Annual Legislative Report
2012 Legislative Report
Every year, Senator Levin prepares a report summarizing his key legislative activities. You can jump to a topic below by clicking on the link.
FIGHTING FOR WORKERS AND CONSUMERS
Fighting for Fair Trade and a Level Playing Field for U.S. Manufacturing. Fought for the fair treatment of U.S. goods in overseas markets. Continued to urge the Obama administration to press China to adhere to the market opening commitments it made when joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), particularly regarding automotive manufacturers’ and green technology manufacturers’ ability to participate fully in the China market, its commitment to reduce the rampant intellectual property theft that occurs in China, and China’s unfair auto parts trade practices. Urged aggressive enforcement of our trade laws to make sure American companies are not competing against goods that are dumped in our market at prices that are below the cost of production or that have benefitted from unfair government subsidies. Weighed in on behalf of U.S. companies pursuing anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations against foreign nations’ unfair exports to the United States. Worked to keep Japan out of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), given their history of protectionism and one-way auto trade.
Extension of Unemployment Benefits. Fought for two separate extensions of federally financed unemployment benefits to help out of work Americans support themselves while they continue to search for employment.
Right of Workers to Organize. Fought for the right of workers to organize collectively by helping defeat a resolution of disapproval in the Senate that would have nullified a National Labor Relations Board rule intended to make union elections fairer and end unnecessary and costly delay tactics.
Equal Pay for Equal Work. Continued to fight for equal and fair pay for equal work by again cosponsoring the Paycheck Fairness Act in the 112th Congress.
Protecting New Consumer Bureau. Opposed efforts to weaken the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the newly created agency tasked with protecting consumers from unfair mortgages, debt collection practices, and payday lenders.
PROMOTING CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY AND PROTECTING INVESTORS
Combating Excessive Speculation. Continued to combat excessive commodity speculation that forces consumers and businesses to pay higher and more volatile energy, food, and other commodity prices. As chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, led the filing of an amicus brief by members of Congress supporting new trading limits on speculators, after opponents filed a lawsuit to stop the new limits from taking effect. Held a hearing on increased commodity speculation by mutual funds using offshore shell corporations and other gimmicks to trade in commodities. Opposed a copper exchange traded fund secured by physical copper, as disruptive to markets and likely to increase copper prices.
Exposing Money Laundering by Global Bank. As chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, released a report and held a hearing on how global banking giant HSBC exposed the U.S. financial system to an array of money laundering, drug trafficking, and terrorist financing risks due to poor anti-money laundering (AML) controls. Also examined how its primary regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), failed to take needed enforcement action. In response, HSBC has strengthened its AML controls, while the OCC has revamped its AML oversight. The Justice Department has filed a deferred prosecution agreement against HSBC and fined it $1.9 billion.
Increasing Transparency. As chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, supported issuance of a new regulation requiring oil, mining and natural gas corporations to disclose the payments they make to U.S. and foreign governments. These disclosures are expected to strengthen investor understanding of corporate activities, further tax compliance in the extractive industries, and discourage foreign corruption. Opponents filed a lawsuit to stop the new regulation from taking effect; court proceedings are ongoing.
Fighting for the Volcker Rule. Supported the issuance of regulations to implement the Merkley-Levin provisions to restrict proprietary trading and conflicts of interest at federally insured banks (also known as the Volcker Rule). Urged regulators to stop the banks from betting against their customers and placing bets that put the U.S. and world economies at risk.
Fighting Against Future Bank Bailouts. Opposed efforts by large banks and financial firms to weaken protections put in place after the 2008 financial crisis. In particular, fought against weakening derivatives reforms. During the financial crisis, AIG and other companies essentially engaged in more bets than they could pay off if they lost, and the U.S. taxpayers were forced to bail them out. While the Dodd-Frank Act established new reforms designed to ensure that banks and other firms would have enough assets to pay off these types of bets in the future, those reforms are still being opposed by the big banks and their congressional allies. Successfully fought to prevent Senate passage of legislation intended to repeal these essential reforms.
Stopping Shell Companies Involved in Misconduct. Pressed for passage of legislation, S. 1483, to require states, when they form a new U.S. corporation, to obtain the names of the corporation’s true owners. Right now, states establish nearly two million corporations each year without knowing who is behind them, inviting terrorists, money launderers, tax evaders, and others to misuse U.S. corporations. The Levin bill, which has been endorsed by the Obama administration and multiple law enforcement groups, is the product of a series of hearings on the difficulty of stopping misconduct by corporations with hidden owners.
Clarifying Insider Trading Ban. Cosponsored legislation to clarify the existing prohibition on members of Congress and their staffs using material, nonpublic information to trade stocks and other securities. A Levin amendment clarified the insider trading prohibition, which cleared the way for its passage and enactment in early 2012.
Helping Businesses Raise Capital to Survive and Grow. Worked with Sen. Jack Reed to draft and introduce the INVEST in America Act, S.A. 1833, which would loosen the rules governing business’s capital raising. These rules changes would allow businesses to attract more investors while still protecting would-be investors. Simultaneously opposed the so-called JOBS Act, H.R. 3606, which also loosened many of the rules governing capital raising by businesses, but subjected seniors and other investors to significant risks.
Fighting for Small Business. Strongly advocated for continued funding for the Small Business Administration’s Microloan Program, a vital source of financial and technical support to self-employed entrepreneurs and small businesses in Michigan and other states.
Next Energy. Supported Next Energy’s successful application to the Economic Development Administration’s Economic Adjustment Assistance Program. This $750,000 grant will be leveraged to establish an Advanced Energy Innovation Center at Next Energy’s facility in Detroit.
Economic Development. Supported the Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region (WUPPDR) Short-Term Planning request for an investment of $35,000 from the Economic Development Administration (EDA). The EDA investment will be used by WUPPDR for their strategic plan for Baraga County to help grow and stabilize a rural economy in transition.
Women’s Health. Defended women’s reproductive rights by helping to defeat the so-called Blunt Amendment. If adopted, this provision would have codified infringement on personal healthcare decisions by granting employers the right to deny access to critical healthcare services to their employees by refusing to grant insurance coverage for preventative health services based on a “moral objection.” This would have effectively granted employers the right to substitute his or her moral convictions for those of their employees.
Health Research. Fought back against misguided funding cuts to the National Institutes of Health, proposed by the administration, by advocating that Senate appropriators maintain a strong commitment to funding for long-term health research.
