Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) and U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-MD) introduced new legislation to renew the federal funding commitment to Metro, provide critical safety reforms, and strengthen oversight of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).

Recognizing that the Metro system is integral to the functioning of the federal government, for the last decade Congress has allocated $150 million annually to Metro for capital expenses, with Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia each providing $50 million in matching funds. However, the funding – a critical part of Metro’s budget – will expire this year unless Congress acts to renew it. The Metro Safety, Accountability and Investment Act of 2019 will provide additional federal funding for Metro while also enacting key reforms to ensure that the safety and reliability of the Metro system continues to improve.  

“The federal government runs on Metro. Thousands of federal workers, contractors, and military service members take Metro every day. This is an investment in the long-term safety and reliability of the Metro system,” said Sen. Warner, a member of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, which has oversight over our nation’s urban transit systems. “But recent safety problems have illustrated that Metro still has work to do, which is why this money comes with some strings attached to ensure robust oversight, accountability, and meaningful safety reforms at WMATA.”

“Maintaining a safe and reliable public transit system for the seat of the federal government is a clear national priority. We recognized 10 years ago - as we do now - that providing dedicated funding for WMATA will help keep Metro on track,” said Sen. Cardin, ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. “Maryland and Virginia's Senate delegations wholeheartedly agree on the need for critical safety reforms and strengthened oversight to ensure that WMATA becomes as safe and efficient as possible.”

“This bill provides critical funding to reduce WMATA’s backlog of work, along with strict measures to ensure riders are safe on Metro. Following the death of a Virginian on Metrorail in 2015, we made it clear that major changes were needed. Since then, we passed a tough new federal safety oversight body through Congress, encouraged business and labor to work toward mutual goals, and worked with experts to provide WMATA with a roadmap for reform. But this work will only succeed if WMATA has the resources to do the turnaround job right. With this bill, we ensure that the federal government contributes its share, while also making clear that with new money comes new requirements for safety and accountability. Metro’s challenges won’t be solved overnight, but this bill will go a long way toward unlocking progress to rebuild trust with riders,” said Sen. Kaine.

“Maryland commuters and our federal workforce rely on the Metro day in and day out. This legislation reauthorizes the Federal investment in WMATA and provides much-needed funds to modernize our system. In addition to increased funding, this bill includes crucial safety improvements and oversight reforms,” said Sen. Van Hollen, a member of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this measure as we work to ensure safe and dependable transportation throughout the region.”

The Metro Safety, Accountability and Investment Act of 2019 will renew the federal funding commitment for WMATA capital investments by reauthorizing the funding levels from the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 for an additional ten years, at an annual level of $150 million, matched by funding from Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

In addition, in exchange for key safety, oversight, and governance reforms at WMATA, the new legislation will include an additional $50 million per year in federal funding that is not subject to local match, bringing the annual federal commitment to Metro to $200 million. In order to access the additional $50 million, WMATA will be required to: grant additional powers to Metro’s Inspector General; establish task forces on track safety and bus safety; implement policy and procedures for a new capital planning process; improve the transit asset management planning process; reinforce restrictions on the activities of alternate WMATA Board members to provide more effective Board management and oversight; and prioritize the implementation of new cyber security protections and the integration of wireless services and emergency communications networks.

The bill also prohibits WMATA from using federal funds on a contract for rolling stock from any country that meets certain criteria related to illegal subsidies for state-owned enterprises. Sens. Warner, Kaine, Cardin and Van Hollen raised concerns earlier this year regarding the possibility that Metro may award a contract to build its newest 8000-series rail cars to a Chinese manufacturing company.  

“The Federal City Council applauds Sens. Warner, Cardin, Kaine, and Van Hollen for their continued commitment to WMATA and to ensuring that critically needed federal funding for the system is reauthorized this year. This funding, along with the new dedicated funding that was committed by the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia in 2018 is critically needed to ensure a safe, reliable, and sustainable future for Metro,” said Tony Williams, former Mayor of the District of Columbia, current CEO and Executive Director of the Federal City Council and founding member of the MetroNow Coalition. “However, it has been the longstanding position of the Federal City Council and the MetroNow coalition that in addition to funding, Metro is also in need of a better framework to guide decision-making and increase accountability at WMATA—a critical part of the solution that has been missing, until now. With comprehensive enhancements to WMATA’s Office of the Inspector General and capital planning requirements, this legislation will help to safeguard the investment being made in this vital piece of our region’s transportation infrastructure and will inspire confidence in Metro going forward.”

“Metro is critical to those who live and work here and, equally important, it benefits those who travel here to do business, interact with the federal government, and enjoy all our region has to offer,” said Jack McDougle, President & CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade and founding member of the MetroNow Coalition. “Every day, we welcome visitors from around the country and the world, requiring us to maintain the safest, most reliable and world-class transit system possible. That’s why we and our partners in the MetroNow coalition urge Congress to pass this legislation.”

“The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) fully supports the Metro Safety, Accountability and Investment Act of 2019, renewing the federal commitment for WMATA capital investments. This is long overdue and critical, as the agency’s infrastructure, which dates back to the 1970s, has been crumbling. Riders have paid the price, as service sputtered and fares skyrocketed. Workers have been unfairly blamed for service issues when the real issue has been the generations of state and local lawmakers that until recently have financially starved the system of a critical dedicated revenue source,” said ATU International President John A. Costa. “Tragically, there have been several deadly accidents that have taken the lives of passengers as well as workers. There is no safety culture at WMATA. We thank Senators Warner, Cardin, Kaine and Van Hollen for including in the bill the ATU’s proposed labor-management safety task forces – bus and rail – to develop best principles and practices through collaboration so that we can prevent future tragedies. We are also grateful that these task forces have appropriately been named after ATU members who were killed on the job – Jeanice McMillan, the operator who was killed along with 8 passengers in the 2009 Red Line train crash at Fort Totten and was called a hero by WMATA for saving countless lives, and Keith Dodson, who was struck and killed by a tractor trailer when he exited the bus he was driving after it became disabled along southbound I-395 in Arlington County in 2007.”

More information about this bill is available here. For the full bill text, click here.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a former telecommunications executive and entrepreneur, along with Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK), introduced legislation to establish U.S. policy for the commercial deployment and security of Fifth Generation (5G) networks. The United States 5G Leadership Act of 2019 will prioritize national security in the development of 5G by ensuring that American networks do not include equipment or services provided by Huawei, ZTE, or their affiliates. This legislation will also create a Supply Chain Security Trust Fund grant program to help rural and regional U.S. communications providers remove from their networks Chinese equipment determined to threaten national security.

“For a number of years, the federal government failed to effectively communicate the economic and national security risks of Huawei and ZTE communications equipment – and even adopted broadband grant policies that incentivized rural carriers to use this equipment because it was the cheapest around. While we’ve made enormous progress in educating the private sector of the dangers these vendors pose, we haven’t put in place policies to help resource-strapped rural carriers address and eliminate those risks. This bill ensures that on a going-forward basis we don’t make the same mistakes in allowing companies subject to extra-judicial directions of a foreign adversary to infiltrate our nation’s communications networks. And it provides significant resources to ensure that rural and regional providers can prioritize investments that eliminate this equipment from their existing networks where it poses a security threat,” said Sen. Warner. “Lastly, it builds on efforts my colleagues and I have already undertaken to engage with and educate the private sector about security risks and vulnerabilities posed to communications networks from certain foreign suppliers. We also believe this type of effort will be an important signal to international partners that we are putting resources behind this issue, and encouraging them to do the same.”

“5G networks need to be robust and secure, and not rely on equipment or services that pose a national security risk,” said Sen. Wicker. “This legislation would ensure continued American leadership in advanced wireless technology deployment. It offers relief to those providers that need to replace foreign equipment within their networks while augmenting the availability of secure 5G networks for all Americans.”

“Future U.S. security and economic prosperity will depend on 5G technology. With so much at stake, our communications infrastructure must be protected from threats posed by foreign governments and companies like Huawei,” said Sen. Cotton. “Our bill will support 5G’s deployment in the United States while defending that technology from exploitation.”  

“5G wireless will revolutionize global telecommunications and connect people, information, and technology like never before. While 5G could yield enormous benefits, it also could pose significant risks if not implemented properly,” said Sen. Markey. “We have a responsibility to ensure that this next generation of telecommunications infrastructure will safely and securely connect Americans to each other and to the rest of the world.”

“We urgently need a comprehensive strategy when it comes to the very real threat that foreign actors, particularly China, pose to our communications networks,” said Sen. Sullivan. “It is clear that this problem is only going to grow with the development of next generation communications technologies without aggressive intervention. I’m pleased to partner with Chairman Wicker on this critical issue at the intersection of national security and commerce.”

Among other measures, The United States 5G Leadership Act would:

  • Establish U.S. policy to promote the deployment of secure commercial 5G networks and the development of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector in the U.S.
  • Establish U.S. policy to identify additional spectrum for 5G, with an emphasis on promoting harmonization with global allocations;
  • Establish U.S. policy that American 5G networks should not include equipment or services provided by Huawei, ZTE, or their affiliates.
  • Require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to finalize rulemaking that would prohibit the use of Universal Service Fund subsidies to buy equipment or services from providers who pose a national security risk.
  • Establish the Supply Chain Security Trust Fund grant program to help smaller U.S. communications providers remove Huawei equipment from their networks — and would make available up to $700 million from future spectrum auctions for this purpose.
  • Require a report on current Federal government measures to ensure the secure deployment and availability of 5G networks.
  • Establish an interagency program – led by the Department of Homeland Security – to share information regarding security, risks, and vulnerabilities with U.S. communications providers and trusted suppliers.
  • Prioritize funding to enhance U.S. representation at international 5G standards-setting bodies, such as the International Telecommunications Union.

“I thank Senators Wicker, Cotton, Warner, Sullivan, and Markey for introducing the United States 5G Leadership Act of 2019.  This bipartisan bill will help ensure that all carriers have the information and resources necessary to address security risks while advancing US leadership in 5G.  I appreciate the Senators’ leadership on this important issue and look forward to continued work with Congress to ensure access to secure wireless networks, particularly in rural America,” said Steven K. Berry, President & CEO, Competitive Carriers Association.

