Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced $9,771,259 in federal funding to support access to safe and affordable housing in Norfolk, Roanoke City, and Loudoun County. This funding, from the United States Department of Housing (HUD), was awarded through three grant programs – the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program, the HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME), and the Emergency Solutions Grants Program (ESG).

“We are happy to know that these federal dollars will help back efforts in Norfolk, Roanoke City, and Loudoun County to increase access to suitable, reasonably-priced housing for families who need it the most,” said the Senators.

The funding will be awarded as below.

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program provides annual grants on a formula basis to states, cities, and counties to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing, and expanding economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons:     

Recipient

Amount

 

Norfolk

$4,384,883

Roanoke City

$1,734,157

Loudoun County

$1,324,740

 

The HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME) provides formula grants to states and localities to fund a wide range of activities including building, buying, and/or rehabilitating affordable housing for rent or homeownership as well as providing direct rental assistance to low-income people. HOME is the largest federal block grant to state and local governments designed exclusively to create affordable housing for low-income households:

Recipient

Amount

 

Norfolk

$1,191,349

Roanoke City

$622,255

The Emergency Solutions Grants Program (ESG) provides funding to engage homeless individuals and families living on the street, improve the number and quality of emergency shelters for homeless individuals and families, rapidly re-house homeless individuals and families, and prevent families and individuals from becoming homeless:

Recipient

Amount

 

Norfolk

$366,887

Roanoke City

$146,988


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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) praised Senate passage of U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria’s (VA-02) legislationsupported by the entire Virginia delegation – to rename a Virginia Beach post office after Ryan “Keith” Cox.  On May 31, Mr. Cox, a longtime public utilities employee, sacrificed his own life to save others during the shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center.  

“The Commonwealth will forever be grateful to Mr. Cox for the selfless actions he took that tragic day to protect his fellow Virginians,” said the Senators. “It’s our hope that the President will swiftly sign this bill into law so that we can pay a proper tribute to this heroic Virginian.”

“I thank Senators Kaine and Warner and the entire Virginia U.S. House delegation for supporting our legislation to honor Keith Cox,” said Rep. Luria. “I hope the President quickly signs this bill into law so we can properly remember a true hero. This is our chance to tell Keith’s story – to showcase his bravery to our community, our Commonwealth, and our nation.”

The United States Postal Service (USPS) facility is located at 2509 George Mason Drive in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Earlier this month, Sens. Warner and Kaine wrote to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the Committee that oversees USPS, in support of the legislation to honor Cox’s heroism. In June, Sens. Warner and Kaine secured unanimous passage of a Senate resolution honoring the 12 victims of the Virginia Beach shooting. 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) introduced legislation to add approximately 40 coastal acres of land to Fort Monroe National Monument, a move that would unify the two divided sections of Fort Monroe and achieve an unbroken coastline along the Chesapeake Bay. This legislation comes after the failure of the Trump Administration to accept approximately 40 acres of land from the Commonwealth of Virginia, which has offered to donate the land to the Department of Interior.

“With its rich history, Fort Monroe is unlike any other national monument. It’s uniquely positioned to tell some of our nation’s most significant stories on a compact and highly accessible site in the middle of an urban area,” said the Senators. “This legislation will finally unify Fort Monroe, from Old Point Comfort north to the end of the property, thus protecting the land’s iconic history and its recreational value on the Chesapeake Bay.”

Fort Monroe was built between 1819 and 1834 to protect the entrance to Hampton Roads. During the Civil War, Major General Benjamin Butler issued his famous "contraband decision” at Fort Monroe, ordering that escaped slaves who reached Union lines could not be returned to bondage. It was this courageous decision that earned Fort Monroe the nickname “Freedom's Fortress.”

In addition to adding approximately 40 acres of land in the eastern part of the Wherry Quarter, the Fort Monroe National Monument Land Acquisition Act would require the Secretary of the Interior to work with the Commonwealth to solve the issue of managing several non-historic buildings on the land.

“Transferring this parcel to the National Park Service will help connect and protect important natural, cultural, and historic resources at Fort Monroe. We look forward to Congress passing this important legislation.” – Matthew J. Strickler, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources.

“We are very pleased that Senators Warner and Kaine have introduced a bill providing for the addition of 44 acres of Chesapeake Bayfront land to Fort Monroe National Monument. The addition of this critical land, to be generously donated by Virginia, will both physically unite the National Monument and permanently preserve more valuable Chesapeake Bay shoreline for the American people. This long awaited addition has been structured to minimize any additional costs for the National Park Service and will serve to increase the appeal of Fort Monroe overall, thus promoting the financial sustainability of Fort Monroe as a whole.” – Mark Perreault, President, Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park.

“We commend Senators Warner and Kaine for their efforts to strengthen Fort Monroe by uniting divided sections of the monument into a contiguous national park. As the birthplace of the Civil War-era sanctuary movement, Fort Monroe serves as a powerful touchpoint for our nation’s history in regards to slavery, the Civil War and the civil rights movement. Since the monument’s creation in 2011, NPCA and our supporters have worked diligently to connect these lands to make one united park. Thanks to their leadership, visitors to Fort Monroe National Monument will enjoy the star fort and an unbroken coastline along the Chesapeake Bay, and learn just how much Freedom’s Fortress means for our nation and the Commonwealth of Virginia.” – Theresa Pierno, President and CEO, National Parks Conservation Association.

“The partnership between the Fort Monroe Authority and the National Park Service allows for the property at Fort Monroe to be seamlessly available to the public. This additional land will unify the beaches under one property owner and guarantee the public access for all future generations.” – Glenn Oder, Executive Director, Fort Monroe Authority.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been longtime advocates of expanding Fort Monroe. In June 2018, the Senators, along with a bipartisan coalition of the Virginia Congressional Delegation, sent a letter to then-Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke requesting that the Park Service accept the Commonwealth’s land donation offer.

The full text of the bill is available here.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs voted unanimously to advance bipartisan legislation to rename a Virginia Beach post office – located at 2509 George Mason Dr. in Virginia Beach, VA 23456 – after Ryan “Keith” Cox. The legislation, which was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) and Virginia’s entire bipartisan congressional delegation, now awaits full consideration in the Senate.

 “On May 31, 2019, Keith Cox selflessly gave his own life to protect his friends and colleagues from a cowardly act of violence at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center,” said the Senators. “The Commonwealth will never forget those we lost that day, and will always remember Mr. Cox for his selfless act of love, which saved lives. We commend our colleagues for getting us one step closer to this fitting tribute to a brave Virginian.”

Earlier this month, Sens. Warner and Kaine wrote to the Chair and Ranking Member in support of Rep. Luria’s legislation to honor Cox’s heroism. In June, Sens. Warner and Kaine secured unanimous passage of a Senate resolution honoring the 12 victims of the Virginia Beach shooting.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) urging it to review and approve the leasing prospectus submitted more than two months ago by the General Services Administration (GSA) for a new Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility in Hampton Roads. While GSA had initially anticipated receiving OMB sign-off on the project by the end of last month, nearly three weeks later, the project is still awaiting review at OMB, further delaying plans to complete the much-needed new facility in South Hampton Roads by the fall of 2023.

“This clinic is essential to reducing VA wait times in a region with one of the fastest-growing veterans populations in the country. From 2012 to 2016, patient visits at the Hampton VA Medical Center increased by 21.4 percent, a rate nearly triple the national average of 7.3 percent. As of March 2019, patients were waiting an average of 57 days to access primary care at the Hampton VA Medical Center,” wrote Sen. Warner in today’s letter to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney. “Meanwhile, at the region’s other VA facility, an outpatient clinic in Chesapeake, veterans experienced wait times of 59 days for primary care. Any further delays constructing and opening this new health facility will only exacerbate the VA’s existing capacity challenges in Hampton Roads, where the veterans population is anticipated to increase approximately 22 percent between 2017 and 2027.”

