Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced a total of $1,413,108 in federal funding for drug courts with the Northern Neck Regional Jail and in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties.  The dollars are awarded through the U.S. Department of Justice’s FY 18 Adult Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program. Fairfax and Loudoun County will each receive $500,000 and Northern Neck Regional Jail will receive $413,108 to support drug courts that integrate evidence-based substance abuse treatment, mandatory drug testing, sanctions and incentives, and transitional services in a court setting to address opioid abuse reduction. 

“Tackling the substance abuse crisis requires a comprehensive strategy that addresses it from all angles including prevention, treatment, and recovery. This funding is crucial to supporting drug courts that mandate treatment services, enhance public safety, reduce crime and give those suffering from addiction a better chance at recovery,” the Senators said.  

In September, Warner and Kaine voted in support of legislation to dedicate $5.7 billion to combat substance abuse and played a critical role in the passage of a comprehensive opioid and substance abuse bill.

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine praised new federal funding for Loudoun County Fire and Rescue awarded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, totaling $1,486,000. The fire department will use the funding to support fitness assessment and counseling for firefighters. 

“We’re pleased Loudoun County Fire and Rescue will receive federal dollars to support staff training and ensure the firefighters are prepared to serve the community,” the Senators said.

The primary goal of FEMA’s AFG program is to enhance the safety of the public and firefighters by providing direct financial assistance to eligible fire departments, nonaffiliated Emergency Medical Services organizations, and State Fire Training Academies for critically-needed resources.

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced a total of $5,524,852 in federal funding for Washington Dulles International and Warrenton-Fauquier Airports through the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). 

“We are pleased to support upgrades at airports in Northern Virginia that will improve travel for Virginians and visitors. These are long-term investments in cleaner technology and upgraded infrastructure,” the Senators said.

Washington Dulles International will receive $4,000,000 to install 112 electrical recharging stations for electrical ground support equipment.    The project aims to implement clean technology infrastructure to reduce ground emissions and improve air quality through the Voluntary Airport Low Emissions (VALE) Program.

Warrenton-Fauquier will receive $1,524,852 to complete the construction of an airplane ramp and finish the new terminal area.

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

 

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WASHINGTON— U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that nine Virginia airports will receive a total of $10,669,159 in federal funding from the Department of Transportation (DOT).

“We are pleased to announce these funds that will allow Virginia airports to make the necessary improvements to ensure safer travel to and from the Commonwealth,” the Senators said. “This federal funding will not only help to revitalize our airports, but will also help boost tourism across Virginia.”

Airports and project amounts are listed below:

  • Norfolk International Airport—$5,974,019. These funds will go towards rehabilitating Concourse A and to help construct a 5,000 square foot general aviation customs inspection facility.
  • Tappahannock-Essex Airport—$274,050. These funds will go towards an environmental study to evaluate any potential environmental impacts related to the proposed extension of the parallel taxiway and a non-aeronautical development area identified on the airport's layout plan.
  • New Kent County Airport—$991,901. These funds will help to rehabilitate 24,000 square yards of the existing terminal apron pavement.
  • Washington Dulles International Airport—$492,188. These funds will go towards acquiring 75 Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) squitter units for airport ground vehicles to improve surface situational awareness and safety. ADS–B is a surveillance technology in which an aircraft determines its position via satellite navigation and periodically broadcasts it, enabling it to be tracked.
  • Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport— $492,188. These funds will go towards acquiring 75 Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) squitter units for airport ground vehicles to improve surface situational awareness and safety. ADS–B is a surveillance technology in which an aircraft determines its position via satellite navigation and periodically broadcasts it, enabling it to be tracked.
  • Louisa County/Freeman Field Airport—$346,500. These funds will help the construction of perimeter fences to deter unauthorized persons and vehicles from entering onto the airfield, thereby increasing airport safety.
  • Ingalls Field Airport (Bath County, VA)$81,000. These funds will help to construct a 360 square foot hangar building to assist the airport in being revenue-generating and in turn self-sustaining. Funds will also go towards construction of a similarly sized snow removal equipment building that will help extend the life of the equipment by protecting it from adverse weather conditions.
  • Luray Caverns Airport—$184,230. These funds will go towards the construction of a 12,500 square yard terminal apron to provide aircraft parking.
  • Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional/Woodrum Field Airport—$1,833,083. These funds will go towards the implementation of additional security enhancements.

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

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today released the following statement on today’s GSA Inspector General’s report on the FBI headquarters decision:

“The IG’s findings are extremely troubling. The IG report reinforces the concerns that I have had since the Trump Administration halted the consolidated FBI headquarters procurement process. It highlights problems – both procedural and financial – that have resulted from Trump’s impulsive decision to halt a process that was years in the making. It is clear that the Administration’s flawed approach has failed, and that our law enforcement and intelligence workforce would be best served by returning to plans to build a consolidated headquarters building.”

Sens. Warner and Tim Kaine have for years worked with the Maryland Senators as well as the bipartisan Virginia delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives to secure funding for a new FBI headquarters to replace the current, deteriorating J. Edgar Hoover building in Washington, which was built in 1974. In 2014, the General Services Administration (GSA) announced that a site in Springfield, Va. was one of three finalists for a consolidated HQ that would house all 11,000 area FBI employees, who are currently scattered across multiple sites in D.C., Virginia and Maryland. However, in July 2017, the Trump Administration abruptly backed away from more than five years of government preparations to relocate the FBI HQ, announcing instead in February 2018 plans to demolish the existing FBI headquarters in Washington and build a new facility in its place. The GSA has estimated that this new plan would cost $3.3 billion – including $1.9 billion in construction costs, added to the cost of temporarily relocating thousands of FBI employees while the existing structure is demolished and a new building constructed in its place.

 

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WASHINGTON— U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced today that Culpeper Renaissance, Inc. (CRI) will receive $75,000 in federal funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to assist small or emerging businesses in the Historic Downtown District in Culpeper, Va. CRI plans to use this funding to set up a financing mechanism that will allow local businesses to leverage loans that will help develop and expand their businesses.   

“We are pleased these federal funds will give local businesses in Culpeper the ability to expand, innovate, and invest in their own community,” said the Senators. “We look forward to continuing to support the work local entities are doing to revitalize the Culpeper downtown region and spur business investment that will benefit the local economy.”

Designated in 1988, Culpeper Renaissance, Inc. (CRI) is a member of the Virginia Main Street program. The Main Street program was organized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to help revitalize the economic vitality of downtown commercial districts. The funds provided by CRI will be used for the acquisition and development of land, easements, and rights-of-way, loans for startup operating costs, and working capital, and other business needs. This project has a total cost of $90,000, with $15,000 provided by the local organization while the rest is being covered by USDA through this grant.

The USDA Rural Business Development Grant Program is designed to support targeted technical assistance, training, and other activities leading to the development or expansion of small and emerging private businesses in rural areas. Sens. Warner and Kaine have long fought for increased funding to help support rural communities, most recently voting in support of legislation that provided funding for this federal program.  

 

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) issued the below statement on the status of a new headquarters building for the Federal Bureau of Investigation:

“Congress worked with GSA and the FBI for years to put together a comprehensive plan and bidding process to replace the current deteriorating headquarters building. With no warning and no rationale, the Trump Administration halted that process, and since then, has made no progress on replacing a building whose condition will only get worse in the years to come. That’s one reason why it is important that we see the results of the IG investigation into this decision. Our hardworking law enforcement and intelligence professionals deserve a state-of-the-art and secure facility. Having President Trump micromanage this complex procurement – with so many other issues on his plate and so many questions about apparent conflicts of interest here – just isn’t helpful to these public servants or to the region.”

Sens. Warner and Kaine have for years worked with the Maryland Senators as well as the bipartisan Virginia delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives to secure funding for a new FBI headquarters to replace the current, deteriorating J. Edgar Hoover building in Washington, which was built in 1974. In 2014, the General Services Administration (GSA) announced that a site in Springfield, Va. was one of three finalists for a consolidated HQ that would house all 11,000 area FBI employees, who are currently scattered across multiple sites in D.C., Virginia and Maryland. However, in July 2017, the Trump Administration abruptly backed away from more than five years of government preparations to relocate the FBI HQ, announcing instead in February 2018 plans to demolish the existing FBI headquarters in Washington and build a new facility in its place. The GSA has estimated that this new plan would cost $3.3 billion – including $1.9 billion in construction costs, added to the cost of temporarily relocating thousands of FBI employees while the existing structure is demolished and a new building constructed in its place.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner hosted a roundtable with representatives of Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network, and other women’s healthcare advocates to discuss President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh. 

“What I heard from physicians, community health organizations, and advocates is that communities across the Commonwealth fear for the future of safe access to women’s reproductive healthcare,” said Sen. Warner. “As the Senate considers Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, it’s important for me to hear from Virginians about issues that could affect their freedoms and well-being.” 

President Trump has repeatedly stated that he will nominate candidates to serve on the Supreme Court who will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. On Monday, July 9, President Trump nominated Kavanaugh to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Sen. Warner plans to closely examine Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial record thoroughly during the nomination process. Sen. Warner has warned that he cannot support a Supreme Court nominee who would undermine healthcare protections, women’s rights, workers’ rights, voting rights, or LGBT rights.

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $43,246,753 in federal funding to support affordable housing development across Virginia. The funding, which will go to 26 municipalities across the Commonwealth, has been awarded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Public Housing Capital Fund.

“Families all across the Commonwealth should have access to safe and affordable housing,” the Senators said. “We are pleased that these federal dollars will help support the health and safety of Virginia communities.”

President Trump’s FY 2019 budget eliminates funding for the Public Housing Capital Fund. The Capital Fund provides critical federal dollars to Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) in Virginia for the development, financing, and modernization of public housing developments and for managementimprovements. In March, Sens. Warner and Kaine voted in favor of the omnibus bill that provides more than $2.75 billion in funding to the Capital Fund program.

 

The selected Virginia housing authorities and funding amounts are listed below:

 

Virginia Housing Authority Recipient

City

Amount

Portsmouth Redev. & Housing Authority

PORTSMOUTH

$2,184,978.00

Bristol Redevelopment & Housing Authority

BRISTOL

$803,731.00

Newport News Redev. & Housing Authority

NEWPORT NEWS

$4,021,967.00

Alexandria Redev. & Housing Authority

ALEXANDRIA

$1,957,491.00

Hopewell Redevelopment & Housing Authority

HOPEWELL

$800,481.00

Norfolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority

NORFOLK

$8,576,413.00

Richmond Redev. & Housing Authority

RICHMOND

$10,911,250.00

Danville Redevelopment & Housing Authority

DANVILLE

$1,056,943.00

Roanoke Redevelopment & Housing Authority

ROANOKE

$3,265,133.00

Chesapeake Redev. & Housing Authority

CHESAPEAKE

$1,037,894.00

Lynchburg Redev. & Housing Authority

LYNCHBURG

$820,492.00

Norton Redevelopment & Housing Authority

NORTON

$460,027.00

Charlottesville Redev. & Housing Authority

CHARLOTTESVILLE

$832,974.00

Hampton Redevelopment & Housing Authority

HAMPTON

$1,306,266.00

Franklin Redev. & Housing Authority

FRANKLIN

$147,828.00

Petersburg Redev. & Housing Authority

PETERSBURG

$1,025,085.00

Wytheville Redev. & Housing Authority

WYTHEVILLE

$462,256.00

Waynesboro Redev. & Housing Authority

WAYNESBORO

$390,498.00

Wise County Redev. & Housing Authority

COEBURN

$409,332.00

Suffolk Redev. & Housing Authority

SUFFOLK

$1,024,358.00

Williamsburg Redev. & Housing Authority

WILLIAMSBURG

$258,697.00

Cumberland Plateau Reg. Housing Authority

LEBANANON

$548,009.00

Marion Redevelopment & Housing Authority

MARION

$536,689.00

Scott County Redev. & Housing Authority

DUFFIELD

$210,200.00

Abingdon Redev. & Housing Authority

ABINGDON

$63,093.00

Lee County Redev. & Housing Authority

JONESVILLE

$134,668.00

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced $9,442,626 million in federal grant funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for Head Start programs throughout Virginia.

“We are thrilled to announce funding through Head Start to ensure young children in Virginia have the resources they need,” the Senators said. “We strongly believe in efforts to support early childhood development that can promote  kids’ readiness for school and beyond.”

The following localities and organizations will receive funding:

  • Child Development Resources Inc. in Williamsburg will receive $1,558,265.
  • Fauquier Community Action Committee Inc. in Warrenton will receive $1,152,617.
  • Northern Virginia Family Service in Oakton will receive $5,324,853.
  • Prince William County Public Schools will receive $1,406,891.

As Governors and Senators, Warner and Kaine have advocated for investments in early childhood education. Head Start programs promote school readiness for children under 5 years old from low-income families through health, education, and social services.

 

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WARNER & KAINE ANNOUNCE $94.8 MILLION IN GRANTS FOR HOUSING & INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS ACROSS VIRGINIA

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $94,819,202 in federal funding to help Virginia communities with housing and infrastructure projects. The funding, which will go to more than 30 locations across Virginia, will be awarded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG), Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA), HOME, and Housing Trust Fund (HTF) programs. 

“We are pleased to announce funding that will help provide many Virginia families with the safe and affordable housing they need,” the Senators said. “These grants will help strengthen the well-being of communities throughout our Commonwealth.” 

