Press Releases

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, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, along with 45 of their colleagues, introduced the For the People Act, a sweeping package of comprehensive reforms that would make government work for the people. The landmark legislation aims to restore the promise of American democracy by making it easier, not harder, to vote; ending the dominance of big money in politics; and ensuring that public officials work for the public interest. Earlier this month, the House passed their companion legislation, H.R. 1, by a vote of 234-193.  

“Our nation belongs to the people – not just the wealthy or the powerful people – but all the people,” said Warner. “I’m proud this legislation includes the Honest Ads Act, a bill I introduced to bring overdue transparency and accountability to online political ads. By facilitating access to the ballot box, addressing the influence of money in politics, and ensuring that lawmakers can be held accountable by those they serve, this bold legislation will strengthen democracy and put power back in the hands of everyday Americans.”

“I’m proud to join my colleagues to introduce landmark legislation to protect the power of the American people in our democracy,” said Kaine. “This bill is about ensuring Americans can exercise their right to vote, securing our elections, and bringing more transparency to money in politics.”

The For the People Act would:

Make It Easier, Not Harder, To Vote

— Improve Access and Secure Voting Rights – Expands access to the ballot box by taking aim at institutional barriers to voting, such as cumbersome registration systems, limited voting hours, and many other roadblocks. The bill creates automatic voter registration across the country, ensures that individuals who have completed felony sentences have their full rights restored, expands voting by mail, promotes early voting and online voter registration, and modernizes the U.S. voting system. 

— Promote Integrity – Fights back against the assault on voting rights by reaffirming Congress’s commitment to restoring the Voting Rights Act, prohibiting voter roll purges like those seen in Ohio, Georgia and elsewhere, and ensuring that discriminatory voter ID laws do not prevent Americans citizens from exercising their rights. This bill would also end partisan gerrymandering to prevent politicians from picking their voters and making Americans feel like their voices do not count. 

— Bolster Election Security – Ensures that American elections are decided by American voters without interference by foreign adversaries. The bill creates a national strategy to protect our democratic institutions, increases oversight over election vendors, and enhances federal support for state voting system security upgrades, including paper ballot voting systems.

End The Dominance of Big Money In Politics 

— Guarantee Disclosure – Shines a light on dark money in politics by requiring all political organizations to disclose their donors, which will break the nesting-doll system that allows big-money contributors and special interests to hide their spending in networks of so-called “social welfare” organizations; expands “Stand By Your Ad” provisions; and harmonizes internet disclosure rules with existing broadcast rules.

— Empower Citizens – Builds a 21st-century campaign finance system to increase the power of small donors, reaffirms Congress’s authority to regulate money in politics, and pushes back against Citizens United. This bill levels the political playing field for Americans, creating a multiple matching system for small donations and allowing the American people to exercise their due influence in a post-Citizens United world, while reaffirming that Congress should have the authority to regulate money in politics. The new system of citizen-owned elections will decrease special interests’ influence on Congress and the White House and lay the groundwork for an agenda that serves the American people.

— Strengthen Oversight – Repairs and restructures the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to break gridlock and enhance enforcement mechanisms, tightens rules on super PACs, and repeals policy riders that block sensible disclosure measures. 

Ensure Public Officials Work For The Public Interest

— Fortify Ethics Laws and Slow the Revolving Door – Breaks the influence of special interests in Washington and increases accountability by expanding conflict of interest law and divestment requirements, slows the revolving door, prohibits members of Congress from serving on for-profit corporate boards, limits first class travel for government officials, ends taxpayer-financed settlements for officeholders, and requires presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.

— Impose Greater Ethics Enforcement – Gives teeth to federal ethics oversight by overhauling the Office of Government Ethics, requires the Supreme Court to create a new ethical code, and closes registration loopholes for lobbyists and foreign agents.

The legislation is sponsored by U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-OR). In addition to Warner and Kaine, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Angus King (I-ME), Bob Casey (D-PA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Patty Murray (D-WA), Doug Jones (D-AL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

The full text of the legislation is available HERE.

A one-page summary of the bill is available HERE.

A longer summary of the bill is available HERE.  

A section-by-section summary of the legislation is available HERE.

