Areas of Interest
America’s Armed Forces are unequaled in strength and unrivaled in professionalism. I have fought to ensure that Nevada’s military personnel and their families have the support they have earned and deserve, including pay, benefits, and lifelong care. I have worked to secure hundreds of millions of dollars for critical infrastructure needs, provided increased pay and benefits for our service members, and supported measures to bring our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time, I have strongly supported the military’s efforts to transform our forces and invest in the technology and resources for meeting the current and emerging challenges of the 21st Century.
The freedoms we enjoy are protected and preserved through the courageous efforts of our Armed Forces; we must never forget the contributions they make to protect our way of life. Throughout my time in Congress, I have championed legislation that would provide better pay, benefits, equipment, and medical care to all those who have honorably served our nation. With America still at war, it is critical that we continue to stand our servicemen and women.
I have consistently made the protection of our troops the first priority of our missions overseas, voting for additional funding for the tools that our troops need, such as Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAPs), body armor, and explosive jammers. I also advanced an initiative to require the Defense Department to reimburse service members for the cost of any protective, safety, or health equipment purchased by them or their families.
While I am pleased to provide our troops with the technology and support they need to carry out their mission, I strongly believe that our troops need to return to their loved ones. That is why I fought to wind down the war in Iraq and support the transition of responsibility for the security of Afghanistan to the Afghan National Security Forces. In Afghanistan, our nation is making progress towards achieving stability in the country and reversing the momentum of the Taliban. This progress, including bringing Osama bin Laden to justice and significantly weakening al-Qaeda’s terrorist capabilities, is important in protecting U.S. national security interests in the region, strengthening the strategic partnership between the United States and Afghanistan, and enabling the U.S. to end combat operations in Afghanistan by 2014.
Nevada’s military bases play an integral role in supporting the war fighting efforts of our nation, while also providing a tremendous economic impact for communities throughout Nevada. In fact, the total economic impact of Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases, combined with the Nevada Test and Training Range, amounts to more than $5 billion per year. Combined with Fallon Naval Air Station, Hawthorne Army Depot, and National Guard facilities throughout the state, Nevada’s military installations play a critical role in protecting Nevada and our nation.
In Southern Nevada, the missions at Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases have grown, bringing, new jobs, improved infrastructure, and increased economic impact to the Las Vegas Valley. To support these efforts, I have secured hundreds of millions of dollars to support the military, fund equipment for our service members, and ensure that Nellis and Creech remain at the forefront for contributing to our military missions around the world. Since 2006, I have fought to secure tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure upgrades to accommodate the unmanned aerial vehicle mission at Creech. Most recently, I secured funding for critical infrastructure needs to allow thirty six F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to be based at Nellis.
I have also been a strong supporter of the National Guard and have fought to ensure that Nevada’s Guardsmen and Reservists have the necessary resources to fulfill their missions. I worked hard to prevent the C-130s operated by the Nevada Air National Guard from being relocated to a base in Arkansas. In Elko County, the Nevada National Guard has acquired the former Fire Sciences Academy in Carlin, which is home to a new armory. This 410-acre site is also comprised of facilities to support training for National Guard units across the nation. In Reno, I secured nearly $11 million to replace the Air National Guard Fire Station. And in Las Vegas, I secured $23 million for a Field Maintenance Shop to repair and maintain Guard vehicles, as well as $21 million to construct a 300 member Army Reserve Center.
At my request, the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commissioners visited and observed the work of the Nevada National Guard and the Hawthorne Army Depot. As a result of this visit, the Commission overturned a previous recommendation by the Pentagon to transfer the C-130s to Arkansas and close the Depot. I was pleased that the Commission realized the importance of keeping the Nevada Air National Guard base in Reno. In addition to their military importance, Nevada relies on these aircraft for Homeland Security operations like fighting wildfires and preparing for potential natural disasters. In addition to the projects listed above, in Northern Nevada, I have also fought to ensure that Fallon Naval Air Station has the resources it needs. That is why I secured more than $10 million for the construction of the Warrior Physical Fitness Facility so that our service members are prepared to carry out their mission. These important additions to Nevada’s military installations ensure the state is on the cutting edge of efforts to protect our homeland well into the future.
