January 13, 2010
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2009 ANNUAL REPORT
Entering my fourth year in the U.S. Senate, I’m pleased to report on a range of legislative accomplishments and initiatives to benefit Virginians from all walks of life and to create new jobs in our communities.
The tangible benefits of our work in recent years can be seen in the hundreds of thousands of veterans who are now obtaining a first-class college education as a result of my Post-9/11 GI Bill, established last year. The Wartime Contracting Commission, established last year, has made substantial progress in cracking down on waste, fraud, and abuse in our contracting practices in Iraq and Afghanistan and ensuring proper stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
Following the same approach that we used in garnering bipartisan support for the GI Bill, we launched major initiatives to reform our criminal justice system, improve adult education programs, and advance nuclear and clean energy technology.
We have consistently supported Virginia’s military men and women, and their families, made significant progress towards the federal recognition of Virginia’s Indian tribes, and secured funding to preserve the Commonwealth’s historic battlefields, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas.
I hope that you will take a moment to review this Annual Report, which highlights what we have been able to accomplish over the past year and where we are headed in the years to come. Below are highlights from my Annual Report, and you can read the entire report by clicking here.
As always, if you need assistance with a federal matter or have thoughts about legislative issues that you would like us to pursue, please do not hesitate to contact one of my local offices or my office in Washington. I also encourage you to visit my new website at http://www.webb.senate.gov to receive regular updates, learn more about my positions or share your concerns.
As your senior Senator, I am committed to providing Virginians the kind of leadership that will not back away from the many difficult problems facing our country. My staff and I look forward to working with you in the years ahead.
In March, I introduced the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 to establish a national commission, comprised of the best minds in America, to analyze every aspect of our criminal justice system and offer concrete recommendations for reform. This legislation arises out of my longstanding concern that our highest-in-the-world incarceration rate is unfair, a drain on public resources and ineffective in terms of increasing public safety. I am pleased that our legislation has garnered wide bipartisan support from my Senate colleauges and interest groups representing a full range of backgrounds and political viewpoints. Learn more.
In an effort to address our nation’s continuing energy crisis, I introduced The Clean Energy Act of 2009, a bill to promote further investment and development of the nation’s clean energy technologies, including nuclear power. The bill offers a practical approach to invigorate the economy, create high-paying jobs on American soil, and move the United States toward providing clean, carbon-free sources of energy. This legislation is measurable, achievable, and targeted. By making a concerted investment in nuclear power and other renewable energy technologies, we can effectively address our nation’s energy requirements and the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Learn more.
Expanding Workforce Education
To promote new jobs and renewed economic competitiveness, I introduced The Adult Education and Economic Growth Act of 2009 in July to provide job training and GED programs to those who have gotten off track and now wish to resume their studies. Our adult education system has not kept pace with an American workplace that has high demand for well-trained and highly-skilled workers. One of the biggest impacts we can have on our economic future is to enable today’s workers to obtain the skills and credentials needed to compete in our global economy. My legislation builds ‘on ramps’ for these workers, and it rewards employers by offering tax credits to businesses that invest in their employees. An investment like this will have an affirmative ripple effect on communities across our country. Learn more.
Last winter, I strongly advocated for infrastructure projects as a primary component of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. To that effect, I am pleased that thousands of grants and contracts for projects have been distributed to communities across the Commonwealth to spur economic development in a range of industries. Additionally, I have worked to help those who have lost their jobs in the downturn through vigorously supporting an extension of unemployment benefits to affected Virginians. I am also committed to securing assistance for those who have lost their jobs due to unfair trade policies, including the 1,100 Virginians affected by the closing of the International Papermill in Franklin, Virginia. Learn more.
