Press Releases

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $2,056,299 in federal funding to support the development of 11 housing units in Frederick County to provide affordable housing to lower-income elderly households. The funding, available through the Section 202 program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), will allow older adults to live independently while also receiving supportive services.

“We are pleased that these federal funds will provide support for affordable housing in Frederick County,” said the Senators. “These new housing units will help improve the quality of life for older adults in the community.”

The Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program provides capital advances to finance the development of housing for low-income elderly residents. The program expands the supply of affordable housing with supportive services for the elderly such as cleaning, cooking, and transportation.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) were joined by seventeen of their Senate colleagues in encouraging the U.S. Department of Education to expand its planned analysis of federal K-12 education spending to include dual and concurrent enrollment programs and early college high schools.

In their letter, the Senators urged the Department to examine utilization, outcomes and best practices of college in high school programs that receive funding through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The most recent reauthorization of ESEA – the Every Student Succeeds Act – passed on a bipartisan basis in 2015 with the support of Sens. Warner and Portman, who both successfully included a number of provisions to increase access to dual and concurrent enrollment programs.

“As strong supporters of college in high school programs such as dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment, and early college high school programs, we write to urge the U.S. Department of Education to examine how school districts are using federal funding opportunities created by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to support increasing student access to high quality programs that promote academic success,” wrote the Senators. “ESSA recognizes the important roles that these college in high school programs can play in preparing students—particularly those from low-income and underrepresented backgrounds—for success in college and career. Through these programs, high school students gain exposure to the academic challenges of college, earning transcripted, transferable college credit often at reduced or no tuition cost.”

“Numerous rigorous, multi-institution, and statewide quantitative research studies in more than a dozen states have proven that these programs increase high school graduation, college readiness, and college access, persistence, and completion, especially for students traditionally underrepresented in higher education,” they continued. “An examination by the Department of school districts’ use of funds to support college in high school programs would be timely and help inform future policymaking to ensure more low-income and underrepresented students have access to these successful models.”

In December 2019, the Department of Education announced its plan to analyze the dollars spent by 400 of the nation’s school districts on five programs (Part A of Titles I, II, III and IV of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and Title I, Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). This analysis would be the government’s first education spending study of its kind to occur since 2009.

Sens. Warner and Portman have been strong advocates of expanding access to dual and concurrent enrollment. They introduced legislation last year to allow eligible low-income students to use their Pell Grant funding to pay for college credits they accrue while still in high school. Sens. Warner and Portman have also been supportive of the Department of Education’s dual enrollment Pell experimental program, which allows eligible students at 42 sites across the country – including Central Virginia Community College – to access their Pell Grant dollars while enrolled in dual enrollment courses. In 2018, they urged the Administration to consider expanding the dual enrollment Pell experiment to meet the goal of 10,000 participating low-income high school students.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Portman, this letter was sent by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), John Boozman (R-AR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

 

The Honorable Betsy DeVos

Secretary

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue SW

Washington, DC 20202-1510

Dear Secretary DeVos:

As strong supporters of college in high school programs such as dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment, and early college high school programs, we write to urge the U.S. Department of Education to examine how school districts are using federal funding opportunities created by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to support increasing student access to high quality programs that promote academic success. The Department recently announced plans to study district and school uses of federal education funds for ESSA (ED–2019–ICCD–0160). We strongly encourage you to examine utilization, outcomes, and best practices of college in high school programs as part of that initiative.

ESSA recognizes the important roles that these college in high school programs can play in preparing students—particularly those from low-income and underrepresented backgrounds—for success in college and career. Through these programs, high school students gain exposure to the academic challenges of college, earning transcripted, transferable college credit often at reduced or no tuition cost.

Numerous rigorous, multi-institution, and statewide quantitative research studies in more than a dozen states have proven that these programs increase high school graduation, college readiness, and college access, persistence, and completion, especially for students traditionally underrepresented in higher education. Additionally, in 2017 the Institute of Education Sciences’ What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) reviewed dozens of studies against their strict criteria and found a medium-to-large evidence base that shows positive impacts on college enrollment and completion from participating in dual enrollment programs.

We encourage the Department to examine how states and districts are leveraging and coordinating federal resources across funding streams for which dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment, and early college high school are allowable uses to support a comprehensive network of high-quality programs. Namely, ESSA established a series of reporting requirements, state and local plan components, and allowable uses of funds all aimed at encouraging states and local education agencies to prioritize dual and concurrent enrollment as a key strategy for successfully preparing students for college and the workforce.

Since these provisions are all housed in portions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that the Department intends to analyze as part of its Study of District and School Uses of Federal Education Funds (i.e. Titles I, II, III, and IV) and many of the provisions impacting dual and concurrent enrollment programs were new to federal law with the passage of ESSA, an examination by the Department of school districts’ use of funds to support college in high school programs would be timely and help inform future policymaking to ensure more low-income and underrepresented students have access to these successful models.

We appreciate your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) announced that he will be inviting a Medicaid recipient and health care advocate from Chesapeake, Va. as his guest to the President’s State of the Union address on Tuesday evening. Terry “Bean” White, who lost his private insurance in 2008 when severe arthritis forced him to give up his job in the Newport News shipyards, is one of nearly 400,000 Virginians who gained coverage under Virginia’s Medicaid expansion and who are in danger of losing their health care coverage if the Trump Administration is successful in its effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in court.

Mr. White, who has congestive heart failure and has been previously treated for prostate cancer, became eligible for coverage after the Commonwealth expanded Medicaid at the beginning of last year – a move that was made possible under the ACA. Prior to that, Mr. White incurred an enormous amount of medical debt and had no choice but to move in with his sister, her daughter, and her two-year-old granddaughter.

“Despite the Trump Administration’s best efforts to dismantle our nation’s health care law, people like Mr. White are proof that Obamacare is working for Americans, and that Medicaid expansion is thriving in Virginia,” said Sen. Warner. “Bean was a hard worker who lost his health insurance through no fault of his own and soon found himself drowning in health care debt – all while struggling to manage his medical conditions. Thankfully, he was able to access coverage after Virginia voted to expand Medicaid under the ACA. But now, under the Republican-backed lawsuit that seeks to wipe out our nation’s health law, hundreds of thousands of Virginians like Bean are at risk of losing the coverage that in many cases keeps them alive and stands between them and bankruptcy. I hope that his presence will serve as a reminder of the potentially devastating consequences if the Trump Administration’s shameful lawsuit succeeds in overturning the health care law Congress passed back in 2010.”

“It is an honor to be invited to the State of the Union and I would like to thank Senator Warner,” said Mr. White. “The senator understands that without the ACA some of us, like myself, wouldn't be here. I am diabetic and recently survived prostate cancer. If it weren’t for Medicaid expansion, I would pay about $7,000 a month in medication costs.”

In December, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the individual mandate as unconstitutional and remanded the Texas vs. United States lawsuit to the lower court, instructing it to rule on which parts of the ACA should be eliminated. If the President’s lawsuit is successful, more than 20 million Americans and nearly 400,000 Virginians could lose their health coverage, with costs going up for millions.

In Virginia, Medicaid expansion made more than 400,000 Virginians like Mr. White eligible for low- or no-cost health care coverage. As of January 2020, more than 375,000 people have actually enrolled in the program. Prior to this expansion, these individuals fell into a “coverage gap” due to incomes that were too high to be eligible for Medicaid, but too low to receive tax credits to purchase affordable coverage in the health care marketplace.

Sen. Warner has been a champion of health care access for all Virginians amid this Administration’s relentless efforts to dismantle our nation’s health care law in Congress and now in court. Last week, Sen. Warner denounced a new plan by the Trump Administration to allow and incentivize states to cut Medicaid funding, thereby undermining Medicaid’s critical financing structure and putting care for vulnerable Americans on the chopping block. Last year, Sen. Warner introduced legislation to allow Virginia, and any other states that expanded Medicaid after the 2014 deadline, to receive the same federal matching funds as states that expanded earlier under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. According to the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, this bill would save Virginia’s hospitals an estimated $300 million per year in the first three years of implementation. Additionally, in October, Sen. Warner forced a Senate vote on a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would have overturned a Trump Administration waiver rule that destabilizes the nation’s health insurance market and weakens protections for three million Virginians with preexisting conditions.  

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Elaine Luria (D-VA), sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting $5.4 million in the Army Corps FY 2020 Work Plan for the Norfolk Coastal Storm Risk Management Project. The funding will be used to complete the Preliminary Engineering and Design (PED) phase of the project. The first phase of the project was authorized in the 2018 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which was supported by Sens. Warner and Kaine to develop mitigation solutions to reduce water surge risk in Norfolk. The project is eligible to be authorized for general construction in the 2020 WRDA.

“The City of Norfolk, Virginia is a highly urbanized area with most of the City falling below an elevation of 15 feet. The low elevation places Norfolk at risk from flooding due to high tides, nor’easters, and hurricanes. In August 2011, Hurricane Irene caused debilitating floods in the region resulting in millions of dollars in damages and the displacement of thousands of families. This flooding, because of the concentration of globally valuable military and economic assets located in Norfolk, poses great risk to key national assets,” wrote the members of Congress.

The Norfolk Coastal Storm Risk Management Project will establish a series of structural and non-structural barriers to reduce the risk of water surges in structures including:

  • The Hague / Downtown Storm Surge Barrier: This structural feature would be a 600 linear foot storm surge barrier with a pump and power station. The surge barrier would tie into 27,236 linear feet of constructed floodwall and 2,582 linear feet of earthen levee. Three pump stations also would be constructed and operated for interior drainage.
  • Pretty Lake Storm Surge Barrier: This structural feature would be a 114 linear foot storm surge barrier with a pump and power station. The feature would tie into 5,642 linear feet of floodwall.
  • Lafayette River Storm Surge Barrier: This structural feature would be a 6,634 linear foot storm surge barrier with a power station. The feature would tie into 1,535 linear feet of constructed earthen levee. Three tide gates would be constructed and operated.
  • Broad Creek Storm Surge Barrier: This feature would be a 1,291 linear foot storm surge barrier with four operational tide gates and a power station. The surge barrier would tie into approximately 8,787 linear feet of flood wall. One pump station also would be constructed and operated for interior drainage.
  • Natural and Nature-Based Features (NNBF): These Coastal Storm Risk Management (CSRM) features would include approximately 0.3 acres of oyster reef and approximately 8.9 acres of living shoreline to increase resiliency.

