Van Hollen, Cardin, Kaine, Warner Present Prisoner of War Medals to Maryland Veteran Ronald Dolecki & Virginia Veteran David Strickland
Jun 24 2022
WASHINGTON – Yesterday, U.S. Sens. Mark R Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) in presenting POW medals to Virginia veteran David Strickland and Maryland veteran Army Specialist Ronald Dolecki.
“In 1975, Army Specialist David S. Strickland was abducted while serving our nation. He spent four months in captivity, enduring ongoing physical and psychological hardships and not knowing when, or if, he would ever see his family again,” said Sen. Warner. “Although this recognition is more than 46 years overdue, I’m very proud to join my colleagues in recognizing Specialist Strickland’s sacrifice with the Prisoner of War Medal he rightfully deserves.”
“This is about fairness. The change that was made in the NDAA is not only opening up opportunities for Army Specialist David S. Strickland and Army Sergeant Ron Dolecki to be recognized with the POW medal. The change that has been made is going to enable many, many others who have long been denied to eventually see the day that they do as well. That work is already underway thanks to this effort. I know I speak for all of us: we feel honored to play a part in getting here,” said Sen. Kaine.
“Ron Dolecki’s story is the story of American heroism. After making a daring escape from captivity in Ethiopia, he helped save his two mission partners who were also taken prisoner. He displayed true courage in action, and after a years-long effort to award him the Prisoner of War Medal, we were finally able to secure the recognition he so clearly deserves,” said Sen. Van Hollen. “It is my honor to congratulate Ron and thank his family and friends who helped get this across the finish line.”
“We cannot overstate our gratitude for all the sacrifices made by Specialist Dolecki while serving this country. He is a hero who endured excruciating conditions while held captive,” said Sen. Cardin. “It is a privilege to join in honoring Mr. Dolecki for his incredible spirit, patriotism, grit and bravery.”
WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement regarding the Naming Commission’s recommendations to rename three Virginia bases that were previously named after Confederates. Kaine co-sponsored an amendment in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act that initiated the process to rename these bases and all other DOD facilities named after Confederates.
“If we as a country hope to overcome the racial injustices that continue to surround us today, we simply cannot continue to honor those who fought against the United States to deprive African Americans of their equality. While much work remains ahead to deliver on America’s promise of liberty and justice for all, days like today are proof that progress is possible, and we’re going to keep fighting to build on it.”
Now that the Commission has shared these name recommendations with Congress, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will consider the Commission’s recommendations before reaching a decision with President Biden regarding whether to adopt them.
The Naming Commission’s recommendations are to rename Fort A.P. Hill as Fort Walker, in honor of Dr. Mary Edwards Walker; Fort Lee as Fort Gregg-Adams, in honor of Arthur Gregg and Charity Adams; and Fort Pickett as Fort Barfoot, in honor of Van T. Barfoot. More information regarding Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, Arthur Gregg, Charity Adams, and Van T. Barfoot are available here, here, and here.
Warner is a cosponsor of the Confederate Monument Removal Act, which would remove statues of individuals who voluntarily served the Confederate States of America from display in National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. He has also spoken publicly about the need to remove public symbols honoring the Confederacy as part of broader efforts to advance racial justice.
Warner, Colleagues Press Defense Department to Protect Service Members and Military Families From Inadequate Private Base Housing
Jan 26 2022
WASHINGTON – Following a recent $65 million settlement between the U.S. government and Balfour Beatty Communities (BBC) LLC, a privatized military housing provider that pled guilty to fraudulent business practices, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined 16 Democratic Senators in a new oversight effort to protect the nation’s servicemembers from unsanitary, unsafe living conditions at military base housing operated by BBC, as well as by other privatized housing companies.
In a letter to the Department of Defense, the Senators requested information regarding the management and oversight of long-term military housing contracts following the guilty plea by Balfour Beatty Communities LLC, which continues to operate military housing communities at 55 military installations across the country, including in Virginia – at Fort Eustis and Fort Story. Many of these management contracts have several decades remaining.
“Given that BBC continues to manage housing communities at 55 installations across the nation and has several decades left on their long-term contracts, we ask the following questions about how this settlement will affect the management of these properties and how DoD plans to ensure quality housing for military families moving forward,” the Senators wrote.
The letter inquires as to whether DoD plans to renegotiate or alter any of the existing terms of long-term contracts with private housing contractors to provide for more immediate and comprehensive oversight for military housing.
Sen. Warner has fiercely advocated for and secured a number of reforms to the privatized military housing system over the years, in response to the well-documented health hazards in military homes across the country. As noted in the letter, he successfully secured large portions of his military housing legislation, the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act, in the FY20 annual defense bill, and subsequently passed provisions in the FY21 defense bill to improve military housing metrics. Most recently, Sen. Warner supported the passage of the FY22 annual defense bill, which included increased accountability measures around military housing, by requiring the Secretaries of the military departments to ensure that personnel performance evaluations assess the extent to which certain military officers have exercised effective oversight and leadership of military privatized housing.
Joining Sen. Warner were 16 Senators including: U.S. Sens. Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).
A copy of the letter is available here and below.
