to ensure that they have the right resources to maintain our national parks. This bill will create the Legacy Restoration Fund to provide the National Park Service with funds for deferred maintenance projects. This legislation will help tackle the nearly $75 million in maintenance backlog at Ohio’s eight national parks and will ensure the National Park Service can continue preserving American treasures like Cuyahoga Valley National Park.”

“Senators Portman and Warner deserve great credit for their leadership in developing this compromise legislation, which could do more to restore our 417 national parks than anything that has happened in the last half century. The bipartisan legislation that I developed with Senator King and other senators is now part of the Portman-Warner compromise legislation, which should have near unanimous support. The end result is $6.5 billion toward eliminating the national park maintenance backlog, $215 million of which is in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” said Sen. Alexander.

“Our national parks amaze, astound, and awe millions of Americans each year – but in order to accommodate so many visitors, the parks need to be well-maintained,”Sen. King said. “The existing $12 billion maintenance backlog threatens to prevent future generations from accessing these beautiful public lands, which is simply unacceptable. This bipartisan legislation would help address this backlog, and ensure that parks from Acadia to Zion will remain open and available for years to come.”

“Since my confirmation hearing, I’ve been adamant that we must address the nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog in our National Parks. I’m happy to see Senators Portman, Warner, King and Alexander teamed up to craft a very strong and historic bill to rebuild our national parks,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.“Park infrastructure is about access for all Americans. In order for families, children, elderly grandparents, or persons with disabilities to enjoy the parks, we need to rebuild basic infrastructure like roads, trails, lodges, restrooms and visitors centers. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, this is an American issue, and I think that the bipartisan body of lawmakers who put this bill forward is proof. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Administration and Congress to see this come to fruition.” 

NPS maintains more than 75,000 assets across the country, including campgrounds, natural lands, historic trails, irrigation and electrical systems, as well as thousands of miles of roads. More than half of these are in need of repairs. In Virginia, NPS operates 34 parks, trails and battlefields and historic sites, including Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, Assateague Island, Booker T. Washington National Monument, Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park, Colonial National Historical Park, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Fort Monroe National Monument, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Battlefields Memorial National Military Park, George Washington Birthplace National Monument, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Petersburg National Battlefield, Prince William Forest Park, Richmond National Battlefield Park, Shenandoah National Park, and Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.  

Over the past decade, Congressional financial support for park maintenance has decreased by 40 percent, and the last time Congress directly addressed the infrastructure needs of the park system was in 1956. The Restore Our Parks Act would establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” to reduce the maintenance backlog by allocating existing revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury, providing up to $6.5 billion over the next five years specifically to address deferred maintenance needs of the National Park Service. 

Last year, Sens. Warner and Portman introduced the National Park Service Legacy Act, which would have eliminated the NPS maintenance backlog by creating a thirty-year designated fund that would address NPS maintenance needs. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Interior announced its own proposal, which bore substantial similarities to the Warner-Portman bill. However, the Administration proposal – which was introduced in the Senate as the National Park Restoration Actby Sens. Alexander and King – would not have established a dedicated funding stream for NPS maintenance, instead relying upon a massive expansion of offshore drilling or a significant increase in the price of oil in order to provide additional funding to the NPS. Prior to that, the Administration had pressed – unsuccessfully – to dramatically increase entrance fees at national parks as a way of funding overdue maintenance. 

The Restore Our Parks Act, introduced in the Senate late Thursday, is the result of months of negotiations among Sens. Warner, Portman, Alexander, King, and the Trump Administration to find a consensus proposal to address the NPS backlog.   

“National parks bring people together and help bridge political party lines. Under the leadership of Senators Warner and Portman, this compromise legislation will put a significant investment into the National Park Service’s maintenance backlog needs. We commend the leadership of these two park champions for their bill that makes a strong investment in our parks that they desperately need and deserve. America’s national parks include our most treasured landscapes and historic and cultural sites that must be protected and maintained so that future generations have the opportunity to learn about the people and places that have shaped our nation’s legacy,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO, National Parks Conservation Association

“Pew has been committed to ensuring that the best provisions of the various deferred maintenance measures are incorporated into a final proposal that can be enacted and will provide a significant reduction to the national parks backlog,” said Marcia Argust, project director for The Pew Charitable Trusts’ restore America’s parks campaign. “The compromise bill introduced today by Sens. Portman, Warner, Alexander, and King meets that goal.”