In their letter, the members of Congress also emphasized that every additional year it takes to complete Norfolk’s flood risk management project only hurts the city’s ability to better prepare for extreme weather.

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

 

Dear Acting Director Vought and Assistant Secretary James:

We write today to urge you to include funding for the City of Norfolk, Virginia’s Coastal Storm Risk Management (CSRM) project in the FY 2020 Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) Work Plan. Specifically, we request $5.4 million in the Work Plan to complete the Preliminary Engineering and Design (PED) phase of the project.

The City of Norfolk, Virginia is a highly urbanized area with most of the City falling below an elevation of 15 feet. The low elevation places Norfolk at risk from flooding due to high tides, nor’easters, and hurricanes. In August 2011, Hurricane Irene caused debilitating floods in the region resulting in millions of dollars in damages and the displacement of thousands of families. This flooding, because of the concentration of globally valuable military and economic assets located in Norfolk, poses great risk to key national assets. 

The City hosts Naval Station Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world with a capital replacement value of over $4 billion. Norfolk is home to the United States Fleet Forces Command, including the former U.S. Atlantic Fleet and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Allied Command Transformation, the only NATO command headquartered in North America. The City also hosts Norfolk International Terminals, which is the largest terminal of the Virginia Port Authority—the third busiest port on the eastern seaboard.  

Sea level rise combined with land subsidence exacerbates storm flooding. The frequency, extent, and duration of flooding has increased in recent years in the region and is projected to rise in the future. Norfolk is one of the cities with the highest rate of relative sea level rise (combined sea level and subsidence) among Atlantic coastal communities, as documented in the “Evidence of Sea Level Acceleration at U.S. and Canadian Tide Stations, Atlantic Coast, North America,” and the U.S. Geological Survey Report, “National Assessment of Coastal Vulnerability to Sea Level Rise.” Recent storms that flooded major portions of Norfolk were Hurricane Isabel in 2003, the November 2009 nor’easter, Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. For these reasons, the Army Corps identified Norfolk as one of the nine areas of high risk by the North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study (NACCS).

The purposes of the City of Norfolk, Virginia Coastal Storm Risk Management project are to provide structural and/or non-structural solution sets for mitigating the impacts of flooding, and to assist the City of Norfolk in making prudent decisions regarding their water resource needs. 

Extreme weather events will always be a concern in this region. Each additional year it takes to complete Norfolk’s flood risk management project is another opportunity for the next hurricane to devastate this low-lying coastal area. By mitigating future risks, the government can save money on cleanup costs, while providing area families and communities an assurance of safety in the event of catastrophic weather.

The City of Norfolk’s flood risk management project is a major priority for the Commonwealth of Virginia, and we encourage you to consider this request for inclusion in the FY 2020 Work Plan.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement after the Trump Administration announced a new plan to allow and incentivize states to cut Medicaid funding, thereby undermining Medicaid’s critical financing structure and putting care for vulnerable Americans on the chopping block:

“I am very troubled by the Medicaid demonstration program announced today by the Trump Administration. Instead of focusing its efforts on improving and expanding access to health care coverage, this Administration continues down the road of undermining our nation’s health care system – this time by unveiling a proposal that will disrupt access to affordable health care for millions of Americans.

“It is clear the Administration is going to keep ignoring the repeated warnings of our physicians, hospitals and leading health experts across the country who have emphatically stated that such a proposal will lead to increased health care costs and reduced health care coverage. Plain and simple – this new demonstration program will allow states to cut essential and legally mandated health care benefits including coverage for behavioral health and substance use disorder, while increasing costs for other services across the board. Additionally, this rule will harm our ongoing efforts to combat the opioid and addiction epidemic and will increase the number of Americans without access to affordable health care coverage.”

In addition to allowing states to cut key Medicaid benefits and increasing costs for Medicaid expansion enrollees, the new Trump Administration rule allows states to deny retroactive health care coverage and payments to newly enrolled beneficiaries.

Sen. Warner, a longtime champion of access to health care, has been outspoken about the Trump Administration’s most recent effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act in court. Last year, he introduced legislation to allow Virginia, and any other states that expanded Medicaid after the 2014 deadline, to receive the same federal matching funds as states that expanded earlier under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. According to the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, this bill would save Virginia’s hospitals an estimated $300 million per year in the first three years of implementation. Additionally, in October, Sen. Warner forced a Senate vote on a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would have overturned a Trump Administration waiver rule that destabilizes the nation’s health insurance market and weakens protections for three million Virginians with preexisting conditions.  

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WASHINGTON – A bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and John Boozman (R-AR) to help address the alarming rate of veteran suicide is one step closer to becoming law. Today, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee included language from the Senators’ IMPROVE Well-Being for Veterans Act as a provision in a comprehensive bill that expands veterans’ access to mental health services. The legislation unanimously passed the committee and now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

“Our nation’s veterans have faithfully served our country, and they deserve to know that, as they face the invisible wounds of war, we will do everything we can to make sure they receive the help they need. Currently, we are facing an alarming rate of suicide deaths among our veteran population and we’ve got to make tackling this issue a priority. With today’s markup of our bill, we are one step closer to making sure veterans get the services and resources they need,” said Sen. Warner.

“This is a great step in the right direction to getting our veterans the resources, services and care they need. Coordinating and sharing information between the VA and veteran-serving organizations that have the common goal to save lives will have a positive impact,” said Sen. Boozman.

 The IMPROVE Well-Being for Veterans Act creates a new grant program to enable the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct additional outreach through veteran-serving non-profits in addition to state and local organizations. Additionally, the bipartisan bill enhances coordination and planning of veteran mental health and suicide prevention services and would better measure the effectiveness of these programs in order to reduce the alarming number of veteran suicides.

The VA estimates that around 20 veterans die by suicide each day. That number has unfortunately remained roughly unchanged despite drastic increases in funding. Over the last ten years, Congress has more than tripled the VA’s funding for suicide prevention efforts to $222 million.

Only six of those 20 veterans were receiving healthcare services from the VA before their death. That’s why Sens. Warner and Boozman are empowering the VA to share information with veteran-serving non-profits and requiring it to develop a tool to monitor progress so that resources can be concentrated on successful programs.

The IMPROVE Well-Being for Veterans Act was introduced in June 2019. Days later, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie called the bill “key” to unlocking the veteran suicide crisis at a committee hearing.

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined his colleagues in a bipartisan, bicameral letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Chad Wolf urging the Administration to immediately increase the statutory cap of H-2B visas for fiscal year 2020. The government funding bills that were signed into law authorize the DHS Secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor, to release over 60,000 additional H-2B visas for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2020.

The H-2B temporary non-agricultural visa program is vital to helping small and seasonal employers across the Commonwealth sustain their businesses, and supporting Virginia jobs dependent upon seasonal business industries, such as seafood. H-2B visas are critical to ensuring Virginia’s seafood businesses, many of which have been family-owned for generations, have the labor force they need during peak harvest season.

“These American businesses depend on seasonal employment to meet the demand across many industries. Without immediate and meaningful H-2B cap relief, seasonal businesses will be forced to scale back operations, cancel or default on contracts, lay off full-time U.S. workers and, in some cases, close operations completely. By taking quick action to release additional H-2B visas, seasonal businesses and U.S. workers across the country will avoid these harmful consequences, and instead, help contribute to the American economy,” wrote the members of Congress.

In their letter, the members of Congress also emphasized that due to the continued low unemployment rate and the growing demand for H-2B workers, the Administration must promptly make these additional visas available.

Sen. Warner has a long record of fighting for Virginia’s seafood industry. Earlier this month, Sen. Warner met with Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia to discuss the impact of the H-2B program on Virginia and urged him to work with DHS to release the additional H-2B visas as quickly as possible. Sen. Warner has also introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen the H-2B visa program, requested an audit to determine the number of unused visas that could be made available to eligible petitioners, and has repeatedly pushed DHS to provide necessary relief in the event that the visa cap gets close to being reached. 

In addition to Sen. Warner, the letter was also signed by 188 members of Congress, including several members of the Virginia congressional delegation: U.S. Reps. Rob Wittman (R-VA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), and Jennifer Wexton (D-VA).

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

 

The Honorable Chad F. Wolf

Acting Secretary

U.S. Department of Homeland Security        

3801 Nebraska Avenue, NW                          

Washington, DC 20528          

Dear Acting Secretary Wolf:

We write on behalf of seasonal businesses in our states from industries such as tourism and hospitality, landscaping, fairs and carnivals, seafood processing, golf courses, reforestation, contractors and horse racing, who continue to struggle with seasonal labor shortages that are made worse by the inadequate H-2B visa cap. Under the “Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020”, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with Secretary of the Department of Labor (DOL), is authorized to provide expeditious H-2B cap relief for our local businesses’ upcoming seasonal labor needs.

These American businesses depend on seasonal employment to meet the demand across many industries. Without immediate and meaningful H-2B cap relief, seasonal businesses will be forced to scale back operations, cancel or default on contracts, lay off full-time U.S. workers and, in some cases, close operations completely. By taking quick action to release additional H-2B visas, seasonal businesses and U.S. workers across the country will avoid these harmful consequences, and instead, help contribute to the American economy.