A list of organizations supporting the legislation is available HERE

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) – all members of the Senate Committee on the Budget – filed four amendments to the Fiscal Year 2020 budget resolution aimed at protecting federal employees and contractors. The amendments would put the Senate on the record in favor of preserving retirement security for federal employees, and providing back pay to service contractors affected by the recent federal government shutdown. 

“Federal workers are the backbone of our government. If we want to recruit and retain top talent, we have to offer competitive pay and benefits, including retirement security,” said Sen. Warner, who added, “Though the shutdown itself may be over, for many federal contractors who went without pay for 35 days, the effects have been long-lasting. The Senate cannot forget about these workers, many of whom work paycheck to paycheck. We owe it to them to provide back pay.” 

“This year, federal workers experienced the longest shutdown in history. Their finances were pinched and their families were hurt. As we look at next year’s budget, my priority is to ensure that we’re protecting federal workers against pay cuts, preserving their retirement security, and trying to secure back pay for the service contractors impacted by government shutdowns,” said Sen. Kaine. 

“Our federal workers and federal contract employees provide crucial services to the American people. These amendments will protect the hard-earned paychecks and benefits of our federal employees and help secure back pay for contract workers harmed by the government shutdown,” said Sen. Van Hollen.

One amendment would ensure that federal workers are not shouldering more than their fair share of deficit reduction. This amendment would establish a scorekeeping rule that would prevent federal employees from being subject to increased retirement contributions meant to offset the cost of other, unrelated congressional spending. Despite there being no solvency concerns related to the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), Congress has repeatedly increased the required federal employee contribution rate without offering any additional benefit. Combined with years of pay freezes, the increased requirements have resulted in de facto pay cuts for thousands of hardworking federal employees. 

Another amendment would preserve the retirement security of civil service employees by preventing further retirement benefit reductions and protecting the retirement plans that employees have spent decades building.

A third amendment would establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to provide back pay to service contractors affected by the recent government shutdown. The shutdown caused more than 800,000 employees and thousands of contractors to go without pay for 35 days, and while affected federal employees were assured that they would be compensated for their missed wages, their contractor colleagues – who perform essential functions like cleaning, food service, and security – were not given that same guarantee. This amendment would put the Senate on the record in support of making these workers whole, following the record-breaking shutdown. 

A fourth amendment would protect federal workers’ retirement benefits by striking a provision in the draft budget that could cut federal employees’ benefits by at least $15 billion.

Sens. Warner, Kaine, and Van Hollen have fiercely advocated for federal employees and contractors, especially during and following the government shutdown. In January, the Senators, along with several colleagues, introduced a bill to pay back federal contract workers after the shutdown. They also joined a bipartisan group of Senators earlier this month in urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to include contractor back pay in the upcoming disaster package. Additionally, the Senators pressed OMB in February for a timeline detailing the implementation of the 1.9 percent pay increase for federal employees that the Senators worked to pass into law earlier in the year. 

The Senate Budget Committee is scheduled to begin its two-day markup on the FY20 budget resolution on Wednesday, March 27. Though nonbinding, the budget resolution provides a blueprint for future congressional action on federal programs.  

 

###

 

 

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 – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), in light of newly-released deferred maintenance numbers, emphasized the need to pass the Restore Our Parks Act – bipartisan legislation to address the maintenance backlog at national parks across the country. New numbers from the National Park Service (NPS) show that the national backlog of deferred maintenance needs grew by more than $313 million last year – with a $100 million increase in Virginia alone. The total overall cost of backlogged maintenance projects at NPS sites nationwide now reaches $11.9 billion. 

“Unfortunately, these numbers show what we already know – the longer we wait, the worse this backlog becomes,” said Sen. Warner. “Our national parks are hurting, and with the parks maintenance backlog in Virginia alone totaling $1.1 billion, we cannot afford to delay these repairs any longer. We need to pass the Restore Our Parks Act and fund the critical renovations our parks require.”

According to NPS, despite completing more than $671 million in needed repair work during FY18, the deferred maintenance backlog at the Park Service has ballooned to over $11.9 billion – an increase of over $300 million from FY17. Additionally, Virginia’s total maintenance backlog increased from $1 billion dollars in FY17 to $1.1 billion in FY18. This includes an increase of almost $10 million in deferred maintenance at Shenandoah National Park, more than $12 million at Colonial National Historical Park, more than $60 million for the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and more than $26 million for the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Restore Our Parks Act has widespread support among legislators and conservation groups and would reduce the maintenance backlog by establishing the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and allocating existing revenues from onshore and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury, not exceeding $1.3 billion each year for the next five years.