President Trump’s FY 2019 budget proposes eliminating the Community Development Block Grant, HOME, and Housing Trust Fund programs. The budget also proposes cutting ESG by 5.6% and cutting HOPWA by 12%. Warner and Kaine have opposed President Trump’s budget cuts to Virginia priorities and will continue fighting for this important HUD funding in Congress. 

The $94,819,202 in funding will be awarded through HUD grants as follows:

 

Recipient

CDBG18

HOME18

ESG18

HOPWA18

HTF18

Total

Alexandria

$941,853

$536,873

$0

$0

$0

$1,478,726

Blacksburg

$482,932

$672,718

$0

$0

$0

$1,155,650

Bristol

$254,487

$0

$0

$0

$0

$254,487

Charlottesville

$408,417

$624,013

$0

$0

$0

$1,032,430

Chesapeake

$1,182,627

$550,827

$0

$0

$0

$1,733,454

Christiansburg

$111,703

$0

$0

$0

$0

$111,703

Colonial Heights

$94,495

$0

$0

$0

$0

$94,495

Danville

$865,416

$270,868

$0

$0

$0

$1,136,284

Fredericksburg

$186,790

$0

$0

$0

$0

$186,790

Hampton

$1,156,814

$557,513

$0

$0

$0

$1,714,327

Harrisonburg

$559,588

$0

$0

$0

$0

$559,588

Hopewell

$177,848

$0

$0

$0

$0

$177,848

Lynchburg

$733,913

$438,772

$0

$0

$0

$1,172,685

Newport News

$1,257,434

$786,711

$0

$0

$0

$2,044,145

Norfolk

$4,323,842

$1,278,608

$351,181

$0

$0

$5,953,631

Petersburg

$624,601

$0

$0

$0

$0

$624,601

Portsmouth

$1,557,075

$452,783

$0

$0

$0

$2,009,858

Radford

$165,992

$0

$0

$0

$0

$165,992

Richmond

$4,442,476

$1,500,301

$366,794

$1,050,009

$0

$7,359,580

Roanoke

$1,732,287

$606,064

$139,611

$0

$0

$2,477,962

Suffolk

$466,234

$377,689

$0

$0

$0

$843,923

Virginia Beach

$2,000,832

$1,122,655

$164,230

$1,524,127

$0

$4,811,844

Waynesboro 

$193,586

$0

$0

$0

$0

$193,586

Winchester

$231,081

$615,483

$0

$0

$0

$846,564

Arlington County

$1,363,320

$762,215

$0

$0

$0

$2,125,535

Chesterfield County

$1,390,089

$558,425

$0

$0

$0

$1,948,514

Fairfax County

$5,574,509

$2,103,044

$447,834

$0

$0

$8,125,387

Henrico County

$1,692,829

$897,341

$138,560

$0

$0

$2,728,730

Loudoun County

$1,334,299

$0

$0

$0

$0

$1,334,299

Prince William County

$2,504,696

$919,946

$201,653

$0

$0

$3,626,295

Funds for Virginia to administer to lower population areas

$18,289,253

$10,094,628

$2,771,457

$962,389

$4,672,562

$36,790,289

Total

$56,301,318

$25,727,477

$4,581,320

$3,536,525

$4,672,562

$94,819,202

 

 

Additional details on each program from HUD:

 

The Community Development Block (CDBG) Grants program provides annual grants to states and local units of government to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and a suitable living environment, and by expanding economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons.

 

The HOME program helps to expand the supply of decent, affordable housing to low- and very low-income families by providing grants to states and local governments to fund housing programs that meet local needs and priorities.

 

The Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program provides funding to engage homeless individuals and families living on the street; improve the number, quality, and operations of emergency shelters for homeless individuals and families; provide essential services to shelter residents, rapidly re-house homeless individuals, and families, and prevent families and individuals from becoming homeless. 

 

The Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program provides housing assistance and related supportive services to local units of government, states and non-profit organizations for projects that benefit low-income persons medically diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and their families.

 

The Housing Trust Fund (HTF) is a new affordable housing production program that will complement existing Federal, State and local efforts to increase and preserve the supply of decent, safe, and sanitary affordable housing for extremely low- and very low-income households, including homeless families.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen has led a bipartisan letter with his colleagues to the Senate Agriculture Committee urging the inclusion of his legislation, the Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act, in this year’s Farm Bill. This bill would dramatically increase the amount of funds available to Bay-area farmers to aid in conservation and anti-pollution efforts.

The Senators write, “As the Senate Agriculture Committee considers the upcoming Farm Bill, we urge you to consider inclusion of the Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act. The bill makes a number of changes to the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) through additional funding, enhancing critical conservation areas, and boosting technological assistance.”

They note that “the bill has broad, bipartisan support from the Governors of Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and the Mayor of Washington, D.C.” in addition to “over 70 different organizations such as the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and the Choose Clean Water Coalition.”

The Senators close the letter stating, “We look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure that our regional Bay economy continues to thrive and that all Americans can enjoy this treasure for generations to come.”

Senator Van Hollen was joined in sending the letter by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.).

Senator Van Hollen introduced the bipartisan Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act of 2017 in November 2017. This legislation increases mandatory funding available to the Bay, strengthens the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCCP), and provides more opportunities for effective conservation efforts. It builds on the historic funding that Senator Van Hollen obtained in the 2008 Farm Bill to help farmers and protect the Bay.

 

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

 

Dear Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow:

As the Senate Agriculture Committee considers the upcoming Farm Bill, we urge you to consider inclusion of the Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act.

The bill makes a number of changes to the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) through additional funding, enhancing critical conservation areas, and boosting technical assistance. These provisions are necessary to ensure that CCA partnerships are consistent with national, regional and state priorities and generate outcomes that address critical resource concerns, such as the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. They will also address issues experienced by stakeholders in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

The bill has broad, bipartisan support from the Governors of Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and the Mayor of Washington D.C.  Furthermore, over 70 different organizations such as the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and the Choose Clean Water Coalition support the bill.  Identical legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives.

Thank you for your attention to and consideration of this important request. We look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure that our regional Bay economy continues to thrive and that all Americans can enjoy this treasure for generations to come.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) expressed increased concern over how President Trump’s trade war would hurt Virginia’s soybean production, which is the Commonwealth’s number one cash crop. China’s Ministry of Commerce has recently announced they will begin proactively taxing Chinese companies that import some American agricultural products at 178.6% to discourage imports. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has confirmed that China is the Commonwealth’s biggest export market for agricultural goods and suggestedPresident Trump’s tariffs could hurt Virginia businesses and employees. Soybean production in Virginia accounts for roughly $187 million in economic output, which helps supports thousands of jobs in the Commonwealth. Amid escalating rhetoric by the Trump Administration, China announced that it is considering raising tariffs on soybeans, beef, and other critical agriculture commodities produced in Virginia.  

“Virginia’s soybean producers should not be held hostage to the uncertainty of President Trump’s trade games,” said Sen. Warner. “While China should be held accountable for its unfair trade practices, this should not be done at the expense of the hardworking soybean farmers in this country. President Trump needs to work with us to find the best way to resolve these disputes and avoid threatening an industry that creates thousands of new jobs and brings millions of dollars to rural communities in Virginia.”