Providing Leadership In the Senate
In November, I was entrusted with the chairmanship of the Personnel Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Armed Services. This key panel has responsibility for all manpower and personnel issues affecting active duty, National Guard and Reserve, retirees, and civilians in the Department of Defense. As the son of an Air Force officer, the father of a Marine, and a Marine combat veteran myself, I understand the sacrifices that our servicemembers and their families make every day. Because the Commonwealth is home to hundreds of thousands of active-duty and retired military families, I particularly look forward to this new position as an opportunity to explore the ever-changing needs of our armed services and to identify policies that will ensure their well-being. Learn more.
I am equally honored to have been selected in Februrary to chair the Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. On the Foreign Affairs Committee, I have participated in every aspect of the oversight and development of our foreign policy, with a strong focus on NATO, Southeest Asia and the Middle East. With my long experience in Asia, spanning more than forty years, I have pushed strongly for our country to re-engage in that vital region, to invigorate our involvement with the strategically and economically important countries of Southeast Asia, and to develop a more careful, measure relationship with China. Learn more.
Last August, I became the first Senator to visit Laos in six years, the first member of Congress to visit Cambodia in two years, and the first American leader ever to meet with General Than Shwe, the top leader of Burma. I also negotiated the release of an American held prisoner by the military junta, and met with Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. This historic trip marked the beginning of a new dialogue with an isolated country whose strategic importance to the United States has been overlooked. Learn more.
Strengthening Virginia’s Transportation
With increasing traffic congestion throughout much of Virginia, I am acutely aware of the need to invest in transportation and infrastructure projects to improve Virginians’ quality of life. Some projects demand immediate action, but we must also invest in longer-term and diversified infrastructure projects. To alleviate traffic and congestion in Northern Virginia, I secured through Fiscal Year 2010 appropriations bills $150 million for Metrorail improvements and $4 million for additional Virginia Railway Express locamotives, and funding to enable the Department of Defense to address BRAC-related congestion at Ft. Belvoir, Quantico, Ft. Lee, and others. I am also pleased that more than $193 million for Virginia mass-transit projects was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Learn more.
Homeporting Aircraft Carriers in Virginia
Last January, the Navy announced a proposal to relocate a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier from Naval Station Norfolk to a new homeport in Mayport, Florida. As both a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services and a former Secretary of the Navy, I strongly voiced my objection to the move. In my view, it was not strategically justified nor fiscally responsible, especially at a time when the Navy faces growing readiness risks and a $28 billion backlog in themaintenance and restoration of its shore installations. After pressing the Department of Dfense, I received a commitment that the Navy’s propsosal would be re-evaluated.
For more than four decades, naval Station Norfolk has served as the homeport for the Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers assigned to the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. I will continue to advocate that U.S. strategic interests are best served by homeporting our East Coast carriers at Naval Station Norfolk. Learn more.
Recognizing Virginia’s Tribes
For decades, Virginia’s Indian tribes have fought for federal recognition, but have faced significant barriers as a result of the Commonwealth’s unique history and its harsh policies of the past. Four hundred years after the founding of America’s first colony at Jamestown, these six tribes deserve to join our nation’s other 562 federally-recognized tribes. To remedy this inequity, I introduced the Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2009 in the Senate to grant federal recognition to six of Virginia’s Indian tribes. This necessary legislation has passed in the House and it has advanced further in the Senate than anytime in years past. Learn more.
Preserving Virginia Historic Battlefields, Landmarks, and Wilderness Areas
Virginia is home to an abundance of natural and historical resources, including Civil War battlefields and wildlife areas ideal for tourists and Virginians alike. As someone with ancestors who fought on both sides of the American Civil War, the preservation of these battlefields has personal significance. To advance preservation efforts, I introduced, the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Act. Passed in 2009, the legislation renewed The America Battlefield Protection Program and continues the successful federal partnership that has saved nearly 7,000 acres at 17 battlefields sites in Virginia.
I will continue to advocate for initiatives that protect our state’s historical sites, expand tourism opportunities, and serve as catalysts for economic growth throughout Virginia. Learn more.