In 2017, Congress approved leases for 28 VA facilities around the country, including two in Virginia. In an effort to ensure timely completion of the facilities, the VA passed off procurement authority for six of the projects, including the Hampton Roads clinic, to the GSA, which has been conducting the lease procurement process for the Hampton Roads facility since March 2018 and is currently in the ‘prospectus authority’ phase of the project. On May 8, 2019, GSA submitted a lease prospectus document to OMB, which must approve the plan in order to proceed with the design and construction of the Hampton Roads VA medical facility.

“As you know, OMB approval is required for lease projects over $3.095 million. GSA cannot proceed on this lease procurement until both OMB and Congress authorize the prospectus document. However, congressional authorization cannot be sought until OMB approves the prospectus. Therefore, in order for this project to move forward, your approval is urgently needed,” continued Sen. Warner. “According to GSA estimates, this project can be completed and turned over to the VA in the fall of 2023 – approximately six years after the leases were tardily approved by Congress. However, this timeline was produced by GSA on the assumption that OMB would approve the project by the end of June. Now that we are more than halfway into the month of July, each additional day that goes by without OMB approval is one more day that Hampton Roads veterans could have to wait to see this long-promised facility up and running.”

In the letter, Sen. Warner asked OMB to approve the project within the next week, and reiterated his commitment to help expedite the process.

“The prospectus document is no more than a few pages – it should not take OMB over two months to review the proposal,” Sen. Warner noted. “Once OMB is finished, I will do my part to ensure that the Senate conducts our approval process in an expedited manner, and together I hope that we can put this lease project back on track so that veterans in need of the facility will be able to use it as soon as possible.”

Since Congress approved the Hampton Roads clinic in 2017, Sen. Warner has repeatedly pushed the VA and GSA to expedite their work to get it up and running swiftly. In a personal meeting at his Washington office in December of 2018, Sen. Warner pressed GSA leadership to provide an update on the agency’s progress in opening the new facility. Dissatisfied with the lack of headway, the following month Sen. Warner again demanded a plan from GSA to speed up the procurement and construction process for the clinic. Sen. Warner followed up with the VA and GSA last week to express his continued outrage at “the glacial pace” of the Hampton Roads project, as well as another VA medical facility awaiting construction in Fredericksburg, Va., and to demand real plans from both for completing the already-delayed projects on a faster timeline.

A copy of today’s letter can be found here and below.

 

Dear Director Mulvaney:

I write to urge the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to expeditiously approve the prospectus on a Veterans Affairs (VA) Outpatient Clinic in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, which was submitted on May 8, 2019 by the General Services Administration (GSA). Further delays will only prolong a process that is already significantly and unnecessarily behind schedule. 

In 2017 Congress authorized leases for 28 VA facilities around the country, two of which are in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The VA passed procurement authority to the GSA for six of the projects, including the Hampton Roads outpatient clinic, in an effort to ensure timely completion of the facilities. GSA has been conducting the lease procurement process for the Hampton Roads facility since March 2018, and is currently in the “prospectus authority” phase of the project.

This clinic is essential to reducing VA wait times in a region with one of the fastest-growing veterans populations in the country. From 2012 to 2016, patient visits at the Hampton VA Medical Center increased by 21.4 percent, a rate nearly triple the national average of 7.3 percent. As of March 2019, patients were waiting an average of 57 days to access primary care at the Hampton VA Medical Center. Meanwhile, at the region’s other VA facility, an outpatient clinic in Chesapeake, veterans experienced wait times of 59 days for primary care. Any further delays constructing and opening this new health facility will only exacerbate the VA’s existing capacity challenges in Hampton Roads, where the veterans population is anticipated to increase approximately 22 percent between 2017 and 2027.

As you know, OMB approval is required for lease projects over $3.095 million. GSA cannot proceed on this lease procurement until both OMB and Congress authorize the prospectus document. However, congressional authorization cannot be sought until OMB approves the prospectus. Therefore, in order for this project to move forward, your approval is urgently needed. According to GSA estimates, this project can be completed and turned over to the VA in the fall of 2023 – approximately six years after the leases were tardily approved by Congress. However, this timeline was produced by GSA on the assumption that OMB would approve the project by the end of June. Now that we are more than halfway into the month of July, each additional day that goes by without OMB approval is one more day that Hampton Roads veterans could have to wait to see this long-promised facility up and running.

I ask that OMB do everything possible to expedite the review and approval of this prospectus document within the next week. The prospectus document is no more than a few pages – it should not take OMB over two months to review the proposal. Once OMB is finished, I will do my part to ensure that the Senate conducts our approval process in an expedited manner, and together I hope that we can put this lease project back on track so that veterans in need of the facility will be able to use it as soon as possible.

I look forward to your response, or even better, to the notice that OMB has approved the lease prospectus.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), demanding that both agencies present a plan to expedite the completion of outpatient VA medical facilities in Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg. The letter comes on the heels of a report by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of the Inspector General (IG) that revealed severely delayed completion times for a group of VA medical clinic projects from 2014.

“I write to convey my serious concerns and frustrations with the glacial pace of two Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) lease procurement projects in the Commonwealth of Virginia: an outpatient clinic in Hampton Roads run by the General Services Administration (GSA) and an outpatient clinic in Fredericksburg run by the VA. I request that both the VA and the GSA work to expedite the timelines for both clinics to meet the urgent needs of our veterans, as well as present a plan to my office, outlining phases in the timeline that can be reduced,” wrote Sen. Warner.

Plans to build the two new VA clinics in the Commonwealth are a direct result of Sen. Warner’s successful bipartisan effort to secure congressional approval for 28 overdue VA medical facility leases in 2017. While the new outpatient in Fredericksburg is under the purview of the VA, the GSA has undertaken the procurement and construction of the new Hampton Roads clinic in an effort to accelerate the process. In his letter to the VA and GSA, Sen. Warner conveyed grave concern that both agencies’ processes for site selection and construction are far behind schedule. Currently, both agencies have indicated that the completion of the clinics may take until 2023, more than 6 years after the leases were approved.   

The veteran population in Hampton Roads, one of the fastest-growing in the country, is anticipated to increase approximately 22 percent from 2017 to 2027. As Sen. Warner emphasized in his letter, the completion of the new clinic in the region is essential to reducing wait times and expanding healthcare options for veterans.

“I am particularly outraged that of the 28 leases approved as part of the 2017 legislation, the two Virginia facilities are among the last to be scheduled for completion. The Hampton Roads area is home to one of the largest veteran populations in the country and is in particular need of additional centers. In March 2019, the Hampton Roads VA Medical Center was seeing long wait times for primary care, specifically 57 days for the Hampton VAMC and 59 days for the Chesapeake VA Outpatient Clinic. Despite additional reforms on site to help care for veterans, it is clear that from these numbers that the region desperately needs more capacity to provide care for our veterans,” continued Sen. Warner.

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

 

The Honorable Robert Wilkie

Secretary of Veterans Affairs

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20420 

Emily W. Murphy

Administrator

U.S. General Services Administration

1800 F Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20405

Dear Secretary Wilkie and Administrator Murphy:

I write to convey my serious concerns and frustrations with the glacial pace of two Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) lease procurement projects in the Commonwealth of Virginia: an outpatient clinic in Hampton Roads run by the General Services Administration (GSA) and an outpatient clinic in Fredericksburg run by the VA. I request that both the VA and the GSA work to expedite the timelines for both clinics to meet the urgent needs of our veterans, as well as present a plan to my office, outlining phases in the timeline that can be reduced.  

