U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller (both D-W.Va.) and U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (also D-W.Va.) recently voted for the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill which would elevate the National Guard to a position on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accelerate the end of the war in Afghanistan and provide a pay raise to soldiers.
“In West Virginia, we set our priorities based on our values, and one of the values I hold most dear is taking care of the men and women who selflessly serve this nation as a part of our armed services,” Manchin said. “These days there does not seem to be much we can agree on in this body, but as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am glad that today we put partisan politics aside to pass a critical piece of legislation that will provide our men and women in the military with the resources they need to defend this nation”
The bill, which includes a 1.6 percent across-the-board pay raise for all members of the uniformed services, passed the Senate 93-7.
The National Defense Authorization Act now heads to a conference committee of the House and Senate, and both Rahall and Rockefeller urged conference negotiators to retain language they sponsored that would elevate the Chief of the National Guard Bureau to a position on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“Our Guard members are being asked to serve repeated tours of duty in military zones, and they ought to have a seat at the table when military decisions are made that will affect their training, resources, and mission readiness,” Rahall, who sponsored and secured passage of a provision in the House to ensure a position for the National Guard on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.
Joint Chiefs are responsible for ensuring policy, planning, and training of their respective military services, and serve collectively and individually as military advisors to the President of the United States and Secretary of Defense.
The bill would place the Chief in a position to help influence Department of Defense planning and budgetary deliberations, and advocate for troop readiness and response utilization in the home-front mission.
Rockefeller said the National Guard was an “essential force in our military and it deserves to be an equal partner with other branches.”
“It’s critical that we bring this legislation across the finish line, and I will not rest until that happens,” Rockefeller said. “The Guard has stood by us in times of hardship at home, protected communities in need, and served abroad with distinction.”
Manchin cosponsored a number of amendments which were successfully added to the bill, including one that calls for an accelerated withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
Specifically, the amendment says the President should devise a withdrawal plan based on input from military commanders, coalition allies, diplomatic missions, members of the Cabinet, and in consultation with the Congress for expediting the drawdown of U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan and accelerating the transfer of security authority to Afghan officials.
Also, in his reports to Congress, the President will evaluate progress on the implementation of the plan.
Manchin also cosponsored an amendment that would require additional sanctions on the financial sector of Iran, which would require the President to block all transactions of Iranian financial institutions that tried to do business with U.S. financial institutions and put sanctions on countries that do not reduce their purchases of Iranian oil if sufficient other supplies are available on the world market.
That amendment passed unanimously.
“I am proud to champion efforts that will help give our West Virginia Army and Air National Guard every advantage in carrying out their dual role serving West Virginia and our Nation,” Rahall said, “and I commend Sens. Rockefeller and Manchin for their efforts in securing passage of this important measure in the Senate.”
Manchin also said he was pleased that the bill called for a faster withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan.
“I truly believe our armed services have done their job and it’s time for them to come home. We need to focus our resources here in this country and rebuild America, not Afghanistan”