Dear Secretary Austin,
We write regarding current Department of Defense (DoD) oversight of private housing contractors in the wake of the recent Department of Justice (DoJ) settlement with Balfour Beatty Communities LLC.
On December 22, 2021, the Department of Justice announced that the housing contractor Balfour Beatty Communities LLC (BBC) pleaded guilty to major fraud against the U.S. government and agreed to pay $65 million in fines and restitution. Following national publicity of pervasive concerns with privatized on-post military housing in 2018, the Department of Defense took steps to hold housing contractors to account for their failures to maintain adequate housing conditions for military families and to communicate with servicemembers and their families their rights. Congress also endeavored to improve military housing with the “Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act” as part of the Fiscal Year 2020 Defense Authorization Act. Despite these efforts, concerns persist, and bases and families continue to file lawsuits against the companies, including BBC, for many issues, including for repair delays, toxic mold, pests, unsealed windows and doors, and gas leaks. We cannot expect our nation’s military families to suffer these conditions.
In the DoJ release concerning the BBC plea and settlement, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said, “Instead of promptly repairing housing for U.S. servicemembers as required, BBC lied about the repairs to pocket millions of dollars in performance bonuses. This pervasive fraud was a consequence of BBC’s broken corporate culture, which valued profit over the welfare of servicemembers.” According to the release, for over six years, BBC employees falsified information to allow BBC to claim incentive fees for performance objectives primarily related to housing upkeep and resident satisfaction that had, in fact, not been met. These actions resulted in maintenance delays and an inability of the military services to accurately conduct oversight of the company and correct performance.
Given that BBC continues to manage housing communities at 55 installations across the nation and has several decades left on their long-term contracts, we ask the following questions about how this settlement will affect the management of these properties and how DoD plans to ensure quality housing for military families moving forward.
- How will the December 2021 Department of Justice settlement with BBC affect the company’s current contracts with the Department of Defense?
- According to the Department of Justice release, the settlement with BBC includes three years of probation and engagement with an independent compliance monitor. What does this mean for BBC’s current contracts at 55 installations?
- What mechanisms are in place to ensure similar fraudulent behavior will not happen again?
- Does the Department of Defense plan to renegotiate or alter any of the existing terms of long-term contracts with private housing contractors to provide for more immediate and comprehensive oversight?
- How does the Department of Defense plan to instill trust in military families that BBC and others will meet their housing needs?
- What actions will the Department take to ensure BBC and other privatized housing companies are providing a sufficient quantity of quality housing for military families at bases where there is a serious need for additional housing? Has the Department considered increasing competition by allowing multiple companies to operate on bases, or by other means, to improve the availability and quality of housing for military families?
Thank you for your urgent attention to this critical issue. Our nation’s servicemembers and military families deserve to live in quality housing and trust that the U.S. government and private contractors will be responsive, respectful, and committed to meeting their needs.
Warner joins Gillibrand and Colleagues in Letter Pushing Committee Leadership to Keep Senate-Passed Military Justice Bill in Final NDAA Language
Nov 30 2021
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) joined U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, in a letter with 64 colleagues pushing committee leadership to keep the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act (MJIIPA) in the final NDAA bill language. The bipartisan and bicameral letter is signed by 44 senators and 22 members of the House. MJIIPA would professionalize how the military prosecutes serious crimes by moving the decision over whether to prosecute them to independent, experienced military prosecutors, and was successfully included in the committee-passed Senate National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022. MJIIPA currently has 66 Senate co-sponsors and the House companion legislation has 220 co-sponsors, representing a majority of the House.
“It is outrageous that the Senate and House Armed Services Committees would even consider stripping out a provision that is backed by a bipartisan majority in both chambers and has been included in the Senate version of the bill. Sexual assault in the military is a serious concern and demands a real solution, not a watered-down provision slipped in the final bill behind closed doors. Retaining the full Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act provision will ensure that the will of this strong majority is respected. It is the only reform that will provide true independence for prosecutors in the military justice system and is essential to ensure that victims, accused, and the public all have full faith and confidence in the military justice process.” – said Senator Gillibrand.
In addition to the bill’s widespread congressional support, veterans service groups are also applying pressure to congressional leadership. On November 23, coalition of veterans groups—including the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, AMVETS, Student Veterans of America, the Service Women Action Network and Vietnam Veterans of America— wrote a letter to congressional leaders pushing them not to remove or water down military sexual assault reform provisions in the final NDAA. The American Legion sent a similar letter on November 29.
Furthermore, earlier this month, 29 state attorneys general, led by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, penned a letter to congressional leadership urging Congress to swiftly pass Senator Gillibrand’s widely supported MJIIPA.
In addition to Sens. Warner and Gillibrand, the signers include Senators Baldwin (D-WI), Bennet (D-CO), Blumenthal (D-CT), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Casey (D-PA), Coons (D-DE), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Cruz (R-TX), Duckworth (D-IL), Durbin (D-IL), Ernst (R-IA), Feinstein (D-CA), Grassley (R-IA), Hawley (R-MO), Hassan (D-NH), Heinrich (D-NM), Hickenlooper (D-CO), Hirono (D-HI), Kaine (D-VA), Klobuchar (D-MN), Leahy (D-VT), Lujan (D-NM), Markey (D-MA), Marshall (R-KS), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Murphy (D-CT), Murray (D-WA), Padilla (D-CA), Sanders (I-VT), Schatz (D-HI), Shaheen (D-NH), T. Smith (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Tuberville (R-AL), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warnock (D-GA), Warren (D-MA), and Wyden (D-OR).