Sen. Warner has been a leading voice in the Senate about the national security risks posed by Chinese-controlled telecom companies. Last week, Sen. Warner spoke out in favor of the executive order banning U.S. telecommunications firms from installing foreign-made equipment that could threaten national security. He is also the lead sponsor of the Secure 5G and Beyond Acta bill to safeguard next-gen mobile telecommunications systems and infrastructure. Additionally, earlier this year, Sen. Warner introduced bipartisan legislation to help combat tech-specific, national security threats posed by foreign actors like China. As Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Warner has been leading a bipartisan effort to educate the private sector on the economic and security risks posed by Chinese companies like Huawei.

For the full text of this legislation, click here

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) applauded the inclusion of provisions that would provide much-needed oversight of privatized military housing for servicemembers in this year’s Senate National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The annual defense legislation lays out the nation’s overall policy priorities that are critical to our national security, and was just approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee, sending the bill to the full Senate for consideration.

 Following a Reuters investigation that exposed health, safety, and environmental hazards in privatized military housing throughout the United States, Sen. Warner has been advocating on behalf of servicemembers and their families to address concerns with military housing, including health hazards. The Senate legislation includes provisions from Sen. Warner’s bill that would increase accountability and oversight over privatized housing companies, empower servicemembers and their families when tackling housing disputes with private companies, and instate new quality assurance and quality control measures. The bill also establishes a “Tenant Bill of Rights” to ensure that servicemembers and their families have the protections they need and to ensure this does not happen again. 

“For far too long, military families have been subjected to sub-par living conditions, sometimes rivaling what you might see in a bad horror movie. That’s why I’m glad that my colleagues on the Armed Services Committee stepped up to add much-needed oversight on the private companies whose sole job is to provide safe housing for military families,” said Sen. Warner. “Additionally, I’m pleased to report that this defense bill includes additional steps to modernize our security clearance process to enhance our ability to hire and retain the national security talent we need to keep our country secure. Right now, we have 480,000 individuals waiting on a background check. While this drop is encouraging, there is still more work to be done to truly transform the clearance process.” 

Sen. Warner has met with military families in Norfolk, Fort Lee, and Fort Belvoir who’ve shared their stories of hazardous living conditions in their homes and their frustrations with the lack of oversight and response from the military services and their respective housing companies. To keep the pressure on addressing the deplorable housing conditions, Sen. Warner wrote to four private military housing companies requesting a plan of action from each company, and has urged the Department of Defense to develop long-term solutions for fixing the privatized housing program overall through reopening and renegotiating the agreements with the private companies.

As the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner has continued to push for security clearance modernization and reform. In February, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Modernizing the Trusted Workforce for the 21st Century Act of 2019, which was included in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2018-2020 and unanimously reported out of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last week. The Committee’s annual Intelligence Authorization Act also includes provisions championed by Sen. Warner that requires published guidelines so that the security clearance process cannot be abused for political purposes.

The defense bill also prioritizes innovation and technology development in the area of 5G and artificial intelligence (AI), to compete with our adversaries like Russia and China. As a former technology and telecommunications executive, Sen. Warner has pushed the Administration to develop a strategy to maintain our advantages in technological innovation, as well as to lead on 5G and AI.

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WASHINGTON – After Special Counsel Robert Mueller identified at least 140 contacts between Trump associates and foreign nationals linked to Russia, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today introduced the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections (FIRE) Act, legislation that would require political campaigns to report attempts at foreign elections influence to the appropriate federal authorities at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).   

 “Most Americans already know that if a foreign adversary reaches out about interfering in our elections, you should report that contact. But after Special Counsel Robert Mueller identified at least 140 contacts between Trump associates and Russian nationals or WikiLeaks, it’s clear that some Americans haven’t taken that responsibility seriously – in fact, the Trump campaign welcomed the help, and sought to hide that from the American people. This bill would protect the integrity of our democracy by requiring future campaigns to report attempts by foreign nationals to coordinate or collaborate during a political campaign, and by putting campaigns on notice about their obligations,” said Sen. Warner.

 The FIRE Act would require all campaign officials to report, within one week, any contacts with foreign nationals attempting to make campaign donations or otherwise coordinate with the campaign through the proffer of information or services. Campaigns would be required to implement a compliance system to monitor reportable foreign contacts with campaign representatives and to train all onboarding employees and other associates on their legal obligations. The candidate him or herself must certify that this compliance system is in place. The campaign would also be responsible for reporting applicable foreign contacts to the FEC, which would notify the FBI, and preserving relevant records.

 For full bill text, please click here.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) recently joined 32 other Senators in reintroducing legislation to tackle the root causes of the Central American migrant crisis. The Central American Reform and Enforcement Act will provide a coordinated regional response to effectively manage the humanitarian crises in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras that are forcing many women, children, and families to seek refuge in the U.S.

“After two and a half years of haphazard immigration decisions by the Trump Administration, it’s clear that we need smart legislation that prioritizes our national security in an effective way,” said the Senators. “This bill will finally reverse the Administration’s shortsighted decision to cut vital foreign assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras and help alleviate the violence and instability that continues to displace thousands of children and families, forcing them to flee to the U.S.” 

El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are among the most dangerous countries in the world, particularly for women and children who face increasing and unrelenting violence at the hands of armed criminal gangs and drug traffickers who act with impunity. Since 2008, incidents of murder, violence, and corruption perpetrated by criminal networks have remained at alarming levels in these countries. The Trump Administration has further exacerbated this instability with policies that have cut funding to Central American governments and terminated protections for those who enter the U.S. after fleeing Honduras and El Salvador.

Specifically, the Central America Reform and Enforcement Act would: 

  • Provide conditional assistance to Northern Triangle governments to restore the rule of law, create a more secure environment for children and families, promote economic opportunities, strengthen democratic public institutions, and reduce corruption. Under this legislation, assistance funding would be dependent on the State Department certifying that the governments are implementing reforms and making progress on critical priorities.
  • Crack down on smugglers, cartels, and traffickers exploiting children and families by creating new criminal penalties for human smuggling, schemes to defraud immigrants, and bulk cash smuggling. This bill would also expand on the work by the Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies to disrupt and prosecute trafficking and smuggling rings.
  • Allow refugees to apply for asylum to the U.S. while in Central America as an alternative to undertaking a dangerous journey to the U.S. to apply. Ongoing and rampant regional violence suggests that women and children will continue to flee to other countries in search of protection. This legislation would help Mexico and other Central American countries strengthen their own asylum systems, expand refugee processing for third-country resettlement, and create a new refugee processing program to provide women and children an alternative to making the dangerous journey north. 
  • Enhance monitoring of unaccompanied children after they are processed at the border. Currently, the U.S. government lacks the resources to track unaccompanied children after they are processed by Border Patrol and placed with a sponsor – usually a close family member. This legislation would strengthen the ability of the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee the safety and wellbeing of children released to an adult sponsor while they await their court hearing. It would require consistent, uniform, and timely background checks, post-placement wellness checks, and post-release services. It would also provide resources and guidance to local school districts enrolling unaccompanied children. 
  • Ensure fair, orderly and efficient processing of those who do reach our border seeking protection. This legislation would provide a fair and legal process for children and families seeking asylum, improve immigration court efficiencies by requiring a significant increase in the number of immigration judges to ensure the prompt resolution of immigration claims, and establish reintegration programs in Central America that reduce the likelihood of re-migration for those who do not have legal grounds to stay in the United States.

The Central American Reform and Enforcement Act was introduced by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and cosponsored by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ed Markey (D-MA), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tom Udall (D-NM), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

As Senators from Virginia – where the #1 country of origin for immigrants is El Salvador – Sens. Warner and Kaine have been vocal about the need to restore foreign assistance to Northern Triangle countries. In April, they urged the Trump Administration to reverse its plan to cut national security funding to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

For full text of this legislation, click here.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement after President Trump signed an executive order to ban American telecommunications firms from installing foreign-made equipment that could pose a threat to national security:

 “This is a needed step, and reflects the reality that Huawei and ZTE represent a threat to the security of U.S. and allied communications networks. Under current Chinese security laws, these and other companies based in China are required to provide assistance to the Chinese state. This executive order places a great deal of authority in the Department of Commerce, which must ensure that it is implemented in a fair and responsible fashion as to not harm or stifle legitimate business activities. It should also be noted that we have yet to see a compelling strategy from this Administration on 5G, including how the Administration intends to work cooperatively with our allies and like-minded nations to ensure that international standards set for 5G reflect Western values and standards for security and privacy. Nor do we have a stated plan for replacing this equipment from existing commercial networks – a potentially multi-billion dollar effort that, if done ineptly, could have a major impact on broadband access in rural areas. A coherent coordinated and global approach is critically needed as nations and telecom providers move to implement 5G.”

 As a former telecommunications executive and entrepreneur, Sen. Warner has been a leading voice in the Senate regarding the national security risks posed by Chinese-controlled telecom companies. He is the lead sponsor of the Secure 5G and Beyond Actlegislation to require the President to ensure the security of next-gen mobile telecommunications systems and infrastructure in the United States. He also introduced a bipartisan bill in January to help combat tech-specific threats to national security posed by foreign actors like China. Additionally, Sen. Warner called on the Trump Administration last week to promote U.S. leadership and strengthen diplomatic efforts around the development of a secure 5G architecture that challenges Huawei’s monopoly over the next generation of telecoms networks.

 

WASHINGTON – As part of his ongoing fight for military families facing hazardous living conditions, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today urged the Department of Defense (DoD) to establish a temporary housing advisory group to assist the military services in addressing widespread health hazards in private military housing. In a letter to Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan, Sen. Warner emphasized the need for an independent group capable of providing neutral analysis and advice to the department in order to develop long-term solutions for servicemembers and military families. 

“As the military services determine the best path forward, multiple perspectives and deep expertise in housing, state and local housing regulations, and environmental hazards are necessary to determine next steps and make stronger agreements. Clearly, these areas are not the core expertise of the Pentagon leadership, nor are they part of a military leader’s career trajectory. Housing is not a core mission of the Department of Defense,” wrote Sen. Warner. “Therefore, I urge you to establish a temporary advisory group for the Department of Defense – a high-level group of independent experts, well-versed in these issues who can assist the department in this process.” 

