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Updates from Rep. Gabbard (May)


Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) welcomed a bipartisan Congressional Delegation (CODEL) led by Rep. Mike Rogers, House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, to Hawaii.

She joined them on an overview brief of the United States Pacific Command (PACOM), which covers over 50 percent of the globe’s surface and includes nearly 60 percent of the world’s population, setting the scene for the CODEL’s upcoming travels through the Asia-Pacific region to examine missile defense and security cooperation.

Gabbard highlighted Hawaii’s central role in the PACOM Area of Responsibility (AOR) to the delegation and showcased the unique assets located in Hawaii that contribute to regional missile defense, including the Sea-Based X-Band Radar homeported at Pearl Harbor and the Aegis Ashore testing facility located on Kauai’s Pacific Missile Range Facility.

“It’s important for Members of Congress to come and see firsthand the national assets and capabilities that exist in Hawaii and why it’s necessary to continue to ensure the support and resources are here to complete the mission,” said Gabbard, a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees.

“Hawaii’s unique role in national defense and existing threats from places like North Korea must be considered high priorities. I will continue to work towards ensuring our missile defense capabilities move us closer to defending against the increasing threat from North Korea. Today’s meetings equipped these Members with the knowledge and background to effectively work with our partners across the Asia-Pacific in our shared interests for defense and security,” she said.

The CODEL activities included a breakfast meeting with U.S. Army Pacific Commanding General Vincent Brooks, followed by a tour of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and a briefing of the Sea-Based X-Band Radar.

They also met with PACOM Deputy Commander LTG Tony Crutchfield at Camp Smith for a PACOM Area of Responsibility briefing and roundtable discussion. The Honolulu portion of the overview wrapped up with a sobering visit aboard the USS Arizona Memorial.

The CODEL also travelled to Kauai where they met with Captain Bruce Hay and toured the Barking Sands Airfield, Pacific Missile Range Facility, and Aegis Ashore.

Members participating in the Asia-Pacific CODEL include: Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL, HASC Chair, Strategic Forces Subcommittee); Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN, HASC Ranking Member, Strategic Forces Subcommittee); Rep.Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU, HASC Ranking Member, Readiness Subcommittee); Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO, HASC Vice Chair, Strategic Forces Subcommittee); Rep.John Fleming (R-LA); Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS); Rep.Mo Brooks (R-AL); Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC).

Gabbard Leads Bipartisan Effort to Increase Veterans’ Access to Job Training Programs

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Congresswoman Martha McSally (R-AZ), who are both members of the Congressional Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus, introduced the bipartisan Veterans’ Entry to Apprenticeship Act.

The bill would help returning veterans transition to the civilian workforce by allowing them to use their educational benefits for enrollment in pre-apprenticeship programs.

“Our servicemembers develop valuable skills and experience while serving our nation, and should be able to access opportunities to further develop those skills and set themselves up for success as they transition into civilian life,” said Gabbard, Chair of the Congressional post-9/11 Veterans Caucus. “Veterans still face many obstacles as they go through this transition. This bill works to make that transition smoother by enabling our veterans to use their GI Bill benefits for apprenticeship programs in the skilled-trade industry. While there is much to be done, this bill will help reduce the still too high numbers of unemployed veterans, and address the shortage of skilled workers in our country.”

“As a veteran, I know the difficulties our returning service members face as they look to transition to civilian life. This bill will make it easier for them to obtain good-paying jobs using the benefits they earned,” said McSally. “Currently, there are trade and manufacturing jobs going unfilled in our community because there aren’t enough people with the skills needed for them. Opening up job training programs to veterans only makes sense and would be a win for local businesses too. Those who volunteered to put their lives on the line deserve all our efforts to help them, and I thank Rep. Gabbard for working with me on this commonsense legislation.”

The Veterans’ Entry to Apprenticeship Act provides veterans the ability to use their educational benefits under the GI Bill to learn critical workplace skills.

Currently, GI Bill benefits cannot be used to cover the cost of Department of Labor approved pre-apprenticeship programs.

These programs teach the skills and techniques necessary to prepare individuals for apprenticeship training and careers in the skilled-trade industry.

The unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans is nearly 7 percent, a full point higher than the national average. In certain industries, many veterans face barriers to entry into apprenticeship programs because they lack pre-apprenticeship training.