Members of the House include Representatives Adams (D-NC), Bass (D-CA), Brown (D-MD), Carson (D-IN), Davis (D-IL), Escobar (D-TX), Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Garamendi (D-CA), Hayes (D-CT), Horsford (D-NV), Hudson (R-NC), Johnson (D-GA), Khanna (D-CA), Lee (D-CA), McBath (D-GA), Miller-Meeks (R-IA), Mullins (R-OK), Norton, (D-DC), Speier (D-CA), Turner (R-OH), Veasey (D-TX) and Williams (D-GA).
For the full letter, please click here.
WASHINGTON – As the Senate continues to negotiate the nation’s annual defense bill, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) is championing a set of measures to better support Virginia’s military families. If included in the final version of the bill and signed into law, these measures could help tackle food insecurity among members of the military and their families, allow for greater accountability and oversight over military housing, and pause proposed restructuring of the military health system until the proposal’s impact on servicemembers can be fully assessed.
“The brave men and women who serve in our military should never have to worry about putting food on the table, about having a safe place to live, or about being able to access the timely and quality health care they have earned,” said Sen. Warner. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce these amendments to our nation’s annual defense bill to further protect military families in Virginia and around the country.”
To combat food insecurity in the military, Sen. Warner is pushing for an amendment that would direct the Secretary of Defense to designate an existing senior official as the lead for addressing food insecurity in the military and for coordinating with other relevant agencies. Another Warner amendment would direct the U.S. Government Accountability Office to conduct an independent review of an upcoming Department of Defense study on food insecurity, to ensure the Department is appropriately addressing the needs of servicemembers and their families, and to provide independent analysis of proposed Department action. A third amendment championed by Sen. Warner would create a limited, nationwide pilot program, through which commissaries could offer food boxes full of fresh produce to servicemembers facing food insecurity, free of charge.
These amendments come amid a 2021 survey by the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN), which found that one in five respondents reported experiencing food insecurity – a spike from one in eight in 2019.
Sen. Warner has been a strong advocate for addressing food insecurity – especially among military families. He is a lead cosponsor of the Military Hunger Prevention Act, and in March, he joined Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) in urging the Biden administration to develop concrete steps to tackle the alarming rate of food insecurity among military families. Sen. Warner is also the author of the Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act and the FEMA Empowering Essential Deliveries (FEED) Act – bills to tackle the food security gap in the U.S. Additionally, Sen. Warner supported the passage of the American Rescue Plan, which extended a 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits through September 30, 2021.
To improve housing conditions for servicemembers and their families, Sen. Warner also introduced two amendments that would create more transparency and allow for greater accountability around privatized military housing. One amendment would direct the U.S. Government Accountability Office to prepare a report for Congress that outlines the ways in which tenants are making use of recent housing reforms. Specifically, this report would detail the degree to which tenants are utilizing certain new protections and tools from the Warner-championed Tenant Bill of Rights, as well as a provision that allows tenants to access an analysis of the metrics that determine any performance incentive paid to their privatized housing provider. A separate amendment would require that this analysis be posted online, as it’s currently only available to tenants who request it from their installation’s housing office. Allowing for the publication of this data would help increase accountability and inform future action by Congress.
Sen. Warner has fiercely advocated for and secured a number of reforms to privatized military housing over the years, in response to the well-documented health hazards in military homes across the country. He successfully secured large portions of his military housing legislation in the FY20 NDAA, and subsequently passed provisions in the FY21 NDAA to improve military housing metrics.
To protect access to timely and quality health care for servicemembers, Sen. Warner has also introduced an amendment to pause the proposed restructuring and realignment of Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) – a proposal that would transition some servicemembers from receiving care at MTFs, to receiving care from community providers. Sen. Warner’s amendment would pause this restructuring for one year following the NDAA’s passage, and require a U.S. Government Accountability Office assessment of the proposed cuts. This assessment would help provide a better picture of the proposal’s impact on servicemembers, ensuring that they are able to continue accessing needed care, especially in light of added pandemic demands.
Sen. Warner Joins Colleagues in Introducing EMBRACE Act to Improve Resilience at Military Facilities & Protect Chesapeake Bay
Nov 04 2021
WASHINGTON —Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Ben Cardin (D-MD), introduced the Enhancing Military Base Resilience and Conserving Ecosystems through Stormwater Management (EMBRACE) Act, legislation to authorize the Department of Defense (DOD) to carry out stormwater management projects at military installations to improve resilience at the facilities while protecting waterways and stormwater impacted ecosystems, such as those that feed into the Chesapeake Bay. Senator Kaine is pushing to include the legislation in the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this year.
“Sea level rise, flooding, and stormwater pollution threatens not only our environment and economy, but our military readiness too,” said Senator Kaine. “I’m proud to introduce the EMBRACE Act, legislation to help our Armed Forces protect our military bases and environment from the effects of climate change. This is a collaborative approach to defend our nation, improve our waterways, and preserve our environment for generations to come.”