Stressing the need to reopen and renegotiate 50-year agreements between the services and the military housing companies, Sen. Warner urged Acting Secretary Shanahan to convene a housing advisory group composed of 10-15 subject-matter experts tasked with analyzing the current Military Housing Privatization Initiative as well as the agreements between the private companies and military services. This group would provide recommendations related to housing, real estate, public health, and environmental hazards in order to ensure that military families do not continue to be subjected to health threats, including persistent mold blooms, water leaks, and rodent and insect infestations. 

The letter also states that, once established, the advisory group should ensure that any agreements between the services and private companies codify the following: 

  • Ensure that independent and credentialed housing inspectors provide regular inspections and oversight at the housing units to ensure safe, secure and high-quality housing; 
  • Ensure that companies are adhering to state, local and regulatory laws related to environmental hazards. If these standards have not been determined by these authorities, DoD should establish standards in coordination with the EPA, and require that these companies adhere to standards for these hazards, including mold;
  • Require these companies to utilize appropriately credentialed and/or skilled contractors for health, safety and environmental problems across the services; 
  • Ensure that tenants have direct access to a true housing advocate, who assists the servicemembers and their families;
  • Ensure there exists an independent, third-party arbiter who can assist in resolving disputes between the tenants and the companies in a fair and transparent manner; and
  • Determine penalties when these companies fail to provide safe and healthy housing, whether that be withholding rent payments, incentive fees, cancelling the contracts or alternative mechanisms.

This letter is the latest in a series of multifaceted efforts by Sen. Warner to ensure that military families in Virginia and throughout the nation can count on high-quality housing free of health, safety, and environmental hazards. On Monday, Sen. Warner wrote to four private military housing companies requesting a plan of action from each company on how they intend to tackle the deplorable health hazards documented by military families. Recently, Sen. Warner hosted roundtables in Norfolk, Fort Lee, and Fort Belvoir with affected families who were upset by conditions in their homes and frustrated about the lack of response from the military services and their respective housing companies. Additionally, earlier this year, Sen. Warner introduced the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act – legislation that would create stronger oversight mechanisms over private military housing, allow the military to withhold rent until issues are resolved, prohibit contractors from charging certain fees, and require the military to withhold incentive fees to poorly performing contractors.

 

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

 

May 14, 2019

 

The Honorable Patrick M. Shanahan

Acting Secretary of Defense

U.S. Department of Defense

1000 Defense Pentagon

Washington, DC 20301

 

Dear Acting Secretary Shanahan:

 

I write today to strongly encourage the Department of Defense to convene a temporary housing advisory group of outside experts to assist you in determining the best long-term solutions for addressing pervasive health hazards in private military housing across the military services. This group would analyze the current Military Housing Privatization Initiative, established in 1996, as well as the agreements between the military services and the private companies, and offer recommendations to strengthen accountability and improve the quality of housing.     

 

I have been deeply concerned about health hazards, including mold, lead, and rodent infestations in private military housing in the Commonwealth of Virginia and across the country. The Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force have almost 12,000 privatized homes throughout the Hampton Roads region at Little Creek, Fort Story, Naval Station Norfolk, Oceana, and Joint Base Langley-Eustis, as well at Wallops, Dahlgren, Quantico, Fort Belvoir, and Fort Lee. Lincoln Military Housing, Clark Realty Capital, Balfour Beatty Communities, and Hunt Military Communities currently manage these units.

 

For this reason, I introduced the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act with Senators Dianne Feinstein, Tim Kaine and Kamala Harris, to begin reforming the privatized housing program to ensure that our servicemembers have safe, secure and high-quality housing. This legislation would create stronger oversight mechanisms over private military housing, allow the military to withhold rent until issues are resolved, and prohibit the private companies from charging certain fees. It would also require the military to withhold incentive fees for poor performance.

 

While I am glad to see that the military services are taking some steps to address these hazards, including establishing call centers for current and former housing residents to address housing related environmental hazards, and establishing a tenant bill of rights, systematic change must occur in the program. These 50-year agreements between the military services and the military housing companies must be re-opened and renegotiated to tackle the problems that have been identified.   

 

As the military services determine the best path forward, multiple perspectives and deep expertise in housing, state and local housing regulations, and environmental hazards are necessary to determine next steps and make stronger agreements. Clearly, these areas are not the core expertise of the Pentagon leadership, nor are they part of a military leader’s career trajectory. Housing is not a core mission of the Department of Defense.

 

Therefore, I urge you to establish a temporary advisory group for the Department of Defense – a high-level group of independent experts, well-versed in these issues who can assist the department in this process. This group would include approximately 10-15 subject matter experts from outside of government and from other government agencies, who would provide analysis and neutral advice related to housing, real estate, public health and environmental hazards. In addition, advocates for the servicemembers and their families should be included in this group.

 

The Department of Defense has a long history of using advisory groups to provide independent and informed advice, such as the Defense Innovation Board, Defense Science Board, Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, and the Military Family Readiness Council.    

In addition to advising the DoD on broader policy, the advisory group would need to ensure that agreements between the military services and the private companies codify the following:

 

•          Ensure that independent and credentialed housing inspectors provide regular inspections and oversight at the housing units to ensure safe, secure and high-quality housing;

•          Ensure that companies are adhering to state, local and regulatory laws related to environmental hazards. If these standards have not been determined by these authorities, DoD should establish standards in coordination with the EPA, and require that these companies adhere to standards for these hazards, including mold;

•          Require these companies to utilize appropriately credentialed and/or skilled contractors for health, safety and environmental problems across the services; 

•          Ensure that tenants have direct access to a true housing advocate, who assists the servicemembers and their families;

•          Ensure there exists an independent, third-party arbiter who can assist in resolving disputes between the tenants and the companies in a fair and transparent manner; and

•          Determine penalties when these companies fail to provide safe and healthy housing, whether that be withholding rent payments, incentive fees, cancelling the contracts or alternative mechanisms. 

 

Thank you for your attention to this serious matter. I am happy to discuss this issue further. 

 

Sincerely, 

 

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WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling attention to China’s efforts to be the leading country driving the development of standards and norms related to Artificial Intelligence (AI). The Senators urged the Secretary to strengthen the Trump Administration’s diplomatic efforts around emerging technologies to make certain the United States leads in setting international standards and norms for the AI field in ways that are congruent with our nation’s interests and values. 

“Without an engaged United States, and close coordination with our allies, we have limited ability to set global standards for AI development and use, with potentially disastrous consequences,” wrote the Senators. “China, as an authoritarian regime that uses AI tools to monitor its citizens and parse through vast troves a data, is a significant threat to the personal freedoms of individuals around the globe.” 

Menendez and Warner concluded the letter by asking Secretary Pompeo to articulate “the U.S. vision for global standards, norms, and mechanisms for the use of artificial intelligence,” and posing a series of questions about critical issues relating to AI.

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

 

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

 

We write to urge you to ensure the United States takes a leading role in developing international standards and norms for new and emergent innovations shaping the next generation of information technologies, in particular Artificial Intelligence (AI). Other countries are already shaping this conversation in ways that may be detrimental to U.S. interests. For example, later this month China is convening and hosting a UNESCO Conference on AI, underscoring China’s continued efforts to shape the debate and set the standards surrounding the future of AI. Even our allies are leading in this space, with the EU releasing guidelines for ethical AI development.

 

Emerging technologies such as AI represent the cutting edge of innovation and will facilitate critical advances in a wide range of fields, including health care, education, information processing, logistics, and security. At the same time, these technologies will present enormous challenges, whether in job displacement, algorithmic discrimination, privacy, or cybersecurity (as adversaries exploit these tools, too). The United States has long played a formative role in developing AI technologies.  In recent years, however, China has made significant progress in developing AI, with a stated goal of superseding the United States in this field by 2030.  China’s efforts, according to a study conducted by the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, are ahead of schedule, with the Institute highlighting that China has “surpassed the United States in published papers on artificial intelligence” and is “poised to overtake” the United States in terms of cited papers on the subject over the next few years.  Disturbingly, some of America’s most prominent technology companies have opened major AI research centers in China, potentially giving China’s military and intelligence arms access to cutting-edge technology. China’s continued robust investment in the field of AI has the potential to provide a strategic rival a critical technological edge.

 

China’s organization of the UNESCO conference on AI is yet another indication of its efforts to fundamentally shape global standards governing the future of AI and to drive the debate in the international community around an approach that uses AI tools to infringe on the rights of individuals throughout the globe and aid authoritarian regimes in suppressing its citizens.  Technologies are shaped by the values and norms that undergird their development. While a generation of ICT technologies developed by the U.S. and its allies have been shaped by our shared values and norms of openness, pluralism, fair competition, rule of law, security, and free expression, China’s development of AI has been shaped by fundamentally different values and norms, in service of objectives such as surveillance, censorship, and social control.

 

As I know you appreciate, it is critically important that as China attempts to capture primacy in the field of AI the United States works with our partners and allies to assert a position of leadership within the international community on this issue.  Without an engaged United States, and close coordination with our allies, we have limited ability to set global standards for AI development and use, with potentially disastrous consequences.  China, as an authoritarian regime that uses AI tools to monitor its citizens and parse through vast troves a data, is a significant threat to the personal freedoms of individuals around the globe.

 

Due to the issues raised by China’s efforts to set international standards in the field of AI that are not congruent with our interests and values, I am concerned the United States is not doing enough to promote United States leadership in establishing the norms and global governance for AI and other emerging technologies.  Consequently, I ask that you please respond to the following questions regarding U.S. efforts in the AI field:

 

  • What is the U.S. vision for global standards, norms, and mechanisms for the use of artificial intelligence, grounded in our values, including democracy, personal liberties, and the protection of human rights?
  • What U.S. efforts are currently underway to promote this vision for the use of artificial intelligence?
  • What should U.S. expectations be for leading U.S.-based firms and researchers when it comes to work in China on projects that violate human rights? 
  • Does the current export control regime adequately prevent the export of AI technology and technical assistance to human rights violators? 
  • Should Congress consider an update to the Alien Tort Claims Act, allowing foreign citizens (such as Uyghurs) to seek remedies in U.S. courts for human rights violations directly aided by the actions of U.S. firms or researchers?
  • What standards for AI are you promoting in international fora?
  • What is the current diplomatic engagement strategy by the Department of State to promote and promulgate those standards, including through participation in appropriate international fora and meetings?
  • How is the United States working with allies and partners on the development of AI tools?