I ensured that the Fiscal Year 2010 Defense Authorization bill included an amendment to change the name and redefine the mission of the Nevada Test Site. Changing the site’s name to the Nevada National Security Site, or N2S2, reflects the unique opportunities to use the site for detecting dangerous weapons, treaty verification, fighting terrorism and nuclear smuggling, and training first responders. The Nevada National Security Site is the ideal facility to do this work. It is uniquely secure, and close to Nevadans who are eager to get back to work. I have also worked to increase funding for the site and add new missions that will ensure that it remains a vital and vibrant part of our national security infrastructure.
Under my leadership, the Senate passed the Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act, which established a comprehensive policy on the treatment and management of wounded warriors. The policy helps ensure a seamless transition in medical care and support for servicemen and women as they move from the Department of Defense payroll to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ roster, as well as from military service to civilian life, and to facilitate and improve wounded service members’ care and rehabilitation.
I also worked to establish the Wounded Warrior Resource Center for service members, which required the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Veterans Affairs to develop a comprehensive policy on the care and management of service members, including the development of interoperable electronic health records, and most importantly, required a comprehensive policy to address traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, other mental health conditions, and military eye injuries. Since then, I have supported annual legislation to fully fund these programs.
Throughout my time in Congress, I have supported annual measures to provide pay raises for members of our Armed Services. Under my leadership, the Senate has passed a pay raise equal to or greater than cost-of-living increases, helping the military close the gap between service member and private sector compensation. I will work to ensure that the Congress’s steadfast support for our troops continues. As we continue to send tens of thousands of troops to fight in Afghanistan, our service members deserve no less.
I have worked tirelessly to protect and improve TRICARE beneficiaries’ access to care while keeping payments low. For example, I worked to mandate that the future growth rate for TRICARE enrollment fees not exceed the military retirement cost-of-living adjustment. In addition, the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act rejected dramatic increases in TRICARE enrollment fees and restored an estimated savings of $452 million in TRICARE reductions proposed in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget. I also fought to cap future increases for pharmacy co-pays to the annual cost-of-living adjustment. Furthermore, I helped pass legislation extending current TRICARE physician reimbursement rates, allowing VA doctors to continue to see new patients, conduct outreach to rural areas, and allow them to make needed improvements to their practices in order to continue giving the best care possible. Please be assured that I will continue fighting to preserve the unique role of TRICARE in our nation’s healthcare system.
I have also worked to ensure that our returning service members can find jobs when they transition to civilian life. That is why I champion the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill to provide veterans with educational benefits so they can succeed in the 21st Century. In addition, I was a proud co-sponsor of the Vow to Hire Heroes Amendment that provides tax credits and employment training assistance to unemployed veterans. During the 113th Congress, I introduced the Putting Our Veterans Back to Work Act to reauthorize the transition, retraining, and employment services created by the VOW to Hire Heroes Amendment, as well as strengthening our vow to protect employment rights for all veterans and providing veteran-owned small businesses with loans. I will continue fighting to ensure that our service members do not have to fight for a job when they return home after fighting so valiantly for our freedoms abroad.
While our troops serve abroad, our police back home need adequate resources to identify and combat domestic threats. Through Department of Homeland Security grants, I was able to secure federal funding for the construction and operation of the Southern Nevada Counter-Terrorism Center. Completed in 2007, the Center is headed by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police department and houses more than 70 employees and officials from the Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson police departments, the Nevada Department of Public Safety, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and other local, state, federal, and tribal entities. The Center maintains a 24/7 watch capability and acts as a centralized, comprehensive intelligence fusion center, specifically designed to coordinate the exchange of criminal intelligence on a regional/statewide basis. It is also home to the All Hazards Regional Multi-Agency Operations and Response (ARMOR) Detail, which is the region’s response, detection, and identification unit for chemical, biological, nuclear, radiological, and explosive threats. This state-of-the-art facility improves interagency cooperation, allowing public safety agencies to better protect southern Nevada from terrorist attacks.