U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, voted today for final passage of a bipartisan bill to elevate the Chief of the National Guard Bureau to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and fund the Department of Defense for the coming year. The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act will now go to the President's desk for his signature.
Senator Manchin, who was part of the group negotiating a compromise on the differences between a Senate version of the bill and a House version, applauded the bipartisan efforts to reach a final measure that advances many of West Virginians' highest priorities -- particularly elevating the Guard. Senator Manchin also thanked Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), along with Representatives Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), Shelley Moore Capito and David McKinley (both R-W.Va) for their work on the measure.
"We don't see much bipartisan cooperation around here, but members of Congress from both parties recognized that our National Guard has earned a place at the highest tables of our nation's military, and I was so proud to help fight for this well-deserved honor. No one achieved this for the Guard -- their hard work and sacrifice earned them this seat," Senator Manchin said. "As Governor, I was extremely honored to be the commander-in-chief of the best National Guard and Reserve forces in the nation. On top of giving the Guard this long-overdue elevation, I am so encouraged to see that in this bill, Democrats and Republicans put politics aside and made sure that our defense needs are funded -- and that we did so for the 50th consecutive year. I ask the President to sign this bill quickly."
In addition to the elevation of the Guard Chief, the bill also includes a 1.6 percent across-the-board pay raise for all members of the uniformed services. It also caps future health care fee increases to cost of living adjustments.
As the country is tightening its fiscal belt, the measure also makes commonsense reductions in defense spending, shaving $19 billion from authorized 2011 funding.
The bill includes a tough, bipartisan approach for dealing with suspected terrorist detainees.
"On this important debate, my highest priority was the safety of our homeland and stopping those who would do us harm," Senator Manchin said. "I truly believe that we came to an important agreement on the best approach to deal with terrorists and members of al-Qaeda, and I appreciate the efforts of my colleagues -- especially Senators Carl Levin, John McCain and Dianne Feinstein -- to come to this agreement that protects the rights of American citizens and defends our homeland."
Additional Manchin-sponsored highlights of the bill include:
Military Construction in West Virginia: A total of $12.2 million in military construction funding is included for projects at Camp Dawson and Buckhannon Army National Guard Readiness Center.
Sanctions against Iran: The legislation includes powerful new sanctions against the financial sector of Iran, including the Central Bank of Iran.
Keeping counterfeit electronic parts of out the supply chain for our military. This measure deals with parts that are fake or previously used and that have been made to look new and are sold as new, and whose use can cause unexpected equipment failure and grave harm to our troops.
No Contracting with the Enemy: The bill authorizes the Department of Defense to void a contract to a contractor who has been determined to be actively opposing U.S. forces in Afghanistan. A related provision would provide enhanced audit authority to assist in the enforcement of this provision.
Freezing Aid to Pakistan: The legislation gives the U.S. the ability to freeze nearly $700 million in aid to Pakistan, pending the Defense Department's delivery of a strategy for improving the effectiveness of such assistance and assurances that Pakistan is countering Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) networks in their country that are targeting coalition forces. This freeze includes the majority of the $1.1 billion in Pakistan Counterinsurgency Funds.
Investments in our Special Forces: The legislation includes investments in future capability and technology to ensure that the Department of Defense -- and our Special Operations Forces in particular -- has robust capabilities to take on constantly evolving threats against America and our allies.
Resources for the National Guard: $325 million for National Guard and Reserve equipment is included in the legislation.