Sen. Warner, who will be meeting with Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent J.D. Lee on Thursday to discuss the backlog and other issues, reintroduced the Restore Our Parks Act in February along with Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME). A similar bill was introduced in the House by Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), and has the backing of more than 120 cosponsors.

VA National Park Deferred Maintenance as of 2018 is available here. The chart below reflects VA data for FY17 and FY18.

National Park:

FY17 Deferred Maintenance

FY18 Deferred Maintenance

Change   

 

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

$1,998,224

$3,263,249

$1,265,025

 

Assateague Island NS

$2,774,577

$2,545,865

– $228,712

 

Blue Ridge Parkway

$186,619,608

$212,702,891

 $26,083,283

 

Booker T Washington National Monument

$1,370,913

$1,418,420

$47,507

 

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove NHP

$327,072

$823,242

$496,170

 

Colonial National Historical Park

$421,872,932

$433,899,266

$12,026,334

 

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

$1,848,864

$1,805,537

– $43,327

 

Fort Monroe National Monument

$2,280,548

$2,495,127

$214,579

 

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Battlefields Mem NMP

$10,371,731

$12,688,403

$2,316,672

George Washington Birthplace National Monument

$1,306,614

$1,648,576

$341,962

 

George Washington Memorial Parkway

$233,441,316

$293,494,667

$60,053,351

 

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

$64,760

$498,101

$433,341

 

Maggie L Walker National Historic Site

$531,648

$702,422

$170,774

 

Manassas National Battlefield Park

$6,516,560

$8,186,965

$1,670,405

 

Petersburg National Battlefield

$11,754,041

$8,924,807

– $2,829,234

 

Prince William Forest Park

$18,619,932

$24,148,020

$5,528,088

 

Richmond National Battlefield Park

$6,581,205

$5,261,371

– $1,319,834

 

Shenandoah National Park

$79,208,621

$88,765,195

$9,556,574

 

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

$31,149,289

$34,175,868

$3,026,579

 

 

Total

 

$1,018,629,457

 

$1,137,447,992

 

$118,818,535

 

 

###

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Budget Committee, today released the following statement regarding the Trump Administration’s budget proposal:

“There is much to be concerned by in the Trump Administration’s proposed budget, which is chock-full of short-sighted, draconian cuts to critical programs like medical research, education, environmental protection, transportation, and health care. It’s difficult to take seriously the Administration’s newfound commitment to deficit reduction after they pushed through a budget-busting tax cut that is already adding $1.9 trillion to the deficit, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. 

“It’s particularly galling that, just weeks after the longest government shutdown in history, the President’s proposed budget takes direct aim at the federal workers who bore its brunt by pushing for yet more cuts: retirement cuts. Benefit cuts. Another pay freeze. Federal workers are the backbone of a functioning government, and they deserve better than what we’ve seen from this Administration.”

 

###

 

 

 

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 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.

 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to address the $12 billion National Parks Service (NPS) maintenance backlog, which has delayed the upkeep of visitor centers, rest stops, trails, campgrounds and transportation infrastructure operated by NPS in the Commonwealth and across the country. The Restore Our Parks Act, which overwhelmingly passed the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources last year, would take existing government revenue and allocate it to the chronically underfunded National Park Service.

Virginia’s national parks, which host over 25 million visitors every year, are in critical need of this funding to continue preserving some of the nation’s most precious national treasures. Shenandoah National Park alone has outstanding maintenance needs totaling almost $80 million, while Colonial National Historical Park is more than $420 million behind schedule. To make matters worse, recent reports indicate that the 35-day government shutdown exacerbated the NPS maintenance backlog and delayed important work for readying park facilities, roads and trails for the busy summer season.

“The deferred maintenance backlog at national park sites in Virginia is currently over a billion dollars. The Commonwealth trails only California and the District of Columbia in total deferred maintenance needs. Colonial National Historical Park, which is home to Historic Jamestown and Yorktown Battlefield, has over $400 million in deferred maintenance needs alone,” said Sen. Warner. “We owe it to our Commonwealth and to our country to pass this bill and clear the $12 billion maintenance backlog that is holding back essential repairs and renovations at our cherished national parks. This problem will only worsen if we fail to act.” 