As you know, in 2017, after extended delays, Congress finally authorized leases for 28 VA facilities around the country, two of which are in Virginia. The VA passed procurement authority to the GSA for six of the projects – one of which was the Hampton Roads outpatient clinic, largely due to the need to ensure timely completion of the facilities. 

Despite both the VA and the GSA having had ownership of these projects for roughly two years and a year and a half, respectively, neither project has posted a Solicitation for Offer. In the case of the Hampton Roads facility, GSA began working on the project in March 2018, and GSA’s current timeline anticipates awarding the lease in February 2021, nearly three years later. This is prior to construction starting. The latest timelines put both the Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg facilities’ completion dates in the fall of 2023 – more than six years after the approval of these leases. This is unacceptable and reflects poorly on the GSA, the VA and on the U.S. government overall.

I am particularly outraged that of the 28 leases approved as part of the 2017 legislation, the two Virginia facilities are among the last to be scheduled for completion. The Hampton Roads area is home to one of the largest veteran populations in the country and is in particular need of additional centers. In March 2019, the Hampton Roads VA Medical Center was seeing long wait times for primary care, specifically 57 days for the Hampton VAMC and 59 days for the Chesapeake VA Outpatient Clinic. Despite additional reforms on site to help care for veterans, it is clear that from these numbers that the region desperately needs more capacity to provide care for our veterans. 

I look forward to a response from each of you that indicates how the lease projects for the outpatient clinic in the Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg will be expedited, so that the veterans who need these facilities will be able to use them sooner than they are currently estimated to be delivered. In my last correspondence with Administrator Murphy, she indicated that GSA would in fact evaluate opportunities to expedite the delivery of this facility. I thus would ask that both GSA and the VA specifically identify these areas as well. 

I cannot stress enough how important it is to the veterans I represent in Virginia that every effort be made to expedite the procurement and building processes for these facilities. This matter is of the utmost importance to me, and I stand ready to help in any way I can.

Sincerely,           

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, urging the Department to strongly consider Hampton Roads as the location for a first-of-its-kind Naval University System-Naval Community College (NUS-NCC) Center of Excellence.

“I write today to bring your attention to a proposal by Old Dominion University (ODU) to locate a Naval University System-Naval Community College (NUS-NCC) Center of Excellence in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, and to ask that you give this proposal serious consideration,” wrote Sen. Warner.

In a February memo by Secretary Spencer, the Navy suggested that enlisted servicemembers would highly benefit from further educational opportunities to help with naval readiness and professional development. To assist in that effort, the memo recommended that the Navy create a new Naval University System to assist with that mission. In response, Old Dominion University (ODU) President John R. Broderick proposed that the Navy consider Hampton Roads to house the future institution.

“We stand ready to move forward with a Naval University System-Naval Community College Center of Excellence in our region,” said John R. Broderick, President, Old Dominion University. “Hampton Roads already benefits from a spirit of collegiality and cooperation, with close interactions linking higher education, government agencies, the military, and the private sector. With our region’s unrivaled strengths in areas such as sea level rise, maritime trade and supply chain management, and modeling and simulation, we believe we are strongly positioned to help the Navy provide a dynamic educational experience and professional development to its personnel.”

In today’s letter, Sen. Warner urges the Navy to strongly consider ODU’s proposal to select Hampton Roads for the location of their Naval University System as the region boasts a large naval footprint. Additionally, with existing partnerships between the U.S. Navy and many local institutions – including ODU’s Virginia Modeling and Simulation Center (VMASC) and William and Mary’s Whole of Government Center of Excellence – Hampton Roads is the logical choice for this endeavor.

A copy of Sen. Warner’s letter can be found here and below.

 

The Honorable Richard Spencer

Secretary of the Navy

1000 Navy Pentagon, Room 4D652

Washington, DC 20350

Dear Secretary Spencer:

I write today to bring your attention to a proposal by Old Dominion University (ODU) to locate a Naval University System-Naval Community College (NUS-NCC) Center of Excellence in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, and to ask that you give this proposal serious consideration.

On February 5, 2019, you released a memo entitled “Education for Seapower Decisions and Immediate Actions,” making a set of recommendations to create a Naval University System, including a Naval Community College, in order to integrate and align naval education and strengthen the professional development and war fighting competence of U.S. Sailors and Marines. 

In response to your memo, ODU submitted a proposal on May 15, 2019, in collaboration with a number of other stakeholders in the Commonwealth of Virginia, to partner with the Navy and offer the Hampton Roads region as an ideal location for the NUS-NCC Center of Excellence. The Hampton Roads region includes the seven cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Suffolk. For the purposes of this proposal, Williamsburg – home to The College of William and Mary (W&M) – is also included. 

The Hampton Roads region includes 14 universities, colleges, and community colleges, plus many satellite campuses, offering an intellectual ecosystem, significant infrastructure and partnership opportunities for your effort. In addition, it is strategically positioned given the large U.S. Navy presence in the region, existing relationships many institutions have with the U.S. Navy, and unique capabilities such as the ODU Virginia Modeling and Simulation Center (VMASC) and the W&M Whole of Government Center of Excellence, which are exclusive to this region.

I understand the search for the ideal partners and location for a NUS-NCC may be a complex and highly competitive process, and I appreciate your consideration of the ODU proposal. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about my request.

Thank you again for your consideration.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) requesting an in-person meeting to get the timeline for the full implementation of the Ashanti Alert system, as required by legislation passed by Sen. Warner and signed into law in December of 2018.

In March, Sen. Warner wrote to Attorney General William Barr to request an update on the implementation of the alert system. In response to Sen. Warner’s letter, the DOJ indicated that little progress had been made on the implementation of the federal Ashanti Alert system, with only a program coordinator and internal working group members identified. No timeline for a full implementation was provided. Additionally, in April, Sen. Warner held a press conference with Del. Jay Jones and Ashanti Billie’s family urging the DOJ to move swiftly to implement the Ashanti Alert system.

“I am disheartened that over seven months after being signed into law, I have been unable to get appropriate answers from the Department on the status of implementation, including a briefing from the person who was supposed to be designated as the national coordinator. Thus, I am requesting an in-person meeting this month with key individuals responsible to discuss next steps of the implementation process. At this meeting I would hope to get a detailed timeline of the Department’s plans on the full implementation of the Ashanti Alert communications network,” wrote Sen. Warner.

In the letter, Sen. Warner slammed the DOJ for making little-to-no progress on the Ashanti Alert communication network seven months after it was signed into law.

“President Trump signed into law the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 (Pub L. 115-401) on December 31, 2018. This law is critical to our nation’s efforts in saving the lives of missing adults. Given the urgency of improving public safety, I am especially frustrated at the Department of Justice’s slow pace of implementation of the law. In April 2018, Virginia passed its own legislation to create an Ashanti Alert network and the first alert was issued in July 2018 – three months after it was signed into law by Governor Northam. While I understand that creating a nationwide alert system is a challenging undertaking, the current lack of progress is concerning and unacceptable. Virginia has led the way in fully implementing this critical alert system in a short period of time and now it is the federal government’s turn to act quickly and efficiently in order to start saving lives on a national level,” continued Sen. Warner.

The Ashanti Alert system is named after Ashanti Billie, the 19-year-old who was abducted in Norfolk, Va. on September 18, 2017. Her body was discovered in North Carolina 11 days after she was first reported missing. Because of Ashanti’s age, she did not meet the criteria for an Amber or Silver Alert – tools utilized by law enforcement that make it easier for the public to assist in locating a missing person. The Ashanti Alert, like the other alert systems, would create a new national communication system to notify the public about missing or endangered adults through radio and television broadcast systems and assist law enforcement in the search.

In today’s letter, Sen. Warner also conveyed his concern that the DOJ has not yet appointed an Ashanti Alert Coordinator – the designee in charge of overseeing federal and state coordination of the system. In his letter, Sen. Warner asks whether a designated national coordinator has been appointed and if not, what is causing the delay.

A copy of the letter can be found here or below.

 

The Honorable William Barr 

Attorney General

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C., 20530

Dear Attorney General Barr:

I write yet again to request an update from the Department of Justice regarding the status of the implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act. I am disheartened that over seven months after being signed into law, I have been unable to get appropriate answers from the Department on the status of implementation, including a briefing from the person who was supposed to be designated as the national coordinator.

Thus, I am requesting an in-person meeting this month with key individuals responsible to discuss next steps of the implementation process. At this meeting I would hope to get a detailed timeline of the Department’s plans on the full implementation of the Ashanti Alert communications network.

President Trump signed into law the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 (Pub L. 115-401) on December 31, 2018. This law is critical to our nation’s efforts in saving the lives of missing adults. Given the urgency of improving public safety, I am especially frustrated at the Department of Justice’s slow pace of implementation of the law. In April 2018, Virginia passed its own legislation to create an Ashanti Alert network and the first alert was issued in July 2018 – three months after it was signed into law by Governor Northam. While I understand that creating a nationwide alert system is a challenging undertaking, the current lack of progress is concerning and unacceptable. Virginia has led the way in fully implementing this critical alert system in a short period of time and now it is the federal government’s turn to act quickly and efficiently in order to start saving lives on a national level.

The law requires the Attorney General to appoint a national coordinator for Ashanti Alerts. Called the Ashanti Alert Coordinator, he or she plays a pivotal role in the success of the alert network. Among other responsibilities, the Coordinator will work with state authorities and federal agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission, on how to implement the program into existing alert systems and what protocols to use. However, according to conversations with staff from the Department of Justice, there is currently not an Ashanti Alert Coordinator appointed. Can you confirm whether you have designated a national coordinator to lead the implementation effort? If not, can you explain what has been causing the delay?

I am eager to receive an update from either the appointed Ashanti Alert Coordinator or senior officials at the Department of Justice who are overseeing the implementation efforts. Please respond with a plan and a meeting date for no later than August 2nd, 2019. If your staff have further questions or there is more I can do to help move implementation forward, please contact Elizabeth Falcone in my office at elizabeth_falcone@warner.senate.gov.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today requested additional funding for vital improvements to Interstate 81 (I-81) that would enhance safety and reduce traffic congestion.

In a pair of letters to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the Senators emphasized I-81’s crucial role in commerce along the East Coast and stressed the need for federal dollars to tackle necessary repairs to the highway. The Senators also encouraged DOT to approve an application from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for federal grant funding to improve I-81, reduce congestion, and address safety problems along the route.

“While improvements have been made in past years to keep up with the growth, I-81 continues to experience heavy congestion and dangerous conditions, which have degraded the corridor,” the Senators wrote in the letter of support to DOT Secretary Elaine Chao. “The proposal put forth by VDOT will undoubtedly transform and improve the lives of many Virginians who travel the interstate every day. Furthermore, upgrades and repairs will improve the safety of those traveling through the Commonwealth.”

The Senators also encouraged the leaders of the EPW Committee to include robust funding for high-priority interstate improvement projects such as I-81 in the next surface transportation bill.

“As you continue to draft the surface transportation reauthorization bill, we urge you to include as much funding as possible for major, high priority interstate improvements projects such as I-81 in Virginia,” the Senators wrote to the Environment and Public Works Committee. “Robust funding through formula programs, as well as additional competitive grant programs like BUILD and INFRA, will be necessary to achieve funding goals for this, and other major projects that involve improvements to hundreds of miles of major interstate arteries.”

More than one-third of all trucks that drive through Virginia and approximately half of the Commonwealth’s value of goods are transported along I-81. In the last decade, I-81 has experienced significant traffic growth, with travel expected to continue increasing along the interstate. Increased I-81 traffic causes severe travel delays and puts travelers at risk, including the drivers involved in the more than 2,000 crashes that happen annually along the route.

A recent study by VDOT that found an unmet need of about $4 billion in improvements along the interstate – only half of which is expected to be covered by the increased truck registration fees and gas tax increases approved by the Virginia General Assembly earlier this year.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been longtime advocates of robust financing for the Commonwealth’s infrastructure. In May, the Senators introduced legislation to provide critical safety reforms and strengthen oversight of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). Additionally, earlier this year, Sen. Warner introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen the nation’s infrastructure, create jobs, and generate economic stimulus.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $8,655,600 in federal funding from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to support improvements at airports in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

“We’re excited to announce this funding that will help improve travel for Virginians,” the Senators said. “These grants will revitalize our airports with much-needed upgrades to help ensure safer travel in and out of the Commonwealth.”

  • Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport will receive $4,921,500.
  • Leesburg Executive Airport will receive $900,000.
  • Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport will receive $2,834,100.

The funding was awarded through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airport Improvement Program within DOT. The program supports infrastructure improvement projects at airports across the country, including runways, taxiways, aprons, terminals, aircraft rescue and firefighting vehicles, and snow removal equipment. Warner and Kaine have long fought for funding for Virginia’s airports and pushed back against the Trump Administration’s suggested budget cuts to DOT to ensure that upgrades like these can happen.

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WASHINGTON – Today, the Senate unanimously passed legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine to honor the victims of the Virginia Beach shooting, as well as the first responders and city officials who have supported the Virginia Beach community in the wake of this tragedy.

“We’re grateful the Senate has passed this resolution to honor the lives of the 12 victims of the tragic shooting in Virginia Beach. We will continue to mourn this immense loss but we must turn our pain into action and enact commonsense reforms to reduce gun violence in our communities,” the Senators said.

U.S. Representative Elaine Luria (VA-02) led the entire bipartisan Virginia delegation in introducing a companion resolution in the House.

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WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine introduced a resolution honoring the 12 victims of the mass shooting in Virginia Beach, as well as the brave first responders, city officials, and the entire Virginia Beach community.

“Compassion and strength are the qualities the community of Virginia Beach has demonstrated since the tragic event that took 12 innocent lives,” said Warner. “When Virginia Beach mourns, so does the rest of the Commonwealth. It’s for this reason that we recognize the public servants, first responders, and community members that will forever be marked by this tragic event.”

“As we mourn the twelve beautiful lives lost in the horrific shooting in Virginia Beach, we want the country to know who these dedicated public servants, friends, and family members were,” Kaine said. “This resolution honors them and recognizes the heroic actions of those who risked their lives to save others. No community should go through this pain.”

U.S. Representative Elaine Luria (VA-02) introduced a companion resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives with support from the entire bipartisan Virginia delegation.