The recently passed Fiscal Year 2020 Further Consolidated Appropriations bill provides DHS with the authority to lift the existing 66,000 H-2B visa cap. The language is identical to the language that was enacted in each of the past three years. In each of those years, DHS has provided supplemental cap relief in the amounts of 15,000, 15,000 and 30,000 respectively. While these supplemental visas helped some employers who were shut out of the program, they were not sufficient to satisfy the total need for H-2B workers. Additionally, these visas were not released until well into many businesses’ peak seasons, which caused significant harm to the seasonal industry. We urge you to release a significant number of additional visas as soon as possible to prevent this from happening in FY 20. According to the Department’s May 2019 rule entitled “Exercise of Time-Limited Authority to Increase the Fiscal Year 2019 Numerical Limitation for the H-2B Temporary Nonagricultural Worker Program,” you are authorized to release 64,716 additional visas under this language.

As you know, the first half H-2B visa cap for FY 20 was reached on November 15, 2019, almost a month earlier than previous years. The DOL has certified the need for approximately 51,000 H-2B workers with a date of need between October 1 and March 31 with approximately 2,500 petitions still under review. Therefore, between 18,000 and 20,500 needed H-2B worker positions will remain vacant without the expeditious release of additional visas.

Additionally, the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) announced that within the first 24 hours of opening the Foreign Labor Application Gateway System for peak filing season that opened on January 2, 2020, employers filed 4,930 applications for more than 87,298 worker positions with an April 1, 2020, or later, work start date. By the end of the filing deadline on January 6, 2020, OFLC had received a total of 5,677 H-2B applications requesting 99,362 worker positions. This is more than triple the number of visa applications currently available for the second half of the fiscal year.

As a result, we urge DHS to release the maximum number of additional visas without delay. Congress was clear in the report accompanying the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020” that DHS rely on past rulemaking and act as quickly as possible in releasing additional visas. The report language states that, “USCIS is encouraged to leverage prior year materials relating to the issuance of additional H-2B visas, to include previous temporary final rules, to improve processing efficiencies.” As you know, the FY 19 temporary final rule was only released eight months ago, and there are no new legislative authorities or technical facts to review. Therefore, additional rulemaking should not be required.

Given the continued low unemployment and growing demand for H-2B workers, as evidenced by the recent number of applications for the second half of the fiscal year, we urge the Department to promptly make available all 64,716 additional visas authorized under the law as soon as possible. These vital American businesses depend on the expeditious release of a sufficient number of additional visas. We thank you in advance for your attention to this pressing matter.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and co-chair of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, issued the following statement after the United Kingdom announced its decision to allow Chinese equipment provider Huawei to help build its 5G wireless network:

"I am disappointed by the UK’s decision today, especially since the security risks are so well understood. But under current circumstances, I remain committed to working with the UK and other key allies to build more diverse and secure telecommunication options that provide competitive alternatives to Huawei.  I have introduced legislation that seeks to accomplish that, including a Multilateral Telecommunications Security Fund, and hope the UK will commit to partnering on this effort in the coming months. It is critical that countries committed to building and maintaining secure networks come together. Current financial support by China for Huawei puts any Western alternative at a serious disadvantage.”

Sen. Warner, a former telecommunications entrepreneur, has been outspoken about the dangers of allowing the use of Huawei equipment in U.S. telecommunications infrastructure, and that of U.S. allies. Earlier this month, Sen. Warner and a bipartisan group of leading national security Senators introduced legislation to encourage and support U.S. innovation in the race for 5G, providing over $1 billion to invest in Western-based alternatives to Chinese equipment providers Huawei and ZTE. Last year, he and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) warned the Trump Administration against using Huawei as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations, and urged Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in Canada’s 5G development, introduction and maintenance.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and 28 of their Democratic Senate colleagues in requesting updates on the Administration’s response to the outbreak of Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and information on the steps being taken to keep families safe.

This letter comes on the heels of an announcement by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), which earlier today ruled out Novel Coronavirus in two of three Patients Under Investigation, who met both clinical and epidemiologic criteria for the coronavirus. Test results for a third individual from Northern Virginia are expected to be received later this week.

“We write to express concern about the rapidly evolving 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), to urge your continued robust and scientifically driven response to the situation, and to assess whether any additional resources or action by Congress are needed at this time. A quick and effective response to the 2019-nCoV requires public health officials around the world work together to share reliable information about the disease and insight into steps taken to prevent, diagnose, and treat it appropriately,” wrote the Senators.

They continued, “Unfortunately, the 2019-nCoV outbreak follows troubling proposals from the Trump Administration to cut the budgets of core public health programs at home and abroad. Yet, outbreaks like this serve as a solemn reminder of the need for an unwavering commitment to global health security and the need for strong public health programs worldwide.”

Despite repeated calls by the Trump Administration for cuts to public health programs, the December budget deal backed by Sens. Warner and Kaine increased funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its Infectious Disease Rapid Response Reserve Fund, which provides the agency with an immediate source of funding to prevent, prepare for, or respond to an infectious disease emergency either at home or abroad.

Sen. Kaine has introduced the Saving Lives Through Better Data Act, bipartisan legislation to modernize public health data infrastructure so clinicians, state health departments, and the CDC can work together more quickly and seamlessly to identify and respond to health threats like the coronavirus.

In their letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Senators also requested that the Department provide information regarding the severity of the disease, the country’s capacity to diagnose cases, the steps being taken to prepare U.S. health care workers, the screening systems in place at U.S. airports, the status of a novel coronavirus vaccine, and more.

In addition to Sens. Warner, Kaine and Murray, the letter was signed by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Jack Reed (D-RI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Angus King (I-ME), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

 

Dear Secretary Azar,

We write to express concern about the rapidly evolving 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), to urge your continued robust and scientifically driven response to the situation, and to assess whether any additional resources or action by Congress are needed at this time. A quick and effective response to the 2019-nCoV requires public health officials around the world work together to share reliable information about the disease and insight into steps taken to prevent, diagnose, and treat it appropriately.

Chinese health officials confirmed the first case of 2019-nCoV in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. Since then, the case count has exploded in China, with nearly 3,000 confirmed cases as of the writing of this letter. At least 80 people have died. Cases have now been confirmed on four continents. On January 21, the first U.S. case was confirmed in Washington state, where state and local public health officials quickly responded with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A second U.S. case was confirmed in Chicago on January 24. Subsequently, CDC confirmed two cases in California and one in Arizona, bringing the total U.S. case count to five. Airport screening procedures have been put in place to screen all passengers arriving in the U.S. from Wuhan. In Wuhan, and across China, officials have enacted travel restrictions and canceled planned festivals to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Even with these steps, the case count in China is expected to continue to rise, along with additional cases in the U.S. and around the globe. The World Health Organization is monitoring the situation closely, but has determined it is too early to formally designate this as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. A quick, robust, and comprehensive approach to this outbreak is critical, while also remaining aware that, according to CDC, “the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV to the general American public is considered low at this time.”

Unfortunately, the 2019-nCoV outbreak follows troubling proposals from the Trump Administration to cut the budgets of core public health programs at home and abroad. Yet, outbreaks like this serve as a solemn reminder of the need for an unwavering commitment to global health security and the need for strong public health programs worldwide.

We recognize the situation is evolving quickly and appreciate the information you have already provided. We ask you keep us apprised of developments as they occur, including any information related to the following questions:

1)      What can Congress do to fully support the U.S. Government response to this outbreak?

2)      How many HHS officials are currently engaged in the 2019-nCoV response domestically and abroad and in what capacities?

3)      What is HHS's best current judgment about the clinical severity of this disease? 

4)      What is the current domestic diagnostic capacity? How many facilities across the country are able to diagnose 2019-nCoV?

5)      What is currently known about the risk 2019-nCoV poses to health care workers? How is CDC communicating with U.S. health care facilities to ensure providers remain healthy and safe? What additional guidance is being supplied to health care providers?

6)      How many passengers have been screened by the airport screening procedures that are in place at American airports? How many potential cases have been identified as a result of this screening? Are there any planned changes to airport screening procedures?

7)      What progress has been made on the development of a 2019-nCoV vaccine?

Thank you for your attention to this urgent issue.

Sincerely,

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) and the entire Virginia congressional delegation urged the U.S. Army National Guard to prioritize funding for a new aviation facility in Richmond, Va. as part of the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP). With the current facility already impacting mission execution, the funding will help complete a much-needed facility to house the Virginia Army National Guard’s 28-aircraft fleet by the time its current lease with the Richmond Airport expires in 2032. The FYDP is typically included as part of the President’s budget, which outlines the programs and budget requests for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

“This project is the number one priority for the Virginia Army National Guard and is desperately needed to replace aging and undersized facilities at Richmond International Airport, which are no longer suitable for mission execution,” wrote the members of Congress. “Additionally, the existing facility must be vacated by the National Guard as they have been formally notified by the airfield that their lease will not be renewed in order to make way for a planned runway expansion. Due to the criticality of this capability for the National Guard, the Commonwealth of Virginia has appropriated $4.5 million in state funding to support this project, even though state contribution is not required.”

To date, the project has been dependent on incremental phases and funding. In their letter to the U.S. Army National Guard, the members of Congress reiterated full federal funding is required to complete the aviation facility that is better suited for their operational needs and ensures that it will be ready in time for the pending relocation.

“The Virginia Army National Guard continues to compete the Army Aviation Support Facility project in phases, with Phase I being successfully placed on the FY24 FYDP. Unfortunately, the algorithms used for such competition make it highly unlikely that the entire requirement will be funded before the Virginia Army National Guard’s aviation fleet is ejected from its current facility. This concern, in conjunction with the cost savings and operational efficiencies of designing and constructing the facility as a single project, lead us to believe that the best solution for the mission and the taxpayers is to fund the entire requirement of $89 million in one fiscal year,” concluded the members of Congress.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Kaine, the letter was signed by U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Rob Wittman (R-VA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Don Beyer (D-VA), A. Donald McEachin (D-VA), Ben Cline (R-VA), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Denver Riggleman (R-VA), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), and Jennifer Wexton (D-VA).