 

Moving forward, I hope to see the United States further strengthen its efforts in the AI field to ensure that we do not cede leadership on this issue to China.  AI is rapidly becoming one of the most strategically important domains of the next generation, serving as an enabling technology to a range of future innovations and across disparate fields; it is vital to the security of the United States and our allies that we play a primary role in shaping AI to serve in the best interests of liberty, prosperity, and the promotion of human rights.  I ask that you please respond to my questions by May 20th.  I look forward to your response.

 

Sincerely,

 

###

 

 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence and former telecommunications executive, along with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), reintroduced bicameral legislation to help prevent foreign interference in future elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements. The Honest Ads Act will safeguard the integrity of our democracy by requiring large online platforms to maintain public records of advertisers who purchase political ads. Companion legislation is being introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and 24 other bipartisan cosponsors.

“In 2016, Russia waged widespread disinformation campaigns that exploited social media in an effort to attack our democracy and divide the American public. As we continue to grow increasingly dependent on a handful of very large platforms, there is no doubt in my mind that foreign adversaries will continue to follow in Russia’s footsteps, exploiting the scale, amplification, and lack of transparency of these platforms in order to undermine the strength of the United States and advance their own anti-American agendas,” Sen. Warner said. “Right now, our country needs strong defenses that help ward off shady online attacks by demanding increased transparency, which is why I’m proud to introduce the Honest Ads Act. By requiring large digital platforms to meet the same disclosure standards as broadcast, cable, and satellite ads, this legislation can help prevent foreign actors from manipulating the American public and interfering in our free and fair elections through the use of inauthentic and divisive paid ads.”

“Foreign adversaries interfered in the 2016 election and are continuing to use information warfare to try to influence our government and divide Americans. We must act now to protect our democracy and prevent this kind of interference from ever happening again,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “The goal of the Honest Ads Act is simple: to ensure that voters know who is paying to influence our political system. The bill would put in place the same rules of the road for social media platforms that currently apply to political ads sold on TV, radio, and in print regarding disclaimers and disclosures so that Americans know who is behind the ads they see online. I also want to commend Senator Graham for taking up the mantle of bipartisanship from our late friend, Senator John McCain. Protecting our elections isn’t about politics—it’s about national security and the future of our democracy. I look forward to working with him and Senator Warner to get the Honest Ads Act passed.”

“Hardening our electoral infrastructure will require a comprehensive approach and it can’t be done with a single piece of legislation,” Sen. Graham said.  “I am cosponsoring this legislation because it’s clear we have to start somewhere. I am pleased to work with Senators Klobuchar and Warner to address the gaps that currently exist, particularly with regards to social media. Online platforms have made some progress but there is more to be done. Foreign interference in U.S. elections – whether Russia in the 2016 presidential election or another rogue actor in the future – poses a direct threat to our democracy. I intend to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to bolster our defenses and defend the integrity of our electoral system.”

Prior to the 2016 presidential election, Russia attempted to influence the American electorate by using fake accounts to buy and place political ads on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Without greater transparency and disclosure requirements, foreign adversaries and bad actors copying their playbook can continue exploiting the opacity of large social media platforms.

The Honest Ads Act would improve disclosure requirements for online political advertisements by:

  • Amending the definition of ‘electioneering communication’ in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, to include paid internet and digital advertisements.
  • Requiring digital platforms with at least 50,000,000 monthly visitors to maintain a public file of all electioneering communications purchased by a person or group who spends more than $500.00 total on ads published on their platform. This file would contain a digital copy of the advertisement, a description of the audience the advertisement targets, the number of views generated, the dates and times of publication, the rates charged, and the contact information of the purchaser.
  • Requiring online platforms to make all reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate.

The Honest Ads Act has the support of the Campaign Legal Center, the Alliance for Securing Democracy, the Brennan Center for Justice, Issue One, the Sunlight Foundation, the Center for American Progress, and the German Marshall Fund's Digital Innovation Democracy Initiative, as well as Facebook, and Twitter.

The full text of the Honest Ads Act is available here

###

 

Washington – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement regarding the signing of the Executive Order transferring responsibility for background investigations to the Department of Defense:

“I am pleased that after many months of delay, the President has kept the background investigation mission intact, signing an executive order transferring the remaining portion of the National Background Investigation Bureau to the Department of Defense. This is an important step toward transforming the security clearance system. 

“There is much more we can do to reform decades-old policies and processes to reflect today’s threat environment, adapt to the dynamic of a modern mobile workforce, and capitalize on opportunities offered by modern information technology. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Administration to pass my legislationenacting further critical reforms to the security clearance process.”

In February, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Modernizing the Trusted Workforce for the 21st Century Act of 2019, which draws on provisions from the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2018/2019, which was unanimously reported out of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in June 2018. The Modernizing the Trusted Workforce for the 21st Century Act would: 

  • Hold the Executive Branch accountable for addressing the immediate background investigation backlog crisis.
  • Provide a plan for consolidating the National Background Investigation Bureau at the Department of Defense.
  • Implement practical reforms so that policies and clearance timelines can be designed to reflect modern circumstances.
  • Require that reforms be implemented equally for all departments, and for personnel requiring a clearance, regardless of whether they are employed by the government or industry.
  • Strengthen oversight of the personnel vetting apparatus by codifying the Director of National Intelligence’s responsibilities as the Security Executive Agent.
  • Promote innovation, including by analyzing how a determination of trust clearance can be tied to a person, not to an agency’s sponsorship.

 

###

 

 

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement regarding the redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report: 

“We have received the redacted version of the Special Counsel’s report, and I am carefully reviewing its contents and findings.

“Even a preliminary review of the material makes it clear that the Attorney General fundamentally mischaracterized the Special Counsel’s findings in his pre-emptive press conference this morning. In the days to come, it is essential that Congress hear directly from the Special Counsel regarding his investigation. The Senate Intelligence Committee continues its own investigation, and I expect to receive a full briefing, an unredacted report, and all the materials underlying the Special Counsel’s findings.”

 

###

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement regarding the arrest of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, today in the United Kingdom:

“Julian Assange has long professed high ideals and moral superiority. Unfortunately, whatever his intentions when he started WikiLeaks, what he’s really become is a direct participant in Russian efforts to undermine the West and a dedicated accomplice in efforts to undermine American security. It is my hope that the British courts will quickly transfer him to U.S. custody so he can finally get the justice he deserves.

“I would like to thank President Moreno and the Ecuadoran government for taking the long-overdue step of withdrawing sanctuary for Mr. Assange so that he can finally face justice for his actions.”

 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Tom Carper (D-DE), and 30 other Senators in condemning the President’s plan to cut national security funding to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. In a letter to President Trump, the Senators reiterated that the U.S. Congress has already appropriated FY18 funds to advance the United States’ foreign policy priorities related to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.   

“Your shortsighted decision poses serious risks to our national security and will damage strategic U.S. efforts to address the underlying conditions driving citizens in all three countries to flee their homelands and migrate to the United States,” wrote the Senators. “Since taking office, you have consistently expressed a flawed understanding of U.S. foreign assistance. It is neither charity, nor is it a gift to foreign governments. Our national security funding is specifically designed to promote American interests, enhance our collective security, and protect the safety of our citizens.” 

Citing cabinet officials who have recently called for a rational response to the growing number of migrants fleeing violent conditions in Central America, the Senators urged the President to reverse his decision cutting funding to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The Senators continued, “Our foreign assistance programs provide our government essential leverage to support reforms in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras that mitigate the root causes of migration to our southern border by enabling citizens from those countries to find security and economic opportunities in their communities. By obstructing the use of FY2018 national security funding and seeking to terminate similar funding from FY2017, you are personally undermining efforts to promote U.S. national security and economic prosperity.”

The Senators also noted that the Trump Administration’s decision undermines years of continuous bipartisan and bicameral congressional efforts to increase the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance to Central America. This assistance helps ensure consequential change and address root causes of irregular migration to the United States and Virginia, such as extreme poverty and lack of economic opportunity, which lead to unchecked violence and crime.                                        

In addition to Sens. Warner, Kaine, Menendez, and Carper, the letter was signed by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tom Udall (D-NM), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bob Casey (D-PA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Tina Smith (D-MN).

 

The text of the letter can be found below:

 

President Donald J. Trump

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

 

Mr. President:

 

We write to express our outright opposition to your plan to cut national security funding that the Congress has appropriated to advance United States’ foreign policy priorities related to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Your shortsighted decision poses serious risks to our national security and will damage strategic U.S. efforts to address the underlying conditions driving citizens in all three countries to flee their homelands and migrate to the United States. 

 

Since taking office, you have consistently expressed a flawed understanding of U.S. foreign assistance. It is neither charity, nor is it a gift to foreign governments. Our national security funding is specifically designed to promote American interests, enhance our collective security, and protect the safety of our citizens.  Our foreign assistance programs provide our government essential leverage to support reforms in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras that mitigate the root causes of migration to our southern border by enabling citizens from those countries to find security and economic opportunities in their communities.

 

By obstructing the use of FY2018 national security funding and seeking to terminate similar funding from FY2017, you are personally undermining efforts to promote U.S. national security and economic prosperity, including:

 

        Combatting Drug Trafficking: The State Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) work jointly with specially trained and vetted units in the Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and Honduran police forces to combat drug trafficking organizations and seize narcotics trafficked through Central America to the U.S. Your decision directly undercuts our ability to stop illicit drugs from entering our country.

 

        Countering Transnational Criminal Organizations: As part of their Transnational Anti-Gang (TAG) Task Forces, the State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) collaborate with prosecutors and national polices forces in all three countries to address the violent crimes of MS-13 and other criminal organizations. By cutting U.S. foreign assistance to the region, you are depriving our government of key law enforcement intelligence needed to keep our citizens safe.

