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Updates from Sen. Hirono (Dec. 9-19)



The Senate has voted on a 1,600 page bill that funds nearly every policy area and government program through Sept. 30, 2015.

Sen. Mazie K. Hirono joined a number of her colleagues in voting against this proposal, which passed on a vote of 56 to 40.

Hirono joined 39 of her colleagues including Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jon Tester (D-MT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Al Franken (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) in voting against the bill.

“The price of funding government programs for only one year should not be permanent changes to laws that will have lasting impacts on working families for years to come and that is why I could not in good conscience support this bill,” said Hirono. “I respect the right of every Senator to vote his or her conscience on every difficult vote. And this was a difficult vote. Despite the differences reflected in this vote, my hope is that we will go forward to do our work so that the outcomes will reflect clearly that we are on the side of working, everyday American people.”

“Important government programs that support our families and communities should not be held hostage to get permanent changes to laws that undermine the middle class. This bill revises pension laws in a way that breaks a longstanding commitment to retirees and working people,” said Hirono. “In Hawaii this change could impact some 37,000 union members and their families. This bill waters down hard-fought limits on Wall Street recklessness and lifts the ceiling for political contributions to parties at a time when the flood of big money in our democracy is a matter of national outrage.”



Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, a member of the Senate Armed Services and the Veterans’ Affairs committees, today voted to pass the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The defense bill includes important provisions for Hawaii including providing for construction and upgrades to military facilities, supporting the health and education of our troops and their families, enhancing our national security focus on the Asia-Pacific, supporting Hawaii’s military-connected public schools, focusing on improving military readiness and saving taxpayer dollars through energy efficiency.

“The national defense authorization bill includes smart, meaningful investments for our military personnel serving in Hawaii and around the globe. The bill includes many important provisions which authorize Department of Defense activities and provide for the well-being of our service members and their families,” said Hirono. “I worked to strengthen and protect our commissaries and to ensure the continued modernization of our military facilities to keep our armed services at the highest levels of readiness.”

The measure will now be sent to the White House for the President’s signature.

Additional provisions in the NDAA include:

Improving Readiness, Saving Taxpayer Dollars through Improved Energy Efficiency

In order to have a more sustainable and cost-efficient military, an increased investment in renewable energy is paramount. Hirono worked with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) to include a bipartisan amendment that gives the Department of Defense (DOD) flexibility to improve energy efficiency and use green building techniques for their infrastructure. Additionally, the bill includes a Hirono amendment that will help reduce fuel costs across all major DOD vehicle and weapon purchases.

Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies

Hirono included a provision that would designate the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu, Hawaii, as the “Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.” Since opening on September 4, 1995, the Center has worked to cultivate strong bilateral ties between the U.S. Pacific Command and its counterparts in other nations across the Asia-Pacific. Sen. Inouye’s work to expand the Center greatly contributed to its growth as an academic institution addressing regional and global security issues.

Increased Focus on the Military Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific Region

A Hirono provision will bring to bear an independent assessment of the strategy, capabilities and future needs within the Asia-Pacific theatre. Hirono also included a provision that halts an Air Force plan to move four KC-135 refueling tankers from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to California pending the results of a cost-benefit analysis.

Protected and Strengthened Commissary Benefits

As a member of the Subcommittee on Personnel, Hirono fought to preserve commissary prices, which are a valuable benefit to many of our servicemembers, military families and military retirees. She also supports a provision requiring the Defense Department to consult with retail grocery experts to identify potential savings in the commissary system and allowing commissaries to purchase and sell generic drugs.

More Provisions to Help Servicemembers as they Transition to Civilian Life

Hirono worked to include updates to DOD’s Transition Assistance Program. Servicemembers will have updated, accurate information on how to select a college, utilize their GI Bill benefit, avoid scams or costly private loans and file complaints online. Hirono worked on the amendment with Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Tom Carper (D-DE), who are also champions of improving educational benefits and services for current and former servicemembers. Another provision requires the DOD to conduct a study on the impact of Tricare Prime Service Area reductions on beneficiary access to care.

Increased Support for Military Families with Keiki in Hawaii’s Public Schools

Hirono fought to continue funding for the Hawaii Department of Education (HDOE) and other school districts with military-connected children through federal Impact Aid. Hirono included provisions from the Local Taxpayer Relief Act, a bill she first introduced as a member of the U.S. House, and reintroduced in 2013 with Republican co-lead Sen. John Thune (R-SD).

Required Consultations with Chief of the National Guard Bureau on Personnel Hiring

The NDAA includes Hirono’s provision to require certain general officers assigned to the National Guard Bureau be selected by the service Secretary only after consultations with the Chief of the National Guard Bureau. Previously, officers could be assigned to senior positions within the National Guard Bureau without consultation with the Chief.

The NDAA also includes support for the following investments in Hawaii:

* U.S. Army Pacific Command: $311 million to complete construction of the U.S. Army Pacific’s Command and Control Facility.

* Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam: $62.6 million for military construction and facilities upgrades.

* Marine Corps Base Hawaii: $53.4 million for military construction and facilities upgrades and $8.5 million for energy conservation projects.

* DOD Impact Aid assistance: $25 million nationally for Impact Aid assistance to school districts for educating military-dependent children and $5 million for Impact Aid assistance for children with disabilities.

* Maui Space Surveillance System: $14 million for the Maui Space Surveillance System which is a telescope important to national defense activities.

* STARBASE Program: $25 million nationwide for supporting Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education by exposing youth to technological environments on military bases and installations.



Sen. Mazie K. Hirono presided over a full Senate Judiciary Committee hearing examining President Obama’s executive order that will bring 5 million undocumented people in our country out of the shadows, including an estimated 7,000 individuals in Hawaii.

The committee hearing highlighted the executive order’s impact on families, businesses, and American workers.

“This is not just some abstract discussion about legal theory. It is about real people and real families. It is about taking concrete steps toward making our families and our economy stronger,” said Hirono. “It is about who we are as a country.”

As an immigrant who came to America as a small child with her family, Hirono drew on her own experiences and shared her unique perspective at the hearing.

“My story is the story of millions. My mother brought me to this country when I was a young girl. While we had very little as immigrants, mom had a dream to provide a better life for our family. Many of these families come to the U.S. to pursue similar dreams, perhaps starting their own business or working to provide for their family in a safe community. Regardless of education or background or financial means, immigrants do best with their families around them,” said Hirono. “Family is the cornerstone of our immigration system and the President’s commonsense plan helps keep families together.”

The President’s executive order will tighten border security, strengthen enforcement, and focus taxpayer dollars on getting violent criminals off our streets—not on deporting families. The action will help drive economic growth, cut the deficit, and support American businesses and workers. Individuals who qualify to stay in the U.S. will be required to pass tough background checks and pay taxes.

There is well-established legal groundwork and historical precedent for President Obama’s action: every president since President Eisenhower has used the authority of his office to act on immigration.



The Senate Armed Services Committee voted to advance the nomination of Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr. to the post of Commander of the United States Pacific Command.

Sen. Mazie K. Hirono voted in favor of Admiral Harris’s nomination, which now goes to the full Senate.

“During my conversations with Admiral Harris, we both agreed on the importance of our country’s strategic rebalance to the Pacific and the vital role Hawaii plays in our national security,” said Hirono. “Admiral Harris has led with distinction throughout his military career. I am confident in his ability to lead our armed forces in the Pacific and look forward to continue working with him upon his confirmation by the full Senate.”

Admiral Harry Harris is the highest-ranking Japanese-American naval officer and the first to attain the rank of a four-star flag officer.

A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Harris has served in every geographic combatant command and was assigned in 2011 as the assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Since October 2013, Harris has served as Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Headquartered at Camp H.M. Smith in Hawaii, the U.S. Pacific Command is the oldest and largest of the United States’ unified commands.

The commander of U.S. Pacific Command reports to the President of the United States through the Secretary of Defense and is supported by multiple component and sub-unified commands including: U.S. Forces Korea, U.S. Forces Japan, U.S. Pacific Fleet, U.S. Marine Forces Pacific, U.S. Pacific Air Forces and U.S. Army Pacific.

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