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

 

LTG Daniel R. Hokanson

Director, Army National Guard

111 S. George Mason Drive

Arlington, VA 22204

Dear LTG Hokanson,

We write in strong support of the proposed Army Aviation Support Facility (AASF) for the Virginia National Guard. We urge you to consider identifying this project in the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP), and ideally request funding in the upcoming release of the President's Budget for Fiscal Year 2021.

As you are aware, this project would construct a 228,000 square foot facility to support the Virginia National Guard's Army aviation mission. This project is the number one priority for the Virginia Army National Guard and is desperately needed to replace aging and undersized facilities at Richmond International Airport, which are no longer suitable for mission execution. Additionally, the existing facility must be vacated by the National Guard as they have been formally notified by the airfield that their lease will not be renewed in order to make way for a planned runway expansion. Due to the criticality of this capability for the National Guard, the Commonwealth of Virginia has appropriated $4.5 million in state funding to support this project, even though state contribution is not required.

This military construction project will move the AASF to land already licensed to the Virginia Army National Guard that has an existing armory and airport access, two factors that yield significant construction and operational savings. The new facility is optimally located to support the National Capital Region and Hampton Roads military economic complex during natural or man-made disasters, while far enough removed to be less impacted by such events in these critical national security regions. The project will support the Virginia Army National Guard’s entire aviation fleet consisting of 28 aircraft. These aircraft support the combined arms training and readiness of forces for national defense, as well as the Commonwealth of Virginia's disaster response and recovery capabilities for Title 32 and Title 10 National Guard Civil Support missions.

The Virginia Army National Guard continues to compete the Army Aviation Support Facility project in phases, with Phase I being successfully placed on the FY24 FYDP. Unfortunately, the algorithms used for such competition make it highly unlikely that the entire requirement will be funded before the Virginia Army National Guard’s aviation fleet is ejected from its current facility. This concern, in conjunction with the cost savings and operational efficiencies of designing and constructing the facility as a single project, lead us to believe that the best solution for the mission and the taxpayers is to fund the entire requirement of $89 million in one fiscal year.

The Virginia Army National Guard completed an extensive site selection study and master plan to 10% design, as well as environmental, historical, and soils studies for the proposed location. This project is critical to the viability of the Army aviation mission for the Virginia Army National Guard and would help the National Guard save lease costs necessitated by the loss of the current facility, absent this MILCON. Given the critical nature of the operational needs for the Army aviation mission and the upcoming deadline for the relocation of these operations, we hope you will give all due consideration to funding this project in the near future. As you know, the Virginia National Guard always answers the call to service for the defense of the nation, and plays a pivotal role in the safekeeping of the National Capital Region and the Hampton Roads military economic complex.

We appreciate your attention to and consideration of this request, and we look forward to your favorable response on this matter. Our Congressional Delegation stands ready to support you in this important military construction project.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – With the General Assembly session scheduled to adjourn in March 2020, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to expedite its review of Virginia’s Plan to Regulate Hemp Production, in order to provide sufficient time for the General Assembly to update the Commonwealth’s hemp laws and address any potential deficiencies that may arise following USDA review.

“Industrial hemp presents an unprecedented opportunity for Virginia producers, and it is critically important that state and federal guidelines provide certainty and security to our farmers,” wrote the Senators. “Expeditious review of Virginia’s Plan to Regulate Hemp Production is needed to provide VDACS and other state agencies with the information they need to run an effective hemp program for the 2020 growing season.”

"Virginia is poised to be a top producer of industrial hemp in the country. In 2019, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) registered over 1,200 growers to produce approximately 2,200 acres of industrial hemp. We expect these figures to grow substantially in 2020 and beyond,” they continued. “If Virginia’s Hemp Production Plan is not processed in a timely manner, we are concerned this could cause complications for the Commonwealth’s hemp program and our producers, who are eager to take advantage of this exciting opportunity.”

Hemp is distinct from marijuana in that it has a miniscule concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and thus no narcotic capability. The plant is estimated to be used in more than 25,000 products, including agriculture, textile, recycling, automotive, furniture, food, nutrition, beverage, paper, personal care, and construction products.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been strong supporters of hemp as an agricultural commodity. In 2018, the Senators sponsored a provision in the Farm Bill that removed hemp from the list of controlled substances, allowing Virginia farmers to grow and sell the plant as a commodity. More recently in September 2019, Sens. Warner and Kaine successfully secured Virginia’s inclusion in a pilot to develop a crop insurance program for industrial hemp. In December 2019, the Senators backed two bipartisan, bicameral spending bills that provided $16.5 million in new funding to implement the Hemp Production Program. Additionally, in December, they urged USDA to make changes to its proposed hemp regulations to better help Virginia farmers seeking to grow industrial hemp.

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

 

Mr. Bruce Summers

Administrator

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) - Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)

1400 Independence Ave SW

Washington, DC 20228

Dear Mr. Summers:

We write today concerning the Commonwealth of Virginia’s recent submission of its Plan to Regulate Hemp Production. In the interest of ensuring the success of Virginia’s burgeoning hemp industry, we encourage USDA to review the Commonwealth’s plan expeditiously to provide growers across Virginia the certainty they require entering the 2020 growing season.

Virginia is poised to be a top producer of industrial hemp in the country. In 2019, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) registered over 1,200 growers to produce approximately 2,200 acres of industrial hemp. We expect these figures to grow substantially in 2020 and beyond. Industrial hemp presents an unprecedented opportunity for Virginia producers, and it is critically important that state and federal guidelines provide certainty and security to our farmers.

Expeditious review of Virginia’s Plan to Regulate Hemp Production is needed to provide VDACS and other state agencies with the information they need to run an effective hemp program for the 2020 growing season. In addition, the Virginia General Assembly is currently in session, and if any deficiencies that require legislative updates are found in the Commonwealth’s plan, a quick review and response would be helpful to guide the legislature. Virginia’s General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn in early March 2020, which provides a relatively narrow window of opportunity for the legislature to address any potential deficiencies. If Virginia’s Hemp Production Plan is not processed in a timely manner, we are concerned this could cause complications for the Commonwealth’s hemp program and our producers, who are eager to take advantage of this exciting opportunity.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure the development of a viable U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program. Please let us know if we can be of assistance moving forward.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – Today, following a closed-door hearing held by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the federal government’s security clearance reform efforts, Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) released the following statements:

Statement from Chairman Burr:

“I am pleased to say that we are seeing significant improvements in the security clearance process. The investigation backlog has come down from 725,000 cases in early 2018 to a steady-state level of just over 200,000 today. With the backlog under better control, the next phase of Trusted Workforce 2.0 is about to begin. The proposed reforms would aim to revamp the security clearance process and ensure our nation’s secrets are protected.

“These reforms cannot come a moment too soon. Our Intelligence Community is only as good as its people, but too often our most promising recruits get stuck in a discouraging, years-long clearance process before they can begin work. The delays disproportionately affect first or second generation Americans – folks who possess deep cultural understanding and diverse perspectives that are invaluable in the IC. Our system should be equipped to welcome a patriotic, first-generation Chinese-American who has spoken Mandarin since she was a child, while at the same time excluding the Edward Snowdens of the world who would put our nation’s safety at risk.”

Statement from Vice Chairman Warner:

“We need a revolution in how the executive branch thinks about security clearance reform and personnel vetting for those charged with safeguarding our nation’s most sensitive secrets.  The Director of National Intelligence and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, as the government’s Security Executive Agent and the Suitability/Fitness and Credentialing Executive Agent, respectively, should implement Trusted Workforce 2.0 without delay.  For this effort to be effective, the executive branch must provide a specific plan of action that demonstrates the new system will be more effective and efficient than the old one; identify obstacles and mitigation strategies; and service all stakeholders equitably. I look forward to continued partnership with the executive branch to affect the transformation required in the personnel vetting model to meet today’s threat environment, capitalize on modern technologies, and reflect the mobility of today’s workforce.”

Background:

The current security clearance personnel vetting model has remained largely unchanged for more than 70 years.  Over the last three years, with significant, bipartisan, pressure from the Committee – including a March 2018 open hearing – there has been substantial progress in reforming this antiquated model.

In December 2019, the President signed into law the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2018, 2019, and 2020, which contained an entire title on clearance reform included by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Its provisions will modernize, simplify, and make more transparent the security clearance process; further reduce backlogs; improve information sharing with industry; and reflect the demands of today’s mobile workforce. The legislation affirms and accelerates many aspects of Trusted Workforce 2.0, the interagency initiative to transform the national security workforce.

###

WASHINGTON – After repeated delays and unresponsiveness by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr urging the agency to comply with the law and fully implement the Ashanti Alert system by the March 19th deadline. This date was imposed by Sen. Warner, who successfully included language in the government funding bills directing the DOJ to take swift measures to get the critical life-saving alert system fully implemented. 

“I am profoundly disappointed that the Department has failed to implement the Ashanti Alert system in a well-organized and competent way.  I look forward to the Department’s report and expeditious implementation,” wrote Sen. Warner.

Sen. Warner is a champion of the Ashanti Alert system. On December 6, 2018, Sen. Warner secured unanimous passage of the Ashanti Alert Act through the Senate. In August 2019, he reiterated the need for the alert’s swift implementation, following a meeting with Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Sullivan. He has also previously demanded in-person meetings with the DOJ, repeatedly pressed the DOJ for implementation updates, and urged congressional appropriators to provide full funding for the timely implementation of the Ashanti Alert.