 

        Strengthening the Rule of Law: The State Department, Department of Justice, and the U.S. Agency for International Development work with the Attorneys General and judicial systems in each country in order to promote the effective application of local laws and hold accountable the perpetrators of violence, extortion, narcotics and human trafficking, and domestic violence. Your cuts will terminate efforts end the cycle of impunity that forces victims to flee their countries in search of safety in the U.S.

 

        Defending Human Rights and Democratic Principles: There are enduring challenges in the Northern Triangle countries related to government officials and security forces perpetrating gross violations of human rights and acts of corruption, which directly contribute to insecurity. By cutting USAID funding, you are weakening our support for citizens and civil society groups to hold their governments accountable.

 

        Advancing Economic Reforms: Extreme poverty and a lack of economic opportunity contribute to the unchecked violence and crime that Central American refugees are fleeing.  Your cuts to foreign assistance deny the U.S. Government leverage needed to encourage Central American governments to take steps that improve their citizens’ educational and economic opportunities and create the conditions for inclusive growth.

 

For the past five years, in a bipartisan and bicameral way, Congress has continuously worked to increase the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance to Central America, instituting strict conditions on our funding in order to ensure consequential change. We have routinely been unsatisfied with insufficient efforts by Central American leaders and have limited funding to their central governments, but we remain convinced that continued engagement is the best option to promote meaningful change. To that end, your announcement marks a clear attempt to circumvent Congressional prerogative and obstruct the funding priorities established in bipartisan appropriations bills.

 

By cutting national security funding for El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, you also appear to be overturning the consensus within your own cabinet about the need for a rational response to the growing number of migrants fleeing violent conditions in Central America. Mere days before your announcement, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen signed a regional security compact with officials from Northern Triangle countries building on cooperative efforts made possible by U.S. funding. Last month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan expressed support for continuing funding to Central American governments in order to improve conditions in the region. And, at the 2017 Northern Triangle Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America, Vice President Pence stated, “To further stem the flow of illegal immigration and illegal drugs into the United States, President Trump knows, as do all of you, that we must confront these problems at their source. We must meet them – and we must solve them – in Central and South America.”

 

We encourage you to listen to members of your own Administration and reverse a decision that will damage our national security and aggravate conditions inside Central America. We look forward to working with you and members of your Administration to ensure that U.S. foreign aid continues to reflect our values and advance our national security interests.

 

Sincerely,

 

###

 

WASHINGTON – On the Senate floor today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, requested that the Senate immediately take up and pass a resolution calling for the public release of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report. However, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) objected to the unanimous consent request and blocked the immediate passage of the resolution, which previously passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 420 – 0.

“Simply put, a summary is not going to cut it,” Sen. Warner said on the floor. “This is an extraordinarily extensive investigation that yielded a rich collection of facts about Russia’s attack on our democracy. The American people deserve to see the results so they can judge the facts for themselves.”

Sen. Warner highlighted that the Attorney General’s four-page summary of the Special Counsel’s report only focused on the criminal portion of the Mueller probe, and barely mentioned the Special Counsel’s counter-intelligence investigation into Trump campaign contacts with Russian officials and intermediaries.

He continued, “Our committee has made multiple criminal referrals to the Special Prosecutor based on what we learned in witnesses’ efforts to lie to us and obstruct our investigation. This is what a counter-intelligence investigation is all about. We need to fully understand what the Russians were trying to do. And we need to be able to warn future campaigns and candidates about the lengths and new tools hostile governments will go to undermine our democracy… Let’s make sure the full Mueller report is released to Congress — including the underlying documents and intelligence. And then let’s make sure that the American people see as much of the report as possible, and as soon as possible. And let’s do it in that bipartisan way that protect sources and methods.”

Sen. Warner also emphasized that the resolution, H. Con. Res. 24, Expressing the Sense of Congress that the report of Special Counsel Mueller should be made available to the public and to Congress, ensures that the Special Counsel’s report is released in accordance with the law, without publicly revealing sources, methods, or grand jury information.

 

Below is a transcript of Sen. Warner’s full floor remarks:

Sen. Warner: Two weeks ago, after almost two years, Special Counsel Mueller filed his report with the Attorney General. The Attorney General sent us a short letter summarizing the major findings of the report.

Simply put, a summary is not going to cut it. The Attorney General’s own letter discusses the vast extent of the Special Counsel’s investigation, mentioning over 500 witness interviews, 2,800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants, 230 orders for communications records, and almost 50 orders for pen registers, and actually 13 requests to foreign governments. 

This is an extraordinarily extensive investigation that yielded a rich collection of facts about Russia’s attack on our democracy. The American people deserve to see the results so they can judge the facts for themselves.

We know from court filings, news reports, and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s own investigations that the Russians attempted to influence the Trump campaign in many ways. At least 17 individuals in the Trump orbit had over 100 publicly released contacts with Russian officials or intermediaries. And yet, with all those 100 contacts during the midst of a campaign, somehow not one of those individuals — even those contacted with explicit offers of assistance from a hostile government — called the FBI to report those offers.

And yet, the Attorney General’s four-page summary of this sprawling investigation, a summary that according to press reports may not even accurately reflect the Mueller report, focuses almost exclusively on the criminal portion of the Mueller probe — with barely any mention of the Special Counsel’s counter-intelligence investigation into these contacts.

The Senate Intelligence Committee — the only bipartisan counter-intelligence investigation still standing — has documented extensive efforts by Russians to reach out to those around then-candidate Trump.

A few examples we have documented and have been in the public domain: Candidate Trump’s efforts to negotiate a business deal to build what was going to be called the largest building in all of Russia, negotiating on that deal throughout the whole primary process and even potentially, at least according to his attorney Mr. Giuliani, maybe negotiated all the way through the election. Data that may, in itself, not have violated laws, but I frankly think that if I were a Republican primary voter, I would have liked to have known that my potential presidential candidate was still trying to do a deal with Vladimir Putin’s government.

We also in our investigation have exposed ongoing communications between the President’s campaign chairman, Mr. Manafort, and Konstantin Kilimnik, who has ties with both Russian intelligence and the oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Our committee has made multiple criminal referrals to the Special Prosecutor based on what we learned in witnesses’ efforts to lie to us and obstruct our investigation.

This is what a counter-intelligence investigation is all about. We need to fully understand what the Russians were trying to do. And we need to be able to warn future campaigns and candidates about the lengths and new tools hostile governments will go to undermine our democracy.

Now, I believe that we can’t make that full guidance to future campaigns without a full release of this report.

Now some observers have said that the report cannot be released without jeopardizing sources and methods. Let me be clear: as Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, no one is more sensitive to those concerns than I am. But the resolution that we have specifically states that the report should be released to the public in accordance with the law. Clearly, sources and methods would not be released under this standard. Nor would grand jury information.

What we are talking about here is basic transparency. Let’s make sure the full Mueller report is released to Congress — including the underlying documents and intelligence. And then let’s make sure that the American people see as much of the report as possible, and as soon as possible. And let’s do it in that bipartisan way that protect sources and methods.

Therefore, Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that as if in legislative session, the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of H Con RES. 24, Expressing the Sense of Congress that the report of Special Counsel Mueller should be made available to the public and to Congress, which is at the desk. Further, that the concurrent resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate. 

Presiding Officer: Is there objection?

[Sen. Rand Paul objects]

Presiding Officer: Does the Senator from Virginia wish to modify his request?

Sen. Warner: Reserving the right to object, I would simply point out to my colleague from Kentucky that the Intelligence Community in their January 2017 report reached a unanimous conclusion. That conclusion was that Russia massively interfered in our elections. They did it in forms of hacking into personal information, and releasing it subjectively, they did it in terms of at least touching the electoral systems in 21 of our states’ election systems in ways that frankly found a great deal of vulnerabilities, and they did it in ways that manipulated social media, that quite honestly caught our Intelligence Community and social media companies off guard.

Our Intelligence Committee spent a year reviewing the conclusions of the Intelligence Community and in January of 17 unanimously agreed that the Intelligence Community’s findings were correct, the Russians interfered, they did it on behalf of one candidate, Mr. Trump, against another candidate, Mrs. Clinton, and for those reasons I respectfully object to my colleague from Kentucky.

Presiding Officer: Is there objection to the original request?

[Sen. Rand Paul objects]

Presiding Officer: Objection is heard.

Sen. Warner: Mr. President, I’ll simply close out. I hope we can move past this, the President himself has called for the release of the report, the House in a rare stroke of unanimity, voted 420 – 0. I think many in this body would like to move beyond this issue and the only way we are going to be able to move beyond this is to get this report released, get it out to the American public, let those of us who are charged with the Intelligence Community responsibilities see all of the report including the underlying documents. I hope we can get to that point.

Thank you Mr. President, I yield the floor.

###

 

Washington, D.C.— Following reports of the arrest of Chinese national Yujin Zhang, who was apprehended by Secret Service after making false statements to enter Mar-a-Lago while carrying a thumb drive containing malware, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Committee on the Judiciary Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) today urged FBI Director Christopher Wray to assess the risks at Mar-a-Lago in light of the security vulnerabilities exposed by this latest incident. The senators asked the FBI to determine the steps needed to detect and deter adversary governments or their agents from attempting to gain access to or conduct electronic surveillance or acquire material at Mar-a-Lago or President Trump’s other properties.

According to reports, Ms. Zhang stated that she was invited to attend a non-existent event by an associate of Li “Cindy” Yang, who senior members of the congressional intelligence and judiciary committees recently asked the FBI to criminally investigate, given the credible allegations of potential human trafficking, unlawful foreign lobbying and other activities by Ms. Yang, and to assess the risks or related concerns associated with any interactions between her and the president. So far, the FBI has failed to respond. Today’s letter requests answers to the intelligence and judiciary committees’ previous letter and an assessment of the security vulnerabilities exposed by this latest incident involving Yujin Zhang.

 

The Senators’ letter can be found here and below: 

 

April 3, 2019

 

The Honorable Christopher Wray

Director

Federal Bureau of Investigation

935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20535

 

Dear Director Wray:

 

We write regarding the arrest of Yujin Zhang, a Chinese national who was apprehended by Secret Service after she allegedly made false statements to bypass security at Mar-a-Lago while carrying multiple electronic devices and a thumb drive containing malicious malware.