 

The text of the resolution is here and below:

Whereas, on Friday, May 31, 2019, 12 people were killed in a mass shooting at the Municipal Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia;

Whereas 11 of the 12 victims were employees of the city of Virginia Beach with more than 150 years of combined service to the city, and the remaining victim was a contractor who had come to the Municipal Center for business;

Whereas Laquita C. Brown, a 4-year employee of the city of Virginia Beach Department of Public Works who was known for her love of travel with friends and her ability to light up a room with her presence, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas Ryan Keith Cox, a 12-year employee of the city of Virginia Beach Department of Public Utilities who was known for his kindness and beautiful singing voice, and who ran into danger looking for more people to save after ensuring his coworkers were sheltered in a barricaded room, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas Tara Welch Gallagher, a 6-year employee of the city of Virginia Beach Department of Public Works who worked as an engineer to provide clean drinking water for her community, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas Mary Louise Gayle, a 24-year employee of the city of Virginia Beach Department of Public Works who was known as a cheerful coworker and devoted mother and grandmother, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas Alexander Mikhail Gusev, a 9-year employee of the city of Virginia Beach Department of Public Works who emigrated from Belarus to Virginia Beach to find a better life and who was known as a generous and devoted coworker, friend, brother, and uncle, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas Joshua O. Hardy, a 4-year employee of the city of Virginia Beach Department of Public Utilities who was known for his kindhearted nature and love for his family and faith, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas Michelle “Missy” Langer, a 12-year employee of the city of Virginia Beach Department of Public Utilities who was known for her beaming smile and passion for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and who had plans to retire soon, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas Richard H. Nettleton, a 28-year employee of the city of Virginia Beach Department of Public Utilities who was a selfless leader in regional utility system planning and a veteran of the 130th Engineer Brigade of the Army, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas Katherine A. Nixon, a 10-year employee of the city of Virginia Beach Department of Public Utilities who was known for her intellect and who was a loving wife and mother of 3 children, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas Christopher Kelly Rapp, an 11-month employee of the city of Virginia Beach Department of Public Works who was known for his kindness, his passion for playing the bagpipes, and his devotion to his wife, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas Herbert “Bert” Snelling, a contractor who had come to the Municipal Center to get a permit and who was celebrating his 38th wedding anniversary, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas Robert “Bobby” Williams, a 41-year employee of the city of Virginia Beach Department of Public Utilities, who was awarded with 8 service awards in recognition of his lifetime of devoted work and who was planning on retiring later in the year to spend more time with his family, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas the actions of those city employees who alerted their coworkers to danger and pulled them into shelter saved an unknowable number of lives;

Whereas police officers responded within minutes of the first reports of shooting, heroically risking their lives by running into the line of fire;

Whereas 1 police officer was shot while confronting the gunman and survived because he was wearing a bulletproof vest;

Whereas those who were present at, or responded to, the scene of the shooting encountered a “war zone” of horrific violence that will be forever seared into their memories;

Whereas mental health providers, counselors, and faith leaders have tended to the invisible wounds of the shooting, and will continue to do so for decades to come;

Whereas Virginia Beach Chief of Police James Cervera, Mayor Bobby Dyer, and City Manager David Hansen have led their community through its darkest hour with courage, dignity, professionalism, and compassion; and

Whereas, within hours of the shooting, the residents of Virginia Beach had come together in an outpouring of support for those affected, showing the resiliency of love in the face of evil: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) joins the Commonwealth of Virginia in mourning the deaths and celebrating the lives of the 12 victims killed in the shooting at the Municipal Center in Virginia Beach on May 31, 2019;

(2) applauds the heroism, dedication, and compassion of the police officers, first responders, and emergency medical personnel who responded to the shooting and tended to the wounded, in some cases risking their own lives while saving others;

(3) recognizes the strength of the Virginia Beach community in coming together to show that this tragedy will not define them; and

(4) reaffirms its responsibility to find ways to prevent more individuals in the United States from dying in acts of violence.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement regarding the deadly shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center:

"I am horrified by what has happened today in Virginia Beach. I am thankful to law enforcement for their swift and courageous response. My heart goes out to all the victims of today's senseless violence, their families, and the entire community that has been affected by these awful events. I will be praying for the swift recovery of those injured."

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today applauded more than $116,000 in rural development assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help replace vital equipment at police and fire departments in Charlotte County, and the independent cities of Waynesboro and Franklin – and to support two nonprofit organizations for children and the elderly in the City of Franklin and Wise County, respectively.

“Every day, brave men and women in fire and law enforcement put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of families in our communities. The least they deserve is functional, up-to-date equipment that allows them to fulfill their duties,” said the Senators. “We look forward to seeing these rural development grants be put to good use by helping enhance public safety in the Commonwealth. We are also pleased to know that federal assistance will go directly towards supporting two important non-profit programs in Virginia. From our youngest Virginians, to our most elderly, we cannot afford to forget about folks in rural communities.”

$68,700 in funding comes from USDA’s Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grants program, which seeks to develop key community facilities that provide essential services to the public in rural areas:

  • In Waynesboro, $25,000 will go towards the purchase of ten new air packs for the Dooms Volunteer Fire Department.
  • In Charlotte County, $18,700 will go towards the purchase of new firehoses and turn-out gear at the Drakes Branch Volunteer Fire Department to replace outdated equipment that is at least 45 years old.
  • In Wise County, $25,000 will go towards the purchase of 30 computers for the PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) Center. The new computers will be able to run current versions of medical records and prescription monitoring software, helping the PACE Center provide better physical and mental health care.

$48,000 in assistance comes from USDA’s Economic Impact Initiative Grants program, which seeks to help further the development of essential community facilities in rural areas with extreme unemployment or severe economic depression:

  • In Franklin, $25,000 will go towards the purchase of at least one police vehicle and any equipment necessary to place the newly-purchased vehicle into service at the Franklin Police Department.
  • In Franklin, $23,000 will also go towards the purchase of two vehicles to enable staff working in the Early Intervention Program at The Children’s Center to perform frequent home visits. 

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WASHINGTON— Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $5,000,000 in federal funding from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to support improvements at Farmville Regional Airport and Middle Peninsula Regional Airport.

“We’re pleased to announce this funding that will revitalize our airports with the necessary developments to ensure safer travel for Virginians,” the Senators said. 

  • Farmville Regional Airport will receive $3,500,000
  • Middle Peninsula Regional Airport will receive $1,500,000

The funding was awarded through the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program within DOT. The program supports infrastructure improvement projects at airports across the country, including runways, taxiways, aprons, terminals, aircraft rescue and firefighting vehicles, and snow removal equipment. Warner and Kaine have long fought for funding for Virginia’s airports and pushed back against the Trump Administration’s suggested budget cuts to DOT to ensure that upgrades like these can happen.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine and U.S. Representatives Bobby Scott and Elaine Luria applauded the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s announcement of $60,000,000 in federal funding through HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Implementation program to support the revitalization of struggling housing projects in Newport News and Norfolk. These two Virginia cities were among just four localities nationwide chosen to receive HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Implementation grants. The funding will allow Newport News and Norfolk to invest in the redevelopment of their public or HUD-assisted housing.  

“This is a big win to ensure safe, affordable housing for underserved communities in Hampton Roads,” the Senators and Representatives said. “We are thrilled HUD selected Virginia for these grants that will allow Newport News and Norfolk to put their redevelopment plans into action so they can start making critical public housing improvements for residents.”

"We are more than excited to have been selected from among 28 applicants nationwide and to have this opportunity to jump-start our revitalization plan.  The changes we will see will impact current residents and future generations," said Karen R. Wilds, Executive Director of the Newport News Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

·         Newport News Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the City of Newport News will receive $30,000,000.

·         Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the City of Norfolk will receive $30,000,000.

HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Implementation grants support underserved communities that have undergone a local planning process and are ready to implement their “Transformation Plan” to redevelop distressed public or HUD-assisted housing and neighborhoods.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine are celebrating the culmination of their successful efforts to get federal employees in Virginia Beach and Norfolk a much-deserved pay raise, as the President signed an executive order that designates a locality pay adjustment for Hampton Roads. This adjustment will increase salaries for approximately 30,400 Virginians in Virginia Beach and Norfolk in order to better reflect the rising costs of living in the area. Warner and Kaine have pushed OPM to take the necessary steps to implement a pay raise for Hampton Roads federal employees. While federal employees in the region could have been receiving higher pay last year, OPM’s delay in implementing the pay scale adjustment exacerbated the situation for Virginia families who had been long-expecting a raise. 