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

 

Dear Attorney General Barr:

Over a year ago, President Trump signed the bipartisan Ashanti Alert Act (P.L.115-401) into law.  I write today to draw your attention to language I included in the FY20 Consolidated Appropriations Act directing the Department of Justice to take swift measures to fully implement the Ashanti Alert system.  

Specifically, Congress directs the Department “to provide a report to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees no later than 30 days after enactment” of the FY20 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 116 –93) detailing progress on the implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act. Further, the language directs the report to set out a final deadline for implementation no later than 90 days after enactment.  As the FY20 Consolidated Appropriations Act was enacted on December 20, 2019, I will look for the Department’s initial report next week, which should include a plan for full implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act by March 19, 2020.

As I have noted in three previous letters, the Ashanti Alert system will save lives by closing the existing gap in our nation’s missing person alert systems.  This crucial public safety system is named in honor of Ashanti Billie, a 19-year-old who was abducted in Norfolk, Virginia on September 18, 2017.  Ashanti was found murdered – 11 days after she was initially reported missing.  Because of Ashanti’s age, she did not qualify for AMBER or Silver Alerts and thus critical resources were not used to locate her whereabouts.

I am profoundly disappointed that the Department has failed to implement the Ashanti Alert system in a well-organized and competent way.  I look forward to the Department’s report and expeditious implementation.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) expressed concern with repeated delays by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that are preventing providers from being able to properly treat their patients via telehealth. In a letter, Sen. Warner urged the DEA Acting Administrator to finalize a long-delayed rule that will ensure providers can successfully use telehealth to treat individuals with substance use disorders.

“Providers across the country have been frustrated in their inability to provide adequate care as they wait for Congressionally-mandated guidance from your agency to clarify the process whereby health care professionals can legally use telehealth to better treat patients suffering from substance use disorder,” wrote Sen. Warner. “The DEA’s failure to promulgate the rule has meant that – despite Congress’ best efforts – many patients suffering from substance use disorders remain unable to access treatment via telehealth. These patients cannot afford to wait and we are concerned the DEA is standing in the way of treatment for individuals that cannot access a provider in person – particularly those in rural and underserved areas.”

“The opioid and addiction epidemic has devastated communities nationwide, with a particularly devastating impact on rural and medically underserved areas,” he continued. “Expanding telehealth services to individuals suffering from substance use disorder can bridge the distance between patients and care and ensure increased access to services they need.”

In order to crack down on the online proliferation of dangerous controlled substances online, the Ryan Haight Act of 2008 prohibited the delivery, distribution, or dispensing of a controlled substance by means of the internet without a prior in-person exam. However, this prevented providers from properly using telehealth to treat individuals – particularly those in rural communities who rely on this service to obtain timely access to health care.

Sen. Warner helped draft and pass the Senate’s comprehensive substance abuse treatment bill, which included a provision directing the Department of Justice, in consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services, to create a process for exempting certain health care providers for the purpose of providing telehealth services for substance use disorder. In addition – that legislation included four other provisions led by Sen. Warner that use telehealth to expand access to treatment for individuals suffering from substance use disorder. The bipartisan legislation was signed into law in 2018; however, the Attorney General failed to finalize a rule by the October 2019 deadline. For provisions of this legislation to be most effective, the DEA must complete its rulemaking process.

In the letter to Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon, Sen. Warner emphasized the wide disparity in opioid deaths between urban communities and rural communities, which have a 45 percent higher rate of deaths by opioids. Sen. Warner also requested that the DEA provide an explanation if it does not intend to promulgate rulemaking on this issue in a timely manner.

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

 

Mr. Uttam Dhillon

Acting Administrator

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

U.S. Department of Justice

800 K Street NW Suite 500

Washington, D.C. 20001

Acting Administrator Dhillon,

I am writing regarding the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) implementation of critical provisions in the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008 (Ryan Haight Act) (Public Law 91-513) and the recently passed SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (SUPPORT Act) (Public Law 115-271) that ensure individuals with substance use disorders can successfully access medical treatment via telehealth.

As you likely know – the Ryan Haight Act prohibits the delivery, distribution, or dispensing of a controlled substance online without first conducting an in-person exam. The intent of this law is to prevent illegitimate entities from selling dangerous controlled substances online while maintaining the ability for legitimate healthcare providers to treat patients in need.

The Ryan Haight Act also directed the DEA to promulgate rules exempting certain health care professionals from this requirement with the goal of ensuring patients have access to care via telehealth. However, in the 10 years since passage, the DEA has not promulgated rules to this effect. Congress further expressed its intent in passing the SUPPORT Act in 2018, which allows Medicare-eligible individuals suffering from substance use disorder to be diagnosed and treated via telehealth. The SUPPORT Act – similar to the Ryan Haight Act – mandated rulemaking by October 2019. Another deadline that has been missed.

Providers across the country have been frustrated in their inability to provide adequate care as they wait for Congressionally-mandated guidance from your agency to clarify the process whereby health care professionals can legally use telehealth to better treat patients suffering from substance use disorder. The DEA’s failure to promulgate the rule has meant that – despite Congress’ best efforts – many patients suffering from substance use disorders remain unable to access treatment via telehealth. These patients cannot afford to wait and we are concerned the DEA is standing in the way of treatment for individuals that cannot access a provider in person – particularly those in rural and underserved areas.

The opioid and addiction epidemic has devastated communities nationwide, with a particularly devastating impact on rural and medically underserved areas. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were more than 70,000 overdose deaths in 2017 – a 9.6 percent increase from 2016.   Furthermore, the CDC cites opioid deaths as 45% higher in rural areas, compared to urban communities. 

Expanding telehealth services to individuals suffering from substance use disorder can bridge the distance between patients and care and ensure increased access to services they need.

As detailed above, Congress passed the SUPPORT Act in 2018 and instructed the Attorney General – in consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – to promulgate rules on health care professional exemptions for prescribing controlled substances via telemedicine. This rule will ensure providers can successfully use telehealth to treat patients with substance use disorders. HHS has previously published suggestions on the potential uses of telehealth to diagnose and treat substance use disorder, but until the DEA takes action, providers will continue to face significant barriers in using telehealth to treat patients with substance use disorders. 

I strongly urge the DEA to promulgate rulemaking on this issue as soon as possible so that patients suffering from substance use disorders can receive the care they need. Furthermore, I ask that if you do not intend to promulgate this rule in a timely manner you respond in writing with an explanation of your decision. Thank you for your consideration of this request and I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting that the Virginia Beach Regional Coastal Storm Risk Management Study be included in the Army Corps FY 2020 Work Plan. The study was authorized in the 2018 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which was supported by Sens. Warner and Kaine to analyze the flood risk threats from sea level rise, coastal storm surge and rainfall events, and to develop watershed-based mitigation solutions to reduce flood risk in the cities of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake.

“This study is crucial to the long-term vitality and resilience of the City of Virginia Beach and the entire Coastal Virginia region. This region is home to four critical military bases, which employ 33,000 military and civilian personnel and their families. If the Army Corps approves this study, the City of Virginia Beach will be able to continue its efforts in mitigating sea level rise and recurrent flooding, serving as a model to coastal cities in need of more resilient infrastructure, economies, and communities,” wrote the members.

In their letter, the members of Congress also emphasized that the study will help reduce the risk of flooding for vulnerable populations and critical infrastructure in Hampton Roads, which includes critical military installations for the U.S. Navy. The Hampton Roads region is considered one of the country’s most flood-prone areas, facing anywhere from 1.5 to 7 feet of sea level rise by the year 2100.

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

 

Dear Director Vought and Assistant Secretary James:

We write today to express our support for the City of Virginia Beach’s Comprehensive Regional Coastal Storm Risk Management Study, and ask that it be included in the FY 2020 Army Corps Work Plan.

The authority for this study is the Water Resources Development Act of 2018 Section 1201 (9) for Coastal Virginia. This study will analyze the flood risk threats from sea level rise, coastal storm surge and rainfall events, and will develop watershed-based mitigation solutions to reduce flood risk in the cities of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake, Currituck County, North Carolina, and the Joint Expeditionary Base at Little Creek- Fort Story. The City of Virginia Beach has support from the USACE North Atlantic Division and Norfolk Division, and has garnered additional support from the business and environmental communities.

This study is crucial to the long-term vitality and resilience of the City of Virginia Beach and the entire Coastal Virginia region. This region is home to four critical military bases, which employ 33,000 military and civilian personnel and their families. If the Army Corps approves this study, the City of Virginia Beach will be able to continue its efforts in mitigating sea level rise and recurrent flooding, serving as a model to coastal cities in need of more resilient infrastructure, economies, and communities. Specifically, the Regional Coastal Storm Risk Management Study advances the Corps’ mission of building long-term coastal resilience as outlined in USACE’s North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study: Resilient Adaptation to Increasing Risk.

In addition, the study will lead to a reduced risk to vulnerable populations, property, ecosystems, and infrastructure – including significant military installations – in one of the country’s most flood-prone population centers and augments existing federal resiliency investments in Virginia Beach and the greater Hampton Roads region.

As the Army Corps works with the Office of Management and Budget to develop its FY20 Work Plan, we encourage you to include the Virginia Comprehensive Regional Coastal Storm Risk Management Study. The City of Virginia Beach is a long-standing civil works partner with the Corps of Engineers and is prepared to provide the matching non-federal cost share to move this vital project forward.

Thank you again for your attention to this issue. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement applauding Senate passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA):

“USMCA is an important, bipartisan win for Virginia. Expanding access to Canadian agricultural markets will open up new opportunities for Virginia farmers. Holding Mexican companies to higher labor and environmental standards will help level the playing field for American workers and companies. And efforts to streamline and modernize cross-border shipments will help the thousands of Virginia companies that already export to Mexico and Canada. This bill will help local economies in all corners of Virginia, and we were proud to vote for its passage today.”