“OIA applauds this bipartisan effort to solve the National Park Service backlog issue and appreciates the dedication of Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King to this important issue. The backlog impacts the recreation economy and Americans’ ability to explore and enjoy their public lands. As we know, and the support for bills like National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund shows, the health and vitality of America’s public lands system is a bipartisan issue that unites us. We look forward to progress on the issue and appreciate the Senate Bill Sponsors’ attention to this critical infrastructure issue that supports the growing $887 billion outdoor recreation economy,” said Amy Roberts, Executive Director, Outdoor Industry Association.

 

A list of Virginia organizations supportive of addressing the NPS backlog can be found here

 

Full text of the bill can be found here.

 

VA National Park Deferred Maintenance as of 2017*

 

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

$1,998,224

Assateague Island NS

$2,774,577

Blue Ridge Parkway

$186,619,608

Booker T Washington National Monument

$1,370,913

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove NHP

$327,072

Colonial National Historical Park

$421,872,932

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

$1,848,864

Fort Monroe National Monument

$2,280,548

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Battlefields Mem NMP

$10,371,731

George Washington Birthplace National Monument

$1,306,614

George Washington Memorial Parkway

$233,441,316

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

$64,760

Maggie L Walker National Historic Site

$531,648

Manassas National Battlefield Park

$6,516,560

Petersburg National Battlefield

$11,754,041

Prince William Forest Park

$18,619,932

Richmond National Battlefield Park

$6,581,205

Shenandoah National Park

$79,208,621

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

$31,149,289

Total

$1,018,629,457


*Due to the continuously changing nature of facilities data, only final, year-end data is reported by the National Park Service. The last year for which data is available is FY 2017.

 

###

WASHINTON- U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee, and Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, urged the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to implement the strongest possible transparency and accountability requirements for online advertisements in response to the proposed rulemaking. The letter comes as the FEC begins public hearings today on online advertisements. 

“During the 2016 election cycle, Russians took advantage of weak online disclaimer and disclosure rules to purchase online political advertisements. As we rapidly approach the 2018 election, intelligence officials have warned that Russia is currently working to disrupt our elections again,” the senators wrote.

“People have a right to know who is behind the information they receive, and in particular who is trying to influence their vote. This necessitates new disclaimer and disclosure requirements for all online advertisements. Primary elections are already upon us and the general election is only 131 days away. Therefore, we encourage you to quickly adopt the strongest possible rule to increase transparency and accountability for online advertisements.” 

Klobuchar, Warner and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) are the authors of the bipartisan Honest Ads Act, legislation to help prevent foreign interference in future elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements. The Honest Ads Act would prevent foreign actors from influencing our elections by ensuring that political ads sold online are covered by the same rules as ads sold on TV, radio, and satellite.

The full text of the letter can be found below:

 

Dear Commissioners:

 

As you conduct hearings this week on “Internet Disclaimers and Definition of Public Communication”, we encourage you to issue the strongest possible rule that will increase transparency and accountability for online advertisements.

 

During the 2016 election cycle, Russians took advantage of weak online disclaimer and disclosure rules to purchase online political advertisements. As part of a wide social media exploitation effort, Russia spent at least $100,000 dollars—in rubles—on Facebook ads to influence the 2016 election. According to Facebook responses to investigations by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Senate Judiciary Committee, Russian disinformation reached more than 126 million Americans online.

 

As we rapidly approach the 2018 election, intelligence officials have warned that Russia is currently working to disrupt our elections again. As Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats stated earlier this year, “[t]he 2018 U.S. midterm elections are a potential target for Russian influence operations” and Russia will conduct “bolder and more disruptive cyber operations.”   Senate Intelligence Committee members determined that foreign actors illegally influenced the 2016 presidential election and that something has to be done to stop this from occurring in the future.