“For more than a century, the National Park Service has been inspiring Americans to explore the natural beauty of our country,” Sen. Portman said. “My visits to various national parks in Ohio last year made it clear that we must pass this legislation to ensure that they have sufficient resources to maintain our national parks. This bill will create the Legacy Restoration Fund to provide the National Park Service with funds for deferred maintenance projects. This legislation will also help tackle the more than $100 million in maintenance backlog at Ohio’s eight national parks and will ensure the National Park Service can continue preserving American treasures like Cuyahoga Valley National Park.” 

“Today, too many of our national parks are in bad shape. American families spending their vacations in our national parks are often shocked to find that so many of the roads, picnic areas, trails, campgrounds and visitor centers are run down or even closed,” Sen. Alexander said. “The Restore Our Parks Act would be the biggest help to the National Park Service in 50 years – it would cut in half the maintenance backlog at our national parks and help restore our 418 national parks so Americans can enjoy them. The legislation is supported by a bipartisan group of senators and representatives, the Trump Administration and more than 100 conservation groups. When an idea this good – fixing our national parks for future generations – gets this much bipartisan support, it’s going to happen sooner or later. It is my hope we pass the legislation as soon as this year.” 

“From Acadia to Zion, the National Park System captures our country’s diverse natural beauty and is a proud reminder of America’s dedication to preserving public land for all its citizens,” Sen. King said. “As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, ‘There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.’ We have a collective responsibility to maintain this spirit of the wilderness in our National Parks – and this starts with the $12 billion maintenance backlog. With strong bipartisan support, this bill will ensure our parks are well-maintained so generations of visitors can experience the wonders of our National Parks for years to come.” 

“The Restore Our Parks Act would provide billions of dollars to address the multibillion-dollar repair backlog at our national parks,”said Marcia Argust, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ project to restore America’s parks. “This investment would help preserve these treasured places and support sites that generate more than $18 billion in annual spending in nearby communities by park visitors.”

“For years, our national parks have been plagued with underfunding while also dealing with a mounting backlog of repair needs, totaling nearly $12 billion. Grand Canyon’s water and sewer systems, built during World War II, are failing. Roads in Yellowstone that were originally built in 1905 for carriages, not the millions of cars and RVs that use them today, are sinking. Thanks to the leadership of Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King, park staff could get the funding they need to fix our national parks. The bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act would make a much needed and significant investment to address these and so many more infrastructure needs in national parks across the country, ensuring they are ready to welcome the next generation of park visitors,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association. 

“In 2018, our National Parks contributed $35.8 billion in total economic output and supported 306,000 American jobs. National Parks are a huge attraction for visitors across the country and around the world, which makes investment in the maintenance of our national parks not just an environmental necessity but also an economic priority. U.S. Travel applauds Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King for reintroducing the Restore Our Parks Act, which will invest in national park infrastructure and facilities and shrink the nearly $12 billion in deferred maintenance facing our parks,” said Tori Barnes, Senior Vice President, Government Relations, U.S. Travel Association. 

“The nearly $12 billion National Park System deferred maintenance backlog jeopardizes some of our nation’s most iconic historic resources and cultural artifacts. By creating a reliable federal funding source to reduce the backlog, this legislation will enable the National Park Service and other federal agencies to save the historic structures, landscapes, and necessary infrastructure that enable the public to safely enjoy the places that reflect our nation’s history. We commend Reps. Bishop and Kilmer and Sens. Portman, Warner, Alexander and King for their leadership in creating a bipartisan path for Congress to secure the future of important historic and cultural resources now at risk,” said Thomas J. Cassidy, vice president for government relations and policy for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“The time is now for Congress to address this national crisis, particularly in the Nation’s Capital. The National Mall hosts more than 35 million visits each year and has the highest deferred maintenance bill of any National Park across the country. As the greatest symbol of American Democracy, we must improve and preserve this historic legacy for generations to come. We express our gratitude to Representatives Bishop and Kilmer in the House and Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King in the Senate for their steadfast leadership of this important legislation,” said Catherine Townsend, president and CEO, the Trust for the National Mall. 

The Restore Our Parks Act would establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” to reduce the maintenance backlog by allocating existing revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury not to exceed $1.3 billion each year for the next five years.