“Military bases across the Commonwealth are at risk of flooding due to climate change. The EMBRACE Act will allow for projects to reinforce these bases while protecting our waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. These projects are crucial to keeping our military facilities operational and ready,” said Senator Warner.
“The impacts of the climate crisis – from flooding to natural disasters – increasingly threaten Maryland communities, including our military installations. We need all hands on deck to respond, which is why our legislation authorizes the Department of Defense to help reduce stormwater runoff that threatens access to clean water and the health of the Chesapeake Bay. This common-sense bill will support our efforts to protect both civilian and military communities, while also supporting a clean and healthy Bay,” said Senator Van Hollen.
“Climate change, including more extreme weather and flooding events that increase stormwater runoff, has significant implications for U.S. national security and defense. This legislation bolsters the work of the Department of Defense – a federal agency partner of the Chesapeake Bay Program restoration effort – to reduce runoff and improve water quality by implementing stormwater management practices at military installations,” said Senator Cardin.
Stormwater remains the only pollutant in the Chesapeake Bay watershed that continues to increase. Climate related impacts, such as increased rainfall intensity, only exacerbate this problem. As the second largest federal landholder in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, DOD plays a vital role in reducing stormwater loads and enhancing climate resiliency.
Specifically, the EMBRACE Act would:
- Make stormwater management projects eligible for federal funding under either military construction projects, military installation resilience projects, unspecified minor military construction projects, defense access roads projects, the Defense Community Infrastructure Program (DCIP), and Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program (ERCIP).
- Instructs DOD to prioritize projects that retrofit buildings and grounds on bases and improve access to roads prone to flooding.
- Supports the building of stormwater ponds and other retention strategies.
- Supports replacing impermeable paving that lets water run off with materials that let water seep into the soil, allowing projects such as rain gardens, cisterns, and planters to be eligible for funds.
Climate change has put numerous Virginia and Maryland military bases at increased risk of flooding, including Naval Station Norfolk, Naval Air Station Oceana, Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads, Langley Air Force Base, Naval Support Activity Annapolis, Naval Support Activity Bethesda, Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Joint Base Andrews, and Naval Support Activity South Potomac.
The EMBRACE Act is endorsed by The Chesapeake Bay Commission, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Chesapeake Conservancy, Choose Clean Water Coalition, American Flood Coalition Action, the Nature Conservancy, Southern Environmental Law Center, and Wetlands Watch.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, Representatives Bobby Scott (VA-03), Rob Wittman (VA-01), and Elaine Luria (VA-02) introduced companion legislation in September. The bill also passed as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 in September in the House of Representatives.
Warner & Kaine Cosponsor Bipartisan Bill To Honor 13 American Heroes Killed in Afghanistan with Congressional Gold Medal
Sep 16 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), cosponsored a bipartisan bill to award a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal to the 13 American servicemembers who lost their lives during the terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 26th . The bicameral legislation was first introduced by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Steve Daines (R-MT), and Congresswoman Lisa McClain (R-MI-10) introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the 13 servicemembers who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the last days of the war in Afghanistan,” said Senators Warner and Kaine. “We must never forget their bravery. Honoring them with the Congressional Gold Medal is one way to remember their heroic service to our nation.”
Senators Warner and Kaine are pushing for Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, Cpl. Hunter Lopez, Cpl. Daegan W. Page, Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, Navy Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak and Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss to receive the Congressional Gold Medal.
Along with Warner and Kaine, the bill is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Rick Scott (R-FL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), James Lankford (R-OK), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Jim Risch (R-ID), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Todd Young (R-IN), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mike Crapo (R-ID), John Hoeven (R-ND), and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY).
Sep 14 2021
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) sent a letter to Biden Administration officials pushing for increased communication and coordination with Virginia localities and institutions supporting Operation Allies Welcome (OAW), which seeks to resettle vulnerable Afghans, including those who worked on behalf of the United States.
Sens. Warner and Kaine are calling for clearer and more direct lines of communication between the federal government and Virginia localities and entities assisting OAW, to ensure that the operation is running with the safety and the efficiency that it requires.
“We are encouraged by efforts that officials have taken to coordinate at the local level, including Secretary Mayorkas’ call with local officials, outreach from military leaders to the communities around their installations, and the establishment of local coordinating officials on military bases. These efforts facilitate communication and help address concerns that local communities may have, and most critically, help align state and local resources to complement and support the federal government’s efforts,” wrote the Senators.
“We continue to believe, however, that the federal government – specifically the departments and agencies that are coordinating and running OAW on the ground – must do more to develop clear and explicit lines of communication, acknowledge the concerns and questions of local communities, and coordinate the operation so that states and localities can effectively support and backstop the operation with minimal disruption,” they continued.
The Senators, who have heard concerns related to capacity and resources from localities that are supporting the operation, also pose a number of questions for DHS in its role overseeing OAW. These questions touch on the availability of medical resources and personnel, as well as on COVID-19 vaccine administration policies and procedures.
Full text of the letter can be found here and below:
The Honorable Alejandro Mayorkas
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528
Robert J. Fenton, Jr.