“There is no doubt that hardworking federal employees deserve this long-overdue pay raise,” the Senators said. “As the cost of living has increased in Hampton Roads, we have long fought to provide federal workers in the area a needed boost. We’re hopeful that the new pay rates will offer peace of mind to those who work hard to serve our country.”

In 2017, Kaine and Warner wrote to the Acting Director of OPM to express concern that federal employees in the Hampton Roads region were led to believe they would see a pay raise for calendar year 2017 and asked that the agency take quick action to implement the pay scale adjustment. Senators Warner and Kaine have also cosponsored legislation to provide all federal workers a pay raise of 3.6 percent, an increase from FY19’s 1.9 percent average.

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced that the Air Force recommends relocating the F-22 Flight and Maintenance Formal Training Unit (FTU) to Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton Roads: 

“We are pleased that after careful evaluation, the U.S. Air Force has determined that Joint Base Langley-Eustis should permanently house the F-22 training squadron. There is nowhere better to house these aircraft, the unit and supporting personnel and their families than Hampton Roads – a region celebrated for its defense assets and long history of strengthening our nation’s national security. We look forward to working with the U.S. Air Force and the Virginia Air National Guard as it moves forward with the relocation process.”

While Joint Base-Langley Eustis (JBLE) is designed to accommodate three squadrons, the base currently houses two squadrons. In February, Sens. Warner and Kaine led the entire Virginia delegation in a letter urging the Air Force Secretary to permanently house the F-22 training squadron at JBLE after Hurricane Michael devastated Tyndall Air Force Base. The unit was then temporarily relocated to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida while the Air Force determined the most appropriate permanent home for the Formal Training Unit. 

Today, the U.S. Air Force announced that it has determined JBLE is the most suitable F-22 location to support Formal Training Unit operations. The Air Force will make its final basing decision following compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulatory and planning processes.

 

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Washington – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today wrote to Attorney General William Barr to request an update on the implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act – a piece of crucial bipartisan legislation championed by Sen. Warner and signed into law in December of 2018. The Ashanti Alert Act requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to establish a national communications network to assist regional and local search efforts for certain missing adults, filling a gap for missing persons who are too old for an Amber Alert and too young for a Silver Alert.

“It has now been more than two months since the Ashanti Alert Act was signed into law, and I continue to consult with stakeholders who are eager to make progress in implementing this new network so we can start saving lives,” said Sen. Warner. “I remain strongly committed to the Ashanti Alert Act and plan to actively monitor its implementation to ensure that the Department, law enforcement agencies, and relevant entities and stakeholders can work together to make the Ashanti Alert network as helpful and effective as possible.” 

The Ashanti Alert will notify the public about missing or endangered adults ages 18-64. The law instructs the Attorney General to designate a national Ashanti Alert Coordinator responsible for helping states establish alert systems and develop voluntary guidelines. Under the law, the coordinator is also tasked with providing Congress with an annual report detailing the use and progress of Ashanti Alerts in states. 

In requesting a status update on DOJ’s implementation efforts, Sen. Warner also presented the Attorney General with the following questions:

  1.  Have you designated a national coordinator to lead the implementation effort?
  2. Can you provide a timeline through which you plan to achieve important milestones in establishing this new network?
  3. What is the Department’s strategy to solicit and incorporate input from subject matter experts, local law enforcement agencies, and relevant federal agencies? Has the Department begun this outreach? 
  4. What barriers or challenges to implementation had you identified and how do you plan to address them?
  5. What additional assistance or direction from Congress is necessary to assist in your efforts? 

The Ashanti Alert Act was named after Ashanti Billie, a 19-year-old abducted in Norfolk, Va. on September 18, 2017, whose body was discovered in North Carolina 11 days after she was first reported missing. Sen. Warner secured unanimous passage of this bill through the Senate in December 6, 2018 by working with his colleagues to make modifications to the House bill, which was introduced by then-Congressman Scott Taylor and had previously been blocked from passing the Senate. The bill was then signed into law by President Trump on December 31, 2019.

 

Full text of the letter is below and a copy can be found here.

 

March 21, 2019

 

The Honorable William Barr  

Attorney General 

U.S. Department of Justice 

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C., 20530 

 

Dear Attorney General Barr,

 

I write to respectfully request an update from the Department of Justice regarding the status of implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act. As you are aware, on December 31, 2018, President Trump signed into law the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 (Pub L. 115-401). The Ashanti Alert Act requires the Department of Justice to establish a national communications network, named the Ashanti Alert, to assist regional and local search efforts for certain missing adults. Last Congress, the Senate and House of Representatives secured strong bipartisan support for the legislation and it passed both chambers by a near-unanimous margin.

 

As you know, the Ashanti Alert, similar to other missing person alert systems, would notify the public about missing or endangered adults, ages 18-64, through a national communications network to assist law enforcement in searching for the missing person, helping to save lives. This law was borne out of the tragic death of Ashanti Billie, a 19 year old who was abducted in Norfolk, Virginia and whose body was discovered 11 days after she was first reported missing. Because Ashanti was too old for an Amber Alert to be issued and no similar network for adults existed at the time, her parents, family, and friends struggled to get word out of her disappearance in a timely fashion.

 

It has now been more than two months since the Ashanti Alert Act was signed into law, and I continue to consult with stakeholders who are eager to make progress in implementing this new network so we can start saving lives. Last year, Virginia passed legislation of its own to create an Ashanti Alert network and issued its first alert last month. Extending this effort to all 50 states is, of course, a difficult and comprehensive undertaking. I strongly urge that you direct senior Department officials to prioritize implementation at the federal level.

 

Under the new law, the Attorney General must designate a national coordinator to work with states to establish Ashanti Alert systems and to develop voluntary guidelines that states (as well as territories) should use in creating their networks. Called the Ashanti Alert Coordinator, he or she would be responsible for consulting with the Secretary of Transportation, Federal Communications Commission, Assistant Secretary for Aging of the Department of Health and Human Services, and other DOJ offices in coordinating activities to support Ashanti Alerts. The Coordinator is also expected provide an annual report to Congress detailing the states that are in the process of establishing or have already established Ashanti Alerts and information on Ashanti Alert use in states. 

 

As you move forward with implementation of this law, I ask that you provide me an update on the status of your efforts. More specifically: 

 

·         Have you designated a national coordinator to lead the implementation effort?

·         Can you provide a timeline through which you plan to achieve important milestones in establishing this new network?

·         What is the Department’s strategy to solicit and incorporate input from subject matter experts, local law enforcement agencies, and relevant federal agencies? Has the Department begun this outreach? 

·         What barriers or challenges to implementation had you identified and how do you plan to address them?

·         What additional assistance or direction from Congress is necessary to assist in your efforts? 

 

I remain strongly committed to the Ashanti Alert Act and plan to actively monitor its implementation to ensure that the Department, law enforcement agencies, and relevant entities and stakeholders can work together to make the Ashanti Alert network as helpful and effective as possible.

 

I look forward to hearing back from you with this information by April 21, 2019. If I can be of assistance in addressing implementation challenges at your agency, please contact Nicholas Devereux on my staff at (202) 224-2023. Thank you again for your efforts to prioritize the implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act and to fully leverage the potential of this opportunity to transform the lives and safety of Americans.

 

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) wrote today to the Secretaries of the U.S. Navy, Army and Air Force, asking for detailed information regarding the military’s contracts with private companies to provide on-base housing for military families in Virginia. Prompted by pervasive allegations of health hazards – including lead poisoning, cockroaches, mice, mold blooms and water leaks – the Senators raised concerns about existing contracts with several private companies that manage thousands of family housing units at military bases across Virginia, and asked each of the services to provide copies of any existing policies and operating procedures meant to hold companies accountable for health and safety failures.  