Organizations that have announced their support for USMCA include: Virginia Chamber of Commerce, United Steelworkers Local 8888, Virginia Poultry Federation, Farm Credit of the Virginias, Virginia Port Authority, Virginia Maritime Association, Virginia Cattlemen’s Association, Virginia Farm Bureau, Virginia State Dairymen’s Association, Virginia Pork Council, Volvo Trucks New River Valley plant, UPS, STIHL Inc. in Virginia Beach, Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Eastman.

 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $1,549,891 in federal funding for the University of Virginia (UVA) and Virginia Tech to improve resources for the U.S. agricultural industry and rural communities. This funding was awarded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Food and Agriculture Cyberinformatics and Tools (FACT) Initiative, which focuses on data-driven solutions to address problems facing the agricultural industry.

“We’re pleased to announce this funding to focus on strengthening our country’s agricultural industry and lifting up rural communities,” said the Senators. “Agriculture is a significant part of Virginia’s economy, and we’re excited to see UVA and Virginia Tech receive significant investments to boost this critical industry.”

The funding will be awarded as below:

  • $999,975 for the University of Virginia to support a 10-week program for undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and professionals to learn how to use data science to better address agricultural, economic, and social issues facing rural America. The funding will help the program create a workforce trained in analytics so they can better utilize data to strengthen their communities.
  •  $499,952 for the University of Virginia to better understand America’s agricultural commodity flows and their role in the spread of invasive species, which is important for food security and economic stability. This project will help provide policy makers with guidance to better address vulnerabilities in food systems.
  • $49,964 for Virginia Tech to safeguard the agriculture and food bioeconomy from cyber threats. The bioeconomy – innovation in biological sciences to boost economic activity – is estimated at approximately 25% of U.S. GDP.

According to the USDA, “FACT focuses on data science to enable systems and communities to effectively utilize data, improve resource management, and integrate new technologies and approaches to further U.S. food and agriculture enterprises. Projects funded through FACT will work to examine the value of data for small and large farmers, agricultural and food industries, and gain an understanding of how data can impact the agricultural supply chain, reduce food waste and loss, improve consumer health, environmental and natural resource management, affect the structure of U.S. food and agriculture sectors, and increase U.S. competitiveness.”

###

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $306,492 in federal funding through the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to support two new AmeriCorps VISTA projects in Lynchburg and Abingdon. AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) is a national service program dedicated to reducing poverty in America.

“We’re pleased to announce these grants to strengthen valuable volunteer work in these regions,” the Senators said. “This funding will help local organizations support vulnerable communities and extend crucial opportunities to those in need.”

  • In Lynchburg, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lynchburg will receive $95,392 to increase access to services for low-income youth. The funding will also help VISTA members develop a volunteer management system at three non-profit organizations to better recruit volunteers. Sen. Warner visited the Boys & Girls club in March 2018.
  • In Abingdon, the Friends of Southwest Virginia will receive $211,100 to boost job readiness by supporting job training and community development programs. The funding will help VISTA volunteers build stronger community partnerships, helping foster economic growth in the community.

AmeriCorps VISTA works with non-profit organizations, schools, or local government agencies to support anti-poverty efforts. Volunteers focus on reducing homelessness, increasing access to job opportunities, and improving students’ academic performance for communities in need.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, urged the Defense Health Agency to remove sensitive medical data belonging to servicemembers exposed online, where it remains vulnerable due to insecure data practices at Ft. Belvoir Medical Center, Ireland Army Health Clinic, and the Womack Army Medical Center.

“As a matter of national security, the sensitive medical information of our men and women of the armed services is particularly vulnerable and should be, at a minimum, protected by robust security controls and routine scans,” wrote Sen. Warner. “The exposure of this information is an outrageous violation of privacy and represents a grave national security vulnerability that could be exploited by state actors or others.”

He continued, “We owe an enormous debt to our armed forces, and at the very least, we ought to ensure that their private medical information is protected from being viewed by anyone without their express consent. Whenever data moves from one entity to another it should be protected by encryption, proper hashing, segmentation, identity and access controls, and vulnerability management capabilities that include diligent monitoring, auditing, and logging practices.”

In September 2019, Sen. Warner sought answers from TridentUSA Health Services regarding reports that many unsecured picture archiving and communication servers (PACS) left the names, dates of birth, medical images, and medical procedures of more than one million Americans accessible to anyone with basic computer expertise. Following that letter, the images were removed but millions of records were left online. Nearly two months later, Sen. Warner called out the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for its failure to act following the exposure.

Since the letter to HHS, 16 systems, 31 million images and 1.5 million exam records have been removed from the internet. However, a significant number of personally identifiable and sensitive medical information belonging to servicemembers remains online, due to unsecured Army PACS.

In his letter to the Assistant Secretary, Sen. Warner asked the agency to remediate the situation immediately and posed the following questions for Assistant Secretary Thomas McCaffery:

  1. Please describe the information security management practices at military medical hospitals. Do you require organizations to operate on a segmented network? To implement micro-segmentation? To implement access controls? If so, what kind? Do you require the hospitals to implement multifactor authentication, logging, and monitoring?
  2. Do you audit and monitor logs? 
  3. Do you require full-disk encryption and authentication for PACS?
  4. Do you require the hospitals to have a Chief Information Security Officer?
  5. Please describe what steps you took to address this issue, and when you were able to remove these systems from the internet.  

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

 

Mr. Thomas McCaffery

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs

Defense Health Agency

7700 Arlington Boulevard

Falls Church, VA 22042

Dear Mr. McCaffery,

As the healthcare sector becomes increasingly reliant on technology to deliver essential services to patients, it also faces rising threats from malicious actors that seek to compromise the personally identifiable and other sensitive information of Americans. As a matter of national security, the sensitive medical information of our men and women of the armed services is particularly vulnerable and should be, at a minimum, protected by robust security controls and routine scans. It is with great alarm that I recently learned that unsecured Picture and Archiving Servers (PACS) at Ft. Belvoir Medical Center, Ireland Army Health Clinic, and the Womack Army Medical Center have left personally identifiable and sensitive medical information available online for anyone with a DICOM viewer to find.

Following a report  in September of 2019 highlighting the exposure of sensitive medical images belonging to millions of American through unsecured PACS, I wrote letters  to two healthcare entities that controlled the PACS, and those images were removed. However, millions of records remained online. The following month, I wrote  to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) regarding the remaining exposure of the personally identifiable information belonging to 6 million American patients. Since that letter, 16 systems, 31 million images and 1.5 million exam records were removed from the internet. However, I recently learned that a significant number of medical records belonging to servicemembers remain online. This information was discovered by the German researchers at Greenbone Networks, who accessed the information using German IP addresses; this itself should have triggered alarms by the hospital information security systems.

The exposure of this information is an outrageous violation of privacy and represents a grave national security vulnerability that could be exploited by state actors or others. We owe an enormous debt to our armed forces, and at the very least, we ought to ensure that their private medical information is protected from being viewed by anyone without their express consent. Whenever data moves from one entity to another it should be protected by encryption, proper hashing, segmentation, identity and access controls, and vulnerability management capabilities that include diligent monitoring, auditing, and logging practices. To better understand how this happened, I would like information about your organization’s oversight of the information security practices at military hospitals, particularly at Ft. Belvoir Medical Center and Womack Army Medical Center.

I ask that you immediately remediate this situation, and remove the vulnerable PACS from open access to the internet. To understand how these records have been exposed and accessed repeatedly by a German IP address, please also answer the following questions:

  1. Please describe the information security management practices at military medical hospitals. Do you require organizations to operate on a segmented network? To implement micro-segmentation? To implement access controls? If so, what kind? Do you require the hospitals to implement multifactor authentication, logging, and monitoring?
  2. Do you audit and monitor logs? 
  3. Do you require full-disk encryption and authentication for PACS?
  4. Do you require the hospitals to have a Chief Information Security Officer?
  5. Please describe what steps you took to address this issue, and when you were able to remove these systems from the internet.

Given the gravity of this issue, I would appreciate a response within two weeks.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today released the following statement after the General Assembly passed a historic resolution to make Virginia the final state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA):

“It’s about time for women’s equal rights to be explicitly declared in our Constitution and we’re thrilled that Virginia will be the last state necessary to move this effort towards the finish line,” said the Senators. “Ratifying the ERA not only honors the work of all those who dedicated their lives to fighting for women’s equality, but also enhances our legal ability to fight future instances of gender-based discrimination throughout the country. We applaud Senator McClellan, Senator Locke, and Delegate Carroll Foy for their work on this resolution, and commend every advocate and activist across Virginia who has been a part of this important movement.” 

A proposed constitutional amendment must be ratified by 38 states in order to be eligible to become part of the Constitution. This resolution makes Virginia the 38th state needed to guarantee women equal rights in the Constitution.

The ERA reads as follows:

Section 1.  Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Section 2.  The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3.  This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

In November, Sens. Warner and Kaine joined Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in sponsoring a bipartisan Senate resolution to immediately remove the ratification deadline for the ERA and eliminate any ambiguity that may exist at the federal level.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, voiced deep concerns with the ability of the U.S. Department of State to address the surge of offensive cyber activity by Iran. In a letter, which comes on the heels of a U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, Sen. Warner notes Iran’s growing cybersecurity capabilities and presses Secretary Mike Pompeo for answers on how the Department plans to defend its information security systems in light of its long history of information breaches.

The Iranian government’s state-sponsored cybersecurity capabilities have grown in sophistication and intensity in recent years, and they have developed a number of advanced persistent threat (APT) groups that conduct various offensive operations. Examples include prolonged espionage, destructive malware and ransomware attacks, and social media manipulation through influence campaigns,” wrote Sen. Warner. “These attacks serve both political and economic purposes, and use methods like password spray attacks, scanning for VPN vulnerabilities, DNS hijacking, spear-phishing emails, and social engineering.”