In addition to Sens. Warner, Portman, Alexander and King, other original cosponsors include Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Susan Collins (R-ME), Kamala Harris (D-CA), John Hoeven (R-ND), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Gary Peters (D-MI), John Boozman (R-AR), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Steve Daines (R-MT). 

A similar bill is being introduced in the House today by Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), and has the backing of more than 90 cosponsors.

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

 

VA National Park Deferred Maintenance as of 2017*

 

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

$1,998,224

Assateague Island NS

$2,774,577

Blue Ridge Parkway

$186,619,608

Booker T Washington National Monument

$1,370,913

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove NHP

$327,072

Colonial National Historical Park

$421,872,932

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

$1,848,864

Fort Monroe National Monument

$2,280,548

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Battlefields Mem NMP

$10,371,731

George Washington Birthplace National Monument

$1,306,614

George Washington Memorial Parkway

$233,441,316

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

$64,760

Maggie L Walker National Historic Site

$531,648

Manassas National Battlefield Park

$6,516,560

Petersburg National Battlefield

$11,754,041

Prince William Forest Park

$18,619,932

Richmond National Battlefield Park

$6,581,205

Shenandoah National Park

$79,208,621

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

$31,149,289

Total

$1,018,629,457


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

 

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded Senate passage of a historic lands bill — S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act — that permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a program that protects and preserves Virginia’s public lands. Sens. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for permanent reauthorization of LWCF. Authorization for the Fund expired at the end of last fiscal year.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is essential to preserving and protecting Virginia’s rich history and beautiful landscapes,” said the Senators. “By providing long-term security for this critical program, communities across the Commonwealth will be able to continue caring for our natural resources and history for future generations to enjoy.”

The LWCF provides states and local communities with technical assistance, recognition, and funding to help preserve their own history and create close-to-home recreation opportunities. In the span of four decades, Virginia has received more than $350 million in LWCF funding to protect dozens of national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails and more. This bipartisan package is supported by dozens of conservation and recreation organizations, including the National Wildlife Federation, the League of Conservation Voters, the Outdoor Industry Association, and the Nature Conservancy. 

The lands package also reauthorizes the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Grant Program. Historically Black Colleges and Universities Grants support the preservation of sites on HBCU campuses that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Eligible projects include pre-preservation studies, architectural plans and specifications, historic structure reports, and the repair and rehabilitation of historic properties according to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. Last year, Virginia Union, Hampton University, Virginia State, and Virginia University of Lynchburg received grants totaling $2.27 million under the HBCU grant program.

The lands package also includes a provision introduced by Sen. Warner that expedites access to national parks for Good Samaritans, or eligible search and recovery organizations, after they sign a liability waiver. Sen. Warner pushed for the legislative fix after Alexandria resident Jodi Goldberg’s brother Keith was killed and his body was left at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area near Las Vegas, Nevada in 2012. His family worked for 10 months to get the permits and secure a million-dollar liability insurance policy required by the National Park Service before it would allow a trained volunteer search and recovery team to search for his body in the national park. 

In addition, the bill includes language backed by Sens. Warner and Kaine, along with the entire Virginia delegation, that designates the George C. Marshall Museum and Research Library in Lexington as the National George C. Marshall Museum and Library.

 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Finance, Banking, Budget and Rules committees and Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today wrote to the heads of several federal Departments raising questions about the Trump Administration’s compliance with the Antideficiency Act, which prohibits federal agencies from obligating or expending federal funds not appropriated by Congress. Now in its 32nd day, the current shutdown is the longest in American history, and questions are being raised about the seemingly ad hoc way in which the Trump Administration is picking “winners and losers” during the shutdown – determining which employees will be furloughed and which employees will be deemed “excepted,” expected to continue working without pay to keep certain government services operational. 

Previous presidential administrations have applied a narrow interpretation to determine which employees are considered essential during a shutdown, restricting such a designation only to employees whose jobs were necessary to avoid “emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property.”

“Government shutdowns are never good, the current one being no exception, and they never produce positive results. Our hard-working federal employees deserve to be paid for their work, and to be paid in a timely manner rather than waiting weeks, months, or even years for a shutdown to end. Rather than finding ways to minimize the impact of the current government shutdown, and straining legal bounds to do so, it is my strong belief that the best way to fix the current situation is to simply end the shutdown,”Sen. Warner wrote to several Trump Administration officials.