Senior Response Official
Unified Coordination Group
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Washington, D.C. 20024
Dear Secretary Mayorkas and Mr. Fenton:
We write today to urge increased coordination and improved communication with Virginia localities and institutions that are assisting with Operation Allies Welcome (OAW), and to reiterate concerns that our offices have received about the resources and level of support that the federal government is providing to these local communities and entities.
As we’ve traveled throughout the Commonwealth, we have heard from citizens and local elected officials alike that their communities are honored to participate in this historic and worthy operation. From arrival at Dulles International Airport to housing and processing at the Dulles Expo Center, Fort Lee, Fort Pickett, and Marine Corps Base Quantico, the United States would have been unable to shelter and care for these refugees as quickly without the resources provided by the Commonwealth.
Virginians continue to work to support Operation Allies Welcome at all levels. The Commonwealth and many localities have generously offered resources, and we have no doubt that Virginians will continue to assist however they are able.
We are encouraged by efforts that officials have taken to coordinate at the local level, including Secretary Mayorkas’ call with local officials, outreach from military leaders to the communities around their installations, and the establishment of local coordinating officials on military bases. These efforts facilitate communication and help address concerns that local communities may have, and most critically, help align state and local resources to complement and support the federal government’s efforts.
We continue to believe, however, that the federal government – specifically the departments and agencies that are coordinating and running OAW on the ground – must do more to develop clear and explicit lines of communication, acknowledge the concerns and questions of local communities, and coordinate the operation so that states and localities can effectively support and backstop the operation with minimal disruption.
We remain concerned about the impacts that insufficient coordination and communication have had so far, especially related to healthcare operations in Northern Virginia. We again urge, to the greatest extent possible, full coordination with local officials and entities who can help manage the logistics and balance resources on behalf of local communities.
We would also like to reiterate concerns related to local capacity to assist the federal government, and in turn, the federal government’s ability to support local communities in these efforts. Our offices have previously raised these concerns with OAW personnel. In particular, we are seeking answers to the following:
- Military installation medical capacity. On August 25th, the Department of Defense authorized the use of Marine Corps Base Quantico and Fort Pickett as part of the Department’s support of this operation, with announced capacities of 5,000 and 10,000 individuals, respectively. This was in addition to the existing capacity at Fort Lee.
- What are the current and anticipated medical capabilities and capacities at each of these installations? What degree of care is OAW able to provide entirely on-base, without needing to access health resources in local communities?
- What steps is OAW taking to surge these capabilities and capacities, to bring in additional personnel and resources from other installations and locations, and to safely provide as much quality medical care on-base as possible? What efforts is OAW making to offer specialty care, including, in particular, prenatal and obstetric care?
- Support for local communities’ medical capacity. Nationwide and in Virginia, hospitals and health centers are struggling due to ongoing challenges related to COVID-19, staffing shortages, and other serious medical capacity concerns. Hospitals and health providers in the areas surrounding these bases have indicated that they are already near capacity, given these pandemic and staffing constraints.
- What support or assistance is OAW currently providing to states, localities, and local hospitals and health providers – whether supplies, resources, funding, staffing, or otherwise – to help them manage the additional demands from increased populations in their regions? Is there further assistance available that these entities should be availing themselves of to help meet demand?
- What contingency plans are in place for providing appropriate medical care if local hospitals and community health providers reach full capacity? Please include contingencies both for OAW to provide appropriate care to Afghan individuals and families, and for the federal government to help local communities expand their ability to provide appropriate care to members of their communities.
- COVID-19 vaccine. Please clarify the official policy with regard to Afghan individuals and families receiving a COVID-19 vaccination, including the timing of the vaccine being required relative to their entering the U.S. What efforts are underway to speed up vaccinations and to administer vaccines earlier with respect to the arrival of Afghans into the U.S.?
We appreciate the efforts that you and the dedicated men and women of your workforce have made during this historic operation. We also commend states and localities around the country for their efforts to support this mission, and the pride with which they have done so.
So that this operation can run with the safety and efficiency that it requires, and that all associated individuals and families deserve, we urge you to ensure that OAW is operating as a constructive partner to states and localities, and to make sure these states and localities have the support and resources that they require to meet both their needs, and the extraordinary aims of this operation. Should your agency have any questions or an immediate response to the concerns outlined, please contact our staff at Zach_Lewis@warner.senate.gov and Ausan_AlEryanI@kaine.senate.gov.
The Honorable Lloyd J. Austin III
Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense
The Honorable Xavier Becerra
Secretary of Health & Human Services
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
WASHINGTON — Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced the Intelligence Community Workforce Agility Protection Act of 2021 (S. 2341) with fellow committee members Vice-Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Susan Collins (R-ME), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jim Risch (R-ID), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Tom Cotton (R-AR). Currently, active duty members of the military can deduct certain moving expenses from their federal taxes, but that benefit does not extend to intelligence community professionals. The Intelligence Community Workforce Agility Protection Act would expand the treatment of moving expenses to employees and new appointees in the intelligence community who must relocate pursuant to a change in assignment.
“Like the men and women of our armed forces, our intelligence community professionals go to extraordinary lengths to serve and protect their country,” Warner said. “They often uproot their lives to go serve where they are needed – no matter where that may be. This commonsense legislation will ensure that these brave Americans are not forced to pay out of pocket for the costs of their relocations.”
