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National Defense Authorization includes Shaheen proposals supporting New Hampshire defense bases and projects, Special Immigrant Visa program

(Washington, D.C.) – The Senate Armed Services Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this afternoon with key national defense priorities put forward by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), including support for the development of the KC-46A tanker to Pease Air National Guard Base and an extension of the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. The annual defense bill authorizes all Department of Defense (DOD) programs and major defense policies, and passed out of the Senate Armed Services Committee on a bipartisan vote of 25-1.

“We have a responsibility to provide the men and women who serve our country with the training and resources necessary to complete their missions,” Shaheen said. "This bipartisan bill will continue to keep our military and national defense systems one of the strongest in the world while underscoring our appreciation for our men and women in uniform, their service, and their sacrifice."

The committee’s final NDAA bill incorporates Shaheen’s requests from the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support from earlier this week. As Chair of the Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee, Shaheen rejected the Administration's request for another round of military base closures while supporting investments in military readiness that are important to Pease Air National Guard Base and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The subcommittee markup that was incorporated into the committee’s bill increases funding for military infrastructure, including an additional $220 million for Navy shipyards and other Navy installations; supports ongoing training and maintenance, including two additional National Guard Combat training center rotations; and reduces waste and inefficiency. 

Shaheen provisions included in the final committee version of the NDAA include:

KC-46 Aerial Refueling Tanker

At Shaheen’s urging, the bill fully funds the KC-46 Aerial Refueling Tanker program to be housed at Pease Air National Guard Base, pending a successful completion of the environmental impact study. Once completed, the KC-46A will replace the current fleet of 1950’s era KC-135s and serve as the backbone of American airpower for generations to come. The Air Force project at Pease is estimated to create 100 jobs and invest millions in New Hampshire’s economy, and according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the KC-46A continues to achieve its development objectives on time and under budget. 

Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program

Shaheen also included a provision directing the Defense Department to continue its support of the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, which funds programs – like the Deployment Cycle Support Program (DCSP) in New Hampshire – that help returning National Guard and Reservists reintegrate to civilian life. 

Since 2008, more than 1.3 million service members and their families have benefited from the Yellow Ribbon program, which provides training sessions and information regarding family assistance programs, veterans’ benefits, resilience and suicide prevention, mental health outreach, and other medical information for service members and their families throughout the deployment cycle. In an effort to promote continued focus on Yellow Ribbon Programs beyond the end of the war in Afghanistan, Shaheen’s provision directs the Defense Department to build on the lessons learned from the success of programs like New Hampshire National Guard’s Deployment Cycle Support Program (DCSP).  Studies suggest that DCSP participants are four times more likely to stay married, four times more likely to stay in the military, and five times less likely to be homeless. 

“Although we continue to grapple with the challenges faced by service members and their families throughout the deployment cycle, the Yellow Ribbon Program has proven a critical resource. We cannot let that go to waste,” said Shaheen.

Virginia-class Submarines

The bill authorizes continued procurement of two new Virginia-class submarines in FY 2015. Senator Shaheen has consistently advocated for investments in our Navy’s submarine fleet, which remain one of the most productive assets for the Department of Defense. In FY 2014 Shaheen partnered with Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Angus King (I-ME) for the procurement of two Virginia-class submarines in the FY 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. The continued procurement provides the funding for two Virginia class submarines, which will help address modernization needs at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and the nation’s three other public shipyards.

Special Immigrant Visas

Shaheen successfully included an amendment to the bill that would extend the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for another critical year and authorize additional visas for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. Shaheen introduced a similar plan earlier this month as a bipartisan standalone piece of legislation. The amendment provides visas to Afghans who have provided faithful and valuable service to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and face threats as a result, including authorizing visas for Afghans who directly supported the U.S. military through the International Security Assistance Force.

“These brave Afghan citizens put their lives at risk to help our mission in Afghanistan,” Shaheen said. “We have a moral obligation and a national security imperative not to leave them behind, and I am very pleased we were able to come together to extend and expand this important program.”

Counter-Drug Operations

Shaheen worked to include a provision that directs U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), which is responsible for U.S. military operations in Central and South America, to work with its partners in the region to address the growing influx of illicit narcotics into the United States. 

“In order to comprehensively address drug issues in our communities, we need to make sure we are getting the most out of our counter narcotics operations,” Shaheen said. “We must not only prevent narcotics from crossing our borders, but we must also work with our international partners to reduce the capability of traffickers throughout Central and South America. Providing more coordinated intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance is an important and cost-effective way to contribute to that effort.”