As recently as 2018, the Department of Justice indicted two Iranian individuals who conducted a 34-month-long international scheme, in which they used ransomware to extort hospitals, municipalities and public institutions, causing $30 million in losses.

In his letter, Sen. Warner cites two separate reports by the Department of State’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) that detail a number of cybersecurity risks presented by the structure of the Department of State and by hiring freezes affecting the department. These risks include a diminished ability to respond to malicious cyber activity targeting personnel and information assets due to the hiring freeze, as well as a lack of cybersecurity oversight resulting in unauthorized and misconfigured network devices comprising the Department’s sensitive network.

“The State Department has a long history of information security breaches, beginning with a series of blunders in the late 1990’s, and including a massive and prolonged attack in 2014, when the National Security Agency (NSA) and Russian hackers fought for control of State Department servers,” wrote Sen. Warner. “In September 2018, after an email breach of unclassified systems, a bipartisan group of Senators asked you how the State Department was addressing the issue.  Two months later, hackers with suspected ties to the Russian government were found to be impersonating State Department officials in an attempt to infiltrate computers belonging to the U.S. government, the military, and defense contractors.”

Noting the Department of State’s cybersecurity vulnerabilities and the risks of Iran carrying out cyberattacks with disruptive effects, Sen. Warner posed the following questions for Secretary Pompeo, requesting an answer by January 31st:

  1. Currently, cybersecurity personnel are dispersed organizationally across different bureaus within the Department of State, and across embassies around the world. Since the OIG report was issued in August 2019, what personnel changes have you made to more efficiently and effectively address both the hiring freeze impacts and the earlier security and audit concerns presented by the OIG?
  2. The OIG report noted that the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) of the Department of State lacked necessary seniority for effectiveness or accountability. My understanding is that the current CIO reports to the Undersecretary for Management to the Secretary of State, and that the CISO reports to the CIO. In 2018 a study by the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) recommended that CISO’s have clear and direct communication with the CEO, rather than just to the CIO.  Most organizations provide at least a dotted-line reporting structure from the CISO to the CEO. What kind of direct communication do you have with the CISO, given that the position sits below a CIO and an Undersecretary?
  3. What kind of employee training changes have you made to protect employees from phishing and other social engineering attacks?
  4. What technical changes have you made within the information security organization of the State Department to protect against ransomware and wiper malware attacks?
  5. Have you addressed the August 2019 OIG report’s hiring concerns for information and IT security personnel at our embassies? Are you up-to-date on your information security audits? Does the State Department, at the very least, conduct routine scanning, patching, and utilize multifactor authentication?

Earlier this month, Sen. Warner cautioned the Trump Administration on the dangers of escalating tensions with Iran and urged the Administration to prepare for the long-term potential consequences of targeting Soleimani.

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

 

The Honorable Mike Pompeo

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

As tensions between the United States and Iran rise, and the risks of Iran carrying out cyberattacks with “disruptive effects” grow, I write to express my deep concern about the State Department’s ability to defend its information security systems and that of our embassies around the world, and request a plan for how you will bolster these systems. 

The Iranian government’s state-sponsored cybersecurity capabilities have grown in sophistication and intensity in recent years, and they have developed a number of advanced persistent threat (APT) groups that conduct various offensive operations. Examples include prolonged espionage, destructive malware and ransomware attacks, and social media manipulation through influence campaigns. These attacks serve both political and economic purposes, and use methods like password spray attacks, scanning for VPN vulnerabilities, DNS hijacking, spear-phishing emails, and social engineering. Iran’s threat group APT33 has been linked to notorious disk-wiping malware including SHAMOON and SHAPESHIFT (which attacked industrial systems across the Middle East and in Europe). As recently as 2018, the Department of Justice indicted two Iranian men for deploying ransomware to extort hospitals, municipalities, and public institutions, causing over $30 million in losses. 

In August 2019, the Department of State’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report on the effects of the hiring freeze on the State Department, finding in particular, serious impacts on the cybersecurity functions of the Department. The IG found the following:

The bureau was unable to fill two Senior Executive Service positions responsible for cybersecurity, which it said delayed implementing an enterprise risk management program for IT systems. The DS [Bureau of Diplomatic Security] Computer and Technical Security Directorate reported that staffing shortfalls hampered its ability to develop tools and procedures to react and respond to malicious cyber activity targeting Department personnel and information assets. DS also reported delays in conducting penetration testing of Department networks and providing IT security support for integrating cybersecurity for new and existing systems, which they attributed, in part, to the hiring freeze.

That IG report followed a 2017 report by the State Department OIG that noted a number of cybersecurity risks presented by the structure of the State Department. The report noted that the Chief Information Security Officer was not well placed to be held fully accountable for State Department cybersecurity issues, and highlighted an incident in Guatemala City where unauthorized and misconfigured network devices comprised the Department’s sensitive network.

The State Department has a long history of information security breaches, beginning with a series of blunders in the late 1990’s, and including a massive and prolonged attack in 2014, when the National Security Agency (NSA) and Russian hackers fought for control of State Department servers.  In September 2018, after an email breach of unclassified systems, a bipartisan group of Senators asked you how the State Department was addressing the issue.  Two months later, hackers with suspected ties to the Russian government were found to be impersonating State Department officials in an attempt to infiltrate computers belonging to the U.S. government, the military, and defense contractors.  In March 2019, a State Department contractor was convicted of theft and embezzlement of 16 computers from your organization. 

Given Iran’s technical capabilities and threats to retaliate, as well as the State Department’s systemic organizational and functional problems addressing cybersecurity vulnerabilities, I ask you to answer the following questions on how the State Department will address a surge of offensive cyber activity by Iran:

  1. Currently, cybersecurity personnel are dispersed organizationally across different bureaus within the Department of State, and across embassies around the world. Since the OIG report was issued in August 2019, what personnel changes have you made to more efficiently and effectively address both the hiring freeze impacts and the earlier security and audit concerns presented by the OIG?
  2. The OIG report noted that the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) of the Department of State lacked necessary seniority for effectiveness or accountability. My understanding is that the current CIO reports to the Undersecretary for Management to the Secretary of State, and that the CISO reports to the CIO. In 2018 a study by the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) recommended that CISO’s have clear and direct communication with the CEO, rather than just to the CIO.  Most organizations provide at least a dotted-line reporting structure from the CISO to the CEO. What kind of direct communication do you have with the CISO, given that the position sits below a CIO and an Undersecretary?
  3. What kind of employee training changes have you made to protect employees from phishing and other social engineering attacks?
  4. What technical changes have you made within the information security organization of the State Department to protect against ransomware and wiper malware attacks?
  5. Have you addressed the August 2019 OIG report’s hiring concerns for information and IT security personnel at our embassies? Are you up-to-date on your information security audits? Does the State Department, at the very least, conduct routine scanning, patching, and utilize multifactor authentication?

I would appreciate your answers by January 31, 2020.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $286.9 million in federal funds from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete long-standing projects in Buchanan and Dickenson counties. The funding is made available through the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act, a bipartisan bill supported by Sens. Warner and Kaine that was signed into law on June 6, 2019 to help communities construct flood and storm damage reduction projects.

“We’re pleased to announce these federal funds to support the completion of critical flooding mitigation projects in Dickenson and Buchanan counties,” said the Senators. “Once completed, these projects will better protect schools, local businesses, and homes from potential flood damage.”

Buchanan County will receive $235.6 million in supplemental funding to complete the Hurley High School Floodproofing Agreement as well as the Buchanan County Career and Technical Center Relocation Agreement. Funds will also be used to implement voluntary floodproofing and acquisition actions for up to 730 residential and commercial structures.

Dickenson County will receive $51.3 million in supplemental funding that will be used to relocate the Haysi Municipal Building and implement voluntary floodproofing and acquisition actions for up to 218 residential and commercial structures.

As a result of the 1977 flood that caused roughly $257 million in damages across Dickenson and Buchanan counties and several states, Congress authorized flood-protection measures in the Energy and Water Development Appropriations (WRDA) Act of 1981. Section 202 of the bill directed the Secretary of the Army to begin the design and construction of flood damage reduction measures of the Tug and Levisa Forks of the Big Sandy River Basin that stretches into Southwest Virginia. Today’s announcement will help Buchanan and Dickenson counties fully fund their long-awaited projects.

In the Senate, Sens. Warner and Kaine have long supported legislation that makes water infrastructure rehabilitation projects like these possible. In 2018, the Senators voted to reauthorize WRDA to support critical water-related projects across the Commonwealth.

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WASHINGTON – Today, a bipartisan group of leading national security Senators introduced legislation to encourage and support U.S. innovation in the race for 5G, providing over $1 billion to invest in Western-based alternatives to Chinese equipment providers Huawei and ZTE.  

Heavily subsidized by the Chinese government, Huawei is poised to become the leading commercial provider of 5G, with far-reaching effects for U.S. economic and national security. With close ties to the Communist Party of China, Chinese state-directed technology companies present unacceptable risks to our national security and to the integrity of information networks globally. However, U.S. efforts to convince foreign partners to ban Huawei from their networks have stalled amid concerns about a lack of viable, affordable alternatives.

Today’s bipartisan legislation, the Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act, would reassert U.S. and Western leadership by encouraging competition with Huawei that capitalizes on U.S. software advantages, accelerating development of an open-architecture model (known as O-RAN) that would allow for alternative vendors to enter the market for specific network components, rather than having to compete with Huawei end-to-end.

“Every month that the U.S. does nothing, Huawei stands poised to become the cheapest, fastest, most ubiquitous global provider of 5G, while U.S. and Western companies and workers lose out on market share and jobs. Widespread adoption of 5G technology has the potential to unleash sweeping effects for the future of internet-connected devices, individual data security, and national security. It is imperative that Congress address the complex security and competitiveness challenges that Chinese-directed telecommunication companies pose,” said Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), who co-founded the wireless company Nextel before entering public service and currently serves as Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. “We need to move beyond observing the problem to providing alternatives for U.S. and foreign network operators.”