“We ask a lot from the men and women who serve our nation, especially those in the intelligence community,” Rubio said. “Extending this benefit to those who sacrifice so much in defense of our nation is common sense.”
“The work done by the men and women of our Intelligence Community is vital to our national security,” Burr said. “This commonsense benefit will allow us to continue building an agile and vibrant IC workforce.”
“This legislation won’t take away from our active duty military men and women, but it will return this benefit to those serving in the intelligence community,” Sasse said. “These men and women work hard to keep our country safe, the least we can do is make sure they have this benefit.”
“Members of the intelligence community devote their lives to serving our country and they deserve our support,” Gillibrand said. “Enabling the intelligence community to deduct moving expenses from their federal taxes is a simple, but important, provision that honors their dedication.”
“The men and women in our nation’s intelligence community work incredibly hard to keep our country safe,” Blunt said. “This bill helps address one of the significant challenges that comes with a career in the intelligence community and I’m proud to support it.”
“Rank and file Intelligence professionals do the hard work to keep our country safe from foreign threats,” Wyden said. “It’s common sense to provide this benefit that other national security professionals receive to IC workers.”
Jun 25 2021
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement after the Acting Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, John P. Roth, approved Joint Base Langley-Eustis (JBLE) in Hampton as the final location for the F-22 Formal Training Unit (FTU):
“After years of advocating alongside the Virginia congressional delegation, we’re pleased that the U.S. Air Force has confirmed what we already knew: Hampton Roads is the ideal location to permanently house the F-22 training squadron. We look forward to working with the U.S. Air Force and the Virginia Air National Guard to make sure the relocation process is a smooth one for the servicemembers and their families that will now make the Commonwealth their new home.”
Senators Warner and Kaine have long championed making Joint Base Langley-Eustis (JBLE) the final location for the F-22 Formal Training Unit (FTU). In February 2019, Warner and Kaine were joined by every member of the Virginia congressional delegation in a letter urging then-U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to relocate the F-22 Flight and Maintenance Formal Training Units (FTU) to Joint Base Langley-Eustis. Originally located at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Michael in October of 2018, the squadron was temporarily held at Eglin Air Force Base, awaiting a decision as to where it would be housed permanently.
Built to accommodate three squadrons, Joint Base Langley-Eustis was underutilized, housing only two F-22 squadrons and supporting maintenance units. Warner and Kaine urged the Air Force to move the F-22 FTU to JBLE to 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 March 2019, Warner and Kaine released a statement applauding the U.S. Air Force announcement that it had recommended relocating the F-22 Flight and Maintenance Formal Training Unit (FTU) to Joint Base Langley-Eustis.
Apr 30 2021
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and combat Veteran Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) in introducing bipartisan legislation to support active military families experiencing food insecurity and help ensure no one willing to serve this nation in uniform struggles to feed their families. The Military Hunger Prevention Act would create a basic needs allowance to help low-income military families put food on the table. Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20) and Don Young (R-AK-AL).
"Members of our armed services and their families make tremendous sacrifices for our nation," said Blackburn. "The Military Hunger Prevention Act of 2021 I am co-leading with Senator Duckworth reflects our bi-partisan commitment to military families and sustained effort to address food insecurity. Barriers that prevent our lower-income earning troops and their families from accessing normal food sources like the local grocery store is something that Senator Duckworth and I have been working on together since last summer. We will keep fighting for our service members and their families as long as it takes. The last thing our servicemen and women should be concerned with is putting food on the table for their loved ones."
“Far too many of our military families are experiencing hunger because of unintended barriers that make them unable to access essential nutrition assistance programs,” Duckworth said. “As someone whose family relied on these nutrition programs after my father lost his job, and who served in the uniform for most of my adult life, I’m proud to be working across the aisle with Senator Blackburn on this bill to help make sure our servicemembers and their families have enough to eat.”
The legislation is also co-sponsored by U.S. Sens Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), and Kevin Cramer (R-ND).
When the military is unable to provide servicemembers with housing wherever they are stationed, servicemembers receive a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) to pay for off-base or privatized military housing. Because of how the qualification calculations for federal food assistance programs like SNAP currently work, many low-income servicemembers can be excluded from receiving food assistance benefits if they receive BAH funding. The current flaw in federal law often forces military families to rely on food pantries and food banks for emergency food assistance. The basic needs allowance created by the Military Hunger Prevention Act would help correct for this flaw.
In June of last year, Blackburn and Duckworth sent a bipartisan letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue requesting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) take swift action to cease considering monthly Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) as earned income when determining a military household’s eligibility for USDA nutrition programs. Duckworth also sent a letter to the Biden Administration in March of this year urging it to develop concrete steps to tackle the alarming rate of food insecurity many military families currently face.
“Currently, there are federal regulations that unintentionally cause military families to lose out on SNAP benefits,” said Panetta. “Our bipartisan Military Hunger Prevention Act would make up for that loss by providing certain military households with a basic needs allowance to purchase groceries. Although it’s unfortunate that some military families have to resort to SNAP, it’s our responsibility to ensure that those families, at the least, have access to the necessary support they need to lead healthy, food secure lives.”
