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Posted by Randy | March 18, 2015

H.R. 1191, the “Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act” is a simple, bipartisan bill that protects our volunteer firefighters, first responders, and emergency service personnel by ensuring they are not classified as “employees” under Obamacare’s Employer Mandate provision. Forcing volunteer fire companies to comply with the Employer Mandate, or be subject to fines if they do not pay for volunteers’ health insurance, could potentially drive fire departments out of business. That’s why the National Volunteer Fire Council, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, and the Congressional Fire Services Institute have all endorsed this bill.

I’m pleased H.R. 1191 passed the House today, with my support, by a vote of 415-0. I will keep you posted as it moves to the Senate for consideration.

Posted by Randy | March 18, 2015

Companies that follow their convictions on sustainability, environmental concerns, and humanitarian causes (think TOMS) are applauded for putting their commitments above their bottom dollar. Yet people of faith who operate their businesses based off of their beliefs are increasingly coming under fire in our culture. If a decision based on moral convictions is celebrated, shouldn’t a decision based on the free exercise of religion – a Constitutional right – be even more so?

We live in a country whose laws respect freedom and diversity, and our Constitution has always had robust protections for all Americans to live and work by their religious convictions.

Faith animates compassion, and compassion leads to greater integrity and ownership of caring for those in need around us.  Protecting the freedom of all Americans to live and work by their convictions benefits us all. Below I make that case in an Op-Ed I co-authored with my friend, Senator James Lankford, the new Co-Chair of the Congressional Prayer Caucus.


What sustainability and religious freedom have in common
Congressman J. Randy Forbes and Senator James Lankford
Washington Examiner | Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Avid Chipotle customers seeking carnitas burritos for dinner may be disappointed over the coming weeks.  The restaurant giant is reportedly no longer serving pork at about a third of its locations after it dropped a pork supplier that failed to live up to the corporation’s standards of humane animal care.

Despite the possibility that Chipotle’s decision to pull pork from almost a third of its restaurants will come at a cost, the corporation’s commitment to serving “food with integrity” has outweighed its quest for financial gain.  “We would rather not serve pork at all, than serve pork from animals that are raised in this way,” Chris Arnold, the company’s communications director, told the Washington Post.

Chipotle’s founder and CEO, Steve Ells, has made a decision to commit to self-imposed standards, which he personally finds important, enabling him to live out his commitment to environmental care and sustainability through how he runs his business.  His example has also drawn others—employees, investors, and customers alike—by giving them a place to work and patronize that shares their beliefs and values.  As the Washington Post observed, “The unparalleled success of the chain is glaring proof that people are willing to pay a bit more for that promise.”

Or, as one online reviewer put it, Chipotle is “a fast food chain with a conscience.”

It is a wonderful thing that individuals are not only able to start and build a business in their chosen trade, but they are also free to structure that business in a way that reflects their personal beliefs and values. In turn, a wide market of choice is provided for employees and consumers, offering an opportunity to partner with a larger association with a shared commitment to a common cause.  In America, we have the ability to act out our individuality and diversity in every aspect of our lives, and not just in our private or personal decisions.

Protecting corporate conscience acknowledges that behind a company name, individuals with their own identities, perspectives, freedoms, and convictions are making decisions that affect real people—owners, employees, customers, and the community.

There is a distinct social good to preserving the freedom of individuals to form and operate a business based on deeply held principles rooted in conscience.  Many great leaders throughout our Nation’s history have understood the importance of this freedom—how it elevates and benefits our society as a whole when individuals openly and fully live their lives according to the moral values that motivate them, even when reasonable people disagree with those values.

It is time that we take a step back from unnecessarily politicized debates about corporations and acknowledge the simple fact that many Americans are motivated to be a force for good in their communities because of, not in spite of, their faith. Faith animates compassion, and compassion leads to greater integrity and ownership of caring for those in need around us. Furthermore, organized compassionate responses need not come solely in the form of a church or charity to be appropriate, authentic, or effective.

There is also a pragmatic reason to defend corporate conscience.  A recent study revealed that, though religious populations are growing worldwide, more than seventy-five percent of the world lives under significant religious restrictions.  These religious prejudices are, in turn, having a negative impact on businesses around the globe.  This has led noted social scientist Dr. Brian Grim to conclude that, “[W]here there is freedom in the market place—including freedom to live out the Golden Rule and bring belief systems to the proverbial table—this . . . fosters more trust within a company and enlarges public trust toward a company . . . .”

