Weekly Update: My Legislative Priorities for 2018
By Rob Wittman
January 27, 2018
This year we are already off to an amazing start. Just one month into 2018, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is delivering. Over 2 million American workers have already seen the benefits of tax reform. Companies across the country have been announcing bonuses, pay raises, and investments, and I’m sure there will be more good news to come. As the legislative calendar starts to pick up, I want to make sure you know what my legislative priorities will be for the coming year.
Last week, our federal government shut down for 69 hours. That should have never happened. I am disappointed in Congress for allowing our funding decisions to get to that critical point and for not being able to come to an agreement on how to move forward. As I’ve done in every session since I’ve been in Congress, this year I will continue to urge leadership to fund our government with appropriations bills passed through regular order instead of budgeting by crisis through a Continuing Resolutions (CR). Our military and our government need long term budget certainty and they cannot continue working under the constraints of yet another CR.
I believe Members of Congress should suffer the consequences of not doing their jobs. I’ve introduced two pieces of legislation called the No Budget, No Pay Act and the Stay on Schedule Resolution that would hold members to the highest standard so that if they don’t do their jobs, they won’t get a paycheck or vacation.
Advocating for a Bigger Navy
As Chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, I work with my colleagues to establish where our defense dollars are going. This is done through a yearly NDAA. We accomplished so much for Virginia with the FY18 defense bill. However, it is already time to get to work on FY19. One of the major provisions I will be advocating for this year will be a block buy of two Ford-class aircraft carriers. As I detailed in a letter to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, dual procurement allows the Navy to build to a fleet of 12 aircraft carriers more quickly as prescribed by the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act – which established that the Navy should maintain 355 ships, including 12 aircraft carriers. A dual buy would be beneficial to both the taxpayers and our maritime industrial base as it shows that Congress is committed to the thousands of workers who work each day to build and maintain aircraft carriers.
Congress plays a vital role in ensuring that our Navy has the resources it needs to operate effectively and to fulfill critical missions. We cannot be complacent. Through effective acquisition, we can give the Fleet the ships it needs to meet the challenges of today and prepare for the threats of tomorrow. I remain dedicated to this in 2018.
Strengthening our Surface Warfare Community
Over the past six months, I have been working to investigate the Fitzgerald and McCain collisions that took place in the Pacific last year. I have held multiple hearings and briefings with leaders of the Navy, and we have come to the conclusion that these were a result of a systemic issue within our surface warfare community. The Navy has taken important first steps in addressing initial systemic issues; however, going forward, I believe there is a multitude of other issues that need to be reviewed including organization reform, manning deficiencies, material readiness, and training reform.
This year, my subcommittee is going to continue to work towards accountability and providing solutions to the systemic problems that face the surface warfare community today. These collisions were absolutely avoidable, and reforms must be made – we will make sure of it.
Improving Access to Broadband
A major priority of mine for 2018 will be for better access to broadband for all, specifically those in rural areas. High speed internet access, or broadband, is critical to economic growth, job creation, education, and healthcare. Therefore, improving access to broadband is imperative. Earlier this year, I sent a letter to President Trump advocating for these policies to be included in any infrastructure proposal we work on this year.
I am dedicated to promoting access to broadband in rural areas. Currently almost 50% of rural Virginians either lack access to high speed internet or 29% don’t have any internet service at all. In October, I organized the creation and first meeting of a Rural Broadband Task Force. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai, regional stakeholders, and state and local officials joined me in the Northern Neck to discuss ways of improving speeds and expanding internet access. Among the issues discussed were eliminating the labyrinth of red tape and regulations, defining prescriptive easements, establishing dig once policies, and strengthening public-private partnerships. You can watch a video of the entire event here. In 2018, I will be holding more meetings of the Rural Broadband Task Force in order to accomplish our mission.
Education and Workforce Development
I’ve long believed that we must do more to educate the next generation on future career opportunities, whether that’s a certification, a credential, or a four-year degree. Opportunities in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields continue to grow exponentially, and it is absolutely critical that we cultivate a workforce willing and able to enter this job market. This spring, I am working to bring together students, employers, and industry experts of the First District. I believe it is critical that our students know what opportunities are available to them. Stay tuned for details!
This year I will be working tirelessly on these items. However, my top priority will always be listening to the people of the First District and using their thoughts, concerns, and insights to better represent them in Washington. It's an honor to serve Virginia's First District in the People's House.