Press reports indicate that Department heads under the Trump Administration have taken a questionable and inconsistent approach towards determining what programs will continue to operate under the shutdown:

  • For example, at the Department of the Interior, furloughed employees from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management were recalled after several weeks in order to work on upcoming offshore oil and gas lease sales;
  • During the shutdown, the State Department proceeded with holding a conference for all U.S. chiefs of mission and ambassadors abroad in Washington, D.C. from January 15-18, requiring many State Department employees to work without pay to organize and work at the conference; moreover, the Department recently recalled all furloughed employees in order to carry out the Department's mission without providing additional explanation on how this complied with the Antideficiency Act and why that move was needed to avoid imminent threats to human life or protection of property;
  • More than three weeks after the shutdown began, the Department of Transportation recalled  thousands of employees to perform work such as air-safety checks, and routine activities such as approving new aircraft for commercial carriers’ fleets and new flight routes;
  • At the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS), employees were recalled, reportedly at the behest of the mortgage industry, to conduct income verification checks, and to process tax refunds, even though both activities were initially designed as non-excepted activities under the IRS’s shutdown plans;
  • The Department of Agriculture recalled 2,500 Farm Service Agency employees to help farmers with existing loans and tax paperwork, among other tasks. 

Letters were sent to the InteriorStateTreasuryAgriculture, and Transportation Departments, as well as the IRS

 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) sent a letter today to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, stressing the importance of sustained funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The lawmakers expressed concern with the agency’s ability to support states and grocery stores, following a decision by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to issue February SNAP benefits weeks ahead of schedule. The letter also highlights a lack of guidance for recipients who may be forced to go without the assistance if the government shutdown persists beyond the month of February.

USDA has been particularly impacted by the partial government shutdown. Nearly 95 percent of USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) workers have been furloughed, affecting the agency’s ability to run SNAP—a program that 776,000 Virginians rely on to meet their basic nutritional needs. SNAP keeps more than 150,000 Virginians, including 79,000 children, out of poverty every year by granting families and individuals access to nutritious foods.

“Recently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it was taking the unprecedented step of issuing SNAP benefits a month early to ensure that individuals are able to receive their benefits for February. While we are pleased that USDA was able to identify funds to continue SNAP benefits during the shutdown, we are concerned the agency is not providing adequate support to states and grocery retailers, who are dealing with the massive logistical challenge of distributing SNAP benefits weeks earlier than normal,” wrote the Senators. 

The Senators continued, “In addition, we are troubled by the lack of information from USDA about its ability to continue SNAP benefits through March and beyond if this shutdown continues into February… We urge you to provide additional information on other funding options you have at your disposal to continue SNAP payments for March and beyond if the shutdown is not resolved in a timely manner… Given the importance of this program for many of our constituents, we ask that you do all you can to ensure the uninterrupted issuance of SNAP benefits as long as this shutdown continues.”

 

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

 

The Honorable Sonny Perdue

Secretary         

U.S. Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Ave., S.W.

Washington, DC 20250 

 

Dear Secretary Perdue:

 

We write today concerning the uncertainty surrounding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) during the ongoing partial federal government shutdown. Recently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it was taking the unprecedented step of issuing SNAP benefits a month early to ensure that individuals are able to receive their benefits for February. While we are pleased that USDA was able to identify funds to continue SNAP benefits during the shutdown, we are concerned the agency is not providing adequate support to states and grocery retailers, who are dealing with the massive logistical challenge of distributing SNAP benefits weeks earlier than normal. In addition, we are troubled by the lack of information from USDA about its ability to continue SNAP benefits through March and beyond if this shutdown continues into February.

Every month, approximately 776,000 Virginians receive SNAP benefits to meet their basic nutritional needs. One out of every eleven Virginians received SNAP benefits in 2017 and almost 70 percent of SNAP participants were households with children. According to Michael McKee, CEO of Virginia’s largest food bank, Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, a funding lapse for SNAP will prevent food banks from feeding thousands of Virginians. Currently, SNAP provides about 12 times the amount of food as the nation’s food banks combined. A lapse in SNAP funding would be devastating for the thousands of Virginians that depend on this program each month. Low-income Virginians should not suffer the consequences of this unnecessary shutdown. 