“Clearly China is not taking President Trump’s threats lightly and we’re going to start feeling the pain of his rash actions. Our farmers deserve better than this,” said Sen. Kaine. “President Trump says he wants to create jobs and stimulate the economy yet his actions will have the opposite effect. His inflammatory, bullying tactics are going to hurt Virginians.”

“Exports are a vital source of income for Virginia’s farmers and here in the Commonwealth we have worked hard to open new markets around the world for our agriculture and forestry exporters. However, these efforts are jeopardized by threats of tariffs and trade wars at the national level,” said Bettina Ring, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. “I hope that our trade negotiators will keep our hardworking farmers and agribusinesses front of mind when working with their Chinese counterparts to solve this trade dispute.”

“The Virginia Soybean Association is concerned with the potential of trade wars within the global marketplace, including China. International trade is vital for the economic viability of the soybean industry,” said Nick Moody, President of the Virginia Soybean Association. “Uncertainty in trade agreements directly affect the stability of markets and price, which is a major concern for producers in a business that is already largely dependent on weather. Our hope is for the administration to work with leaders in international markets to create solid solutions to these trade disputes, which will not continue to disrupt soybean markets.”

According to VDACS, agriculture is Virginia’s largest private industry, with an economic impact of $70 billion annually that provides more than 334,000 jobs.The agriculture and forestry industries combined have a total economic impact of over $91 billion and provide more than 442,000 jobs in the Commonwealth. Every job in agriculture and forestry supports 1.7 jobs elsewhere in Virginia’s economy. Production agriculture alone employs 54,000 Virginians and accounts for more than $3.8 billion in economic output. Almost 10 percent of Virginia’s gross domestic product (GDP) is directly tied to agriculture and forestry.

Sens. Warner and Kaine previously raised concerns about how President Trump’s trade war with China could hurt Virginia businesses and employees, listing the set of products grown and made in Virginia that have been targeted by the Chinese for duties. They also wrote to the Administration last week warning that withdrawing from the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—another significant source of agricultural exports for Virginia—would negatively impact Virginia’s agricultural industry.

 

Below is a detailed list of soybean producing areas in Virginia as of 2017. A comprehensive list can be found here

 

COUNTY

PRODUCTION (Bushels)

NORTHERN VA/VALLEY

 

Culpeper

524,000

Fauquier

642,000

Frederick

68,500

Loudoun

301,000

Madison

384,000

Page

25,400

Rockingham

405,000

Shenandoah

259,000

Other NOVA counties

314,100

 

 

CENTRAL VIRGINIA

 

Amelia

429,000

Bedford

20,300

Campbell

162,000

Caroline

1,056,000

Chesterfield

66,000

Cumberland

134,000

Goochland

183,000

Louisa

224,000

Orange

380,000

Prince Edward

48,400

Spotsylvania

180,000

Other Central Counties

1,413,300

 

 

EASTERN SHORE

 

Accomack

1,577,000

Charles City

434,000

Essex

971,000

Gloucester

284,000

King and Queen

718,000

King George

222,000

King William

740,000

Northampton

937,000

Northumberland

767,000

Richmond

779,000

Westmoreland

895,000

Other Eastern Counties

1,041,000

 

 

SOUTHSIDE

 

Charlotte

240,000

Halifax

299,000

Lunenburg

148,000

Nottoway

128,000

Pittsylvania

193,000

Other Southside Counties

253,000

 

 

HAMPTON ROADS

 

Brunswick

364,000

Dinwiddie

553,000

Greensville

353,000

Isle of Wight

728,000

Prince George

437,000

Southampton

992,000

Surry

592,000

Chesapeake

887,000

Suffolk City

898,000

Virginia Beach

454,000

Other HRVA Counties

1,459,000

 

 

TOTAL

25,960,000

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced today that three major Virginia bus transportation systems will receive $8.64 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The bus transportation systems receiving funding are: The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC), the Blacksburg Transit, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).

“We are pleased to announce direct federal funding to help improve the commute for thousands of Virginians,” said the Senators. “These critical dollars will help connect our communities and ensure continued access to reliable and affordable public transportation for riders across our region.” 

Bus systems and grant amounts are listed below:

  • The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC) – $3,600,000.00 – This grant funding will help purchase newer buses to replace their aging fleet.
  • The Blacksburg Transit – $1,440,000.00 – This grant will help add buses to its fleet to keep up with ridership demands of the region.
  • The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) – $3,600,000.00 – This grant will replace bus shelters across Northern Virginia to ensure rider safety and security.

This funding was granted through USDOT’s Bus & Bus Facilities Infrastructure Investment Program, a program that provides federal resources for bus systems to rehabilitate, replace, or purchase buses and bus-related equipment.

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-Va.) pushed the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to take immediate action regarding critical failures at the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center (DCVAMC) highlighted in an Inspector General report released last week that showed patients were put at risk due to supply, equipment, and inventory issues. Last year, Sens. Warner and Kaine wrote to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin to express serious concerns over initial findings found by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) that detailed similar deficiencies at the facility. Following last week’s OIG report, Secretary Shulkin announced an overhaul of the senior leadership overseeing almost two dozen troubled hospitals across the country.

“While we are disturbed by the numerous breakdowns in essential functions at the DCVAMC that are documented by the OIG, we are particularly troubled by the massive leadership failures at multiple levels of the VA despite consistent warnings,” wrote the Senators.

In particular, the Senators raised concerns regarding leadership failures that endangered the health and safety of veterans at the facility and called for more stringent oversight measures given the lack of direct response following last year’s interim report. In their letter, Sens. Warner and Kaine requested an update on the progress made in implementing corrective actions at the DC-based medical facility and any measures the VA is planning to take to increase accountability. Finally, the Senators requested the agency to identify potential legislative actions that Congress can take to help fix problems at DCVAMC. 

“The Washington D.C. VA Medical Center serves thousands of Virginians each year. Failure to execute basic hospital functions at the VA’s flagship medical facility erodes the trust our veterans have in the VA. We can and must do more to guarantee the health and safety of our veterans in your care,” concluded the Senators.  

Full text of the letter follows. A PDF can be found here.

 

The Honorable David Shulkin

Secretary of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20240

 

Dear Secretary Shulkin, 

 

We write to you to express our concern regarding the recent Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) report that outlines critical deficiencies at the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center (DCVAMC). While we are disturbed by the numerous breakdowns in essential functions at the DCVAMC that are documented by the OIG, we are particularly troubled by the massive leadership failures at multiple levels of the VA despite consistent warnings.