It is crucial that the same freedom enjoyed by the leadership of Chipotle remains equally available to business owners of faith. Indeed, much more so as freedom of religion is explicitly protected by the First Amendment.  We cannot simultaneously laud the leaders of a business motivated by a commitment to environmental sustainability and discriminate against the leaders of a business motivated by religious belief.

If a decision based on moral convictions is celebrated, shouldn’t a decision based on the free exercise of religion – a right guaranteed in the Constitution – be even more so?

To be sure, religious freedom is not just a choice of convenience – it is a fundamental right given to all Americans by the Constitution. As we recognize Chipotle’s decision, let’s remember that a clear constitutionally supported civil right of religious freedom should be cherished and respected in every corner of this nation.

We live in a country whose laws respect freedom and diversity, and our Constitution has always had robust protections for all Americans to live and work by their religious convictions.  Americans do not check their religious freedom at the door when they leave their home or place of worship and enter the public sphere.

We must not fall prey to the hypocrisy of defending the freedom of operating a business on convictions of sustainability, but reject that same freedom when the convictions are based in faith.

Read the Op Ed, here.

Additionally, it has been published by the Christian Post, here, and Townhall.com, here.

Posted by Randy | March 16, 2015
Did you know that the U.S. is one of the very few nations in the world without an official language?

I recently cosponsored The English Language Unity Act (H.R. 997), to declare English as the official language of the United States, and require the U.S. government to conduct all official business in English materials. It’s a commonsense step, and also serves to promote the idea of unifying our country around a common language.

One note – this bill is not to say that immigrants to our country should abandon their native roots. It is important for immigrant families to teach their children where they came from and encourage knowledge of their native language. Likewise, it is equally important for young Americans to study the language and culture of other nations so that they can become well-read and informed citizens. Instead, the purpose of this bill is simply to encourage all residents to become fully proficient in English.
As a nation of immigrants created by a common thread of language, it is important that we protect the unity that the English language affords us. Without it, we will cease to be e pluribus unum—one nation out of many.
Posted by Randy | March 13, 2015

As the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard prepare to release a new Maritime Strategy, I believe we have a unique chance to set a strong course for our sea services in the years ahead. Read my Op-Ed, with former Navy Secretary John Lehman, on what direction the new Strategy should take.

What Navy’s New Maritime Strategy Should Say
By John Lehman and Rep. J. Randy Forbes 
March 11, 2015

After years of ill-considered budget cuts and a focus on large-scale land wars, the U.S. Navy had entered a period of qualitative and quantitative decline, diminished readiness, and a lack of confidence in its own mission and capabilities.

Foreign adversaries seemed ascendant, including a radical theocracy in Iran and an expansionist Russia. Many American political leaders seemed resigned to a significantly reduced global role, and the Navy showed signs of abandoning its historic inclination toward an aggressive, offensive-minded spirit.

We refer not to the present day but rather to the late 1970s and early 1980s. Then, as now, the U.S. Navy faced a deteriorating international security environment, an aging and shrinking fleet, and an administration woefully inadequate to the tasks before it. Ronald Reagan’s ascension to the presidency and determination to reverse the country’s military decline required a new strategy for the Navy.

The 1982 Maritime Strategy offered a unique opportunity to translate Reagan’s vision for resurgent American power and restored national defense into an actionable plan for the Navy and Marines. It refocused the Navy on its offensive mission — to take the fight directly to the Soviet Union rather than to consign itself to simply transporting troops to the fight, as many even in the Navy’s leadership seemed resigned to do.

The document not only helped remind the service of its fighting spirit, but also sent a powerful signal to friend and foe alike that the service remained a force to be reckoned with. The 1982 Strategy would remain the essential blueprint for our Navy through the collapse of Communism and victory in the Cold War.

The release Friday of a new Maritime Strategy offers a similar opportunity to set a clear roadmap for our Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, one that will outlast the current administration and provide the intellectual firepower required to rebuild our sea services for the challenges ahead. To be successful, the new Maritime Strategy must contain four key elements.

Signaling. A key element of the 1982 Strategy was signaling America’s renewed commitment to robust naval power to both our adversaries and allies. The new Maritime Strategy must follow a similar path, clearly conveying to states like Russia, Iran and China our determination to maintain sufficient capacity to ensure access to the global sea-lanes, freedom of navigation, and a stable balance in key regions of the globe. As important, the document should offer allies and potential partners and unambiguous statement of U.S. support in the face of revisionist powers seeking to upend the peaceful, U.S.-backed order of the previous 70 years.