Unfortunately, the ongoing government shutdown has impacted the ability of USDA to carry out this essential program. The Food and Nutrition Service, which processes SNAP benefits, has furloughed nearly 95 percent of its workforce. Even with a fully-staffed agency, it would be a tremendous undertaking for USDA and states to issue SNAP benefits weeks earlier than usual. Given the lack of available staff at USDA, the uniqueness of this situation, and the tight timeline, we are worried about the agency’s ability to support states as they rush to ensure their SNAP recipients receive their February benefits by the January 20th deadline. 

Additionally, we are concerned by USDA’s lack of guidance concerning SNAP benefits after February, should the government shutdown continue into next month. Last year, Congress provided USDA $3 billion for a SNAP contingency fund. While not an insignificant number, this fund would likely not cover a full month of SNAP benefits for current users, considering the average monthly cost of the program is $4.8 billion. This means that the nearly 40 million recipients of SNAP do not know when additional funds will be added to their benefit cards after January 20th. We urge you to provide additional information on other funding options you have at your disposal to continue SNAP payments for March and beyond if the shutdown is not resolved in a timely manner.

Beyond providing Virginians access to healthy and nutritious foods, SNAP is one of Virginia’s best tools to fight poverty. The program keeps more than 150,000 Virginians, including 79,000 children, out of poverty annually. Given the importance of this program for many of our constituents, we ask that you do all you can to ensure the uninterrupted issuance of SNAP benefits as long as this shutdown continues.

Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to your reply.

 

Sincerely,

###

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

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

View text of the Government Employee Fair Treatment ActHERE.

 

###

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The full text of today’s letter follows:

 

December 6, 2018

 

The Honorable Joseph J. Simons

Chairman

Federal Trade Commission

600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20530

 

Dear Chairman Simons,

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Sincerely,

 

Mark R. Warner

United States Senator

 

 

###

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

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

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

 

###

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

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

 

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

 

November 11, 2018

 

The Honorable Lee J. Lofthus
Assistant Attorney General for Administration 

  and Designated Agency Ethics Officer

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

 

Dear Assistant Attorney General Lofthus:

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

 

Charles E. Schumer

Democratic Leader

U.S. Senate

 

Nancy Pelosi

Democratic Leader

U.S. House of Representatives

 

Dianne Feinstein

Ranking Member

Committee on the Judiciary

U.S. Senate

 

Jerrold Nadler

Ranking Member

Committee on the Judiciary

U.S. House of Representatives

 

Mark R. Warner

Vice Chairman

Select Committee on Intelligence

U.S. Senate

 

Adam B. Schiff

Ranking Member

Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

U.S. House of Representatives

 

Elijah Cummings

Ranking Member

Committee on Oversight &

Government Reform

U.S. House of Representatives

 

###

 

 

 



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Honorable James N. Mattis

Secretary of Defense

U.S. Department of Defense

1000 Defense Pentagon

Washington, D.C. 20301

 

Dear Secretary Mattis:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Sincerely,

Mark R. Warner

 

 

###

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Full text of the bill can be found here.

 

VA National Park Deferred Maintenance as of 2017*

 

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

$1,998,224

Assateague Island NS

$2,774,577

Blue Ridge Parkway

$186,619,608

Booker T Washington National Monument

$1,370,913

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove NHP

$327,072

Colonial National Historical Park

$421,872,932

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

$1,848,864

Fort Monroe National Monument

$2,280,548

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Battlefields Mem NMP

$10,371,731

George Washington Birthplace National Monument

$1,306,614

George Washington Memorial Parkway

$233,441,316

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

$64,760

Maggie L Walker National Historic Site

$531,648

Manassas National Battlefield Park

$6,516,560

Petersburg National Battlefield

$11,754,041

Prince William Forest Park

$18,619,932

Richmond National Battlefield Park

$6,581,205

Shenandoah National Park

$79,208,621

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

$31,149,289

Total

$1,018,629,457


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

 

###

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

September 20, 2018

 

The Honorable Michael Horowitz

Inspector General 

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20530-0001 

 

Dear Mr. Horowitz,

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

o    Who was involved in the decision to reverse course?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

###

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

###

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

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

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

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

 

Health Care:

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

 

Defense:

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

 

Education:

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

 

Workers:

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

 

###

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hampton Roads Infrastructure:

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

###