In April 2017, we asked you to take immediate action to improve management at the DCVAMC following the release of the OIG Interim Status Report that first brought to light many of these serious problems. The final report expands upon the OIG’s initial findings and details significant inadequacies in executing basic hospital functions, including an inability to maintain an appropriate inventory of medical supplies and sanitary storage facilities, which resulted in an increased risk of harm to veterans at the facility. Thankfully, the OIG found that the efforts of DCVAMC health care professionals prevented patients from suffering adverse medical outcomes as a result of the identified deficiencies. We applaud those health care professionals for their herculean efforts in the face of such adversity, but their outstanding dedication to veterans should not minimize the egregious management problems at the DCVAMC, including historically high vacancy rates in logistics and sterile processing positions dating back to 2014. 

We found the most troubling aspect of the OIG’s Report to be the massive failures in leadership that occurred throughout multiple levels of the VA. Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 5, and Veterans Health Administration Central Office (VHACO) staff all filed and received reports from 2013 to 2017 that outlined many of the supply, equipment, and inventory issues that were later outlined in the final OIG Report. However, despite repeated recommendations for action, these DCVAMC leaders failed to take appropriate steps to address these issues. This failure in leadership endangered the health and safety of veterans at the facility. The lack of leadership identified by the OIG highlights the need for more stringent oversight measures that would prevent these breakdowns from occurring at other VAMCs.

We are pleased that you already addressed some of the failings of the DCVAMC documented in the April 2017 OIG Interim Status Report, including personnel changes and the implementation of new supply and cleanliness processes. In addition, we applaud your initiative to implement measures that would help prevent similar failures in leadership at VAMCs across the nation, such as increasing accountability at the VA Central Office.

While progress has been made since the release of last year’s report, fundamental problems still exist at the Medical Center. We request that you provide a comprehensive update on the progress made in implementing corrective actions at the DCVAMC and a full description of the VA-wide measures you are planning to enact that would increase accountability throughout the organization. Finally, we ask that you identify any legislative action that is required to carry out remedial measures. 

The Washington D.C. VA Medical Center serves thousands of Virginians each year. Failure to execute basic hospital functions at the VA’s flagship medical facility erodes the trust our veterans have in the VA. We can and must do more to guarantee the health and safety of our veterans in your care. We look forward to working with you to correct the persistent problems at the DCVAMC and prevent similar deficiencies from occurring elsewhere within the VA.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to your prompt response.

 

Sincerely,

 

###

Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner released the following statement regarding the release of a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) report that confirmed significant deficiencies in care at the Washington, D.C. VA Medical Center that threatened the health of veterans:

“I am deeply concerned by the recent VA OIG report that identified unacceptable conditions at the DC VA Medical Center. Among other issues, the report found that the DC VA was unable to execute basic hospital functions, including maintaining an appropriate inventory of medical supplies and sanitary storage facilities. These failures were the direct result of years of inadequate leadership at various levels of the VA. Thankfully, due to the herculean efforts of the health care professionals at the medical center, no veterans lost their lives as a result of these conditions.

“Secretary Shulkin recently addressed the breakdown in leadership at the DC VA Medical Center and has announced his plans to rectify the failures at this facility and at other underperforming medical centers across the country. I look forward to pressing the VA and working with my colleagues in Congress to ensure that we are able to offer the best possible care for our veterans.”

Last year, Sens. Warner, Tim Kaine, and Jon Tester wrote to Secretary Shulkin, expressing their concern over the OIG’s initial interim report that detailed many of the deficiencies identified in the full report. The senators demanded immediate action be taken to ensure sufficient and sanitary supplies are available, and they requested that the VA review any patients who may have been exposed to unsafe practices and called for critical senior staff positions to be filled quickly to ensure these issues can be promptly remedied.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced today that Loudoun County will receive $25 million in federal funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to help alleviate traffic congestion. The grant will allow Loudoun County to construct a new 1.6-mile segment of Northstar Boulevard to complete a 14-mile north-south corridor connecting to U.S. Route 50 – a key transportation route within the County. Sens. Warner and Kaine sent letters last year to DOT in support of Loudoun County’s TIGER grant application. 

“In the past ten years, the population of Loudoun County has increased by more than 32 percent, faster than any other county in the Commonwealth,” said the Senators. “Over the next ten years, the County’s population is expected to grow by another 20 percent. This growth in population and jobs is only possible with continued investment in roads and other transportation infrastructure, and that’s why it is so important that we continue the TIGER grant program and continue to invest in our nation’s infrastructure. These federal funds will help Loudoun County upgrade its transportation network so it is better prepared to meet the needs of its increasing population and workforce.”

The new Northstar Boulevard segment will be designed as a controlled access thoroughfare comprised of a four-lane divided roadway located within a proposed six-lane right-of-way. It will include a 10-foot wide shared-use path and 6-foot wide sidewalks, three signalized intersections, and two new bridges. The $25 million in federal funds represents more than one-third of the total cost of the project, according to the County.

The funding was provided through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Discretionary Grant program, which provides a unique opportunity for the DOT to invest in road, rail, transit and port projects that promise to achieve national objectives.

 

###

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement on the Geneal Services Administration (GSA) report on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) consolidation plan:  

“This is a deeply disappointing decision that reverses years of consensus that a new FBI headquarters in the Washington region would be the most cost-effective option for taxpayers and what’s best for the agency's mission of protecting and defending the United States. It raises serious questions that GSA would ignore its previous careful consideration and forgo the millions of dollars already spent in the search to relocate the Bureau. I continue to believe that the identified site in Springfield, Virginia would provide the FBI with the best location to build a modern and secure facility that meets the needs of the FBI and its workforce. Congress should look closely into what led to this reversal and carefully reevaluate all of the options available for the construction of this new facility.”  

###

WASHINGTON — Following President Trump’s call for a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan at this week’s State of the Union, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) today urged the Administration to keep a critical funding promise to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and pushed for additional funding for Metro improvements. In a letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao, the Senators warned about the potential loss of federal funding, which is leveraged by Metro to make critical capital and safety improvements, and asked for additional funding to be included in the President’s upcoming infrastructure plan.  

“We all agree on the need for WMATA to demonstrate major improvement in safety, reliability, and customer service and we plan to continue to push for additional oversight and meaningful reform,” the Senators wrote. “The federal government relies on Metro. Many Metrorail stations were built at the request of the federal government, and more than one third of all stations are located on or near federal facilities. Without providing the federal portion next year, this delicate funding partnership would unravel, leaving a significant shortfall in WMATA’s capital budget.”

In 2008, the bipartisan Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act granted WMATA $150 million in yearly federal funds for a total of a $1.5 billion in federal investment for a ten-year period. In 2010, the federal government began fulfilling their commitment and have followed through in subsequent years to provide funding for nine straight years. The 2019 funds would represent the tenth and final year of that ten-year commitment.

During the State of the Union on Tuesday, President Trump called on Congress to produce a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan that leveraged “every dollar” by “partnering with state and local governments.” The funding provided to Metro each year is matched by the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia jurisdictions. 