 

According to the information provided in the criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Ms. Zhang was allowed access to the property after security staff employed at Mar-a-Lago believed her to be a relative of a member of the club. After she passed into a restricted area and was eventually questioned by a receptionist, Ms. Zhang stated that she had been invited to Mar-a-Lago to attend a non-existent United Nations Chinese American Association event by an apparent associate of Li “Cindy” Yang, who had reportedly promoted events at the club on Chinese-language social media.

 

On March 15th, senior members of the congressional intelligence and judiciary committees asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct criminal and counterintelligence investigations into credible allegations of potential human trafficking, unlawful foreign lobbying and other activities by Ms. Yang as well as an assessment of the risks or related concerns associated with any interactions between her and the President. While this request came after Ms. Yang was photographed with the President and reports that she created a business that attempted to sell access to the President and his family to clients in China, Congress has not yet received a response. 

 

This latest incident raises very serious questions regarding security vulnerabilities at Mar-a-Lago, which foreign intelligence services have reportedly targeted. The apparent ease with which Ms. Zhang gained access to the facility during the President’s weekend visit raises concerns about the system for screening visitors, including the reliance on determinations made by Mar-a-Lago employees. As the White House Communications Agency and Secret Service coordinate to establish several secure areas at Mar-a-Lago for handling classified information when the President travels there, these potential vulnerabilities have serious national security implications.  

 

Accordingly, we ask that the FBI, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, assess the risks at Mar-a-Lago posed by establishment of areas for classified information at facility accessible to the public and foreign nationals. We also ask that you determine, in consultation with the Secret Service, the steps needed to detect and deter adversary governments or their agents from attempting to gain access to or conduct electronic surveillance or acquire material at Mar-a-Lago or President Trump’s other properties.

 

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We ask that you provide Congress with a written response to this letter as well as the questions related to Ms. Yang that were enumerated in the March 15th letter without delay.   

 

Sincerely,  

 

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

 

Senate Committee on the Judiciary Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

 

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA)

 

Enclosure

 

cc:       The Honorable Dan Coats

            Director of National Intelligence

 

            The Honorable Randolph D. Alles

            Director, U.S. Secret Service

 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) called on the Senate Armed Services Committee to include in the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act portions of an essential bill to address hazards in private military housing. The Senators introduced the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act last month in response to a Reuters investigation that exposed health, safety and environmental hazards in privatized military housing throughout the United States.

“While we are pleased that the military services have realized the scope and severity of the problem, and have begun to circulate a ‘Resident Bill of Rights’ for servicemembers living in privatized housing, we strongly believe that Congress must enact legal protections for our military families and strengthen accountability mechanisms for these private companies,” the Senators wrote. 

They concluded, “We believe these reforms are necessary to ensure that contractors are responsive to servicemembers’ concerns, that military housing officials are exercising proper oversight, that servicemembers are empowered to leave any home they feel is unsafe for their family without fear of incurring a financial penalty, and, most importantly, for servicemembers and their families to live in safe and secure housing.”

Among other things, the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act would create stronger oversight mechanisms, allow the military to withhold payments to contractors until issues are resolved, and prohibit contractors from charging certain fees. It would also require the military to withhold incentive fees to poorly performing contractors.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have long advocated for servicemembers and military families. Last week, they filed an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2020 budget resolution to ensure military families have safe and healthy housing. Sen. Warner also recently met with military families in Newport News to hear about their experiences living in privatized military housing, and Sen. Kaine recently toured privatized military housing near Naval Station Norfolk. Last month, the Senators also visited Fort Belvoir to hear from military families about their experiences with military housing.

In addition to Sens. Warner, Kaine, Feinstein, and Harris, the letter was signed by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Jon Tester (D-MT). 

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

 

April 1, 2019

 

The Honorable James Inhofe

Chairman

Senate Committee on Armed Services

Russell Senate Building, Room 228

 

The Honorable Jack Reed

Ranking Member

Senate Committee on Armed Services

Russell Senate Building, Room 228

 

Dear Chairman Inhofe and Ranking Member Reed:

 

We write today to request that the Armed Services Committee include provisions of our legislation, entitled the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act, to improve privatized military housing, in the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

 

As you know, major problems with privatized military housing have surfaced since Reuters first published a series of articles last year. The Reuters articles, and hearings held by your committee, have revealed that many servicemembers and their families have been forced to live in homes with serious health, safety and environmental hazards, without sufficient recourse.

 

The contractors who operate privatized military housing have too often failed to properly remedy these hazards, or outright ignored servicemembers’ concerns. The military housing officials and installation commanders responsible for ensuring that our servicemembers have safe housing have frequently fallen well short of their charge.

 

While we are pleased that the military services have realized the scope and severity of the problem, and have begun to circulate a “Resident Bill of Rights” for servicemembers living in privatized housing, we strongly believe that Congress must enact legal protections for our military families and strengthen accountability mechanisms for these private companies.

 

To that end, our bill would:

 

1)      Require installation commanders to withhold payment of a servicemember’s basic allowance for housing (BAH) until a military housing official has inspected an environmental, safety or health hazard, verified that appropriate remediation has taken place, and the servicemember concurs that the remediation is satisfactory. In the case that the hazard requires the servicemember to leave the housing unit, the contractor will pay all relocation costs. 

 

2)      Prohibit payment of a deposit, and any fee or penalty related to ending a lease early, except for normal wear and tear. The bill also requires contractors to reimburse servicemembers for damage to their private property caused by a hazard. 

 

3)      Require the Secretary of Defense to withhold incentive fees to any contractor who persistently fails to remedy hazards.

 

4)      Create standard credentials for health, safety and environmental inspectors across the services, and including contractors, to ensure consistent inspection practices.

 

5)      Require the DOD to establish an electronic system so that installation commanders and servicemembers can track and oversee work orders.

 

We believe these reforms are necessary to ensure that contractors are responsive to servicemembers’ concerns, that military housing officials are exercising proper oversight, that servicemembers are empowered to leave any home they feel is unsafe for their family without fear of incurring a financial penalty, and, most importantly, for servicemembers and their families to live in safe and secure housing.

 

We thank you for your leadership and we look forward to continuing to work on this vitally important issue.

 

Sincerely,

 

###

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner, Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a member of the Senate Rules Committee with oversight jurisdiction over federal elections, joined his colleagues in sending a letter to the country’s three largest election system vendors with questions to help inform the best way to move forward to strengthen the security of our voting machines. In the U.S., the three largest election equipment vendors—Election Systems & Software, LLC; Dominion Voting Systems, Inc.; and Hart InterCivic, Inc.—provide the voting machines and software used by ninety-two percent of the eligible voting population. However, voting and cybersecurity experts have begun to call attention to the lack of competition in the election vendor marketplace and the need for scrutiny by regulators as these vendors continue to produce poor technology, like machines that lack paper ballots or audibility.  

The letter was signed by Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Rules Committee, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. 

“The integrity of our elections remains under serious threat. Our nation’s intelligence agencies continue to raise the alarm that foreign adversaries are actively trying to undermine our system of democracy, and will target the 2020 elections as they did the 2016 and 2018 elections,” the senators wrote. “The integrity of our elections is directly tied to the machines we vote on – the products that you make. Despite shouldering such a massive responsibility, there has been a lack of meaningful innovation in the election vendor industry and our democracy is paying the price.”

 

The full text of the letter is below:

 

March 26, 2019

 

 

Mr. Phillip Braithwaite

President and Chief Executive Officer

Hart InterCivic, Inc.

 

Mr. Tom Burt

President and Chief Executive Officer

Election Systems & Software, LLC

 

Mr. John Poulos

President and Chief Executive Officer

Dominion Voting Systems

 

Dear Mr. Braithwaite, Mr. Burt, and Mr. Poulos: 

 

We write to request information about the security of the voting systems your companies manufacture and service.

 

The integrity of our elections remains under serious threat. Our nation’s intelligence agencies continue to raise the alarm that foreign adversaries are actively trying to undermine our system of democracy, and will target the 2020 elections as they did the 2016 and 2018 elections. Following the attack on our election systems in 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designated election infrastructure as critical infrastructure in order to protect our democracy from future attacks and we have taken important steps to prioritize election security. We appreciate the work that your companies have done in helping to set up the Sector Coordinating Council (SCC) for the Election Infrastructure Subsector.

 

Despite the progress that has been made, election security experts and federal and state government officials continue to warn that more must be done to fortify our election systems. Of particular concern is the fact that many of the machines that Americans use to vote have not been meaningfully updated in nearly two decades. Although each of your companies has a combination of older legacy machines and newer systems, vulnerabilities in each present a problem for the security of our democracy and they must be addressed. 

 

On February 15, the Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) Commissioners unanimously voted to publish the proposed Voluntary Voting System Guidelines 2.0 (VVSG) Principles and Guidelines in the Federal Register for a 90 day public comment period. As you know, this begins the long-awaited process of updating the Principles and Guidelines that inform testing and certification associated with functionality, accessibility, accuracy, auditability, and security. The VVSG have not been comprehensively updated since 2005 – before the iPhone was invented – and unfortunately, experts predict that updated guidelines will not be completed in time to have an impact on the 2020 elections. While the timeline for completing VVSG 2.0 is frustrating, these guidelines are voluntary and they establish a baseline – not a ceiling – for voting equipment. Furthermore, VVSG 1.1 has been available for testing since 2015.

 

In other words, the fact that VVSG 2.0 remains a work in progress is not an excuse for the fact that our voting equipment has not kept pace both with technological innovation and mounting cyber threats. There is a consensus among cybersecurity experts regarding the fact that voter-verifiable paper ballots and the ability to conduct a reliable audit are basic necessities for a reliable voting system. Despite this, each of your companies continues to produce some machines without paper ballots. The fact that you continue to manufacture and sell outdated products is a sign that the marketplace for election equipment is broken. These issues combined with the technical vulnerabilities facing our election machines explain why the Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is reportedly working to develop an open source voting machine that would be secure and allow people to ensure their votes were tallied correctly.  

 

As the three largest election equipment vendors, your companies provide voting machines and software used by 92 percent of the eligible voting population in the U.S. This market concentration is one factor among many that could be contributing to the lack of innovation in election equipment. The integrity of our elections is directly tied to the machines we vote on – the products that you make. Despite shouldering such a massive responsibility, there has been a lack of meaningful innovation in the election vendor industry and our democracy is paying the price.