"Our nation's servicemembers are willing to fight and die for our country, and we should be doing all that we can to ensure that our heroes and their families do not go to bed hungry," said Young. "Every year, we spend billions to make sure that our nation's servicemembers are trained and equipped to defend our country. But all too often, we forget about their very real needs at home. No family, and certainly no child, should go hungry. Sadly, that is a reality for too many military families in Alaska and across the nation. I am very proud to have introduced the Military Hunger Prevention Act in the House, and I thank Senator Duckworth for leading the effort in the Senate. Our bill takes necessary steps to tackle hunger by implementing a Basic Needs Allowance for low-income servicemembers and their families. This legislation also benefits food pantries – which operate on nearly every military base – by reducing demand for goods and produce which already may be in low supply. This is a very good bill, and it comes at a crucial time. The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on the issue of food insecurity; we must stand up for those who defend us. Hunger is not a partisan issue, and I call on my friends on both sides of the aisle to join us in this urgently needed legislation."
“Even one military family facing food insecurity is unacceptable,” said Abby J. Leibman, President & CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. “We know that military hunger has gotten worse over the past year, but we also know that this problem predates COVID-19. For many years, military families have been quietly seeking assistance from food pantries and that operate on or near every military base in this country. We welcome reintroduction of the Military Hunger Prevention Act as an important step in ensuring that military families can meet their most basic needs, including enough food on the table. We hope Congress will pass this bill as quickly as possible, and we look forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration to address the structural problems that allow hunger to persist in this country.”
“Long before the pandemic, military families struggled to put food on the table. From frequent moves to high rates of military spouse unemployment, the unique challenges of military life left too many families with empty cupboards and empty stomachs. In the last year, those problems have only gotten worse. The National Military Family Association (NMFA) is proud to support the bicameral Military Hunger Prevention Act, which will establish a targeted military family basic needs allowance and ensure our troops are able to feed their families. We are grateful to Senators Duckworth, Baldwin, Blackburn, Blumenthal, Durbin, Feinstein, Rosen, Murray, Luján, Klobuchar and Cortez Masto for their strong, bipartisan commitment that no military family should go hungry.” Besa Pinchotti, Acting Executive Director, National Military Family Association.
"In our 2020 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, 14% of enlisted active-duty family respondents (across all ranks) reported low or very low food security in the previous year. This is an unacceptable reality that has dire implications for mission readiness. Service members preoccupied with financial and food security concerns are less able to focus on their mission. Blue Star Families therefore supports Sen. Duckworth's efforts to establish a basic needs allowance for low-income service members." Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO & Co-Founder, Blue Star Families.
Apr 29 2021
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement after joining as an original cosponsor of the Military Justice Improvement and Prevention Act, legislation that would take much-needed steps to tackle sexual assault in the military:
“Today, too many service members are raped and sexually assaulted by their colleagues in the military. This remains a heartbreaking reality despite the millions of dollars appropriated by Congress and more than 100 reform provisions implemented by Congress over the past two decades. Frankly, none of those measures have been enough to reduce sexual assault in the military, to protect victims, or to increase accountability for perpetrators. With too many of these measures falling short, today I am announcing my cosponsorship of the Military Justice Improvement and Prevention Act. We now need fundamental change to tackle this epidemic, especially after the brutal murder of U.S. Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen. Senator Gillibrand’s bill takes significant steps to change how the military prosecutes serious crimes such as rape and provides new tools to help stem the tide of sexual assault within the ranks. While this bill is not a cure-all solution, we must take bold steps to establish justice and accountability for victims of sexual assault.”
Warner & Duckworth Urge Biden Administration to Address Pervasive Food Insecurity Among Military Families
Mar 19 2021
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) sent a letter to the Biden administration urging it to develop concrete steps to tackle the alarming rate of food insecurity many military families currently face. In their letter, the Senators also urge the administration to appoint an individual from within the Department of Defense (DoD) to lead efforts to tackle the issue of food insecurity as it affects mission readiness as well as troop retention and recruitment.
“We are writing to express significant alarm over food insecurity and hunger facing numerous servicemembers and their families nationwide, and the compounding effect that the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impacts have had. We believe that as a country we must do more to assist these struggling families, and therefore ask the Department of Defense to outline concrete steps they intend to take to support these families, and ways in which Congress can assist these efforts to reduce food insecurity among our servicemembers and their families,” wrote the Senators to Department of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
The issue of food insecurity among military families has existed long before the COVID-19 crisis, with servicemembers and their families turning to food pantries and food distribution programs to feed their families. In fact, a 2019 survey conducted by the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) found that one in eight out of their respondents reported experiencing food insecurity. According to that same survey, Virginia military families experienced even higher frequencies of food insecurity, with one in six families struggling to afford food. In addition, Pentagon records show that during the 2018-19 school year, one-third of military children at DoD-run schools in the U.S. were eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis has only worsened these trends. A Blue Star Family survey from July 2020 – when COVID-19 cases continued to skyrocket nationwide – found five percent of all respondents were unable to afford more than a week’s worth of food.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this crisis for military families. Military spouses already struggled with high levels of unemployment, at 24 percent, prior to the pandemic. Due to COVID-19, many military families have lost needed second sources of family income, and struggle with working or finding work, while also managing virtual schooling and insufficient child care options. This has had a catastrophic effect on family finances, increasing the risks of food insecurity. The COVID-19 Military Support Initiative Pain Points Poll, organized by Blue Star Families from July 2020, also revealed disturbing findings, with five percent of all respondents unable to afford more than a week’s worth of food, and 17 percent of military spouse respondents who reported losing a job or being unable to work as a result of the crisis,” the Senators continued. “Despite these challenges, we still require our servicemembers and their families to maintain mission readiness, to conduct Permanent Change of Station moves, to train, to deploy, and to execute their duties without fail. They are obligated to honor the commitments they have made by choosing to serve and protect our freedoms. We too have an obligation - to make sure that our military families have what they need to not just survive, but thrive.”