“As you finalize work on the President’s reported $1 trillion infrastructure investment proposal, we again call on you to include funding within that proposal for additional WMATA improvements. The federal government clearly relies on Metro and maintaining a functioning transit system for the seat of the federal government is a national priority. For these reasons, we strongly urge that you consider WMATA’s needs as you finalize the President’s proposal that will help make desperately needed repair to our nation’s infrastructure,” added the Senators.

A PDF copy of the letter is available here. Full text can be found below. 

 

Dear Director Mulvaney and Secretary Chao,

 

As you draft the President’s Proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2019, we urge you to include the annual $150 million in federal funds for critical capital and safety improvements for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). In addition, as you continue crafting President Trump’s infrastructure investment proposal, we urge that you consider dedicating a significant and robust amount of funding to make improvements to WMATA. 

 

The bipartisan Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA, PL 110-432) created this successful federal-state partnership under which the three WMATA jurisdictions collectively match this funding with another $150 million each year for 10 years for a total of a $1.5 billion federal investment. In FY 2010, the federal government began fulfilling their commitment and have followed through in subsequent years to provide funding for nine straight years. FY 2019 would represent the tenth and final year of that ten-year commitment. Without providing the federal portion next year, this delicate funding partnership would unravel, leaving a significant shortfall in WMATA’s capital budget.

 

The federal government relies on Metro. Many Metrorail stations were built at the request of the federal government, and more than one third of all stations are located on or near federal facilities. Federal employees comprise nearly 40 percent of WMATA’s peak ridership, and millions of others use the WMATA system (Metrorail, Metrobus, and Metro’s Paratransit programs) each year for business or personal visits to the Nation’s Capital. WMATA also serves a unique national security role, providing transportation for federal employees traveling to and from the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security and ensuring continuity of federal operations during an emergency. WMATA is central to most federal agency emergency preparedness plans, a necessity that was proven on September 11, 2001. The system is also indispensable for transporting large crowds attending events of national importance, such as the Presidential Inauguration and Fourth of July on the National Mall.

 

We do not dismiss the challenges Metrorail faces – created by a combination of under-investment in infrastructure and unsatisfactory agency performance. Recent safety issues, including a high-profile fatal incident in 2015 as well as last month’s train derailment, have shined a light on the vast scope of the system’s safety challenges. We all agree on the need for WMATA to demonstrate major improvement in safety, reliability, and customer service and we plan to continue to push for additional oversight and meaningful reform. We also strongly emphasize that better performance from WMATA and reliable funding from Congress and the jurisdictions are complementary goals. Both must be achieved in order for WMATA to reverse a concerning downward trend in ridership – which will simply put more of its 600,000 daily riders back onto already-congested highways – and earn back the trust of visitors and daily commuters.

 

Since General Manager Paul Wiedefeld joined WMATA, the agency has undertaken a number of bold steps to address the challenges it faces. At the close of 2017, all 1000 and 4000 series railcars were retired and replaced, significantly improving safety and reliability. General Manager Wiedefeld is making tough decisions necessary to instill a new safety culture and to allocate limited resources, including by designating managers as “at-will” employees and eliminating approximately 800 positions, and terminating individuals responsible for safety transgressions. Now that General Manager Wiedefeld is finally taking the overdue tough steps to turn around this troubled agency, it is important that he have the full resources (already authorized by Congress) to do the job right.

 

In addition, as you finalize work on the President’s reported $1.5 trillion infrastructure investment proposal, we again call on you to include funding within that proposal for additional WMATA improvements. As stated above, the federal government clearly relies on Metro and maintaining a functioning transit system for the seat of the federal government is a national priority. The complex funding arrangement involving Virginia, Maryland, D.C. and the local jurisdictions also provides an opportunity for federal investment to be leveraged by state and local matches. WMATA noted last year that the Metro system has $25 billion in total unfunded capital needs, and if those needs are not addressed soon, costs will simply continue to escalate. For these reasons, we strongly urge that you consider WMATA’s needs as you finalize the President’s proposal that will help make desperately needed repairs to our nation’s infrastructure.

 

We look forward to working with you to improve the safety and performance of the Metro system, and ask that you give our requests strong consideration.  

 

Sincerely,

 

cc: Gary Cohn, Director, National Economic Council

 

 

###

 

Sen. Warner Invites West Point Cadet Simone Askew to State of the Union

Simone Askew is the first African-American woman to lead the Corps of Cadets at West Point

Jan 29 2018

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) announced that he will be inviting Cadet Simone Askew, the First Captain of West Point, as his guest to President Trump’s State of the Union, which is scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, January 30th at 9 PM. At 21 years old, Cadet Askew made history by becoming the first African-American woman to hold the highest student position at the United States Military Academy at West Point, overseeing roughly 4,400 cadets. This role was previously held by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and four-star Army generals who currently command forces in South Korea and Afghanistan.

“At West Point, you learn that discipline goes beyond staying the course and working hard to earn your place. It involves doing what you can to give back to all those who have helped you succeed along the way,” said Cadet Askew. “While I have been humbled by the support, I can’t ignore the sacrifices made by so many others before me. I want to thank Senator Warner for inviting me as his guest, knowing that I stand on the shoulders of all those women who helped pave the way for me to be where I am today.”

“Cadet Askew has earned her place at the top among the students at West Point, showing a remarkable dedication to her studies and a deep commitment to service. Cadet Askew shows what is possible when smart, talented young women are given the opportunity to lead,” said Sen. Warner. “It is an honor to help showcase her journey, which may one day inspire the next generation of women to break new barriers.”

After a federal law was passed in 1975 allowing women to be admitted to military academies, the first co-ed class graduated West Point in 1980. Now, according to statistics on West Point’s website, 15 percent of the Corps of Cadets are women. Cadet Askew is only the fifth woman to lead the Corps of Cadets.

Cadet Simone Askew grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, before moving to Fairfax County, Virginia, where she attended Lanier Middle School and then Fairfax High School. After receiving a recommendation from Sen. Warner, Cadet Askew was accepted and enrolled as a student at West Point where she is studying international history and hopes to pursue a career in military intelligence when she graduates in May 2018 as a second lieutenant. Askew was also one of 32 American students awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to continue her studies at the University of Oxford in England.  

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, responded to today’s announcement by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) that it intends to add the Governmentwide Personnel Security Clearance Process to GAO’s High-Risk List of federal areas in need of either broad-based transformation or specific reform to prevent waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. 

“GAO’s announcement that the security clearance process has returned to its high priority list reaffirms what we all have known for the last several years: our current clearance system is broken, as two recent studies I requested of GAO have confirmed. The current process to grant clearances to government personnel and contractors, born 70 years ago, takes too long, costs too much, and is too complex. It is a disservice to the people who support critical national security functions, and it is a disservice to the American people,” said Sen. Warner. “We can and should reform the clearance process by making use of new technologies and information sources. I look forward to GAO’s sustained attention to help usher the clearance system into the 21st century, and ensure we can recruit and hire an expert, trusted workforce.” 

