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 both 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 have fought to support the development of advanced technologies and capabilities that will provide U.S. military superiority now and in the future, and many of these advancements are being developed right here in Rhode Island. This includes the Ohio Replacement Program, our nation’s next-generation ballistic missile submarine, which will ensure the security and stability of a reliable and survivable sea-based nuclear deterrent for our country through 2070. With the requirement to build 12 of these mighty warships over the coming decades, hard-working Rhode Islanders will see job growth and federal investment dollars materialize at General Dynamics Electric Boat’s Quonset Point site, which is already seeing additional investment as a direct result. Additionally, I have ardently and successfully advocated for continued construction of the remarkable Virginia-class submarines, which offer the capability and flexibility needed to protect our nation from a wide array of threats and also play an increasingly important role in the future of the United States Navy. Quonset Point is also a critical production facility for Virginia-class subs, and the production process has become a model for efficiency and cost-savings. I will continue working to ensure Congressional approval of procurement plans that will not only create jobs in Rhode Island, but also strengthen our nation's defense. As co-chair of both the Congressional Submarine Caucus and the Directed Energy Caucus, I am a strong believer in the value of collaboration among industry, academia, and government, and I believe that close collaboration is the best way to support the key advanced technologies and concepts that will ensure military superiority now and in the future.
We must prepare for future conflicts by ensuring that the U.S. military can operate effectively across all domains, including cyberspace. As the President highlighted in his State of the Union address, cyberattacks are an ever-increasing threat to not just our national security, but our economic security as well. 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.
I believe it is essential for Congress to have full awareness of the scope of United States activities overseas in order to conduct the oversight that the American people expect. 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. The provisions of this legislation are now enacted into law, and Congress is already benefitting from the increased transparency it provides.
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.