The United States has seen a shortage of skilled workers in recent years. With an increasing number of post-9/11 veterans looking to enter the workforce, and an estimated 573,000 unemployed veterans in 2014, this bill will make it easier for servicemembers to pursue careers in occupations that require an apprenticeship.

The bipartisan bill has 30 original cosponsors in the House. Additionally the bill is supported by the National Guard Association of the United States, the Reserve Officers Association, the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, the National Roofing Contractors Association, the National Association of Home Builders, and the Associated General Contractors of America.

The Congressional post-9/11 Veterans Caucus includes a bipartisan group of Members who have served in the military after 9/11. The Caucus is dedicated to issues related to our newest generation of veterans, and the legislative agenda focuses on the 2.8 million veterans who have served and deployed since 9/11.

Additionally, the Caucus provides a forum for this new generation of veterans to voice their concerns and ideas.

Gabbard Disappointed with Fines for Big Banks, Pushes for Real Wall Street Reform & Accountability

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) responded to news that due to criminal manipulation of the multi-trillion dollar currency market four large banks will pay a combined $5 billion in fines for market rigging.

Additionally, Gabbard announced she is a cosponsor of the Return to Prudent Banking Act of 2015.

This bill will help break up some of the biggest banks and reinstate ‘Glass-Steagall’ which would separate commercial banks from investment banks, a provision that Congress removed in 1999.

“The banks that were ‘too big to fail’ in 2008 are even bigger today and their reckless actions in the past led to the worst financial crisis our nation has seen since the Great Depression, causing deep, harmful impacts that the American people are still feeling today,” said Gabbard. “The fines levied against these banks do not address the fundamental problems that allowed their criminal actions in the first place, and still, no individuals have been held accountable.

“This $5 billion fine, pales in comparison to the estimated $22 trillion cost their actions had on the U.S. economy. It is a slap in the face to those families who continue to suffer today. We must bring about real reform to Wall Street, to ensure that taxpayers will no longer be forced to carry the burden of the risky actions of big banks. One important step toward this reform is reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act by passing the Return to Prudent Banking Act. The American people deserve a financial sector that works with them, and not against them, and a system that they can trust will protect them, not harm them.”

According to a 2013 report by the Government Accountability Office, the 2008 financial crisis cost the U.S. economy more than $22 trillion.

The Return to Prudent Banking Act of 2015 prevents commercial banks from being an affiliate of any investment company engaged in the issue, sale or distribution of stocks, bonds, notes, or other securities. This bill will prevent Wall Street firms that take significant risks in their investments from using the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to recoup losses from speculation. The FDIC’s mission is to maintain stability in the nation’s banking system.

The bill’s lead sponsor is Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), and currently has 50 other cosponsors.

Gabbard Includes Hawaii Priorities in Final House Defense Funding Bill

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) voted in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 (NDAA). The bipartisan bill passed by a measure of 269-151.

“My priority as a member of the House Armed Services Committee is to make sure our troops have the resources they need to keep the American people safe, and this funding measure provides critical resources to do that,” said Gabbard. “In addition to almost $500 million in investment for Hawaii military priorities, I passed amendments to the bill that will help increase Hawaii’s protection against missile threats from North Korea. The bill also includes my amendment to finally reverse the Department of Defense policy decision that negatively impacted more than 1,000 veterans in Hawaii, especially those on our neighbor islands, who were no longer able to access the TRICARE Prime health benefits that they had earned. My amendment allows them to re-enroll and finally receive the care they deserve.

“Additionally, as we continue to fight against the terror of Islamic extremist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda, I co-sponsored a provision that would authorize direct assistance to the Kurdish and Sunni fighters who are courageously battling against ISIS in Iraq. This will arm them with the weapons and equipment they need and bypass the Shiite-led, Iranian influenced, central government in Baghdad. I also supported a provision in the bill that requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a comprehensive strategy to Congress on how the U.S. is taking action to counter Islamic extremism worldwide.”

Gabbard’s amendments and priorities in the NDAA:

Restoring Access to TRICARE Prime:

Gabbard sponsored an amendment included in the NDAA with Congressman John Kline (R-MN), that provides military retirees living beyond 100 miles from a military treatment facility the option to re-enroll in TRICARE Prime after they had lost access due to a 2013 policy change by Department of Defense (DOD). The amendment would provide a one-time election for all affected retirees to have access to TRICARE Prime.