In their letter, the Senators also called for DoD to expeditiously submit the congressional report examining military food insecurity that was mandated through the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The long-overdue report would give Congress another snapshot of the food insecurity our military families face.
Sen. Warner has been a strong advocate of expanded access to food assistance for families in the Commonwealth amid the COVID-19 crisis. He has put pressure on the USDA to formally authorize Virginia’s request to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Online Purchasing Pilot Program, successfully pushed USDA to waive a requirement that made it more difficult for families to receive USDA-reimbursable meals, and secured a USDA designation that allows food banks to distribute food directly to Virginia families in need while limiting interactions between food bank staff, volunteers, and recipients. In August, Sen. Warner also successfully pushed for USDA to extend critical food waivers to help make sure students have access to nutritious meals while school districts participate in distance learning. Sen. Warner introduced the Healthy Food for All Americans Act and the FEMA Empowering Essential Deliveries (FEED) Act to tackle the food insecurity gap. Additionally, Sen. Warner supported the passage of the American Rescue Plan, which extends a 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits through September 30, 2021.
A copy of the letter can be found here and below.
The Honorable Lloyd J. Austin III
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000
Dear Secretary Austin:
We are writing to express significant alarm over food insecurity and hunger facing numerous servicemembers and their families nationwide, and the compounding effect that the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impacts have had. We believe that as a country we must do more to assist these struggling families, and therefore ask the Department of Defense to outline concrete steps they intend to take to support these families, and ways in which Congress can assist these efforts to reduce food insecurity among our servicemembers and their families.
The problem of food insecurity existed long before the pandemic began, with military families using food pantries and distribution programs on or near every single military base in the United States. A 2019 survey organized by the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) showed the pervasiveness of food insecurity in the military. Per the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Six Item Food Security Scale, one in eight out of MFAN’s survey respondents in 2019 reported experiencing food insecurity.
Moreover, a Blue Star Families 2018 Military Family Lifestyle Survey found that seven percent of military family respondents stated that someone in their household had faced food insecurity in the previous year, and nine percent of military family respondents indicated that someone in their household had sought emergency food assistance. In addition, Pentagon records show that during the 2018-19 school year, one-third of military children at DoD-run schools in the U.S. were eligible for free or reduced-price school meals.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this crisis for military families. Military spouses already struggled with high levels of unemployment, at 24 percent, prior to the pandemic. Due to COVID-19, many military families have lost needed second sources of family income, and struggle with working or finding work, while also managing virtual schooling and insufficient child care options. This has had a catastrophic effect on family finances, increasing the risks of food insecurity. The COVID-19 Military Support Initiative Pain Points Poll, organized by Blue Star Families from July 2020, also revealed disturbing findings, with five percent of all respondents unable to afford more than a week’s worth of food, and 17 percent of military spouse respondents who reported losing a job or being unable to work as a result of the crisis.
Despite these challenges, we still require our servicemembers and their families to maintain mission readiness, to conduct Permanent Change of Station moves, to train, to deploy, and to execute their duties without fail. They are obligated to honor the commitments they have made by choosing to serve and protect our freedoms. We too have an obligation – to make sure that our military families have what they need to not just survive, but thrive.
We understand that the report examining military food insecurity called for in the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act is overdue at this point, and that a briefing on the report is expected in the coming months for the House and Senate Armed Services Committee staffs. We request this report be completed expeditiously and that either a briefing be expanded to include all interested Congressional staff, or that a separate briefing on this report be held so that other interested Congressional staff could participate.
In addition, we ask that the Department of Defense assign a single point of contact within the Department to lead this effort. We also ask that the Department provide a plan for addressing food insecurity and hunger for our servicemembers and their families by April 15. Any plan should, at least, address the following:
· recommended inter-agency coordination with USDA and other relevant federal agencies,
· an engagement strategy for partners such as MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and National Military Family Association, which have been deeply involved in responding to this issue;
· your assessment of recent proposals such as the Military Family Basic Needs Allowance and the removal of the barrier to federal nutrition assistance programs created by counting the Basic Allowance for Housing as income;
· suggestions to foster a change of culture within the Department to remove the shame and stigma that prevent many who are struggling from seeking help, and
· the costs of failing to take action to respond.
The problem of food insecurity among military families is an issue of mission readiness as well as troop retention and recruitment. We appreciate your attention to this urgent matter and stand ready to help.