Diabetes Research and Programs. Advocated for reauthorization of the Special Diabetes Program, which provides funding for research on the prevention and cure of Type 1 diabetes; and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians, which gives Indian health programs and tribal communities the resources and tools they need to both prevent and treat diabetes. Re-authorization of both programs through FY2014 was included in the broad end-of-year deal to avert the fiscal cliff.
Safer and More Affordable Prescription Drugs. Supported passage of the FDA Safety and Innovation Act, which reauthorized the prescription drug and medical device user fee programs through 2017 and continued the fight for more affordable and safer prescription drugs and medical devices.
Medicare Reimbursements. Supported an effort to reauthorize expired Medicare reimbursement policies that help ensure access to hospitals in rural areas.
Oakland Community Mental Health Agency. Supported Oakland Community Mental Health Agency’s successful application to the Health Resources and Services Administration to become a Federally Qualified Health Center look-alike (FQHC). FQHC look-alikes are nonprofit, community-directed health care centers that provide coordinated primary care to low income and medically underserved communities. Unlike traditional FQHCs, they do not receive dedicated funding from the federal government.
Oakwood Annapolis Hospital. Helped Oakwood Annapolis Hospital successfully resolve its long standing fight to save their Family Medicine Residency Program.
University of Detroit Mercy. Supported the application submitted by the university’s School of Dentistry to the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Health Careers Opportunity Program. This $236,000 grant will fund the university’s efforts to recruit students from disadvantaged backgrounds into its dental program.
Cherry Street Health Services. Supported a grant application for Cherry Street Health Services, a Federally Qualified Health Center in Grand Rapids, which received a $500,000 grant in May 2012 through the Affordable Care Act. The grant allowed them to expand their Grand Rapids facility to accommodate a larger number of patients for pediatric, family and women’s care.
Ingham County Health Department. Supported a grant application for the Ingham County Health Department, which received $435,000 from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for their Health Start Initiative to combat racial and ethnic disparities.
Mental Health Parity. Cosigned a December 2012 letter to President Obama urging the administration to resolve four outstanding issues that must be clarified in a final rule before the Wellstone-Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 can be fully implemented.
Transplant Designation of Vascularized Composite Allografts. Initiated a bipartisan letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requesting that she direct the Health Resources and Services Administration to designate vascularized composite allografts (VCA) – the transplantation of hands, arms, face and other fully formed body parts – as organs. In December 2012, HHS issued the final rule adding VCA to the definition of “organs” for purpose of coverage under the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA).
2012 National Gift of Life Award. Received the 2012 National Gift of Life Award from the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations, representing all federally-designated organ procurement organizations. The association presented the award to Sen. Levin for his career-long initiatives in the area of organ donation and transplantation, including Senate passage of the Paired Organ Donation Act, the successful bipartisan effort securing the listing of vascularized composite allografts (body parts) as organs.
Supporting Domestic and Inter-country Adoption, and Family Reunification. Cosponsored Senate-passed resolution expressing the Sense of the Senate that children should have a safe, loving, nurturing, and permanent family; and that it is the policy of the United States that family reunification, kinship care, or domestic and inter-country adoption promote permanency and stability to a greater degree than long-term institutionalization and long-term, continually disrupted foster care. Wrote and/or cosigned letters to leaders of other countries urging that they expedite the process for inter-country adoptions in “pipeline” cases where no irregularities have been found. There have been some successes involving prospective adoptive families in Michigan and nationwide.
Disaster Declaration for Flooding in Genesee County. Sent letter of support with Sen. Debbie Stabenow urging the Small Business Administration (SBA) to grant Gov. Rick Snyder’s request for an SBA disaster declaration due to severe storms and flooding that occurred in Genesee County and surrounding counties from May 3-5, 2012. The governor’s request for a presidential disaster declaration was denied; however, the SBA declaration was granted on June 29th. The disaster declaration allowed the Small Business Administration to make low-interest loans available to assist residents and businesses affected by the flooding in recovery and rebuilding.
Emergency Fire Equipment. Helped secure millions of dollars in funding for fire departments throughout Michigan for training, firefighting equipment, protective gear, and prevention programs that keep our citizens safe.
City of Detroit Fire Department. Supported application submitted by the Detroit Fire Department to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program. This $22,455,000 grant came just in time to alleviate massive layoffs scheduled for summer 2012.
City of Flint Fire Department. Supported the City of Flint’s successful application for a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant. FEMA awarded $6.9 million over two years to pay for the wages and benefits for 39 Flint firefighters.
City of Hamtramck Fire Department. Supported Hamtramck’s successful application submitted to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program. This $3,100,000 grant will aid the city in avoiding layoffs.
Grand Rapids Fire Department. Supported the grant application for the Grand Rapids Fire Department, which received a $1.75 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program for equipment, software and communications upgrades.
City of Allen Park Fire Department. Supported Allen Park’s application to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program. This $1,284,000 grant will fund the salaries and benefits for several additional firefighters for two years.
City of Trenton Fire Department. Supported Trenton’s successful application to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program. This $736,000 grant will aid the city in rehiring three firefighter/paramedic positions and three new firefighters.
Armada Fire Department. Supported the grant application for the Armada Fire Department, which received $288,000 under FEMA’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program.
City of Taylor Police Department. Supported the City of Taylor’s application to the U.S. Department of Justice under the COPS Hiring Program. This $125,000 grant will enable the city to hire an additional officer to work as a liaison with the public school district.
Ensign Township Fire Department. Supported grant application for the Ensign Township Fire Department, which received a grant of $8,500 from the Hannahville Indian Community to help with the purchase of a tanker/tender vehicle to transport water to a fire scene. Like many rural U.P. communities, Ensign Township does not have adequate coverage by fire hydrants, making a tanker/tender even more of a necessity.
Enhanced Public Safety for Gun Lake Tribe. Supported the grant application for Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians (Gun Lake Tribe) for public safety and community policing. The Gun Lake Tribe’s Tribal Public Safety Department received $593,495 from the Department of Justice’s COPS Program for community police training and additional resources. The Tribal Public Safety Department works in collaboration with local city police departments and the Allegan County Sheriff Department to reduce crime and enhance public safety.
Safety Enhancement Grant for the City of Gladstone. The City of Gladstone received a $39,500 safety enhancement grant from the CN Foundation in October 2012 to install a signal light on top of South Hill Road to warn motorists when the railroad crossing is blocked by a train. Officials expressed safety concerns to Sen. Levin about the railroad crossing being blocked, especially during an emergency response situation. The senator’s office was involved in the discussions of this matter and referred city officials to private foundation grant programs for possible funding.