Missile Defense for Hawaii:

Gabbard cosponsored two amendments that will help ensure Hawaii has 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 DOD to give Congress a plan for radar capability that will enhance the defense of Hawaii against threats posed by emerging ballistic missile technologies.

U.S. Pacific Command:

The NDAA contained several important provisions that support Pacific Command’s capabilities, including:

· Gabbard’s provision that requires DOD 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, expert staff, and resources to the U.S. Air Force.

· A provision co-sponsored by Gabbard that requires the President to provide an overall strategy for U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific 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 into the Indo-Asia-Pacific strategy.

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

Hawaii Military Construction – $469,750,000:

Military construction funding will be used for continued upgrades to critical infrastructure and training assets in-state. These funds 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 MCBH and JBPHH

· $22,384,000 for waterfront improvements at JBPHH for the Navy’s Seal Delivery Vehicle Team 1

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 the long-term integrity and environmental compliance of the facility. This provision requires the Defense Logistics Agency to present a plan 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, and this funding will help ensure the Pacific Missile Range Facility continues 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 the Secretary of Defense to develop a program to eradicate the coconut rhinoceros beetle.

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, and the bill restores $24 million of federal per diem rates for those impacted by this policy.

Women in Combat:

Gabbard cosponsored a provision that would expedite the opening of combat roles to women in the military by reducing the ‘notify and wait period’ that the DOD has to abide by before opening closed combat military positions.

Direct assistance to the Kurdish Peshmerga and Sunni fighters:

Gabbard cosponsored a provision that makes it U.S. policy to bypass Baghdad and provide direct assistance to Kurdish and Sunni fighters who are battling against ISIS in Iraq. The bill authorizes $715 million for the Iraqi train and equip program, and creates the mechanism necessary to supply 25 percent of the funds directly to Kurdish and Sunni forces. This amendment is critical to ensuring that these ground forces have the resources they need to defeat ISIS.

Comprehensive Strategy for the Middle East and to Counter Islamic Extremism:

The bill requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a comprehensive strategy to Congress on U.S. efforts to counter Islamic extremism worldwide. The strategy must detail U.S. objectives; the roles and responsibilities of the Department of Defense; and actions to counter Islamic extremism globally.

Major Training Range Infrastructure Investment Study:

A number of critical military training ranges exist in the PACOM Area of Responsibility. 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 investments 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, 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 dire need of an investment to bring them up to standard. This provision would ensure that schools which 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.

Gabbard Passes Bipartisan Amendment in Defense Funding Bill

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) included a bipartisan amendment into to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2016 to reverse a decision by the Pentagon which broke the promise of accessible and affordable health care benefits to many of our veterans.

The amendment, sponsored by Gabbard and Congressman John Kline (R-MN), provides military retirees living outside of 100 miles from a military treatment facility the option to re-enroll in TRICARE Prime after they had lost access due to a 2013 policy change by Department of Defense (DOD).

“All our veterans, no matter where they live, deserve to receive the benefits they have earned,” said Gabbard. “I appreciate working with Congressman John Kline in passing this amendment to the Defense bill, which will finally restores access to affordable healthcare for all military retirees who lost eligibility for TRICARE Prime through no fault of their own. The Department of Defense’s 2013 policy change that limited the TRICARE Prime service areas had a disproportionate negative impact on our neighbor island residents, who already face unique challenges to accessing healthcare because of our island state. This amendment will allow them an opportunity to reenroll and receive their benefits.”

The amendment passed unanimously by a voice vote, and is included in the House version of the NDAA.

Across the country, more than 170,000 veterans who live outside 100 miles of a military treatment facility lost access to TRICARE Prime at the end of 2013 due to a DOD policy change. This policy impacted over 1,000 people in Hawaii, and left many retirees struggling to cover the increased costs due to their fixed incomes. The amendment would provide a one-time election for all affected retirees to have access to TRICARE Prime.

Gabbard Leads Bipartisan Effort to Strengthen Privacy Oversight Board, Protect American’s Civil Liberties

In a continued effort to significantly improve the oversight and accountability of the nation’s intelligence community, Gabbard (D-HI), Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR.), and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) reintroduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill to strengthen the independent Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

The Strengthening Privacy, Oversight, and Transparency Act or SPOT Act, 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.