 

In order to help improve our understanding of your businesses and the integrity of our election systems, we respectfully request answers to the following questions by April 9, 2019:

 

  1. What specific steps are you taking to strengthen election security ahead of 2020? How can Congress and the federal government support these actions?

 

  1. What additional information is necessary regarding VVSG 2.0 in order for your companies to begin developing systems that comply with the new guidelines?

 

  1. Do you anticipate producing systems that will be tested for compliance with VVSG 1.1? Why or why not?

 

  1. What steps, if any, are you taking to enhance the security of your oldest legacy systems in the field, many of which have not been meaningfully updated (if at all) in over a decade?

 

  1. How do EAC certification requirements and the certification process affect your ability to create new election systems and to regularly update your election systems?

 

  1. Do you support federal efforts to require the use of hand-marked paper ballots for most voters in federal elections?  Why or why not?

 

  1. How are you working to ensure that your voting systems are compatible with the EAC’s ballot design guidelines (i.e. “Effective Designs for the Administration of Federal Elections”)? 

 

  1. Experts have raised significant concerns about the risks of ballot marking machines that store voter choice information in non-transparent forms that cannot be reviewed by voters (i.e. such as barcodes or QR codes), noting that errors in the printed vote record could potentially evade detection by voters. Do you currently sell any machines whose paper records do not permit voters to review the same information that the voting system uses for tabulation? If so, do you believe this practice is secure enough to be used in the 2020 election cycle?

 

  1. Do you make voting systems with Cast Vote Records (CVRs) that can be reliably connected to specific unique ballots, while also maintaining voter privacy? If not, why not? Does your company make voting systems that allow for a machine-readable data export of these CVRs in a format that is presentation-agnostic (such as JSON) and can be reliably parsed without substantial technical effort? If not, why not?

 

  1. Would you support federal legislation requiring expanded use of routine post-election audits, such as risk-limiting audits, in federal elections? Why or why not?

 

  1. What portion of your revenue is invested into research and development to produce better and more cost effective voting equipment?

 

  1. Congress is currently working on legislation to establish information sharing procedures for vendors regarding security threats. How does your company currently define a reportable cyber-incident and what protocols are in place to report incidents to government officials?
  2. What steps are you taking to improve supply chain security? To the extent your machines operate using custom, non-commodity hardware, what measures are you taking to ensure that the supply chains for your custom hardware components are monitored and secure?

 

  1. Do you employ a full-time cybersecurity expert whose role is fully dedicated to improving the security of your systems? If so, how long have they been on staff, and what title and authority do they have within your company? Do you conduct background checks on potential employees who would be involved in building and servicing election systems?

 

  1. Does your company operate, or plan to operate, a vulnerability disclosure program that authorizes good-faith security research and testing of your systems, and provides a clear reporting mechanism when vulnerabilities are discovered? If not, what makes it difficult for your company to do so, and how can Congress and the federal government help make it less difficult?

 

  1. How will DARPA’s work impact how your company develops and manufactures voting machines?

 

We look forward to your answers to these questions, and thank you for your efforts to work with us and with state election officials around the country to improve the security of our nation’s elections.

 

Sincerely,

 

###

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.

 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) along with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), members of the Senate Committee on the Budget, filed an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2020 budget resolution to ensure military families have safe and healthy housing. The amendment would protect the wellbeing of our nation’s military families by creating a reserve fund to address health hazards in military housing.

“Thousands of servicemembers call Virginia home, and their experiences with unsafe living conditions in housing are disturbing and unacceptable,” said Sen. Warner. “This amendment would ensure we can improve housing conditions for servicemembers and their families, whether they’re stationed here in the Commonwealth or across the country.” 

“Too many of our troops and their families are living in unacceptable conditions,” said Sen. Kaine. “When servicemembers are deployed, their families not only have to worry about their loved ones in harm’s way, but many of them have to endure added anxiety caused by lead, mold, or rodent infestations in their homes. Military families sacrifice so much to serve our nation – they shouldn’t have to tolerate horrible housing conditions, and our amendment is part of an effort to make sure they never have to again.” 

“Members of our military and their families in California and across the nation make sacrifices every day and their housing should be clean and free from health hazards,” said Sen. Harris.  “I’m proud to join my colleagues to introduce this common-sense amendment to ensure our nation’s military families live in the safe and comfortable housing that they deserve.”  

The proposed amendment would reaffirm a commitment by Congress to address pervasive allegations of health hazards at privatized military housing under the budget resolution. The health hazard allegations include mold blooms, lead poisoning, cockroaches, rodent infestations, and water leaks.  

In February, Sens. Warner, Kaine and Harris introduced the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act, which would create stronger oversight mechanisms over private military housing, allow the military to withhold payments to contractors until issues are resolved, and prohibit contractors from charging certain fees. It would also require the military to withhold incentive fees to poorly performing contractors.

The Senate Budget Committee is scheduled to begin its two-day markup on the FY20 budget resolution on Wednesday, March 27.

 The budget amendment text can be found here.

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), joined with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), a member of the Committee, to introduce bipartisan legislation to protect the integrity of the security clearance process and ensure that it cannot be abused for political purposes.

“Americans should be able to have confidence that the security clearance process is being used only to protect our nation’s greatest secrets,” said Sen. Warner. “Our bipartisan bill will make clear that security clearances are not to be used as a tool to punish political opponents or reward family members, but to ensure personnel are thoroughly vetted to the highest standards.”

“The security clearance system is critical to protecting our country from harm and safeguarding access to our secrets. Americans should have the utmost confidence in the integrity of the security clearance process,” said Sen. Collins. “This bipartisan bill would make the current system more fair and transparent by ensuring that decisions to grant, deny, or revoke clearances are based solely on established adjudicative guidelines.” 

The Integrity in Security Clearance Determinations Act will ensure that the security clearance process is fair, objective, transparent, and accountable by requiring decisions to grant, deny, or revoke clearances to be based on published criteria. It explicitly prohibits the executive branch from revoking security clearances based on the exercise of constitutional rights, such as the right to freely express political views, or for purposes of political retaliation. It also bans agencies from using security clearances to punish whistleblowers or discriminate on the basis of sex, gender, religion, age, handicap, or national origin.

The bipartisan bill also codifies in statute the right of government employees to appeal decisions to deny or revoke a security clearance, and requires the government to publicly publish the results of such appeals – providing transparency, accountability and basic due process rights in an otherwise opaque and irregular process. 

The legislation aims to enhance the rigor and accountability of our security clearance process and to prevent abuses. It complements other reforms the executive branch is undertaking to modernize how the government processes clearances, and was developed with input from a wide range of experts across the government and in private law practice. 

A copy of the bill text is available here. 

 

###

 

Washington – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and Jack Reed (D-RI), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, wrote today to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, requesting areview of the Trump administration’s compliance with security clearance policies and procedures. This request comes on the heels of alarming reports that detail how President Trump ignored objections from White House Counsel Donald McGahn and Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, and granted security clearances to his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband Jared Kushner.

“We write to request that you review compliance by the Executive Office of the President (EOP) with policies and procedures governing security clearances and access to secure compartmented information (SCI),” the Senators wrote. “We also request that you review the adequacy of policies and procedures to ensure that mitigation measures are implemented when eligibility to access to classified information is granted despite potential security risks. We believe that you have the authority and expertise to conduct this review, including in your role as Security Executive Agent under Executive Order 13467.” 

The improper handling of these clearances is just the latest in a series of allegations that highlight substantial irregularities and questionable decisions by the Trump Administration. Additional reports claim that former White House Staff Secretary Robert Porter was allowed to handle extremely sensitive information for over a year with an interim clearance, despite his record of domestic abuse, and that the White House overturned an unprecedented 30 clearance adjudication recommendations made by career security professionals. 

Noting that the Trump Administration is currently working on transforming the security clearance system to reflect new threats, modern technologies, and the nation’s mobile workforce, the Senators emphasized the need to ensure that today’s system operates with integrity, especially at the White House.

Sen. Warner has been an outspoken critic of the Trump Administration’s abuse of the security clearance process. He also recently reintroduced legislation to modernize the government’s antiquated security clearance system and reduce the background investigation backlog.

 

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

 

March 8, 2019

 

The Honorable Daniel Coats

Director of National Intelligence

Office of the Director of National Intelligence

Washington, DC 20511

 

The Honorable Michael K. Atkinson

Inspector General of the Intelligence Community

Washington, DC 20511

 

Dear Director Coats and Inspector General Atkinson:

 

We write to request that you review compliance by the Executive Office of the President (EOP) with policies and procedures governing security clearances and access to secure compartmented information (SCI).  We also request that you review the adequacy of policies and procedures to ensure that mitigation measures are implemented when eligibility to access to classified information is granted despite potential security risks.  We believe that you have the authority and expertise to conduct this review, including in your role as Security Executive Agent under Executive Order 13467.

 

Public reporting over the last two years has raised serious concerns of alleged irregularities and questionable decisions related to eligibility determinations for EOP personnel access to classified information. These allegations include abuse in granting interim clearances, to include for access to SCI; revoking a former senior intelligence official’s eligibility for access to classified information seemingly for reasons of political retribution; overruling unfavorable adjudications made by career security professionals in some 30 cases; and the President’s decision himself to grant his daughter and son-in-law clearances despite the documented concerns from the White House Counsel and Chief of Staff.

 

The Administration is undertaking an important transformation of the security clearance system to reflect today’s threats, today’s mobile workforce, and modern technologies.  While we must stay focused on that larger reform effort, we must ensure that today’s system operates with integrity, particularly at the White House.

 

We look forward to your attention to this matter and request you brief us on the results of your reviews within 60 days.

 

Sincerely,

 

###

 

Washington – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, urged Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to issue a comprehensive and unclassified report on China’s participation in the international standard-setting bodies (ISSBs) for fifth-generation wireless telecommunications technologies (5G). This report would allow companies in the U.S. to fully assess any existing threats to fair competition and push back against them.