Resolution Recognizing Emergency and Military Personnel. Cosponsored S.Res.523, a Senate-passed resolution recognizing the efforts of firefighters and military personnel in containing wildfires throughout the United States. Wildfires in the Upper Peninsula in May 2012 damaged thousands of acres in Luce and Schoolcraft counties including 20,000 acres at Duck Lake and over 3,000 acres of the Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Schoolcraft County.
My Brother’s Keeper in Flint. Sent support letter to the Dingell VA Medical Center for My Brother’s Keeper in Flint for its successful application to the Veteran Treatment Housing and Therapeutic Services (VETHS) Program, which offers residential, recovery and rehabilitative services to homeless veterans as identified by the Department of Veterans Affairs, under the aegis of My Brother’s Keeper of Genesee County, Inc., a faith-based nonprofit organization in Flint. VETHS will work in collaboration with the VA to identify appropriate candidates for admission. VETHS will provide shelter and life-transitioning opportunities to those admitted. The $300,000 award is for up to three years.
HOUSING AND RECREATION
Michigan Foreclosure Task Force. Worked with the Michigan Foreclosure Task Force to correct a deficiency with HUD’s automated housing counselor referral hotline. After the task force informed Sen. Levin that HUD’s hotline was not working as intended, he contacted the agency and the problem was resolved soon after.
Jackson Housing Commission. Supported the application submitted by the Jackson Housing Commission to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Capital Fund Emergency Safety and Security Program. This $244,000 grant will fund building improvements to address emergency, safety, and security needs for the residents of Reed Manor.
Delta County Housing Rehabilitation Program. Supported Delta County’s Community Development Block Grant application for $200,000 from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). The federal funds from the MSHDA will be used to continue Delta County’s countywide single-family dwelling housing rehabilitation program. The program will be an avenue for low to moderate income residents to make needed repairs to their homes to meet the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 8 Housing Quality Standards. The needed repairs may include electrical upgrading, plumbing, mechanical, roof repair or replacement, siding, among many other improvements that are required for a home to meet HUD Section 8 Housing Quality Standards.
Ozone House. Supported the application submitted by Ozone House to the Family and Youth Services Bureau’s Basic Center Program. The $185,000 grant will allow Ozone House to continue providing emergency shelter and services to runaway and homeless youth in Washtenaw County.
Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency. Supported the applications by the Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency for housing preservation grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development. The grants, totaling $80,000, will be used in Grand Traverse, Wexford and Emmet counties.
Westland Farmers Market. Supported the application submitted by the City of Westland to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers Market Promotion Program. The $81,000 grant will assist the city in developing a new marketing strategy to raise the visibility of the market and enhance transportation options for residents seeking access to the market.
Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. Supported an application for $1.62 million in funding from the Federal Highway Administration for the construction of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. Upon completion, the trail will be a 27-mile, paved, non-motorized trail connecting the most famous landmarks and largest towns located within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Sen. Levin has been involved in this project since its inception and was present at the groundbreaking ceremony in June 2011.
Wells Township Sports Complex. Supported Wells Township’s application for funding from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. The $41,600 awarded by Michigan Department of Natural Resources will be used to construct press boxes and concession stand at the Wells Sports Complex ball fields. The upgrade of the Wells sports facility will provide increased recreational opportunities for youth and adults.
Maple Ridge Township Recreation Passport. Supported Maple Ridge Township’s proposal for a Recreation Passport Grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Maple Ridge Township will use the $30,600 Recreation Passport grant for upgrades and renovations at Memorial Park.
Hiawatha National Forest. Supported the Eastern U.P. Regional Planning and Development Commission's grant application to the Hiawatha National Forest's Resource Advisory Committee. The $20,000 award will be used to develop a comprehensive trail inventory through the Hiawatha National Forest East Unit. The inventory would identify gaps that currently exist in the system that place a hardship on users, cause environmental issues, and impact the local economy of small communities that are bypassed because of the lack of trail connectivity.
JUSTICE AND CIVIL RIGHTS
Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Birth of Rosa Parks. Authored S. Res. 618, a bipartisan Senate resolution unanimously approved on December 19, 2012, in observance of the 100th anniversary of the birthday of civil rights icon Rosa Parks on February 4, 2013. The Senate unanimously approved the resolution commemorating her legacy. The resolution embraces the upcoming celebration organized by the Henry Ford Museum, designating it as a National Day of Courage, including a daylong celebration featuring the actual bus on which Rosa Parks sat as the centerpiece in commemorating her life and accomplishments, and affording everyone the opportunity to board the bus and sit in the seat that Rosa Parks refused to give up. The celebration will also include virtual and on-site activities featuring nationally recognized speakers, musical and dramatic interpretative performances, a panel presentation of ‘Rosa’s Story’ and a reading of the tale ‘Quiet Strength.’
Commemorating Juneteenth. Authored a bipartisan Senate-passed resolution commemorating the observance of June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and slavery had been abolished, two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had become official January 1, 1863.
Exposing Offshore Profit Shifting. As chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, held a hearing exposing how some U.S. multinationals are shifting profits offshore to dodge U.S. taxes and secretly bringing offshore funds back home, without paying any taxes, using abusive short-term loan arrangements.
Cutting Tax Loopholes to Reduce the Deficit. Introduced the CUT Loopholes Act, S. 2075, with the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, to close offshore tax loopholes and a corporate stock option loophole. The bill would increase tax fairness, eliminate tax provisions that encourage U.S. corporations to ship jobs and profits overseas, and reduce the deficit by several hundred billion dollars over ten years. Also pushed for closure of the top ten offshore tax loopholes.
Cracking Down on Offshore Tax Evasion. Pressed for passage of the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, S. 1346, to close offshore tax loopholes and strengthen offshore tax enforcement. Offshore abuses are estimated to cost the Treasury $100 billion in lost revenue each year. The reforms are the product of a series of hearings by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which Sen. Levin chairs. Some provisions from earlier versions of the bill have been enacted into law in recent years, but more is needed.
Targeting Facebook Stock Option Tax Loophole. Exposed how Facebook, after going public, could claim $16 billion in tax deductions for the stock options it gave to its executives – an amount exponentially higher than the stock option expenses actually shown on its books – and thereby avoid paying U.S. taxes for up to 20 years, even while reporting profits to investors. Continued to champion S. 1375 to close this corporate tax loophole by requiring the stock option tax deduction to equal – not exceed – the stock option book expense. CEOs now receive nearly 400 times the average pay earned by workers, and stock options are a key reason. By providing overly generous stock option tax deductions to corporations, federal tax policy is encouraging corporations to provide excessive stock option pay, fueling the pay gap between executives and workers, and enabling corporations to avoid paying billions in taxes.