“Military families make great sacrifices for our nation and they deserve housing that is safe and healthy,” said the Senators. “It is crucial that military leaders prioritize the well-being of military families and hold private housing companies accountable for anyhealth hazards or issues.” 

The specific contracts and locations for which the Senators requested information include:

  • Lincoln Military Housing, a residential real estate management company that provides 36,000 housing units for military families nationwide, including 5,700 units for Navy and Marine Corps servicemembers stationed at Dahlgren, Wallops, Quantico, and throughout Hampton Roads; 
  • Balfour Beatty Communities, Clark Realty Capital and Hunt Military Communities, which manage military homes for families stationed at Fort Belvoir, Fort Story, Fort Eustis, and Fort Lee; and
  • Hunt Military Communities, which manages approximately 1,430 units at Joint Base Langley-Eustis.  

In letters addressed to Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, the Senators asked for: 

  • Copies of housing contracts with private companies;
  • Copies of any service- or department-level guidance and policy documents that relate directly to contracting for on-base privatized housing;
  • Any information about any cure notices that may have been sent to contractors regarding failures to adhere to contractual obligations at Virginia installations; and
  • Copies of standard operating procedures to responding to and rectifying problems in government-owned housing, such as mold, mildew, lead paint,  and other habitability, safety, and health complaints in government-owned housing. 

This is not the first time that Sens. Warner and Kaine have taken actions to address concerns with military housing conditions. In August of 2018, both Senators pressed Secretary Esper to address lead poisoning concerns at a number of Army installations, including Fort Belvoir. Additionally, last November, Sen. Warner asked the Department of Defense to provide a detailed briefing outlining the Defense Department’s plan to ensure the safety of military families residing in both public and private housing. He alsomet with Secretary Esper earlier this month to emphasize the importance of prioritizing improvements to military housing conditions. In the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Kaine has called on military leaders and private companies charged with maintaining housing to work together to quickly address these problems.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) were joined by every member of the Virginia congressional delegation in urging U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to relocate the F-22 Flight and Maintenance Formal Training Units (FTU) to Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton Roads. Originally located at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Michael in October of 2018, the squadron is being temporarily held at Eglin Air Force Base, awaiting a decision by Secretary Wilson as to where it will be housed permanently.

“Beyond the existing ramp space and infrastructure at Langley that would allow it to quickly receive aircraft at minimal additional cost, a decision to move the F-22 FTU to Langley would leverage a number of key benefits that Langley and the surrounding areas have,” said the members of Congress. “The Hampton Roads area has a long history of supporting our nation’s military and their families, and would provide strong recruiting and retention ability.”

“Additionally, the Virginia Air National Guard stands uniquely positioned to support the FTU, with experienced instructors and maintainers well versed on the platform,” they continued. “We ask that you give full consideration to Joint Base Langley-Eustis as a host to this mission.”

Built to accommodate three squadrons, Joint Base Langley-Eustis is currently underutilized, housing only two F-22 squadrons and supporting maintenance units. Moving the F-22 FTU would advance an important recommendation put forward by the Government Accountability Office, which has emphasized the need for improving aircraft availability by consolidating the fleet into larger squadrons or wings.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Kaine, the letter was signed by Reps. Bobby Scott, Robert Wittman, Gerry Connolly, Morgan Griffith, Don Beyer, A. Donald McEachin, Ben Cline, Elaine Luria, Abigail Spanberger, Denver Riggleman, and Jennifer Wexton. 

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

 

The Honorable Heather Wilson

Secretary of the Air Force

1670 Air Force Pentagon

Washington, DC 20330-1670

 

Dear Secretary Wilson:

In December 2018, you announced that the Air Force would conduct a Strategic Basing Process to determine the new location for the F-22 Flight and Maintenance Formal Training Units (FTU). As the Air Force looks to move this mission from Tyndall AFB, and its temporary location at Eglin AFB, we write to express our strong support for moving the mission to Joint Base Langley-Eustis.

While Joint Base Langley-Eustis currently has two F-22 squadrons, as well as supporting maintenance units, it was built for the beddown of three squadrons, thereby underutilizing the airspace and Air Force investment in ramp, hangar, and operations support facilities. The east coast Mid-Atlantic training ranges provide an excellent opportunity to train with other 4th and 5th generation aircraft in the region. Moving the F-22 FTU to Langley would advance one of the recommendations put forward by the Government Accountability Office regarding F-22 organization: the need for “consolidating the fleet into larger squadrons and/or wings in order to improve aircraft availability.” 

Beyond the existing ramp space and infrastructure at Langley that would allow it to quickly receive aircraft at minimal additional cost, a decision to move the F-22 FTU to Langley would leverage a number of key benefits that Langley and the surrounding areas have. The Hampton Roads area has a long history of supporting our nation’s military and their families, and would provide strong recruiting and retention ability. Additionally, the Virginia Air National Guard stands uniquely positioned to support the FTU, with experienced instructors and maintainers well versed on the platform. 

We ask that you give full consideration to Joint Base Langley-Eustis as a host to this mission. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for any additional information.

 

Thank you for your consideration.

 

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) led a letter, signed by every Democratic member of the Virginia Congressional Delegation, expressing opposition to the five Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) permits issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last November, and requesting the Trump Administration revoke these IHAs and refrain from issuing seismic airgun survey permits off the coast of Virginia. The letter also expresses opposition to the inclusion of the Commonwealth’s offshore area in the final 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

“Virginians have too much to lose when we prioritize polluters’ profits over the health and safety of our ocean and coastal communities,” said Congressman Donald McEachin. “Seismic airgun blasting can devastate marine life, including endangered species and essential fish stocks. History has shown us that offshore drilling accidents can irrevocably harm coastal communities’ economies, public health and marine life – and compromise military activities that are important to national security. The potential toll from an oil spill—in terms of damages, injuries, deaths, and other harms—is incalculable. I urge the administration to listen to Virginians, who have expressed vehement opposition to all forms of oil and gas exploration off Virginia’s coast.” 

“In Virginia alone, more than 20 communities have officially voiced their opposition to seismic surveys and offshore drilling, including Virginia Beach and Norfolk – Virginia’s most populous cities. The Commonwealth has a diverse and robust economy based on sectors like tourism, recreation, aquaculture, deepwater port commerce, and Department of Defense infrastructure. Moving forward with seismic testing and offshore drilling could threaten these critical engines of Virginia’s economy, along with the valuable ecosystems along the coast and within the Chesapeake Bay. These shores, and the ecosystems and jobs they support, are simply too vital to the Commonwealth to risk,” wrote the Members of Congress. “Our constituents remain concerned with the administration’s efforts to open the Commonwealth’s offshore area to oil and gas exploration and drilling. Accordingly, we again request that the Department of Commerce revoke these IHAs, and that the Department of the Interior deny all pending seismic survey permits for the Atlantic.”

“Assaulting our ocean with seismic airguns in search of dirty and dangerous offshore oil is reckless and wrong,” said Diane Hoskins, Offshore Drilling Campaign Director of Oceana. “Today’s letter calls on President Trump’s administration to do the right thing and protect Virginia from the harms associated with offshore drilling. Seismic airgun blasting threatens serious injury and even death to whales, dolphins and other marine life.  This dangerous blasting is being proposed so that companies can come in and drill for oil and gas off the Atlantic coast. Local communities and businesses up and down the East Coast have objected to expanded offshore drilling activities, like seismic airgun blasting.” 

 

Full letter text is available here and below. 

 

Background:

The issuance of the five IHA permits is a significant step in allowing companies to conduct widespread seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean for the purposes of oil and gas exploration. 