“This bill moves us closer to enacting real reform of the PATRIOT Act, by empowering the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board through an expansion of their oversight and subpoena capabilities, so they can better advocate for and protect the freedoms and civil liberties of the American people,” said Gabbard. “I thank Senators Ron Wyden and Tom Udall, and Rep. Trey Gowdy, for joining me on this bipartisan legislation that supports the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board in their work to strike the balance between national security and upholding the values that make our country great.”

“The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is an essential watchdog over counterterrorism surveillance activities – a role that is fundamental to protecting both American security and Americans’ constitutional right to privacy,” Sen. Ron Wyden said. “But government agencies conduct surveillance for a wide variety of purposes, not just counterterrorism. By giving the board a broader mandate and more authority, Congress can better protect the privacy and civil rights of law-abiding Americans.”

“The privacy board’s independent evaluation of Section 215 demonstrates why it is so crucial — and the fact that 215 is still in effect shows why the American people need the board to have more resources to protect their privacy and constitutional liberties,” said Sen. Tom Udall, who advocated for the creation of the board and has fought for resources to ensure it can do its job. “We absolutely must prevent future attacks, but we can do that without weakening the constitutional rights that make our nation great. A vigorous watchdog with real authority over the intelligence agencies will help us protect our security and our constitution — that is what the SPOT Act would provide.”

“Our country must strike the delicate balance between protecting our national security and our civil liberties. Many Americans are rightly concerned the pendulum has swung too far away from our civil liberties. That is why I commend my friend Rep. Tulsi Gabbard for her work on this bill and am happy to support the effort to equip the PCLOB to actually do its job,” Congressman Trey Gowdy said. “For example, it makes little sense to charge the Board with independently monitoring the executive branch’s actions related to privacy concerns, but require the Attorney General’s approval before issuing subpoenas. This bill will help ensure our intelligence agencies safeguard the American people’s civil liberties while protecting our national security.”

The SPOT Act also allows the PCLOB to issue subpoenas without having to wait for the Justice Department to issue them, and makes the board members full-time positions.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is an independent oversight body that was established in 2007 as part of Congress’ measures to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

The commission called for an executive branch board that would ensure that government efforts to protect American security also protect Americans’ privacy and civil liberties.

More recently, a number of outside experts, including the President’s own surveillance Review Group, have recommended that the Board’s mandate and authorities be expanded and clarified.

Gabbard Votes Against USA Freedom Act, Calls for Real Reform to Protect Privacy

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) voted against the USA Freedom Act, a bill that has been fundamentally altered since its original introduction in 2013.

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 over the intelligence community.

The bill passed the House with a vote of 338-88, and now heads to the Senate.

“There are two main things that are of great and equal importance to the American people: our safety and security, and our freedom and civil liberties. One is just as important as the other. There’s no use being safe if we’re not free, and being free but not safe is unacceptable,” said Gabbard. “I reject the idea that the American people must choose to either be safe or free. The problem with Section 215 as well as other provisions of the PATRIOT Act is that they undermine both our national security and our civil liberties. These measures have proven to be ineffective and a waste of resources that should be used to target our enemies rather than to collect data and information on Americans.”

“This bill does not go far enough to reform the PATRIOT Act and the overreaching surveillance activities that are currently being conducted. Congress should not set precedence by codifying these surveillance programs that the Federal Courts have ruled are illegal. Congress should let these controversial provisions expire and instead work toward comprehensive reform of the PATRIOT Act that will truly keep the American people safe and free.”

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the NSA’s phone surveillance program under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act is illegal.

As part of Gabbard’s ongoing efforts to reform the NSA and protect civil liberties, she is a cosponsor of Surveillance State Repeal Act which prohibits warrantless surveillance and prevents the NSA from mandating or requesting “back doors” into commercial products that can be used for surveillance.

Additionally, Gabbard reintroduced the Strengthening Privacy, Oversight, and Transparency Act (SPOT Act), which would expand the role of and strengthen the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent government watchdog agency.

The Board is an important asset in oversight of the intelligence community and serves as an advocate for the civil liberties of Americans.

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