Targeting Commodity Speculator Tax Loophole. Introduced legislation, S. 2033, to close a tax loophole that allows speculators on financial derivatives products, like oil futures, to pay significantly lower taxes on their profits than the rest of us. Normally, investments are taxed at lower long-term capital gains rates if they are held for at least a year. However, a tax code loophole enacted in 1981 rewards traders in some investments, such as oil futures, with a partial long-term capital gains rate, even if they trade the products in seconds or minutes. This preferential tax treatment encourages speculation in things like oil and costs the U.S. Treasury billions of dollars.
Streamlining Tax Liens. Continued to sponsor S. 1390 to modernize the federal tax lien system by moving it from paper-based filings to electronic filings on a national tax lien registry accessible to the public at no charge through the Internet. An electronic registry would save taxpayers an estimated $150 million over ten years according to the IRS, and free up a division for other tax work. Tax liens are a principal means used by the IRS to collect funds from tax delinquents. Current law requires tax liens to be filed on paper in more than 4,000 local offices, each with its own formatting requirements. A tax lien registry would standardize the filing process, reduce staffing needs, allow the public to search the registry online at no cost, and enable the IRS to eliminate tax liens more quickly once they are paid.
THE GREAT LAKES
Protecting Against Aquatic Invasive Species. Worked to include a provision in the Transportation Reauthorization bill, H.R. 4348, signed into law on July 6, 2012, that requires the Army Corps of Engineers to accelerate its feasibility study of preventing the inter-basin transfer of invasive aquatic invasive species, such as the destructive Asian carp, between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes basins. Sen. Debbie Stabenow sponsored the amendment, which Sen. Levin cosponsored.
Restoration of the Great Lakes. Led effort to help secure funding of $300 million (annualized) for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, an inter-agency initiative that works to clean up toxics, combats invasive species, prevents polluted run-off from watersheds, restores wetlands and other vital habitats.
Improving the Great Lakes Navigation System. Worked to include a provision in the Transportation Reauthorization bill, H.R. 4348, signed into law on July 6, 2012, that expresses the Sense of Congress regarding harbor maintenance. This provision, based on an amendment sponsored by Sen. Levin, is the first time harbor maintenance has been addressed in a transportation bill. Including this provision in the law will help elevate this important issue and strengthen momentum to use Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund receipts for dredging and other operations and maintenance of Great Lakes navigational projects.
Grand Marais Harbor. Helped secure $3,000,000 through the Army Corps of Engineers for replacement of the Grand Marais breakwater. The funds were used to repair the pier and extend the breakwater.
Michigan Sea Grant. Supported the application submitted by Michigan Sea Grant to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Sustain Our Great Lakes program. This $799,000 grant will fund the construction of a reef in the Detroit River to create nearly a hectare of spawning habitat for lake sturgeon, walleye and other fish.
Boardman River Watershed Restoration. Helped the Conservation Resource Alliance secure two grants totaling over $600,000 for watershed restoration and sediment management in the Brown Bridge area of the Boardman River. Both grants were funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act.
Brownfield Remediation. Sent letter of support to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Forest Management Division, in support of its submission to the Department of Agriculture Forest Service (Great Lakes Restoration Initiative) Phytoremediation of Toxic Substances on a Brownfield Site Grant Program. The City of Flint and other local sponsors were awarded $250,000 for the second phase of the phytoremediation of the Chevy-in-the-Hole site.
HISTORIC AND NATURAL RESOURCE PRESERVATION
Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. Sponsored legislation, S. 404, signed into law on June 27, 2012, that modifies a land patent for the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society. This legislation will help the museum interpret Michigan’s rich maritime history while also helping protect wildlife habitat at Whitefish Point. Whitefish Point has long been an integral part of Michigan’s historical, cultural and economic heritage, and this law will help preserve and enhance that legacy.
Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Successfully urged the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to issue a Notice of Intent to expand the boundaries of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which will help improve the sanctuary and protect more historic shipwrecks. Expanding the sanctuary would protect a total of 4,085 square miles and a potential of 182 wrecks, both known and unknown. The sanctuary is a driving force in the region’s economy as this former industrial region looks to the Great Lakes and tourism to reinvent itself.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act. Sponsored and secured Senate passage of legislation that would to preserve more than 32,000 acres of Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as wilderness, while providing important access to the lakeshore’s recreational opportunities and cultural resources.
Isle Royale National Park Vessel. Authored legislation in the Coast Guard authorization bill, signed into law in December 2012, to allow a ship that has supplied fuel needs on Isle Royale National Park for more than 50 years to continue to operate. The provision will allow the National Park Service’s M.V. Ranger III to continue supplying diesel fuel and other supplies to the island park on Lake Superior. The provision grants a Park Service request for a waiver from requirements that vessels carrying oil as cargo be double-hulled. The Houghton-based Ranger III has transported fuel, supplies and passengers to Isle Royale since 1958. Among its most important tasks is supplying the roughly 80,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year needed to generate electricity, fuel Park Service law enforcement and search-and-rescue boats, and support other operations on the island, which is accessible from the mainland only by boat or aircraft. The Ranger III does not have oil cargo tanks, but transports diesel in the same tanks that are used to fuel its own diesel engines. But under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, a law passed in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill and designed to regulate large commercial oil tankers, all tanks used to transport oil must be double-hulled. Because the ship’s fuel tanks cannot be double-hulled, the Park Service would have to install new cargo tanks in order to comply, incurring a major expense for taxpayers and, according to Park Service officials, increasing environmental risk, because it would increase the total amount of fuel on board the Ranger III. The waiver exempts the vessel from the double-hull requirement, allowing the ship to continue its current operations.
Community Recycling Initiative. Helped secure a $73,316 grant from the U. S. Department of Agriculture for the Missaukee County Conservation District to help fund a community recycling initiative. This is the fourth consecutive year that the Missaukee County Conservation District has been a recipient of this grant.
Keweenaw County Courthouse and Carriage House. Supported Keweenaw County’s efforts to rehabilitate and improve the county's courthouse and carriage house. The county received a $40,000 grant from the Americana Foundation. The courthouse and carriage house are part of the Eagle River Historic District and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Constructed in 1866, the Keweenaw County Courthouse has served as an integral part of their rural community and continues to provide a variety of critical services to residents and visitors.
Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Worked with other senators to obtain funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
Improvements to Impact Aid Program. Led Senate passage of the Impact Aid Improvement Act of 2012, a bipartisan initiative requested by Michigan Impact Aid School Districts and districts nationwide. Impact Aid provides funding to over 1,300 public schools districts serving 11 million students nationwide that educate military children, children residing on Indian lands, children living in federal low-rent housing facilities, children of civilian employees of the federal government, and school districts that include large amounts of tax-exempt federal property. The legislation addresses the most pressing Impact Aid challenges faced by districts – long delays in payments. The amendment expedites payments to school districts by accelerating the deadline for the Department of Education to make final payments to districts.
Impact Aid Program Payments to Local Education Agencies (LEAs). Wrote to the U.S. Department of Education to expedite Impact Aid Program payments to four Michigan school districts. More than $3.3 million of funds that were appropriated in previous years were held up due to property assessment review backlogs. LEAs that will receive up to 50 percent of their portion of the $3,377,000 include Leland Public Schools, Glen Lake Community Schools, Ewen Trout Creek Consolidated School District and the Watersmeet School District. The balance is scheduled to be paid by March 2013.
Use of Federal Title I Funds for Half and Full-Day Kindergarten. Sent successful letter with Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Rep. Dale Kildee to Education Secretary Arne Duncan requesting that Michigan school districts continue to receive a full allotment of Title I funding for half-day kindergarten programs. The letter was in response to Michigan’s state school budget changes by the state legislature that would have substantially reduced the allotment to school districts’ half-day kindergarten. The Department of Education responded that the use of federal Title I funds for half-day kindergarten was allowable.
Technical Assistance for Rural School Districts for Race to the Top. Sent successful bipartisan letter with Sen. Patty Murray and 15 other senators to Education Secretary Arne Duncan requesting that the newly implemented school district competition for the 2012 Race to the Top competition, previously only a state competition, include the availability of technical assistance to rural districts nationwide so they would have the capacity to write competitive applications and not be disadvantaged in the scoring or selection process to receive grant awards.
Flint City School District. Sent letter to the Department of Education’s Innovative Approaches to Literacy Program in support of Reading Is Fundamental in Washington D.C.’s for its successful $4.8 million grant application, a portion of which, to be determined, will go to the Flint City School District.
Supporting Essential Air Service. Supported communities that participate in the Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service program as they seek to continue air service to and from their communities. Supported a successful first of its kind grant application from Manistee Blacker for $4.156 million over two years for the community to contract with an air carrier to provide air service. Also supported Alpena’s request to replace Delta Airlines with SkyWest to provide essential air service to that community. SkyWest was selected earlier this year to provide service and since that time the airport has seen an increase in passenger use.
Fighting to Bring Light-Rail to Michigan. Worked closely with the Senate Banking Committee to secure changes to the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) New Starts Program that will benefit Michigan’s two fixed guide-way initiatives, one in Grand Rapids and a two-part interconnected project in Detroit. The changes were included in the two-year transportation reauthorization bill signed into law in July 2012
The bill modifies the FTA New Starts program in a way that is favorable to these Michigan projects, including the Detroit project, which has a more complex set of circumstances. Michigan is developing two connected projects in Detroit: a streetcar circulator that will distribute riders within the downtown core along Woodward Avenue, built mostly with private funds, and a regional bus rapid transit network on multiple corridors leading into downtown Detroit, which will need federal New Starts funds.
Because it is largely privately funded, the streetcar project will be able to advance before everything is in place at both the state and federal level to submit the New Starts application for the entire program. Sen. Levin secured a commitment from FTA officials that they interpret the bill’s “Program of Interrelated Projects” language as providing ample opportunity for the streetcar circulator project in Detroit’s Woodward Avenue corridor and the connected bus rapid transit project in the same corridor to meet the New Starts requirements to apply as a single program and that one project can be built before the other project within a reasonable time frame and still be eligible for federal funding.
Secured Local Match Language for M-1 Rail. Authored legislation to ensure M-1 Rail and the regional bus rapid transit (BRT) projects can access federal funding, and worked to secure federal funding for the projects. Authored legislation included in the Transportation Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill that will allow private funds that are invested to provide light-rail service along Detroit’s Woodward Avenue corridor to be used as local match requirements for any connected project such as the regional BRT. The language provides that the private capital contributions in the M-1 Rail project can be counted toward the local share of a connected New Starts project. This results in a direct and substantial financial benefit to the regional BRT project and citizens of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties.
Capital Area Transportation Authority. Supported grant application for the Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA), which received a $6.3 million Federal Transit Administration grant for the Amtrak Station in East Lansing.
Smith’s Creek Road and Bridge Construction. Helped secure a $3.65 million TIGER grant for construction of a road and bridge from the Smith’s Creek Landfill, which houses the first septage bioreactor in the United States.
Grand Haven Harbor Transit. Supported request for $482,200 Federal Transit Administration grant for Grand Haven’s Harbor Transit bus service. Harbor Transit had a handful of buses that were outdated and deteriorating and had high maintenance and fuel costs. This money enables Harbor Transit to replace four buses, improving efficiency and safety to better serve the public.
Blue Water Area Transit. Supported Blue Water Area Transit’s (Port Huron) request for Department of Transportation funds. The transit authority was awarded $79,000 for bus loading areas in addition to a portion of the $5 million awarded to the state for the purchase of hybrid replacement buses.
SUPPORT FOR AMERICAN MILITARY AT HOME AND AROUND THE WORLD
National Defense Authorization Act. Led efforts in the Senate to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, the 51st consecutive year such a bill has been passed. The NDAA authorizes critical funding and authorities to improve the lives of members of our military, support military operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and strengthen the acquisition and management processes of the Department of Defense (DOD).
- Pay and Benefits for Military Personnel and Their Families. Played a leading role in the enactment of provisions that improve pay and benefits for military personnel and their families by:
- Authorizing $183.4 billion for military personnel, including costs of pay, allowances, bonuses, death benefits, and permanent change of station moves, and health care for service members, retirees, and their families.
- Authorizing a 1.7 percent across-the-board pay raise for all members of the uniformed services, consistent with the President’s request.