 

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Link to release: https://mceachin.house.gov/media/press-releases/rep-mceachin-leads-members-va-congressional-delegation-letter-opposing-seismic

 

 

Dear Secretary Ross and Acting Secretary Bernhardt:

 

We are writing to express our opposition to the November 30, 2018 issuance by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of five Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) permits—a significant step in allowing five companies to conduct widespread seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean for the purposes of oil and gas exploration. We request that the Department of Commerce revoke these IHAs, and that the Department of the Interior refrain from issuing final seismic survey permits for geological and geophysical exploration off the coast of Virginia. In addition, we oppose the inclusion of the Commonwealth’s offshore area in the final 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

 

The administration’s recent decision to issue these IHA permits runs counter to the explicit wishes of coastal communities up and down the Atlantic that would be at risk from offshore drilling and exploration. Over 240 localities on the East Coast and Florida’s Gulf Coast, 1,600 elected officials, 42,000 businesses, and 500,000 fishing families from Florida to Maine have all voiced their opposition to oil and gas activities.[1] They recognize that these activities have the potential for serious impacts on everything from tourism to fishing catch rates—important sectors of these local economies. 

 

In Virginia alone, more than 20 communities have officially voiced their opposition to seismic surveys and offshore drilling, including Virginia Beach and Norfolk – Virginia’s most populous cities. The Commonwealth has a diverse and robust economy based on sectors like tourism, recreation, aquaculture, deepwater port commerce, and Department of Defense infrastructure. Moving forward with seismic testing and offshore drilling could threaten these critical engines of Virginia’s economy, along with the valuable ecosystems along the coast and within the Chesapeake Bay. These shores, and the ecosystems and jobs they support, are simply too vital to the Commonwealth to risk.

 

Studies have shown that seismic airgun blasting, which involves loud, disruptive, and repeated blasting for days or weeks at a time, can have harmful effects on marine life, including endangered species and essential fish stocks. The repeated, loud noises from seismic airgun surveying could negatively impact the ability of marine life to feed, reproduce, and navigate. Whales and dolphins, which rely on hearing for all aspects of life, can be particularly impacted. The North Atlantic right whale—which is critically endangered—would face threats of particular severity.[2] The impacts of surveying could also potentially diminish fish stocks along Virginia’s coast, putting at risk these communities that rely upon commercial and recreational fishing.

 

Our constituents remain concerned with the administration’s efforts to open the Commonwealth’s offshore area to oil and gas exploration and drilling. Accordingly, we again request that the Department of Commerce revoke these IHAs, and that the Department of the Interior deny all pending seismic survey permits for the Atlantic. We also reiterate our request that Virginia’s offshore area be excluded from the Department of the Interior’s 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for offshore drilling.

 

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to your response.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement after the Navy and Huntington Ingalls Industries announced a final contract to block buy two Ford-class aircraft carriers:

“A big congratulations is due to the Navy and Huntington Ingalls Industries for finalizing a deal that will save 4 billion in taxpayer dollars and help keep the country safe,” Senators Warner and Kaine said. “Virginia’s shipbuilders make the finest carriers in the world, and we have long pushed the Navy to make this smart investment by block buying the newest class of ships. We are also glad that this move will help provide stability for the Hampton Roads defense community, ensuring that the shipyards can maintain the workforce they will need to help us reach the Navy’s goal of a 355-ship fleet.”   

Warner and Kaine have long supported the block buying of aircraft carriers. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Kaine championed language that was included in the annual defense bill to allow for a block buy. Warner and Kaine both supported this effort in funding bills and discussed the benefits with military leadership.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) urged the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to expedite the building of a critical outpatient clinic for veterans in Hampton Roads, one of the fastest-growing veteran populations in the country. In his letter to the GSA, Sen. Warner requested updates on the procurement and construction of the building and expressed disappointment with the project’s significant delays. 

The 155,000 square foot outpatient facility – which is meant to alleviate demand in the region – is the result of a successful bipartisan effort spearheaded by Sen. Warner to approve 28 overdue Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility leases, including two outpatient clinics in Virginia.

“In our most recent meeting, you stated that the GSA was still identifying potential properties and sites to ensure sufficient competition. And that following this, a number of steps would still need to be undertaken, including another Congressional authorization, before the lease could be awarded and design and construction could occur,” wrote Sen. Warner. “I cannot stress enough how important it is to me, and the veterans I represent in the Hampton Roads area, that every effort be made to expedite the procurement and building process for this facility.” 

This facility is much needed in the Hampton Roads area; over the next 20 years, enrollees are expected to increase by 44 percent and outpatient workload to increase by more than 70 percent. While the veteran population in Virginia is predicted to grow more than two percent over the next eight years, enrollees at the Hampton VA are expected to rise approximately 16 percent within the same timeframe.

Sen. Warner continued, “I am concerned that VA facilities in the area are already stretched thin, and additional years without the relief of this outpatient clinic puts strains on these veterans and their families, who rely on the services provided for them at these facilities. To think that this building will be built approximately ten years after the need was identified is a disservice to our veterans and reflects poorly on the U.S. government. We must do better.” 

The GSA’s latest timeline states that its completion may take until 2023, with facilities not operating until late 2023 or early 2024, more than six years after the lease was approved.    

In his letter, Sen. Warner also asked the GSA to identify specific phases of the timeline where the process can be accelerated and reiterated his commitment to move this project forward in any way possible.

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

 

Ms. Emily W. Murphy

Administrator

U.S. General Services Administration (GSA)

1800 F Street, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20405-0001

                                                                                   

Dear Administrator Murphy:

 

Following my meeting in December 2018 with you and Commissioner Dan Mathews, I am writing to ask for an update on the lease procurement process for the VA’s new outpatient clinic in Hampton Roads. I am increasingly concerned that the project is moving far too slowly for our veterans in the Commonwealth.   

As you know, Hampton Roads is home to one of the largest and fastest growing veteran populations in the country and urgently needs a new outpatient clinic to deliver services to the growing veteran population. In August 2017, after years of spearheading a bipartisan effort, my colleagues and I were finally able to achieve authorization of the overdue lease for the Hampton Roads facility as part of the larger VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017. 

In order to expedite the process for the construction, it was decided that the General Services Administration (GSA) would lead the procurement and construction of the facility. I was dismayed to hear that the GSA’s newest timeline states that the facility may not be completed until 2023, and potentially not open for business until late 2023 or early 2024.  This timeline is unacceptable, and we must find ways to build this needed facility more quickly.  

In our most recent meeting, you stated that the GSA was still identifying potential properties and sites to ensure sufficient competition. And that following this, a number of steps would still need to be undertaken, including another Congressional authorization, before the lease could be awarded and design and construction could occur.    

I cannot stress enough how important it is to me, and the veterans I represent in the Hampton Roads area, that every effort be made to expedite the procurement and building process for this facility. I am concerned that VA facilities in the area are already stretched thin, and additional years without the relief of this outpatient clinic puts strains on these veterans and their families, who rely on the services provided for them at these facilities. To think that this building will be built approximately ten years after the need was identified is a disservice to our veterans and reflects poorly on the U.S. government.  We must do better.

I ask that you provide an update on the process and most importantly, to identify specific phases of the timeline where the process can be expedited. We made a commitment to our veterans, and it is my hope that they will not have to wait another five years to receive the services they deserve. I also stand ready to help in any way to move this forward. 

 

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced $5,788,425 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support HIV relief efforts in Norfolk. The goal of the project is to enhance access to effective, cost efficient, community-based care for low-income individuals and families with HIV.

“We are pleased to announce federal funding to help those with HIV in Norfolk get the care they deserve,” the Senators said.  

The funding was awarded through HHS’s HIV Emergency Relief Project Grant program. The grant program provides funding to communities that have been the most affected by the HIV epidemic in order to improve access to comprehensive care and increase support for minority populations.

 

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