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Updates from Rep. Gabbard


At 4:45 a.m. April 30, after a House Armed Services Committee meeting that lasted over 18 hours, U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), voted in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 (NDAA). The Committee passed the funding measure by a bipartisan vote of 60-2.

“With competing priorities, readiness needs, and a variety of threats that are constantly evolving in different parts of the world, it’s important that we ensure our troops have the resources they need to do their job in keeping the American people safe,” said Gabbard.

“Given the evolving threats we face in the Asia-Pacific region, I’m pleased that in addition to almost $500 million in investment for Hawaii military infrastructure, two of my own amendments were included in the bill that help ensure Hawaii will be protected against missile threats from North Korea. Additionally, Congressman John Kline and I worked together to include an amendment that will keep the pressure on the Pentagon to provide access to affordable healthcare for those military retirees who live outside the TRICARE Prime service area. The Department of Defense’s 2013 policy change disproportionately negatively impacted our neighbor island residents, which is a wrong that must be fixed.”

Gabbard’s amendments and priorities in the NDAA are listed below:

Missile Defense for Hawaii: Gabbard cosponsored two amendments that will help ensure that Hawaii is equipped with ballistic missile defense capabilities that will keep the people of Hawaii safe. Both passed unanimously in Committee. The first, pushed back the timeline for moving the Sea-Based X-band radar from Pearl Harbor to a site on the East Coast, and requires the Missile Defense Agency to certify that Hawaii will have missile defense coverage before the move. The other requires The Department of Defense (DOD) to give Congress a plan for a radar capability that will enhance the defense of Hawaii against threats posed by emerging ballistic missile technologies.

TRICARE Prime: Gabbard worked with Congressman John Kline (R-MN), to successfully pass an amendment that keeps the pressure on DOD to give affordable healthcare to those who lost eligibility for TRICARE Prime solely because of where they live. The DOD’s 2013 policy change that reduced TRICARE Prime service areas impacted over 1,000 people in Hawaii. The island geography of Hawaii presents unique access challenges for our veterans, particularly those who require inter-island transportation in order to get medical care and treatment. Because of a DOD 2013 change in policy, retirees on neighbor islands became automatically disqualified from opting in because they live on an island where they could not physically drive to an available primary care manager within the distance requirements. This is unacceptable and must be corrected.

Supporting Capabilities for Pacific Command: The NDAA contained several important provisions that support Pacific Command’s capabilities including:

· Gabbard passed an amendment that requires the Department of Defense to provide the Committee with a briefing on the in-theater capabilities provided by the Maui High Performance Computing Center, a hub for innovation and technology that provides high-speed communications infrastructure, support services, and an expert staff and resources to the Air Force.

· Gabbard cosponsored a provision that requires the President to provide an overall strategy for U.S. interests in the region, coordinate implementation of the strategy across the federal government, and provide a separate section in the President’s budget request that identifies the resources put to the Indo-Asia-Pacific strategy.

· An amendment that keeps operational control over U.S. Navy forces assigned to the Pacific fleet to remain under the operational and administrative control of U.S. Pacific Command.

Hawaii Military Construction – $469,750,000 — Military construction (MILCON) funding is used for continued upgrades to critical infrastructure and training assets in the state. This will ensure that Hawaii is viewed as a pivotal location during our nation’s rebalance to the Asia-Pacific.

· $30,623,000 for power grid upgrades at Pacific Missile Range Facility.

· $228,689,000 for projects at Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH), including airfield lighting modernization, housing, and support facilities.

· $60,881,000 for projects at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam (JBPHH) including the F-22 Fighter Alert Facility, welding school shop consolidation, and others.

· $107,563,000 for various projects at Schofield Barracks to construct a behavioral health and dental clinic facility (supports efficient medical and dental services).

· $19,520,000 for energy conservation upgrades at Marine Corps Base Hawaii and Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam.

· $22,384,000 for waterfront improvements at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam for the Navy’s Seal Delivery Vehicle Team 1.

DOD Per Diem Rates: In 2014 DOD put a policy in place that significantly reduced per diem rates for civilian employees and servicemembers who travel over 30 days. Since learning about DOD’s plan, Gabbard has worked with her colleagues in the House to reverse this policy. Last night the Committee passed an amendment that restored these cuts led by Congressman Mark Takai.

Women in Combat: Gabbard cosponsored an amendment that would expedite opening combat roles to women in the military by reducing the ‘notify and wait period’ that the Department of Defense has to abide by before opening closed combat military positions.

Direct assistance to the Kurdish Peshmerga: Gabbard cosponsored an amendment that makes it U.S. policy to bypass Baghdad and provide direct assistance to Kurdish and Sunni fighters in Iraq. The bill authorized $715 million for the Iraqi train and equip program, and created the mechanism necessary to supply 25% of the funds directly to Kurdish and Sunni forces.

Red Hill Underground Fuel Facility Infrastructure Plan: This provision would require an infrastructure plan to make improvements to the Red Hill Underground Fuel Facility moving forward. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) is currently conducting an engineering assessment to determine the best available practicable technological (BAPT) solutions for the recapitalization of the storage tanks to ensure long-term integrity and environmental compliance. This provision requires the Defense Logistics Agency to present a plan to proceed with efforts to recapitalize the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility as quickly as possible.

Barking Sands Technical Underwater Range Replacement: The bill provides an additional $15 million to begin designing a critical upgrade to the Barking Sands Tactical Underwater Range, the largest underwater instrumented range in the world. The current underwater range system is beyond its twenty year design life, this funding would help ensure the Pacific Missile Range Facility will continue to provide unparalleled training, readiness, and test and evaluation support for the United States military, in addition to providing marine mammal monitoring and research capabilities.

Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Eradication: The coconut rhinoceros beetle is an invasive species that can cause millions of dollars of damage to property. The beetle was likely introduced to Guam via military shipments from Indonesia and the beetle has been introduced to Hawaii through military shipments from Guam. This provision would require Secretary of Defense to report on a program to eradicate the coconut rhinoceros beetle.

Major Training Range Infrastructure Investment Study: A number of critical military training ranges exist in the PACOM AOR. The Armed Forces have launched a number of efforts aimed at preserving military training ranges, while also minimizing environmental effects of training activities. This section would direct Congress to study investments in infrastructure needed at major testing and range facilities, and present a plan moving to modernize ranges throughout the nation, including those in Hawaii.

Increased Investment in Small Shipyards: This provision would require the Secretary of Defense to prioritize investment in small shipyards, specifically those run by small businesses that are ancillary to public shipyards.

Public Schools on Military Installations: The Department of Defense, acting through the Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA), has provided grants to local educational agencies to construct, renovate, repair, or expand elementary and secondary public schools on military installations. Many of these schools are in Hawaii, and are in need of dire investment to bring them up to standard. This provision would ensure that schools that have already been allocated funding in the past are upgraded using existing funds, while reevaluating the schools in the lower tiers to gauge necessary reprioritization.

Strategy for the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region: The bill requires the President to provide an overall strategy for U.S. interests in the region, coordinate implementation of the strategy across the federal government, and provide a separate section in the President’s budget request that identifies the resources put to the Indo-Asia-Pacific strategy.

Gabbard Commends U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Ruling that NSA Bulk Phone Surveillance Program is Illegal

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) issued the following statement on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit’s ruling that the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection of American phone records is illegal.

“The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals stood up for protecting our civil liberties, ruling unanimously today that the collection of innocent Americans phone records by the NSA is illegal,” said Gabbard. “The American people deserve to have confidence that the government will balance its’ responsibilities of protecting our civil liberties and privacy, and keeping the American people safe. I have authored and cosponsored several measures to overhaul U.S. surveillance law and next week, the House of Representatives is expected to take up the USA Freedom Act, which looks to take further steps toward real reform that protects our civil liberties and increases transparency.”

This decision comes before the June 1 expiration of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, which authorizes the current NSA “bulk collection” program of calls made or received by Americans.

Gabbard has been a leading voice and critic of the NSA’s overreaching surveillance programs and has worked in a bipartisan way to strengthen oversight of the agency. Last year, Gabbard introduced the bipartisan, bicameral SPOT Act, which would expand the role of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent government watchdog agency, and give the Board greater authorities to carry out its function of balancing the government’s national security and counterterrorism activities with the need to protect the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans.

Gabbard Welcomes Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Congress

U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) released the following statement after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan delivered a historic speech to Congress.

“I proudly welcomed Prime Minister Abe to Congress today, in what was a historic event; the first time a Prime Minister of Japan has spoken before a joint special session of Congress,” said Gabbard. “Prime Minister Abe paid tribute to our warriors who lost their lives in World War II and described how moved he was during his visit to the World War II Memorial. In this historic speech, Prime Minister Abe also took time to express how much our own Senator Daniel K. Inouye ‘symbolized honor and achievements of Japanese-Americans.’

“Hawaii has long enjoyed a special and unique relationship with Japan. Our two nations have many areas of common concern, like fighting terrorism and defending human rights around the world. I look forward to continuing this productive dialogue and working together towards those common goals.”

Gabbard Celebrates Earth Day and Action to Improve and Protect Coastal Reefs in Hawaii

U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard released the following statement after yesterday’s decision by the Department of the Interior (DOI), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to recognize collaborative landscape partnerships that will protect coastal reefs in Hawaii.

“It is Earth Day today – a reminder for all of us think about how we can take action to protect our aina, being inspired by our state motto – Ua Mau ke Ea o ka Aina i ka Pono (The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness). Protecting our environment is not just a policy discussion; it is a way life, embedded in the fabric of our culture and society. To preserve and protect the aina, we must continue to conserve our precious, limited natural resources and promote sustainable practices,” said Gabbard. “I commend the President as well as the EPA, NOAA and Department of Interior on their move to protect and restore the precious coastal reefs in West Hawaii, West Maui, and Heeia. These projects will build on work already being done by our community in these and other areas. I look forward to working toward expanding these initiatives to include other affected reefs across the state.”

According to the DOI, in Hawaii, projects will take place in West Hawaii, West Maui, and Heeia, where improving coastal reef resilience is a major priority. Projects will focus on addressing shoreline erosion, removing invasive species, restoring streams, wetlands, and fishponds, and preventing wildfire impacts. Each location is already designated a priority location by the State of Hawaii and NOAA.

For example, in the Heeia watershed on the island of Oahu, organizations are using NOAA’s Sea Level Rise Viewer to see maps of the potential impacts of sea level rise on the region. Federal agencies will focus efforts with partners to conserve and restore important lands and waters and make them more resilient to a changing climate. In addition to Hawaii other project sites will be in Florida, Washington, and the Great Lakes region.

Tulsi Gabbard and Abraham Williams (Photo courtesy of Tulsi Gabbard)

Tulsi Gabbard and Abraham Williams (Photo courtesy of Tulsi Gabbard)

Tulsi Gabbard and Abraham Gaurachandra Williams were married April 9 in a beautiful Hindu Vedic ceremony.

The wedding was at the historic Kahaluu Fishpond on Kaneohe Bay in windward Oahu and the ceremony wrapped up with a lively yoga kirtan with friends and family.

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