“When it comes to 5G technology, the decisions we make today will be felt for decades to come. The widespread adoption of 5G has the potential to transform the way we do business, but also carries significant national security risks. Those risks could prove disastrous if Huawei, a company that operates at the behest of the Chinese government, military, and intelligence services, is allowed to take over the 5G market unchecked. This legislation will help maintain America’s competitive advantage and protect our national security by encouraging Western competitors to develop innovative, affordable, and secure 5G alternatives,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

“The Trump Administration’s lecturing of our allies about the dangers of relying on the Chinese for 5G is no replacement for the development of 5G alternatives,” said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “This bill, which will supply the U.S. government with resources to help the private sector create viable 5G alternatives from all ends of the supply chain, is a long overdue step in the right direction. As I’ve said over and over again, confronting China is not the same as being competitive with China. It is time we do just that.”

“We are at a critical point in history for defining the future of the U.S.-China relationship in the 21st century, and we cannot allow Chinese state-directed telecommunications companies to surpass American competitors,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees, said. “It is not only in our national security interests to support American competition in the 5G market, but it is also in our economic interests to continue to build and support an economy that leverages American strengths and creates American jobs in the industries of the future without relying on malign Chinese state-directed actors like Huawei and ZTE.”

“We should not accept a world that is forced to rely on Chinese telecommunication companies to unlock the benefits of 5G and next generation wireless technologies,” said Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “It is imperative for America’s competitiveness and security that we develop alternatives for U.S. and foreign network operators. This $1 billion investment will send a strong, bipartisan signal that the United States is committed to developing viable, secure, and cutting-edge alternatives to China’s 5G technology while eliminating dependence on technology that poses real security threats.”

“5G technology presents a host of opportunities to transform American telecommunications,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said. “By helping to spur innovations in 5G, we can inoculate ourselves against the threat posed by China and encourage the development of technology that is secure, affordable, and economically beneficial to our allies.”

The Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act would:

  • Require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to direct at least $750 million, or up to 5 percent of annual auction proceeds, from new auctioned spectrum licenses to create an O-RAN R&D Fund to spur movement towards open-architecture, software-based wireless technologies, funding innovative, ‘leap-ahead’ technologies in the U.S. mobile broadband market. The fund would be managed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), with input from the FCC, Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), among others;
  • Create a $500 million Multilateral Telecommunications Security Fund, working with our foreign partners, available for 10 years to accelerate the adoption of trusted and secure equipment globally and to encourage multilateral participation, and require reports for Congress on use of proceeds and progress against goals to ensure ample oversight;
  • Create a transition plan for the purchase of new equipment by carriers that will be forward-compatible with forthcoming O-RAN equipment so small and rural carriers are not left behind;
  • Increase U.S. leadership in International Standards Setting Bodies (ISSBs) by encouraging greater U.S. participation in global and regional telecommunications standards forums and requiring the FCC write a report to Congress with specific recommendations;
  • Expand market opportunities for suppliers and promote economies of scale for equipment and devices by encouraging the FCC to harmonize new commercial spectrum allocations with partners where possible, thus promoting greater alignment with allies and driving down the cost of Huawei alternatives.

“VMware is very supportive of the Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act. Moving towards an open, virtualized RAN infrastructure will speed up 5G network integration and rollout, while decreasing deployment costs. We thank Senator Warner for his approach, which will foster U.S.-led innovation in the mobile technology space and give carriers more secure options to buildout our next-generation wireless infrastructure,” said Allwyn Sequeira, SVP & GM of Telco Edge Cloud Products for VMware.

“The security of America's communications networks is an essential component in ensuring our nation's economic leadership, now and in the future.  It  requires all of us -- the industry, the government and those who live and work here – collaborating on efforts to build and maintain smart and secure communications.  Verizon appreciates the forward-thinking, bipartisan Members of Congress that introduced this bill today.  We look forward to working with Congress as we move forward with this important measure,” said Robert Fisher, SVP Federal Government Relations, Verizon.

“AT&T applauds Senator Warner, Senator Burr and the bipartisan group of cosponsors for introducing legislation that will promote the development and deployment of open standards-based advanced telecommunications networks.  We look forward to working with Congress through the legislative process to see this measure enacted,” said Tim McKone, Executive Vice President, Federal Relations, AT&T.

“Juniper Networks supports the ‘USA Telecommunications Act’ introduced by Senator Mark Warner, Senator Richard Burr and the bipartisan group of original cosponsors. The development of open standards and deployment of open standards-based interoperable equipment are crucial to the building of secure 5G networks. The Trust Funds that the Warner-Burr bill proposes would boost R&D spending as well as U.S. leadership in 5G. We look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to get this bill enacted into law and implemented," said Manoj Leelanivas, Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer, Juniper Networks.

Bill text is available here.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) along with U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Rob Wittman (R-VA) led the entire Virginia congressional delegation in sending a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requesting a New Start designation for the Norfolk Harbor widening and deepening project in the Army Corps Work Plan. A New Start designation would allow the Norfolk Harbor project to advance to its next stage of construction and receive Army Corps funding. Currently, the project is progressing using a combination of state and local funds.

“Thanks to the cooperation between the Port of Virginia, the Norfolk District, and the rest of the Army staff, construction on the first constructible element, deepening Thimble Shoal Channel – West, began in December 2019, 18 months ahead of schedule,” wrote the members of Congress. “The next steps are to complete the Design during Construction (DDC) on the remaining elements and prepare the next segment for award and construction. In order to maintain this schedule, the project requires a New Start designation and $2.5 million for construction in the 2020 Work Plan as well as $49.4 million in the President's 2021 budget request.”

The Port of Virginia is an important commercial and economic engine for the Commonwealth, generating more than $78 million annually. In their letter to OMB, the members of Congress reiterated that the funding is critical to ensure timely completion of a two-way traffic channel to better accommodate commercial ships and vessels deploying from Naval Station Norfolk.

“As you know, one lane traffic is not sustainable at the Port of Virginia as the size of commercial vessels continues to grow. One lane traffic creates uncertainty and inefficiency for businesses and their supply chains. Additionally, as home to the world’s largest naval base – Naval Station Norfolk – the deepening and widening of Norfolk Harbor will support the critical functions of the U.S. Navy. The completion of this project will ensure the continued safe and timely passage of larger commercial and military vessels through Norfolk Harbor,” they continued. “The rapid growth of larger vessels entering maritime trade makes it essential that this project proceed as quickly as possible. The public and private non-federal interests have invested billions of dollars on land-side infrastructure and are prepared to provide their cost share to complete this crucial navigation project in a timely manner.”

In December, Sens. Warner and Kaine voted in favor of the government funding bill that included $2.5 million for the Norfolk Harbor Widening and Deepening project and critical language authorizing six Army Corps New Starts. The Army Corps will announce which projects will receive New Start designations in their Work Plan, which must be released no later than 60 days after the Energy and Water appropriations bill was signed into law.

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

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

 

Dear Director Vought:

We write today concerning the development of the Fiscal Year 2020 Work Plan and the Norfolk Harbor and Channels Project. As the Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) and your office complete work on the Fiscal Year 2020 Work Plan and the President’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget request, we write to reiterate the importance of the Norfolk Harbor and Channels Project.

Thanks to the cooperation between the Port of Virginia, the Norfolk District, and the rest of the Army staff, construction on the first constructible element, deepening Thimble Shoal Channel – West, began in December 2019, 18 months ahead of schedule. The next steps are to complete the Design during Construction (DDC) on the remaining elements and prepare the next segment for award and construction. In order to maintain this schedule, the project requires a New Start designation and $2.5 million for construction in the 2020 Work Plan as well as $49.4 million in the President's 2021 budget request.

As you know, one lane traffic is not sustainable at the Port of Virginia as the size of commercial vessels continues to grow. One lane traffic creates uncertainty and inefficiency for businesses and their supply chains. Additionally, as home to the world’s largest naval base – Naval Station Norfolk – the deepening and widening of Norfolk Harbor will support the critical functions of the U.S. Navy. The completion of this project will ensure the continued safe and timely passage of larger commercial and military vessels through Norfolk Harbor. The rapid growth of larger vessels entering maritime trade makes it essential that this project proceed as quickly as possible. The public and private non-federal interests have invested billions of dollars on land-side infrastructure and are prepared to provide their cost share to complete this crucial navigation project in a timely manner.

The Port of Virginia is a commercial and economic engine for the United States and continues to play an integral role in American foreign and domestic commerce and trade. Continued federal investment into this project will allow the Port to remain a prominent economic hub for the nation and a key player in domestic and international trade by generating more than $78 million in annual national economic development benefits.

Thank you for your consideration. If we can be of any assistance to you going forward, please contact us.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced $437,900 in federal funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) maintain, protect, and improve the water quality of its rivers, lakes, streams, groundwater, and other waterbodies.

“We are glad to see these federal dollars go towards maintaining healthy bodies of water across Virginia and making water quality assessment data more transparent and accessible,” said the Senators.

This funding will assist the Virginia DEQ in preventing the degradation and reducing the number of impaired waterbodies in the Commonwealth. It will help create a user-friendly interface to complete water quality assessments and provide stakeholders and the general public easy access to water monitoring assessment data. It will also help establish flood probability zones based on tide records and sea level rise projections, as well as map well locations and assess potential flood risks at intervals through 2100. Additionally, it will allow the Commonwealth to develop database guidance and analytical protocols for extending analysis to other localities.

The funding was awarded through a Water Pollution Control (Section 106) grant, which provides assistance to states and interstate agencies in establishing and maintaining adequate measures for prevention and control of surface and ground water pollution from both point and nonpoint sources.  

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