May 25, 2012

Manchin Amends Defense Bill to Cut Expensive Contracting, Protect Veterans’ Benefits and National Guard

In major legislative success, Senate Armed Services Committee agrees to five amendments from Senator Manchin that help maintain a strong national defense

Senator Manchin’s measures would also address veterans’ unemployment 

Washington, D.C. – In a major legislative victory, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) successfully added provisions to the annual defense authorization bill, including measures that give our service members and families the benefits that they deserve and reduce the salaries of expensive contractors. The annual defense bill cleared the committee unanimously, with no dissenting votes from Democrats or Republicans.

Since joining the Senate, Senator Manchin has pushed hard to reduce the use of overpriced defense contractors. Senator Manchin’s amendment, Rein in the Cost of Government Contracting, was added to the National Defense Authorization Act with bipartisan support from the committee. 

The measure corrects the unfairness in contractor compensation, where the highest paid contractors in the country currently receive about $770,000 in taxpayer funding. By contrast, the Secretary of Defense makes $199,000 a year and the Commander-in-Chief’s salary is $400,000. The Vice President earns $230,700. Army privates earn, on average, $20,000 a year. Senator Manchin’s amendment limits taxpayer-funded contractor salaries to $230,700, and no more. 

“Keeping the most powerful military in the world is one of our most critical priorities, and we must do that by cutting fat, not muscle from the Defense Department,” Senator Manchin said. “To the people of West Virginia, it doesn’t make any sense that taxpayers are paying some contractors twice as much as we pay the Commander-in-Chief of our great nation. I’m so pleased that both Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee came together and agreed that it’s time to get contractor salaries back in line with what we pay our service men and women.”

Senator Manchin also advocated to protect the National Guard from cuts.  

“We appreciate Senator Manchin’s efforts of support at this critical time. Senator Manchin clearly understands the value of our National Guard force,” said Major General James A. Hoyer, the West Virginia National Guard’s Adjutant General. “Challenging budgets and global conflict have fueled the debate over the future of our Armed Forces and without question today’s National Guard stands at the forefront of that debate as an indispensable, efficient, combat-tested solution both globally and locally. Facts support the reality that the National Guard does more with less at a time when such efficiencies are desperately needed.”

Along with the contractors’ amendment, and advocating for the National Guard, Senator Manchin successfully offered four additional measures to the bill. Those measures are: 

  • Veterans’ Employment Reporting. In an effort to reduce veterans’ unemployment, Senator Manchin’s amendment would require the Department of Defense to report the number of service members who have completed employment services after involuntary separation from the military. Employment services include career counseling and resume building services. 

  • Recognition of Women in the Military. To recognize the contributions of women in the military, Senator Manchin’s amendment builds on language that requires the Department of Defense to report on the feasibility of implementing recommended changes to the role of women in the military and highlights women’s service over the past decade. 

  • Military Families Have a Voice. The defense bill established the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission to help service members and their families receive the benefits that they deserve. Senator Manchin’s amendment gives military families a position on the 9-member commission.  This amendment stipulates that the commission must include a member with direct experience in military family issues or have been the spouse of a service member.   The commission must make its recommendations within 15 months of the National Defense Authorization Act becoming law. 

  • Ensure All Troops Have Equal Mental Health Care. To address mental health issues of service members, the defense bill requires that mandatory mental health assessments be conducted before and after combat deployment. Senator Manchin’s amendment expands that requirement to support troops due to the changing nature of modern combat. 

In addition to Senator Manchin’s amendments, the defense bill written in the committee will ensure that U.S. expenditures in Afghanistan are closely monitored, prevent new domestic base closures in the coming years, promote oversight of all Department of Defense programs and contracting, and improve the quality of life of service members, their families and military retirees.  The defense bill also prevents health care fee increases, which is important for military retirees in West Virginia.  

Press Release on the Markup of the Senate Armed Services Committee National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013: