PARKERSBURG - Amendments to a defense spending bill eliminating funding for mining in Afghanistan among other changes were called a major legislative victory by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
Manchin is chairman of a subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee which reviewed the defense authorization bill and included 17 amendments from the junior senator from West Virginia.
The amendments to the annual defense authorization bill include withholding $63.8 million for the mining industry in Afghanistan, address veterans' unemployment, the Department of Defense responsibly spends its allocated funds, reduces the inflated salaries of executive contractors and supports the National Guard and military families. The bill cleared the Senate Armed Services Committee by a vote of 23-3.
Manchin's mining provision prevents government investment in the Afghan mining industry unless the Secretary of Defense can certify Afghanistan will reimburse the United States from mining, oil or gas royalties.
"It is outrageous that the United States is building the mining sector of Afghanistan, especially because the Chinese are winning the contracts to mine the estimated $1 trillion of untapped energy and minerals," Manchin said.
Manchin said the amendment stops other countries from freeloading off U.S. investments.
"If we want to keep the most powerful military in the world, we've got to stop this excessive spending," he said. "We need to start rebuilding America, not Afghanistan."
Manchin, who has encouraged reductions in the use of overpriced defense contractor executives, attempted to decrease the compensation limit to $230,700, the maximum most government civilian employees can make in a year. The committee lowered the limit to $487,325 a year.
"To the people of West Virginia, it doesn't make any sense that taxpayers are paying some contractors almost four times as much as we pay the Secretary of Defense," Manchin said.