“In 2012, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s study on Huawei and ZTE drew attention globally to the security concerns associated with certain Chinese telecommunication and information technology companies,” wrote the Senators.“Similarly, we believe Chinese influence in our ISSBs is not fully appreciated, and the IC can play an essential role in filling the publicly available information gap—a necessary first step to countering this trend.”

American companies do not currently have access to crucial information regarding China’s alleged use of political influence in ISSBs or other anti-competitive practices, such as the state-directed coordination of large Chinese telecommunications firms. These practices can undermine fair competition, hinder the ability of us companies to sell and scale their technologies, and raise serious economic and security concerns for U.S. networks and future generations of wireless technologies.

Prompted by a series of anecdotal concerns raised to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) regarding China’s attempt to politically influence the ISSBs, the Senators urged Director Coats to issue a report detailing: 

1.             Overall trends in the ISSBs over the past decade and the implications of politicization of ISSBs;

2.             Specific examples of attempts by China and other foreign adversaries to exert pressure or political influence within the ISSBs or at major telecommunication conferences to secure standards that are favorable to Chinese companies and patent holders, or that might introduce deficiencies into 5G networks; and,

3.             How Chinese-led standards for 5G technologies will affect U.S. economic and security interests, including efforts by U.S. companies to sell and scale its technologies, the ability of the U.S. to position itself for future generations of wireless technology, and to protect against cyber intrusions and security vulnerabilities.

They concluded, “We hope that this report will be part of an ongoing effort to share more timely and relevant information with U.S. companies and our allies. The U.S. cannot tackle this issue alone and must work closely with our international partners—including the European Union, Great Britain, Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada—on how we may collectively strengthen security standards, supply chain management, and market share of critical technologies. To the greatest extent possible, we urge the IC to declassify relevant information.”

Sens. Warner and Rubio are the lead sponsors of bipartisan legislation to help combat tech-specific threats to national security posed by foreign actors like China. Sen. Warner, a former telecommunications executive and entrepreneur, has long expressed concerns about the risks to our national security posed by Chinese-controlled telecom companies. On October 12, 2018, Sen. Warner and Sen. Rubio sent a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging his country to reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in any aspect of Canada’s 5G development, introduction, and maintenance. Warner has also urged the Administration to work with our allies to combat these technology threats. Sens. Warner and Rubio are also the authors of bipartisan legislation to enforce full compliance by ZTE with all probationary conditions of a U.S. Commerce Department’s deal struck with the company last year that ended U.S. imposed sanctions.

 

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

 

Director Dan Coats

Director of National Intelligence

1500 Tysons McLean Drive

McLean, VA 22102

 

Dear Director Coats:

 

We are writing to request an unclassified report on the participation of China and other adversarial nations in the international standard-setting bodies (“ISSBs”)  for fifth-generation wireless telecommunications technologies (“5G”). Over the past year, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (“SSCI”) has heard anecdotal concerns that China is attempting to exert pressure or political influence in the ISSBs, which have historically functioned as technological meritocracies. Not only does political influence undermine fair competition, it also raises serious economic and security concerns for 5G and future generations of wireless technologies.

 

Currently, U.S. companies do not have access to critical information about the nature of this threat, and the degree of state-directed coordination amongst large Chinese telecommunication firms seeking to gain a critical edge in wireless technologies. Without adequate information, U.S. companies cannot effectively push back against this behavior, nor can the United States coordinate with our allies to deter anticompetitive practices in the ISSBs. 

 

Specifically, we request a detailed and unclassified report, to the extent possible, from the Intelligence Community (“IC”) on the following items:

 

1.                  Overall trends in the ISSBs over the past decade and the implications of politicization of ISSBs, if there is evidence of such trends;

 

2.                  Specific examples and case studies of attempts by China and other foreign adversaries to exert pressure or political influence within the ISSBs or at major telecommunication conferences to secure standards that are favorable to Chinese companies and patent holders, or that might introduce deficiencies into 5G networks; and,

 

3.                  Implications of Chinese-led standards for 5G technologies and how that will affect U.S. economic and security interests, including efforts by U.S. companies to sell and scale its technologies, the ability of the U.S. to position itself for future generations of wireless technology, and to protect against cyber intrusions and security vulnerabilities.

 

In 2012, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s study on Huawei and ZTE drew attention globally to the security concerns associated with certain Chinese telecommunication and information technology companies. Similarly, we believe Chinese influence in our ISSBs is not fully appreciated, and the IC can play an essential role in filling the publicly available information gap—a necessary first step to countering this trend. 

 

We hope that this report will be part of an ongoing effort to share more timely and relevant information with U.S. companies and our allies. The U.S. cannot tackle this issue alone and must work closely with our international partners—including the European Union, Great Britain, Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada—on how we may collectively strengthen security standards, supply chain management, and market share of critical technologies. To the greatest extent possible, we urge the IC to declassify relevant information.

 

We appreciate your attention to this important matter.

 

Sincerely,

 

###

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 – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and John Cornyn (R-TX), co-chairs of the bipartisan Senate India Caucus, released the following statement on rising tensions in the Kashmir Region, following the reported downing by Pakistan of an Indian military plane and a terrorist attack that killed 40 Indian military police earlier this month:

“We condemn the horrific attack on Indian security forces by a known terrorist group based in Pakistan. For too long Pakistan has harbored terrorist groups that have threatened stability in Asia and around the world. At the same time, it is critical that both India and Pakistan take immediate measures to deescalate the volatile situation along their border. We urge the governments of both nuclear-armed neighbors to step back and avoid further provocative actions while keeping open lines of communication and working to reduce tensions.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C.  – The Democratic National Security leadership in the U.S. Senate today wrote a letter to President Donald Trump expressing their views about his upcoming summit in Vietnam with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.  Reiterating their support for “a path forward for tough and principled diplomacy to secure, monitor, and verify the denuclearization of North Korea,” the group of Senators added that President Trump’s meeting with Chairman Kim must not merely serve as a photo-opportunity benefiting North Korea and also requested regular, classified briefings on the ongoing diplomatic process to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons and key missile programs.  

Today’s letter was signed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, Assistant Senate Democratic Leader and Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Ranking Member Dick Durbin, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chair Mark Warner, Senate National Security Working Group Co-Chair Dianne Feinstein, Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chair and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Ranking Member Patrick Leahy, Senate Committee on Banking Housing and Urban Affairs Ranking Member Sherrod Brown, and Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed. 

“We hope you will execute a serious diplomatic plan, which includes a sequenced process to verifiably freeze and roll back North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs in conjunction with continued appropriate sanctions and other pressure; a robust deterrence posture; strengthened alliances; intensified diplomatic and economic engagement; and a deepening of North-South dialogue that over time can provide the pathway to full denuclearization and a durable peace agreement,” wrote the Senators, noting that, according to the U.S. Intelligence Community, Pyongyang had made little progress towards the goal of full denuclearization. “We believe your next meeting with Kim thus must demonstrate tangible, verifiable progress on denuclearization and reducing tensions with the North.”

Today’s letter follows a similar request sent before President Trump’s first Summit with Kim Jong Un last year which outlined the necessary conditions for Congress to lift sanctions as part of any deal with North Korea.

“The Singapore meeting gave Kim -- the leader of perhaps the world’s most repressive regime -- legitimacy and acceptance on the global stage while effectively undermining our policy of maximum pressure and sanctions, which now appear to be in the process of showing strain, and putting at risk vital alliance relationships,” concluded the Senators, urging the President to provide Congress with regular briefings on any diplomatic engagement with North Korea.

 

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

 

 

February 24, 2019

 

The Honorable Donald J. Trump

President of the United States

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

 

Dear Mr. President:

 

As you prepare for your second meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, we write to express our shared desire for a diplomatic solution which will ensure the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs. A successful diplomatic agreement with North Korea that advances the goals described in the Singapore Statement of “a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean peninsula” and “complete denuclearization of the peninsula” would represent a historic accomplishment.  

While we acknowledge Kim Jong Un’s change in behavior since your first meeting, we remain concerned owing to testimony on January 29, 2019 before the Senate Intelligence Committee, when our community intelligence leaders reported that the U.S. Intelligence Community is observing North Korean “activity that is inconsistent with full denuclearization,” a statement that runs counter to the multiple assertions you have made about progress in the past year, including your claim after the Singapore meeting that North Korea no longer poses a nuclear threat. While you may disagree, we also note the assessment of ODNI Director Coats that “we currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD (weapons of mass destruction) capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capability because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.”

The Singapore meeting gave Kim -- the leader of perhaps the world’s most repressive regime -- legitimacy and acceptance on the global stage while effectively undermining our policy of maximum pressure and sanctions, which now appear to be in the process of showing strain, and putting at risk vital alliance relationships. 

As strong advocates for a diplomatic pathway to resolve the North Korea threat, we still believe there is a path forward for tough and principled diplomacy to secure, monitor, and verify the denuclearization of North Korea.  

We are pleased to see seasoned professionals like Special Representative Steve Biegun working to achieve this goal.  We hope you will execute a serious diplomatic plan, which includes a sequenced process to verifiably freeze and roll back North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs in conjunction with continued appropriate sanctions and other pressure; a robust deterrence posture; strengthened alliances; intensified diplomatic and economic engagement; and a deepening of North-South dialogue that over time can provide the pathway to full denuclearization and a durable peace agreement. We believe your next meeting with Kim thus must demonstrate tangible, verifiable progress on denuclearization and reducing tensions with the North. 

As the U.S. pursues this goal, it is crucial that we maintain our alliances in Asia, and in particular with the Republic of Korea and Japan, at the center of our policy towards North Korea.  Resolving the North Korea nuclear threat is a national security imperative, and deepening our alliances, maintaining our military posture, and strengthening our partnerships are fundamental to building the architecture of a stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.

Meeting the challenge of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs, as well as addressing other issues such as North Korea’s systemic, gross violations of human rights, is of concern to all Americans and to our allies and partners. We believe that Congress therefore has an important role to play in working with the administration to shape U.S. policy toward North Korea.  To that end, we would like to establish a process for regular and substantive briefings, including classified briefings, on U.S. policy and strategy and diplomatic engagements.

We look forward to working with your administration to secure a meaningful agreement to address the threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea in a manner that significantly enhances the security of the United States, our allies, and the world.

Sincerely,

 

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