- Improving the Energy Efficiency and Security of the Department of Defense. Played a lead role in the enactment of provisions that facilitate the reduction of dependency on fossil fuels and provide for improved energy security and independence by:
- Not including a provision of the House-passed bill that would have prohibited fiscal year 2013 funding for the production or purchase of an alternative fuel if the cost of producing or purchasing the alternative fuel exceeds the cost of traditional fossil fuel, with limited exceptions.
- Limiting the DOD’s fiscal year 2013 Defense Production Act (DPA) funding for the construction of a biofuel refinery only until the DOD receives equivalent contributions from the DOE and Department of Agriculture for the same purpose, but not limiting Phase I of the DPA project in any way, nor limiting the use of FY12 funds for biofuel refinery construction.
- Including energy security as a component of DOD energy savings contracts for buildings, facilities, installations, vehicles, and equipment.
- Amending the Strategic and Critical Materials Stock Piling Act to include language taking into account single points of failure.
- Requiring the GAO to review handling, labeling, and packaging procedures for hazardous material shipments.
- Streamlining the National Defense Stockpile by authorizing the President to delegate release authority to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics.
- Extends through 2018 the DOD requirement to report on its progress to evaluate training constraints caused by limitations on the use of military land, marine areas, and airspace and progress being made in developing a comprehensive plan to address these limitations.
- Requiring a cost-benefit analysis on the feasibility and advisability of establishing a program within the DOD to recapture fluorescent lighting waste.
Equipment and Support for Troops in Afghanistan. Played a leading role in the enactment of provisions that:
- Fully fund the President’s request of $5.7 billion request for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund to build the capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces so those forces can transition to taking the security lead throughout Afghanistan by 2014.
- Authorize the limited transfer of both excess and non-excess defense articles being withdrawn from Afghanistan to the Afghan National Security Forces, to build their capacity to provide for their country’s security as U.S and coalition forces draw down during the transition to an Afghan security lead in 2014.
- Call for an independent assessment of the size and structure requirements of the ANSF necessary for those forces to be able to ensure that their country never again serves as a safe haven for terrorists that threaten Afghanistan, the region, and the world.
- Express the sense of Congress in support of the transition of lead responsibility for security to the Afghan security forces and the associated draw down of U.S. forces by no later than December 31, 2014.
- Authorize $1.65 billion in Coalition Support Funds to reimburse cooperating nations supporting the effort in Afghanistan, but limits the availability of such funds to reimburse Pakistan until the Secretary of Defense certifies Pakistan’s cooperation in support of efforts in Afghanistan.
- Authorize $200.0 million for the Commanders’ Emergency Response Program (CERP) to enable military commanders to fund small-scale humanitarian projects that help secure the support of the Afghan people.
- Reauthorize the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund at $350.0 million. The Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund supports high-priority, large-scale infrastructure projects that support the civil-military campaign, particularly the Kandahar electrification project.
Detainee Policy. Played a leading role in the enactment of provisions that:
- Ensure that neither the Authorization for Use of Military Force or the FY 2012 NDAA may be construed to deny the availability of the writ of habeas corpus or to deny any other Constitutional rights in a court ordained or established by or under Article III of the Constitution to any person inside the United States who would otherwise be entitled to the availability of such writ or to such rights.
- Extend for one year existing conditions and limitations on transfer or release of military detainees held at Guantanamo, while adding new language providing for favorable treatment of certain detainees who enter pre-trial agreements.
- Establish congressional notification requirements, but no conditions or limitations, for military detainees held on naval vessels and for the release of third-country nationals held in military detention at Parwan, Afghanistan.
Cyber security. Continued legislative initiatives to improve cyber security capabilities within DOD and to enable DOD to defend the nation against cyber-attacks. As part of these efforts, Sen. Levin sponsored an amendment to the FY 2013 NDAA that requires the Secretary of Defense to create a process whereby defense contractors would report successful intrusions into networks and systems that contain or process important DOD information, and in certain circumstances, allow DOD to conduct forensic analysis to determine what DOD information may have been stolen. The FY 2013 NDAA also includes several other cyber security provisions, including improvements in the security of the software DOD procures and in the quality and quantity of personnel available to support U.S. Cyber Command.
Iran Sanctions. Played a leading role in the adoption of provisions that:
- Designate certain persons and entities in Iran’s energy, port, shipping, and ship-building sectors as entities of proliferation concern, subjecting many transactions with such entities to sanction;
- Impose sanctions on persons selling or supplying, or diverting to Iran a defined list of materials relevant to the aforementioned sectors, to certain Iranian Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons, or to be used in connection with certain Iranian military programs;
- Impose sanctions on non-U.S. businesses and financial institutions dealing with all Iranian persons on the U.S. list of Specially-Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons, except for non-designated Iranian financial institutions; and
- Designate the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting and its president as human rights abusers for their broadcasting of forced confessions and show trials, blocking their assets and preventing other entities from doing business with them, and banning any travel to the US.
Countering the Lord’s Resistance Army. Supported the authorization of $50.0 million to enhance and expand intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support to Operation Observant Compass – DOD’s ongoing operation to support central African forces conducting operations against the Lord’s Resistance Army.
IMPROVED MANAGEMENT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Acquisition Policy. Played a leading role in the enactment of provisions that:
- Implement the recommendations of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan to provide for better management and oversight of contracting on the battlefield by requiring DOD and other agencies to conduct risk assessments and mitigate risks associated with contractor performance of critical functions and establishing IG oversight-responsibilities for future overseas contingency operations.
- Improve the cost-effectiveness of DOD contracting by strictly limiting the use of cost-type contracts for the production of major weapon systems; enhancing protections for contractor employee whistleblowers; restricting the use of “pass-through” contracts; and clarifying DOD access to contractor cost- and price- information.
- Strengthen protections against human trafficking by contractors and subcontractors supporting the overseas operations of DOD and other federal agencies.
- Strengthen and enhance legislative requirements to ensure appropriate consideration of small business in federal contracting.
Management Improvements. Played a leading role in the enactment of provisions that:
- Require the Secretary of Defense to implement a plan to rebalance and reduce the DOD civilian employee workforce and service contractor workforce, achieving a savings of 5 percent in each workforce over a 5-year period while providing the Secretary flexibility to exclude critical elements of the workforce and to phase in reductions.
- Codify the 2014 goal for the Department of Defense to achieve an auditable statement of budgetary resources.
- Repeal provisions of last year’s NDAA that threatened to upset the delicate balance between the public sector and the private sector in the maintenance and repair of military systems.
Force Structure for the Air Force. Led efforts to prevent the Air Force from implementing force structure reductions that would have fallen more heavily on the Air National Guard than the active duty. In May, the Senate Committee on Armed Services rejected the Air Force’s budget for FY 2013 because of its disproportionate cuts to the Air National Guard. On November 2nd, the Air Force submitted a modified and more proportionate “Total Force” structure that was ultimately accepted by the FY 2013 NDAA conference committee with a major change – a requirement that the Air Force retain an additional 32 C-130 and/or C-27 aircraft beyond what had been proposed to support the Army’s unique airlift requirements.
Specific to Michigan, the FY 2013 NDAA retained the A-10 and KC-135 aircraft at Selfridge Air National Guard Base (ANGB) and adds an MQ-1/MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) “Remote Split Operations” unit at Battle Creek ANGB. The unit will remotely operate UAVs that play a growing role in Air Force operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Battle Creek ANGB will also be eligible to host a portion of the additional C-130 and/or C-27 aircraft retained under the conference report.
Furthermore, the conference committee adopted a modified provision Sen. Levin offered as part of the Senate-passed FY 2013 NDAA to establish a National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force. This Commission will be tasked with providing recommendations to Congress on a force structure for the Air Force that would, among other things, meet the current and anticipated requirements of combatant commanders while achieving an appropriate balance between regular and reserve components of the Air Force.
Counterfeit Electronic Parts. On May 21, 2012, the Committee released the final report and conclusions of its investigation into counterfeit electronic parts in the Department of Defense’s (DOD) supply chain. The investigation found approximately 1,800 cases of suspect counterfeit electronic parts, covering more than 1 million individual parts. Of those 1,800 or so cases, more than 100 were selected to trace backwards through the supply chain. More than 70 percent of those trails led to China. The investigation found suspect counterfeit electronic parts from China in a system that contains a laser used to target the Navy SH-60B helicopter’s hellfire missiles; in display units intended for Air Force and Marine aircraft; and in an ice detection module on the Navy’s P-8A Poseidon airplane. The investigation also revealed the high cost to taxpayers of counterfeit parts, including $2.7 million for the Missile Defense Agency to replace suspect counterfeit parts in mission computers for THAAD missiles.
The Committee had previously held a hearing on the investigation and, in late 2011 Senator Levin sponsored an amendment to the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to address weaknesses in the defense supply chain and to promote the adoption of aggressive counterfeit avoidance practices by DOD and the defense industry. That amendment passed the Senate and was signed into law by President Obama as part of the NDAA.
Non-Defense Satellites. Played a leading role in the enactment of provisions that remove non-defense satellites from the Department of State Munitions export control list and return them to the Department of Commerce’s Commerce Control List. Under the FY 1999 NDAA, all satellites were placed on the munitions export control list and treated the same as missile components parts, severely impacting the U.S. aerospace industry’s ability to compete in international markets. The world market for satellites is currently valued $12 billion per year. Before all satellites were placed on the munitions export control list, the United States controlled 75 percent of that world market. The United States now only controls 30 percent of the world market for satellites. It is expected the FY 2013 NDAA will help reverse this decline and create jobs in the United States.
Medical Isotopes. Played a leading role in the enactment of provisions to develop a domestic supply of medical isotopes while reducing the export of highly enriched uranium. The United States currently has no domestic capability to produce the medical isotope called Molybdenum – 99 or MO-99. MO-99 is the most widely used medical diagnostic isotope in the United States. For example, 14 million doses of MO-99 are used annually in the United States for everything from cancer detection, heart screening to bone fractures. Unfortunately, the United States lost the ability to produce MO-99 domestically 20 years ago and must import it from overseas reactors, which are now shutting down due to age. These reactors rely on irradiating highly enriched bomb grade uranium to produce MO-99, which can be diverted for weapons use. The FY 2013 NDAA authorizes a joint government – industry program to produce MO-99 using low enriched uranium – the same as in commercial reactors, thus creating jobs here in the United States, supplying our domestic healthcare needs and decreasing the reliance on using bomb grade uranium.
MICHIGAN-BASED DEFENSE PROCUREMENT
[Note: The Fiscal Year 2013 Defense Appropriations bill did not pass prior to the end of calendar year. The accomplishments below refer to authorizations contained in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013].
Armored and Tactical Vehicle Industrial Base. Helped secure $140 million for the M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle and $62 million for M88A2 Advanced Recovery Vehicle above the President’s request to accelerate modernization of Army equipment and mitigate the risk of lost capability and capacity in the armored and tactical vehicle industrial base. These programs are important to BAE and other military vehicle suppliers in Sterling Heights and around Michigan.
M1 Abrams Tank Modernization. Helped secure $136 million above the President’s fiscal year 2013 budget request to keep M1 Abrams tank modernization efforts active through the end of the fiscal year while the Army considers the requirements for and costs associated with future tank modernization efforts. General Dynamics Land Systems in Sterling Heights is the prime contractor for the Abrams program and more than 200 Michigan companies serve as suppliers.
Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. Supported continuation of Army and Marine Corps technology development plans leading to a competition for a new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle that could replace a large number of older, less survivable High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) that have been in service since the 1980s. This program is important to General Dynamics Land Systems, BAE and other automotive and military vehicle suppliers in Sterling Heights and around Michigan.
Ground Combat Vehicle. Supported continued technology development of the Army’s next generation armored personnel carrier, the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV). Two teams, one led by General Dynamics Land Systems and the other by BAE, both located in Sterling Heights, were awarded technology development contracts to make competition prototypes that meet the Army’s GCV requirements. TACOM, located at the Detroit Arsenal, has GCV development and procurement management responsibility for what could be a $30 to $40 billion program over the next 15 years or more.
Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). Supported continued construction of LCS. Marinette Marine, just across the Michigan border in Wisconsin, is one of two shipyards building LCS and employs several hundred Michigan residents and relies on many Michigan suppliers. In November 2012, Sen. Levin and his wife, Barbara, participated in the ceremonial “keel laying” for USS Detroit, the newest LCS being built at Marinette Marine.
Advocacy for Michigan Companies. Advocated on behalf of numerous Michigan companies seeking to do business with the DOD. In one specific example, Senator Levin questioned a DOD specification he felt unnecessarily restricted competition and unfairly prevented a Michigan company from competing for multiple projects on military bases. Following Senator Levin’s inquiry, the DOD reviewed the specification and agreed with the Senator’s assessment. The DOD modified the specification in question to allow for greater competition, thereby providing the Michigan company with additional potential business opportunities.
MICHIGAN RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS
Facility for Rare Isotope Beams. Worked with the Michigan delegation, congressional appropriators and the Obama administration to secure funding for FY-13 for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB), which will be built at Michigan State University. MSU is now the home of the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL), which is currently the most advanced rare isotope accelerator in the United States and is the largest nuclear science facility on a university campus. FRIB is the next generation rare isotope facility and is critical to maintenance of MSU’s preeminence in this field.
Advanced Vehicle Power and Technology Alliance (AVPTA). Led efforts to continue the growth of the AVPTA, an effort co-led by the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center in Warren, to better coordinate the ground vehicle research and development efforts of the DOD, Department of Energy, industry and academia. Sen. Levin included language in the FY 2011 National Defense Authorization Act authorizing the creation of such an alliance and participated in the first annual AVPTA workshop in Detroit on July 18, 2011, with Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, and other senior officials.
Department of Defense Rapid Innovation Program (RIP). Helped secure an authorization for $200 million to continue the Rapid Innovation Program. The Department of Defense Rapid Innovation Program (RIP) was established by the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (Public Law 111-383) as a competitive, merit-based program designed to fund innovative technologies, reduce acquisition or life cycle costs, address technical risks, improve the timeliness of test and evaluation outcomes, and rapidly insert technologies needed to meet critical national security needs.
Funding authorized for the RIP could provide significant opportunities for Michigan companies, universities, and other organizations to further research and development efforts with the DoD, particularly in the following research areas:
- Enhancing energy security and independence – For increased investment in technologies that will improve energy efficiency, enhance energy security, and reduce the Department’s dependence on fossil fuels through advances in traditional and alternative energy storage, power systems, renewable energy production and more energy efficient ground, air, and naval systems. The Department of Defense remains critically dependent upon energy for its infrastructure and global military operations. Today, the Department consumes as much energy as two-thirds of all the world’s nations. Improved energy efficiency, especially in remote areas such as Afghanistan, can reduce the dependence of our armed forces on fragile fuel supply lines that are vulnerable to enemy attack and help save lives.
- Developing, utilizing and maintaining advanced materials – For increased investment in a broad range of materials technologies that can provide enhanced performance in extreme environments; improved strength and reduced weight for the spectrum of applications ranging from aerospace to lighter soldier loads; greater survivability of ground, air, and naval systems; and tailored physical, optical, and electromagnetic properties for the wide variety of challenging environments in which military systems must operate. Whether increasing survivability or improving fuel efficiency for greater performance, advanced materials are a foundational enabling component of military systems across all services and all war fighting domains.
- Improving manufacturing technology and the defense industrial base – For increased investment in advanced and innovative manufacturing technologies across the spectrum of applications to significantly compress design to production time cycles, reduce cost, minimize waste and energy consumption, and improve product quality and reliability. Historically, the Department has heavily invested in technologies to improve the performance of military systems, but not in the processes needed to improve the production of those military systems. Numerous high-level studies have stressed the benefits of advancing the state of manufacturing technologies – whether for a ship hull or a radiation-hardened chip – for long-term savings and the need to capitalize on the latest innovations in manufacturing processes for defense systems.
- Advancing microelectronics – For increased investment in the development of resilient advanced microprocessors, application-specific integrated circuits, field programmable gate arrays, printed circuit boards, photonics devices, and other related electronics components for the next-generation of military and intelligence systems. Similar to advanced materials, advanced microelectronics are a cross-cutting enabler across all military systems. Given that the majority of costs of most advanced weapons platforms are in electronics and supporting software, investments in this area to improve processing capacity, decrease weight and power requirements, and increase resiliency would have high return on investment.
- Developing cyber security tools – For increased investment in areas such as internet and network mapping capabilities, software reverse engineering and vulnerability analysis, network data collection and analysis, new innovative defensive techniques against cyber-attacks – especially in virtual environments, and integrated cloud security capabilities. The security of DOD’s war fighting and business networks, as well as the networks of the defense industrial base is a serious concern. DOD needs access to the latest innovative technologies in this field in order to stay ahead of rapidly growing and evolving threats in cyberspace.
Industrial Base Innovation Fund (IBIF). Secured an authorization for $30 million to continue the Industrial Base Innovation Fund. Manufacturing technology plays a critical role in addressing development, acquisition and sustainment problems associated with advanced weapons programs. This funding helps support DOD’s ability to address specific shortfalls in the defense industrial base to meet short-term surge manufacturing requirements and could provide funding opportunities for many Michigan companies. This program was initiated in fiscal year 2008.
Examining Social Security Disability Problems. As Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, held a hearing exposing problems in how decisions are made to award Social Security disability benefits, including use of perfunctory hearings and poor quality decisions, which in 2011 resulted in over one in five disability cases decided by an Administrative Law Judge containing errors or inadequate justifications.
Exposing Fusion Center Problems. As Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, released a report and held a hearing on how federal funding provided by the Department of Homeland Security to state and local intelligence “fusion centers” has not yielded significant useful information to support federal counterterrorism efforts. Among other problems, the report showed that the fusion centers produced intelligence that was of uneven quality, was often untimely and sometimes endangered civil liberties, and showed that DHS did not effectively monitor the use of federal funds provided to state and local fusion centers, which sometimes made questionable expenditures.
Strengthening Whistleblower Protections. Supported enactment of a new law to strengthen federal protections of employees who blow the whistle and inform Congress and the public of serious cases of waste, fraud and mismanagement in government. Federal workers sometimes take great risks and face enormous obstacles when trying to stop government waste, fraud and abuse, and more should be done to protect them from retaliation. The Whistleblower Protections Enhancement Act was signed into law by the president on November 27, 2012.
Hatch Act Modernization. Cosponsored the Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012, which allows local and state employees covered by the Hatch Act to run for partisan elected office, clarifies that employees of the District of Columbia are treated the same way under the Hatch Act as state and local employees, and provides greater flexibility to the Merit Systems Protection Board in assessing penalties for violations of the Hatch Act.
Postal Reform. Sponsored an amendment with Sens. Al Franken and Jon Tester to the Senate-passed postal reform bill that provides additional protections for post offices and postal facilities slated for closure or consolidation. The amendment requires the Postal Service to consider whether closing a facility will result in actual cost savings – and directs the Postal Regulatory Commission to reject any proposed closure that does not meet that test. The amendment further ensures that any postal facility proposed for closure will remain open during any appeal and makes clear that the Postal Regulatory Commission, when considering an appeal, has the authority to reverse a proposed closure.