 

Online platforms dwarf broadcast, satellite, and cable providers. The largest internet platform has over 210 million American users. The largest cable provider only has 22 million subscribers – nearly an order of magnitude greater. That is why we introduced the Honest Ads Act earlier this year. Our legislation would apply the same rules to online political advertisements that already exist for traditional media and require digital advertisers to maintain a public record of political ads purchased. By requiring the same rules across all advertising platforms, we can limit foreign attempts to influence our elections, increase transparency in political advertising, and promote greater accountability.

 

People have a right to know who is behind the information they receive, and in particular who is trying to influence their vote. This necessitates new disclaimer and disclosure requirements for all online advertisements. Primary elections are already upon us and the general election is only 131 days away. Therefore, we encourage you to quickly adopt the strongest possible rule to increase transparency and accountability for online advertisements.

 

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded Senate passage of bipartisan legislation to fund federal programs and build new military construction and facilities under the Department of Veteran Affairs (V-A), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of Defense (DoD). 

On a bipartisan 86-5 vote, the Senate approved the Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations package that covers funding for energy and water development, military construction and veterans affairs (MilCon-V-A), the legislative branch, and all of their related agencies. The bill will now go to conference where it will be reconciled with a version passed by the House of Representatives.

“Despite President Trump’s relentless attempts to drastically cut support for vital programs, this bipartisan bill fulfills the federal government’s commitment to supporting our nation’s military and veterans,” said the Senators. “It puts a stop to the Administration’s misguided efforts to cut or eliminate outright funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission and gut groundbreaking renewable energy R&D at the Department of Energy. It also funds new infrastructure projects that will help improve transportation networks and military facilities in the Commonwealth, and makes new investments to support the cutting-edge research at J-Lab.”

The following list includes many of the provisions Sens. Warner and Kaine advocated for on behalf of Virginia that were included in the appropriations package:

Appalachian Regional Commission: Following President Trump’s attempts to defund ARC, the bill fully funds this successful federal-state partnership by providing $155 million to continue its efforts to increase employment and economic opportunities for those living in Appalachia, strengthen and maintain the region’s infrastructure, and provide additional educational and workforce opportunities for citizens of Appalachia so that they can compete in a 21st century global economy.

Military Construction: Provides more than $131 million in new construction throughout the Commonwealth. 

  • Joint Base Langley-Eustis: Funds nearly $23 million on three projects at the base.
  • Forts A.P. and Belvoir: Receive nearly $18 million to build new training facilities.
  • Portsmouth Ship Maintenance: Provides $26 million for a ship maintenance shop in Portsmouth, Virginia. 

Both Senators advocated for these projects, and more, when the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act passed the Senate.

Veterans Affairs: Provides $86.4 billion in funding for the V-A, an increase of $5 billion above fiscal year 2018. The bill would increase funding to several Veteran Health Administration priority areas, including $800 million for electronic health record modernization and $8.6 billion to increase mental health services for veterans. It includes $1.9 billion for homelessness programs like the Supportive Services for Veterans and Families program, which provides assistance to homeless veterans; $196 million to hire V-A mental health providers and increase suicide prevention outreach; $78 billion to help provide high-quality and timely health care services to veterans; $174 million to improve the veteran appeals process; and more than doubles FY18 funds to provide $1.8 billion for the construction of new V-A medical facilities.

Jefferson Lab Nuclear Physics Research: Provides $710 million for nuclear physics research within the Department of Energy’s Office of Science in order to fulfill DOE’s Long Range Plan for Nuclear Science. The funds will enable scientists at labs across the country, including at Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, VA, to engage in critical research that will maintain U.S. leadership and preeminence in this field.

Hampton Roads Infrastructure: 

  • Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Projects: Provides $2.3 billion for construction of water infrastructure projects and $3.8 billion for operations and maintenance of existing infrastructure related to harbor maintenance, flood and storm damage control, and aquatic ecosystem restoration. Total funding for the Corps of Engineers is $100 million above the FY2018 enacted level and $2.1 billion above the President’s budget request. 
  • Donor and Energy Transfer Ports: Provides $50 million to ensure that ports like the Port of Virginia receive equitable levels of funding to reinvest in and modernize their infrastructure.
  • North Landing Bridge: Provides $1.6 million for the Army Corps of Engineers to continue studying the feasibility of replacing the federally-owned North Landing Bridge, which connects Chesapeake, VA, and Virginia Beach, VA. Two years ago, Warner and Kaine were instrumental in securing federal funding to replace a similar Army Corps asset, the Deep Creek Bridge, which was a safety hazard and regional traffic bottleneck.
  • Norfolk Harbor: Includes $300,000 to conclude the study phase of – and advance to construction – the deepening and widening of navigation channels in Norfolk Harbor and tributaries, which will allow the largest deep-draft container ships to call on the Port of Virginia. This project, in concert with the expansion and new marine terminal at the Craney Island Dredged Material Management Area (CIDMMA), will be a generational investment in the infrastructure and economic competitiveness of the Port of Virginia.

 

Other Virginia Water Infrastructure:

  •  Hydroelectric Licenses: Extends authorization for hydroelectric projects at John W. Flannagan Dam in Dickenson County, VA, and Gathright Dam in Alleghany County, VA.

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released a statement after Congress approved the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):

 “I’m glad that the Senate was able to work in a bipartisan way to improve national security, support our service members, and strengthen defense readiness.  

“Since the Administration has failed to listen to warnings from their own top intelligence officials about the dangers posed by Chinese telecom company ZTE, this legislation includes a bipartisan amendment – which I co-sponsored – to automatically reinstate trade restrictions on ZTE once this bill is signed into law. Importantly, this legislation would also ensure that neither ZTE nor Huawei will be eligible for government contracts in the future. To further prioritize our national security, I also supported the inclusion of a bipartisan CFIUS bill similar to what we passed in the Banking Committee to ensure that foreign investments in the U.S. do not pose a national security risk. I strongly encourage the Administration to consider the strong bipartisan support for these measures in the Senate before taking any hasty actions. Additionally, this bill urges the Secretaries of State and Defense to dedicate all necessary resources to complete its strategy to counter and deter future cyber aggression by Russia.”  

“This bill also funds several critical priorities important to Virginia’s shipbuilding footprint, including the procurement of two Virginia-class submarines. In addition, this bill pushes further action to make long-overdue investments in our nation’s public shipyards, authorizes more than $260 million towards 14 military construction projects across the Commonwealth, and includes a 2.6 percent raise for members of the armed forces. The NDAA also includes important reforms to modernize our antiquated security clearance system and to reduce the 700,000 person background investigation backlog. Although this bill is far from perfect, I commend my colleagues for passing this critical defense package,” said Sen. Warner.  

Included in the NDAA are three provisions championed by Sen. Warner to address the security clearance backlog:

  • A provision requiring the Director of National Intelligence to improve information sharing regarding government and contract employees;
  • A provision requiring the Director of National Intelligence to provide a report on a clearance-in-person concept to accommodate a more modern mobile workforce;
  • And a provision creating a “rocket” clearance for mission-critical positions that can be processed in 15 days for SECRET and 45 days for TOP SECRET.

In addition, the bill includes a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Sen. Warner and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) that would improve access to cybersecurity scholarships for students at minority-serving institutions. With mounting demand across every industry for trained cyber workers, it’s particularly important that we invest now in developing a diverse cyber workforce. 

Added Sen. Warner, “In order to address the nation’s increased cyber threats from foreign adversaries, this amendment will ensure the nation that the U.S. builds a strong and diverse pipeline of future talent to lead the nation’s strategy in the field of cybersecurity.” 

“Norfolk State University is pleased to support this bipartisan proposal to recruit a more diverse pool of students to pursue cyber education,” said Dr. Melvin T. Stith, Interim President of Norfolk State University. “Strong cyber training and knowledge is essential for preparing students to compete and thrive in a 21st century economy. This effort by Senator Warner is a welcome boost to Norfolk State University's ongoing efforts to produce a talented and representative cyber workforce.” 

The amendment is similar to provision offered by Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) that was included in the House-passed version of the NDAA. The text of the amendment can be found here.

 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and a group of 25 Senators wrote a letter to Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Jeff Pon, urging the Trump Administration not to cut retirement benefits for the nation’s federal workforce. This letter comes after OPM Director Pon outlined an Administration plan to freeze federal employee pay and cut retirement benefits for 2.6 million federal retirees and survivors over the next ten years. 

“Together, the proposals you have made would cut $143 billion over ten years from federal employee retirement programs, while offering nothing to employees in their place. We fear that these cuts are motivated by an ongoing effort to balance the budget on the backs of federal workers rather than an effort to provide a comprehensive approach to modernizing federal employee compensation,” the Senators wrote in the letter.

“As you continue to develop legislative proposals related to the compensation of federal employees, we urge you to move past draconian cuts that harm the financial security of federal employees in every state across the country, and instead commit to comprehensive reforms that modernize our government’s compensation system in a way that encourages the best and brightest talent to join the ranks of our dedicated civil servants,” the Senators concluded.

Joining Sen. Warner on the letter are Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Chris Coons (D-CT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

 

The text of the letter can be found below and here.

 

The Honorable Jeff T.H. Pon

Director

Office of Personnel Management

1900 E Street, NW

Washington DC 201415

 

Dear Director Pon:

 

We write to you opposing the changes to federal employee retirement benefits included in your May 4, 2018 letter to Speaker Paul Ryan, and to voice our strong concern for the impact these proposals would have on the financial planning of active and retired federal employees and on the federal government’s ability to recruit and retain a strong civilian workforce.

 

Your letter calls for increased Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) contributions from employees, eliminating the FERS supplement for employees who retire beginning in 2018, basing retirement calculations on the average of the highest 5 years of salary instead of the current 3, and reducing or eliminating cost-of-living adjustments. These proposals affect employees who have dedicated decades of service to the federal government, and in the case of the FERS supplement, employees who are required to retire early because of the physical demands of their job, including Customs and Border Protection Officers, firefighters, and air traffic controllers. It is clear that they would reduce the ability of employees to save going forward and significantly alter the financial planning of federal workers, retirees, and their families.

 

Our understanding is that your justification for these proposals is to bring federal employee compensation in line with the private sector. The President’s FY19 Budget justification for these proposals states that federal employees are compensated with combined pay and benefits higher than the private sector, relying solely on an April 2017 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Report. This is a gross oversimplification of the findings and implications of that report. The report concludes that total compensation costs among workers with a professional degree or doctorate were actually 18 percent lower for federal employees than for similar private-sector employees. To further increase this differential would hamper our ability to hire experts in mission-critical areas. Furthermore, CBO states that the scope of their analysis is limited to selected benefits, and does not include, for example, the stock options that some private-sector firms provide to their employees. 

 

Together, the proposals you have made would cut $143 billion over ten years from federal employee retirement programs, while offering nothing to employees in their place. We fear that these cuts are motivated by an ongoing effort to balance the budget on the backs of federal workers rather than an effort to provide a comprehensive approach to modernizing federal employee compensation.

 

We are also concerned about the effects that these cuts would have on the federal government’s ability to recruit and retain top talent at agencies across the United States. As you know, just 17 percent of federal workers are under 35 years old, and nearly one-third of permanent career federal employees will be eligible to retire next year. At the same time, the 2017 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, a government wide survey conducted by the Office of Personnel Management, found that only 42 percent of federal employees feel they can recruit people with the right skills. In the face of a potential brain drain from our federal agencies, and in a time where top talent has a wide variety of options for global employment, we feel strongly that the impact of across-the-board pay freezes and continued threats to earned benefits will be devastating to retention and recruitment. Modernizing the federal workforce and the package of benefits offered to our federal employees is a worthy goal; however, if enacted, these proposals would not be a modernization, but would instead reverse course by making the federal government a less attractive place to work.

 

As you continue to develop legislative proposals related to the compensation of federal employees, we urge you to move past draconian cuts that harm the financial security of federal employees in every state across the country, and instead commit to comprehensive reforms that modernize our government’s compensation system in a way that encourages the best and brightest talent to join the ranks of our dedicated civil servants. We would welcome the opportunity to work with you in accomplishing that important goal.

 

Sincerely,

 

###

WASHINGTON –U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a member of the Senate Banking and Finance Committees, today sent letters to Twitter and Google parent company Alphabet, requesting information about any data sharing agreements between the companies and Chinese vendors. The letter follows a disclosure earlier this week by Facebook that the company has partnerships with Chinese telecom companies including Huawei that allow them to access Facebook users’ non-public data. 

