As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I am involved daily with the oversight of our national defense, and I deeply appreciate and respect the sacrifices made by our brave servicemembers.
As a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Armed Services Committee, where I am proud to serve as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities and as a member of the Subcommittees on Strategic Forces and Seapower and Projection Forces I believe a strong national defense is critically important to protect our citizens from harm and to preserve the liberties we cherish. Our brave men and women in uniform are the backbone of our armed forces, and I have consistently worked in Congress to provide them with the necessary resources to continue their record of excellent service. I have also fought to promote responsible national security policies that will keep our country safe and protect the rights we enjoy as Americans.
Maintaining a Capable Military
For our military to be effective, it must have up-to-date equipment and state-of-the-art technology. I voted to provide funds for more armored vehicles and bulletproof vests to improve the safety of our men and women in combat overseas. I have also strongly supported the development of weapons programs that will provide U.S. military superiority now and into the future. This includes the remarkable Virginia-class submarines, which offer the capability and flexibility needed to protect our nation from a wide array of threats and play an increasingly important role in the future of the United States Navy. Quonset Point is a critical production facility for Virginia-class subs, and the production process has become a model for efficiency and cost-savings. I have been proud to fight for the two-boats-per-year production schedule now in place, and I will continue to working to ensure Congressional approval of procurement plans that will not only create jobs in Rhode Island, but also strengthen our nation's defense.
Our military must prepare for future conflicts by ensuring that the U.S. military can operate effectively across all domains, including cyberspace. The Department of Defense’s decision to stand up its Cyber Command shows the critical importance of our information infrastructure to national security and our ability to project American military power overseas. I am proud to have authored the first comprehensive cybersecurity legislation to pass either chamber of Congress, and I will continue to be a vocal advocate for protecting our national and economic security from cyber threats and for strong and effective oversight of our cyber defense efforts.
In May 2013, as Ranking Member of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities, I was proud to co-sponsor the Oversight of Sensitive Military Operations Act, which for the first time requires notification to the House and Senate national security committees of any overseas lethal or capture operation outside of Afghanistan, including those conducted with unmanned aerial vehicles. I believe it is essential for Congress to have full awareness of the scope of United States activities overseas in order to conduct the proper oversight that the American people expect. The provisions of this legislation are included in the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014.
The scourge of sexual assault has no place within our nation’s military. I remain committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of our men and women in uniform through the strongest possible sexual assault prevention measures. I was proud to support bi-partisan reforms contained within the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that address this crime, such as:
- Stripping commanders of their authority to dismiss a finding by a court martial;
- Prohibiting commanders from reducing guilty findings to guilty of a lesser offense;
- Allowing victims of sexual assault to apply for a permanent change of station or unit transfer;
- Requiring the provision of victims’ counsels, qualified and specially trained lawyers in each of the services, to be made available to provide legal assistance to the victims of sex-related offenses;
- Adding rape, sexual assault, or other sexual misconduct to the protected communications of service members with a Member of Congress or an Inspector General; and
- Requiring the Secretary of Defense to assess the current role and authorities of commanders in the administration of military justice and the investigation, prosecution, and adjudication of offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
While important, these reforms are only a starting point and much more remains to be done. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I will continue to work hard to ensure that those men and women who choose to defend our nation can do so without fear of their fellow servicemembers.
Supporting Our Troops
Our servicemembers in uniform demonstrate great commitment, and we must ensure that they and their families do not encounter financial hardship as a result of their service to our nation. I was privileged to witness firsthand their professionalism on the front lines during my visits to Iraq and Afghanistan, and meeting with soldiers from Rhode Island served to remind me of the uncommon courage and dedication that can come from communities all across America. Consequently, I have consistently supported pay increases and other important benefits for our nation's service men and women. I fought successfully against proposed reductions in combat pay and family separation allowances for those serving abroad. I have also advocated for improved health care benefits for National Guard and Reservists and their families.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal
I proudly supported the repeal of the discriminatory and misguided “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of our nation’s military. This policy undermined our national security and resulted in the discharge of more than 13,000 trained and qualified men and women from our armed forces based solely on their sexual orientation while discouraging thousands more from entering service or re-enlisting. I am pleased that, thanks to Congressional pressure and President Obama’s decisive leadership, young men and women who wish nothing more than to defend their fellow citizens are no longer forced to lie about who they are.
In that vein, I am also proud to be an original cosponsor of the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, which would ensure members of the armed forces who served honorably, but were given a punitive discharge classification solely because of their sexual orientation, have their records corrected to reflect their honorable service. Our nation is founded on the principles of human dignity and equality. All who wish to serve our country should be allowed to do so regardless of race, creed, or orientation.
Today’s women in the military are serving their nation ably in capacities like never before. I am proud to have supported the DoD’s review of jobs within the military to determine which new roles could be opened to women. I also support the DoD’s use of gender-neutral standards as a means of entrance to individual military specialties. I will continue to advocate for an inclusive policy that ensures missions are met with fully qualified and capable personnel, regardless of gender.