It must also include an expectation that the United States will continue to rely heavily on our allies and partners to provide significant naval contributions, both to regional challenges like Iran and China but also to global efforts like anti-piracy and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Budget Coherence. The new strategy must provide high-level thinking to inform the Sea Service’s annual budget proposals, which too often appear to be accounting exercises as much as realistic statements of military requirements. The new Maritime Strategy can lend coherence to the coming years’ budget proposals by clearly stating the nation’s expectations of the Navy-Marine Corps Team. For example, a candid statement of the challenge posed by Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2/AD) systems can offer important legitimacy for existing and emerging countermeasures and strengthen the hand of those programs’ advocates inside the bureaucracy. A forward-looking approach toward something like unmanned carrier-launched strike assets would similarly assist the services, and Congress, in budget debates that could use a dose of strategic foresight and long-term thinking.

Implementation. The 1982 Strategy was unique in that it was not simply words. Rather, it offered specific guidance that could be easily operationalized and implemented far down the chain of command. Of course, the earlier strategy had important differences from today — for one, the 1982 version was classified, with an unclassified annex intended for public consumption, while today’s will be entirely public.

Nevertheless, the new strategy must convey to our sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen a series of specific guidances that can relate to their operational-level challenges and even be incorporated broadly into advanced training programs like Top Gun. Reiterating the service’s commitment to core competencies like amphibious assaults, anti-submarine warfare and mine warfare, along with a discussion of the challenges and opportunities in those warfare areas, will provide the intellectual foundation our operator’s need to actually execute the missions of the future.

Holistic. Most importantly, the new Maritime Strategy must include all aspects of American naval power to be successful. The 1982 Strategy spoke not only to the role of the traditional sea services: It considered the role of the Air Force’s maritime aircraft and even attempted to account for the Army’s role in any future maritime conflict.

Success in future conflicts will be even more dependent on integrating the strengths of all our military services, from the Air Force’s long-range strike capabilities to the Army’s possible entrance into counter-A2/AD missions with a return to land-based anti-ship missions. The new strategy must reflect this reality and think holistically about the future face of warfare, where domains cannot be easily divided by military service and challenges like cyber-warfare and counter-space operations defy easy bureaucratic organization.

Our maritime services have a unique opportunity to accomplish something far too rare in today’s Washington: to create a lasting document that fully conveys American strategy and purpose to a world that has often been confused by recent U.S. strategic incoherence. The 1982 Maritime Strategy can serve as a useful example of a strategy document that made a significant contribution to the real-world success of U.S. national security policy. While much has changed in the three decades since that strategy was released, the need for a forcefully stated and clearly expressed U.S.  maritime strategy is timeless.

John F. Lehman served as Navy Secretary from 1981 to 1987. Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) is Chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.

Read the article here.
Posted by Randy | March 13, 2015

The United States has a choice. We can continue on our current path and provide our military barely enough resources to fight the wars of the past, let alone prepare for future conflicts. Or we can begin the process of restoring the greatest military the world has ever known to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Below is my recent Op-Ed on this subject with former Senator Jim Talent.

America's Self-Inflicted National Security Crisis

Real Clear Defense
By J. Randy Forbes & Jim Talent
March 12, 2015

Over the past several years, knowledgeable witnesses appearing before Congress have testified to an impending crisis in national security. Whether it is the readiness of American personnel, the capability of our ships and aircraft, or the size of the force itself, the warnings have been both frequent and alarming. The Chief of Staff of the Army, General Ray Odierno, is uncertain whether the United States could prevail in a major regional war. General Mark Welsh, Chief of Staff of the Air Force has warned that we can no longer be assured of dominating the air in a future conflict. The Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, has stated that losing just a few more ships will reduce our Navy from a global to a regional power. They all believe that we are not near a crisis point for the defense of the United States. We have already reached it.

Four years ago, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates offered a plan calling for modest yearly increases in his Department’s budgets over the next ten years. We had serious doubts whether that budget was sufficient to enable the armed forces to recover after ten years of hard fighting and after a history of underfunding -- especially for the modernization accounts -- dating back to the 1990s. But the Gates’ proposal would at least have allowed the Department to maintain its end strength, support a modest increase in shipbuilding, and begin to recapitalize its inventories.

