December 04, 2012

Manchin Defense Measures Cut Wasteful Contracting, Protect Veterans’ Benefits and Get Troops Out of Afghanistan

With bipartisan passage, Manchin scores major legislative success with 9 amendments that maintain a strong defense while cutting costs

Manchin also offers measure to honor General Chuck Yeager with a second star and strengthen the Guard

Washington, D.C. – As the annual defense authorization bill passed with broad bipartisan support, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) scored legislative victories by authoring nine amendments that will strengthen the military by cutting costs, taking care of service members and giving the National Guard appropriate resources. Significant provisions from the Coburn-Manchin “Audit the Pentagon” Act were also included.  

Senator Manchin also offered amendments to honor West Virginia legend General Chuck Yeager with a second star and to strengthen the National Guard. 

Senator Manchin is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is responsible for writing the National Defense Authorization Act. The bill sets the budget and expenditures for the nation’s military. Senator Manchin successfully authored nine amendments to the bill, and cosponsored an additional six that were included in the bill. The bill passed today 98-0.  

In addition to Senator Manchin’s amendments, the bill will promote better oversight of all Department of Defense programs and contracting, ensure that U.S. expenditures in Afghanistan are more closely monitored, prevent new domestic base closures in the coming years, 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.  

“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 – especially when we’re looking at cuts to the men and women in uniform. We have to be smart about how we use our resources, and the bottom line is that those who have served this country deserve the best in return.”

Since joining the Senate, Senator Manchin has pushed hard to maintain a strong defense while reducing unnecessary costs. Senator Manchin’s provision reduces contractors’ salaries is a commonsense measure that will keep our military the best in the world.

The amendment – Rein in the Cost of Government Contracting – 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. 

Senator Manchin also advocated to protect the National Guard. He offered an amendment to prevent cuts to training facilities that use C-23 Sherpas, which are used in combat zones and domestic relief missions – most recently in Hurricane Sandy. Although this measure did not make it into the Senate bill, Senator Manchin will fight to include the measure in the final bill.

“Senator Manchin clearly understands the importance of the C-23 Sherpa to the National Guard,” said Major General James A. Hoyer, the West Virginia National Guard Adjutant General. “This weapon system is valuable not only with regard to the global war fight; but, also in support of Homeland Defense and local emergency response. It has proven it’s value time and again, and was exceptionally effective during the National Guard’s recent response to Hurricane Sandy.”

Full list of Manchin-sponsored or co-sponsored amendments accepted on the defense budget, by subject area: 

Get out of Afghanistan

  • Bring our Troops Home.  Senator Manchin cosponsored this amendment alongside Senators Merkley (D-Ore.) and a group of bipartisan Senators. The amendment states that America should hand over governance of Afghanistan to the Afghans, and that our troops should come home.  

Eliminating Wasteful Spending 

  • Executive Compensation Benchmark Amendment.  The committee included a provision that reduces the cap on allowable compensation for defense contractors from $763,000 to $400,000 per year, but still retains the flexibility for the Secretary of Defense to establish targeted exceptions for scientists, engineers and other specialists, if needed. The amendment would uphold the President’s requested policy that limits the executive compensation benchmark to 237,000.

  • Report on Defense Contractor Salaries. This amendment would require the Department of Defense Inspector General to issue a report on the compensation of defense contractors, including the number who make more than the salary of the President and more than $230,700. The report will also provide an assessment whether federal civilian employees could perform duties and services comparable to contractors. Senator Manchin is cosponsoring the amendment with Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). 

  • Audit the Pentagon. This amendment would require the Department of Defense to conduct an audit of its spending. Senator Manchin authored the measure with Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) 

Focusing on West Virginia 

  • C-23 Sherpa Amendment. The West Virginia National Guard uses the C-23 Sherpa in both combat zones and domestic relief missions – most recently in Hurricane Sandy. The amendment keeps the aircraft for a cost of $9.2 million, which is fully paid for with Army Operations and Maintenance funds. Senators Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) are also sponsoring this amendment. The amendment was not accepted into the bill but Senator Manchin will continue to fight for this measure in the final bill. 

  • American Hero Recognition Amendment. This amendment provides General Chuck Yeager with a second star. The amendment was not accepted into the bill but Senator Manchin will continue to fight for this measure in the final bill. 

Taking Care of Soldiers and their Families 

  • 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’s 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. 

  • Standardization of Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. This amendment ensures that enrollment eligibility requirements are standardized across all military installations. It cuts down bureaucracy and streamlines the process of enrolling families of service members in the military health system and ID card system. 

  • Support Military Families Amendment. This amendment requires the Department of Defense to provide a report on the future of military family programs and the costs associated with each program.