GAO added the government-wide personnel security clearance process to the High-Risk List due, in part, to challenges identified in two recent reports on the personnel security clearance process (GAO-18-117 and GAO-18-29) requested by Sen. Warner. Currently, executive branch agencies are unable to investigate and process personnel security clearances in a timely manner, contributing to a significant backlog of background investigations, totaling more than 700,000 cases as of September 2017, according to the GAO.

Also today, Sen. Warner sent a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director (OMB) Mick Mulvaney, requesting that the Administration include in the FY 2019 budget request adequate funding for departments’ and agencies’ background investigations for purposes of suitability assessments and security clearances. 

“I request that the President’s budget request for fiscal year 2019 ensures adequate funding for departments’ and agencies’ background investigations for purposes of suitability assessments and security clearances. I also request you treat personnel security as a special topic in the budget request. It is essential that background investigations are treated as a critical mission function that receives attention from our government’s top leadership,” wrote Sen. Warner in the letter. “Since 2014, agencies have seen lengthy delays in background investigations, a situation which now poses a national security personnel crisis.” A copy of the letter is available here.

 

###

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the below statement today following the release of video showing the U.S. Park Police shooting that resulted in the death of Fairfax County resident Bijan Ghaisar:

“The footage of Bijan Ghaisar’s death released today is disturbing. My staff has met with Mr. Ghaisar’s family, and I believe they deserve answers about the circumstances under which U.S. Park Police Officers engaged with Mr. Ghaisar during this incident, including repeatedly firing into his vehicle and ending his life. I plan to press the FBI to fully investigate this matter in the most transparent way possible.”

###

 

**Update: On January 31, 2018, WMATA responded to the below letter. WMATA announced that it will speed the purchase of 2,500 dual-band radios that will allow Metro operators to communicate directly with Metro’s communications center and first responders.**

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today asked the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to renew its focus on safety and prioritize fixing any remaining radio communications problems following a red line Metro derailment Monday morning, during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. In a letter to Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld, Sen. Warner noted that despite years of work and millions of dollars invested to fix this issue, communication issues remain. 

“Although progress has been made in some respects, Monday’s train derailment and related radio communications problems serve as a stark reminder that WMATA needs to renew its focus and prioritize fixing any remaining radio communications problems,” Sen. Warner wrote. “Despite years of work on this issue and millions of dollars invested, the continued problems with this network are simply unacceptable.”

Sen. Warner raised similar concerns nearly three years ago following the fatal smoke incident that occurred at the L’Enfant Plaza metro station, where severe problems with WMATA’s public safety radio network, as well as interoperability issues involving communication with local law enforcement agencies including the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, were first noted. In response to Sen. Warner’s request, Metro pledged to implement a system to test Metro and regional emergency radio systems.

“The federal government has committed significant investments to improve the efficiency and safety of the Metro system, and you can count on my staunch advocacy here in Congress for continued federal investment. While I understand the current budgetary restrictions that WMATA faces, safety must always be the top priority and a reliable public safety radio network is critical to ensuring the safety of Metro’s riders,” the Senator added.

A PDF copy of the letter is available here. Full text can be found below. 

 

January 18, 2018

 

Mr. Paul J. Wiedefeld

General Manager

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

600 5th Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20001

 

Dear Mr. Wiedefeld,  

I write to you, nearly three years to the day, after first raising the issue of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) breakdown in public safety radio communications. Although progress has been made in some respects, Monday’s train derailment and related radio communications problems serve as a stark reminder that WMATA needs to renew its focus and prioritize fixing any remaining radio communications problems. Despite years of work on this issue and millions of dollars invested, the continued problems with this network are simply unacceptable. Our region’s commuters, WMATA’s train operators, and local law enforcement officers deserve better than to be forced to deal with “spotty” radio coverage that could jeopardize lives in the case of an accident or incident underground. For these reasons, I ask that WMATA provide me with an update on current efforts to sufficiently and effectively maintain the underground radio communication network, including answers to the specific questions below.  

In my letter of January 22, 2015, I noted multiple concerns related to the emergency response following the fatal smoke incident on a Metro train near the L’Enfant Plaza station. During that incident, it was apparent that there were severe problems with WMATA’s public safety radio network, as well as interoperability issues involving communication with local law enforcement agencies including the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. In response to my request, WMATA and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), through a months-long, serious effort, developed recommendations for short-term and long-term improvements that included more frequent testing of communications networks and increased collaboration with local jurisdictions. 

Recent media reports of “ghost” trains, poorly maintained cables, and sources complaining of unaddressed problems months after an issue was first raised indicate that earlier problems persist and the effort to ensure a working public safety radio network must be redoubled. Understanding that installation of the new 700 MHz radio system is underway, completion of that work is still years away and we continue to rely on the current 490 MHz Comprehensive Radio Communications System (CRCS). We cannot rush to install the new technology at the expense of maintaining the current system, leaving current Metro riders vulnerable in the case of an incident where a working public safety radio system is critical.

In Monday’s Red Line derailment, we were fortunate to avoid any injuries or fatalities. However, the reported radio problems served as a stark reminder that a reliable public safety radio network is critical to the overall safety of the system. 

To that end, I ask for comprehensive responses to the following questions by January 26, 2018.

  1. What is the status of the action items taken on by WMATA and its partners stemming from its 2015 work with COG? How many of the short-term recommendations from COG’s July 2015 report were implemented? How many of the long-term recommendations were implemented, or are in the process of being implemented?
  2. Do interoperability concerns continue? Do local law enforcement radio networks continue to experience problems in communicating with WMATA networks, and how does WMATA plan to make improvements in this area? 
  3. How much has been invested in the new 700 MHz radio system thus far?
  4. How much is current estimate on total cost of implementation, and what is current estimate on when that will be completed?
  5. Is funding being budgeted appropriately to meet the planned completion date? Does a shortfall exist, where remaining funding has not yet been identified?
  6. How much is being budgeted for maintenance of CRCS? Is it WMATA’s position that it has sufficient funding to provide for adequate maintenance of CRCS, or is there a funding shortfall for this effort? 
  7.  Has frequent testing of the system continued to date, in accordance with the plans developed following the 2015 fatal smoke incident? How often are “dead spots” discovered? Can you share a full inventory of current “dead spots”? What is the average response time to address and fix any reported “dead spots”?

 The federal government has committed significant investments to improve the efficiency and safety of the Metro system, and you can count on my staunch advocacy here in Congress for continued federal investment. While I understand the current budgetary restrictions that WMATA faces, safety must always be the top priority and a reliable public safety radio network is critical to ensuring the safety of Metro’s riders. 

Sincerely, 

MARK R. WARNER

 

###

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined a group of 27 Senate Democrats in a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Nielsen urging DHS to reverse its decision to end Temporary Protection Status (TPS) designation for El Salvador.

Earlier this week, DHS announced it would be ending TPS designation for the nearly 200,000 Salvadorans working and living under TPS protections in the United States today. Ending the TPS designation will not only uproot thousands of lives, disrupt communities across the U.S. and remove much-needed workers from important sectors of the U.S. economy, but it will also harm progress made to improve conditions in El Salvador. 

“We believe that conditions in El Salvador remain unstable, and that continued TPS designation is warranted for the country,” the senators wrote. “In June 2017, the Trump administration held a conference to promote prosperity, governance, and rule of law in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America—including El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. While progress has been made under the Alliance for Prosperity in reducing gang violence, improving rule of law, and addressing root causes of migration, considerably more work needs to be done as conditions remain dangerous and the economic situation tenuous. The decision to end TPS for 200,000 Salvadorans and needlessly subject these immigrants to deportation stands to threaten, not further, this progress.” 

In addition to Sens. Warner and Kaine, the letter was signed by Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). 

The letter is available here. The text of the letter is below.

 

The Honorable Kirstjen Nielsen

Secretary 

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Washington, D.C.  20528

 

Dear Secretary Nielsen:

We write to express our deep concern regarding the unprecedented decision to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for El Salvador, and to request that you reverse this decision. 

As you know, nearly 200,000 Salvadorans currently work and live in the United States under TPS protections—more than from any other country. These immigrants have high levels of workforce participation, and their valuable role in our labor force is vital to our economy. According to a recent analysis by the Center for American Progress, if Salvadoran workers with TPS are removed from the labor force, we will lose an estimated $109 billion in GDP over the next decade, as well as billions of dollars in Social Security and Medicare contributions.[1]  The renewal of El Salvador’s TPS designation has received strong support from leaders in both business and labor, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,[2] the AFL-CIO,[3] and the SEIU.[4]  Ending TPS protections for El Salvador will needlessly push nearly 200,000 hardworking immigrants into the shadows, hurting employers in industries across our economy.

El Salvador’s government requested last year that the Trump Administration continue its existing TPS designation, after assessing that its country lacks the capacity to absorb tens of thousands of TPS returnees.[5] Additionally, remittances transmitted by TPS recipients, who are authorized to work in the U.S., provide a critical boost to El Salvador’s fragile economic security. More than 50 percent of TPS recipients in these countries have resided in the U.S. for 20 years or more, and TPS beneficiaries are parents to an estimated 273,000 U.S. citizen children.[6]  The decision to end TPS will uproot thousands of well-established lives and, in many cases, will devastate families and communities.

We believe that conditions in El Salvador remain unstable, and that continued TPS designation is warranted for the country. In June 2017, the Trump administration held a conference to promote prosperity, governance, and rule of law in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America—including El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. While progress has been made under the Alliance for Prosperity in reducing gang violence, improving rule of law, and addressing root causes of migration, considerably more work needs to be done as conditions remain dangerous and the economic situation tenuous. The decision to end TPS for 200,000 Salvadorans and needlessly subject these immigrants to deportation stands to threaten, not further, this progress.

Given these concerns, we ask that you provide the following information no later than January 25, 2018:

1. A complete copy of documents prepared by the State Department and transmitted to the Department of Homeland Security regarding the country condition in El Salvador, including the recommendation regarding extension or termination of the TPS designation for El Salvador;

2. A complete copy of documents prepared by the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador and transmitted to the State Department regarding the Embassy’s assessment of country conditions and formal recommendation related to the extension or termination of the TPS designation for El Salvador;

3. A description of how this information was considered in reaching your decision to terminate the TPS designation for El Salvador;

4. A description of how, if at all, the State Department’s February 14, 2017, travel warning stating that El Salvador has one of the highest homicide levels in the world, and citing high rates of MS-13 and Eighteenth Street gang violence, was considered in reaching your decision to terminate the TPS designation for El Salvador; and

5. A description of any involvement by White House officials in the decision-making process related to the TPS designation for El Salvador, including detailing any policy preference or perspective communicated by the White House to you or other Department of Homeland Security officials.

We urge you to reconsider the decision to end TPS protections for Salvadorans, and commit to working with Congress to pass legislation providing permanent protections for current TPS beneficiaries. Thank you for your attention to this matter. 

With best personal regards, we are

                                                          Sincerely yours,

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and U.S. Representatives Donald McEachin, Gerry Connolly, Don Beyer, and Bobby Scott sent a letter to the Trump Administration requesting that Virginia be exempted from its offshore drilling proposal, citing localconcerns over the risks to tourism, the watermen’s industry, and the country’s Naval operations.

The Virginia legislators cited Secretary Zinke’s announcement that drilling off the Florida coast was taken “off the table” after listening to “local and state” voices, and asked that the Trump Administration take similar concerns from Virginians just as seriously. Virginia’s coastal leaders -from the Democratic mayor of Norfolk to the Republican mayor of Virginia Beach and the current Governor and Governor-elect of Virginia - have all voiced opposition to drilling off of the Virginia coast.

“As Members of Congress from Virginia, we request you remove the Virginia offshore area from your proposed 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. We note your willingnessto listen to local voices in Florida with grave concerns over the risks of offshore drilling there. We ask that you likewise consider local opposition in Virginia’s coastal communities as well as opposition from its Governor, Senators, and House members to a new five-year plan at this point,” the group said.

 

The full text of the letter appears below.

Dear Secretary Zinke:

As Members of Congress from Virginia, we request you remove the Virginia offshore area from your proposed 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. We note your willingness to listen to local voices in Florida with grave concerns over the risks of offshore drilling there. We ask that you likewise consider local opposition in Virginia’s coastal communities as well as opposition from its Governor, Senators, and House members to a new five-year plan at this point.

The statement from your office announcing the removal of the Florida offshore stated, “Local voice matters.” We couldn’t agree more.

While many states have long histories of energy production, states like Florida and Virginia have robust economies based on other sectors like tourism, aquaculture, outdoor recreation, deepwater port commerce, and especially Department of Defense infrastructure. Florida is home to some 20 DOD installations, while Virginia’s coastal area alone has more than a dozen across every service branch, including Naval Station Norfolk, the world’s largest naval installation. While it is within DOD’s mandate to work with Interior, any look at a map displays vast offshore areas in which drilling could conflict with military activities. In a time of relatively stable prices and booming oil and gas production elsewhere, the risks outweigh the benefits.

Opposition to offshore drilling is an opinion broadly shared by communities on the Virginia coast, including by the Democratic mayor of Norfolk and the Republican mayor of Virginia Beach. In fact, the city council of Virginia Beach (Virginia’s most populous city) actively voted to shift its prior support for offshore drilling from supportive to neutral, then from neutral to opposed.

We hope you will take opposition from Virginia coastal communities as seriously as you took the concerns from Florida residents and elected officials.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

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