However, within a short time Congress and the President agreed on the Budget Control Act and sequester, which together cut the Gates’ budgets by $1 trillion over ten years. Secretary Leon Panetta said at the time that those cuts were “like shooting ourselves in the head.” He was right; the cuts have forced reductions in personnel, the elimination of modernization programs, and a dangerous decline in day-to-day military readiness.

For example:

-Under sequestration, the Army will be cut to 420,000 soldiers, its smallest size since 1941. Training will be reduced for most units to only platoon and company-level exercises. Modernization will be reduced, forcing the service to rely on equipment purchased during the Reagan build-up;

-Today’s Air Force inventory of fighters, bombers, among others, is the oldest and smallest in the history of the service. Less than half of the service’s combat squadrons are fully ready today. Under the full impact of sequestration, readiness will plummet and the number of fighter, bomber and surveillance units will be reduced again by half. Also affected will be the Air Force’s ability to provide strike, close-air support and surveillance to protect a more vulnerable smaller army;

- The size of the fleet will shrink, per the Chief of Naval Operations, to a regional force of about 250 ships, possibly lower. By 2020, US naval forces assigned to the Western Pacific will total only one-third to one-fourth of the size of China’s growing modern fleet which will be between 325 to 350 ships. Moreover, the ability to reinforce that diminished fleet, as measured by the Navy’s contingency response force, will continue to decline as readiness continues to decline

- The Commandant of the Marine Corps, testified on February 26 that one half of his non-deployed units suffer from shortfalls in personnel, equipment and training under the current limited impact of sequestration. The full impact of sequestration, he explained, would force the Marine Corps “to divest ourselves of people …or to stop training.”

Last year, the National Defense Panel co-chaired by former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry and former Centcom Commander John Abizaid, convened to review the Department of Defense Quadrennial Defense Review plans. In a report, the Panel bluntly, repeatedly, and unanimously condemned the cuts and warned of the nefarious effect they were having on America’s armed forces:

“[T]oday the Department is facing major readiness shortfalls that will, absent a decisive reversal of course, create the possibility of a hollow force that loses its best people, underfunds procurement, and shortchanges innovation. The fact that each service is experiencing degradations in so many areas at once is especially troubling at a time of growing security challenges.” The Panel recommended strongly that the cuts be reversed and the Gates’ 2011 budget be reinstated as the minimum funding necessary to protect American national security.Those recommendations were recently endorsed by a bipartisan group of 85 defense experts who condemned the “cuts [that] are undermining the readiness of our forces today and investment in the critical capabilities they will need tomorrow.

We live in a time of increasing global risk. Russia is invading Ukraine and threatening Eastern Europe, China is engaged in a massive military buildup to support its provocative actions in the Western Pacific, North Korea is increasing its nuclear stockpile, ISIS has established a caliphate, Iran is approaching nuclear capability, and Islamic terrorism is spreading to more and more countries. There is no conceivable world where what amounts to unilateral American disarmament would make sense; but in the world of today it is madness beyond measure.

As we write this, the leaders of Congress are preparing their budget resolution for the upcoming year.  That budget should, as a minimum, incorporate the recommendations of the National Defense Panel by increasing defense spending to at least the Gates’ baseline as soon as possible within the ten-year window; it should also lift defense funding in FY 2016 substantially above the President’s recommendations so that the Department can restore the current readiness of its forces and begin a realistic plan to modernize its inventory of equipment.

America’s armed forces are the foundation of a national security architecture that is designed, in the first instance, to deter aggression against American and its vital national interests. Essentially, the United States uses its power to manage and defuse threats before they rise to the level of uncontrollable armed aggression or conflict. Our servicemen and women have done their part; they continue to show the highest degree of courage and commitment. The least they deserve from their political representatives is a budget that is honestly designed to give them the capabilities they need. That hasn’t happened for four years, and everyone knows it; it must happen now, before another year is wasted, and while there is still time to avert the storms that are gathering around the world.

Representative J. Randy Forbes is Chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee in the House Armed Services Committee.

American Enterprise Institute (AEI) senior fellow Jim Talent is the director of the National Security Project 2020 at AEI’s Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies. A former U.S. Senator from Missouri, he was a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the chairman of the Subcommittee on Seapower.