“Since at least October 2012, when the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released its widely-publicized report, the relationship between the Chinese Communist Party and equipment makers like Huawei and ZTE has been an area of national security concern. Since then, numerous articles in the tech trade press have focused on concerns by American and allied intelligence agencies that products from Chinese device makers, such as Lenovo, have security vulnerabilities that could allow Chinese intelligence to access data stored on, or transmitted by, devices.  And the New York Times reported in 2016 that firmware found in low-end smartphone devices, such as those of Huawei and ZTE, continually transmitted local data to Chinese severs, potentially for foreign intelligence purposes,” Sen. Warner wrote to the two companies today. 

It is publicly known that Alphabet has entered into strategic partnerships with Chinese mobile device manufacturers, including Huawei and Xiaomi, as well as with Chinese technology platform Tencent. In light of Facebook’s recent revelations, Sen. Warner requested that the company provide information about those partnerships, as well as any other agreements that Alphabet may have entered into with third-party vendors based in China. A similar request was posed to Twitter. 

Sen. Warner’s letter to Alphabet CEO Larry Page is available here. His letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is available here.  

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a member of the Senate Banking and Finance Committees, released the following statement regarding the Commerce Department’s agreement with ZTE:

“It is the unanimous conclusion of our nation’s intelligence community that ZTE poses a significant threat to our national security. These concerns aren’t new; back in 2012, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released a report on the serious counterintelligence concerns associated with ZTE equipment. 

“It’s not only that ZTE was busted for evading sanctions on Iran and North Korea, and then lied about it; It’s that ZTE is a state-controlled telecommunications company that poses significant espionage risks, which this agreement appears to do little to address.” 

 

###

 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a member of the Senate Banking and Finance Committees, along with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) and Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), introduced bipartisan legislation that would require the White House to seek Congressional approval before issuing tariffs designated in the interest of national security. This authority was originally granted to the President by Congress under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 and is a tool that has only rarely been used to restrict foreign imports. 

President Trump has used this provision to impose steel and aluminum tariffs that target imports from some of the United States’ closest allies like Mexico, Canada, and the European Union. As a result, businesses that make products containing these materials, such as Virginia craft beer producers, expect to see increased production costs that will likely mean higher prices for Virginia consumers. In addition, some of these countries have announced they plan to impose retaliatory tariffs on key Virginia agricultural exports. This week, Mexico announced it will be placing a 20 percent tariff on pork imports, a step that will directly hurt Virginia farmers who exported roughly $68 million in pork to that country last year.  

“While I believe that we should hold China accountable for unfair trade practices and I support strong trade enforcement rules that protect American workers, the President should not be relying on an obscure provision of a trade law intended to uphold national security in order to impose tariffs on our allies. Instead, he should focus on building international coalitions to hold bad actors accountable and protect American workers,” said Sen. Warner.

“While we all agree on the need to ensure the international trade system is fair for American workers, companies and consumers, unfortunately, the administration is abusing the Section 232 authority delegated to the president by Congress,” said Sen. Corker. “Making claims regarding national security to justify what is inherently an economic question not only harms the very people we all want to help and impairs relations with our allies but also could invite our competitors to retaliate. If the president truly believes invoking Section 232 is necessary to protect the United States from a genuine threat, he should make the case to Congress and to the American people and do the hard work necessary to secure congressional approval.”

The bill requires the president to submit to Congress any proposal to adjust imports in the interest of national security under Section 232. For a 60-day period following submission, legislation to approve the proposal will qualify for expedited consideration, guaranteeing the opportunity for debate and a vote. The requirement would apply to all Section 232 actions moving forward, as well as those taken within the past two years.

Sen. Warner, along with Sen. Kaine, has previously raised concerns about how President Trump’s trade war could hurt Virginia businesses and employees, listing the set of products grown and made in Virginia that have been targeted by the Chinese for duties. Both Senators also wrote to the Administration warning that withdrawing from the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—another significant source of agricultural exports for Virginia—would negatively impact Virginia’s agricultural industry.

A copy of the legislation can be found here.

 

###