Read the article here
Posted by Randy | March 13, 2015
Recently, I cosponsored the Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies Act of 2015 (H.R.793) to help protect 4th District seniors who live in rural areas and depend upon the local community pharmacy nearest them.

Here’s how it works: While Medicare Part D preferred pharmacy network plans were created to help make prescription drugs more affordable, these plans have also unintentionally put some community pharmacies at a competitive disadvantage. Some seniors, especially in rural areas, have reported having to travel upwards of 20 miles in order to get their medications from a preferred pharmacy network because their local community pharmacy was not given the opportunity to participate in such a network.

This bill will help ensure seniors have better access to prescription medications while helping keep rural community pharmacies competitive with larger pharmacies, by allowing any willing pharmacy located within a designated medically underserved or health professional shortage area to participate in the Medicare Part D preferred network program. This helps reinforce and preserve the critical role that local pharmacies play in delivering care to our rural communities.

I will keep you posted on this bill as it progresses through the House.
Posted by Randy | March 13, 2015

A recent Op-Ed in the New York Times contended that our Navy, which is near its smallest size since World War I, is more than large enough for today's world. Needless to say, I strongly disagree. My rebuttal letter was published in today's Times.

Stop the 'Decline of Our Navy,' a Congressman Says
The New York Times
By Congressman Randy Forbes
March 12, 2015

To the Editor:

Re “Our Navy Is Big Enough” (Op-Ed, March 9):

Contrary to Gregg Easterbrook, the Navy has entered a genuine crisis caused by years of dangerous underinvestment and the folly of sequestration. After peaking at nearly 568 ships in 1987, the fleet now numbers 275 ships.

Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, the commander of the United States Pacific Command, testified that on its current course, the Navy risks becoming merely a regional rather than a global power.

Regarding the challenge posed by China’s rapid military expansion, the Chinese have spent the last two decades investing specifically in areas of perceived American weakness, developing options like antiship missiles, diesel submarines, and sophisticated antisatellite and cyberwarfare capabilities designed to limit American access to disputed waters.

Beijing does not need to match the United States ship for ship to deny our fleet critical access to the Asian Pacific.

Mr. Easterbrook seems willing to accept the loss of open access to global waters like the South China Sea, which China has claimed as its own. I refuse to accept a world where revisionist powers are able to alter the status quo with impunity because America’s Navy is too weak to resist.

Read the article here.

Posted by Randy | March 12, 2015

Small businesses are one of the greatest tools we have for lighting up the economy. That’s why I make it a priority to ease regulatory burdens, provide access to capital, and support small business growth. It’s why I cosponsored the REINS Act (H.R. 427), which reintroduces common sense into the regulatory process by requiring Congress to vote on all new major regulations before they are enforced on citizens and businesses. And it’s why I make it a point to regularly check in with small business owners across the 4th District and get their feedback, ideas, and insight on the challenges they’re facing.

Bureaucrats in Washington do not create jobs. Instead, the federal government should act to enable (not obstruct) economic growth for the real job creators in America: small businesses and American entrepreneurs.

Posted by Randy | March 12, 2015
Wanted to share an article I read in The Virginian-Pilot recently, which shows Virginia exports grew to $19.2 billion in 2014, $1.1 billion higher than 2013 levels -- with manufactured goods accounting for 79% of total merchandise exports. In my opinion, this just goes to show the incredible potential for economic growth found in the Virginia manufacturing sector.

As those numbers demonstrate, our manufacturing industry already plays a key role in creating jobs and generating growth for Virginia. Just imagine the potential if overly burdensome government bureaucracy was lifted from its back. The opportunity is there – from global competitiveness, to national innovation, to American jobs. The federal government needs to be helping to propel the industry forward, not tying its hands. That’s what I’m working towards.
Posted by Randy Forbes | March 12, 2015
Recently, I was honored to join a brand new Congressional Caucus, focusing on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). This caucus was created to educate members and staff on the important and unique needs of HBCUs, and ensure their interests are represented in relevant legislation.

There are 105 HBCUs in the United States – 6 of which are located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I am pleased to be joining this bipartisan group, and will keep you updated on my continued work to support HBCUs around Virginia and in the 4th District.

On the topic of higher education, I recently supported H.R. 529 – a bipartisan bill to improve college savings and prepaid tuition plans, making them more flexible. The bill passed the House by a vote of 401-20, with my support, and is now headed over to the Senate for consideration.