Defense Bill with Shaheen’s NH and National Security Priorities Heads to President’s Desk

November 16, 2017

**Establishment of First-ever Nationwide PFC Water Contamination Study** 

** Critical Investments in Pease Air National Guard Base & Protection of Jobs at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard** 

**Ban on Moscow-Based Software Company with Kremlin Ties** 

**Increase in Visas for Afghan Interpreters**

(Washington, DC) – Today, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual legislation that authorizes federal defense priorities for the fiscal year. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, secured a number of significant New Hampshire and national security objectives in the bill, which after passing the House of Representatives earlier this week, now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law. These include:

  • Shaheen’s bipartisan amendment that directs the Department of Defense to fund a nationwide health study on implications of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), such as PFOA, in drinking water. In May, the Air Force announced it would not fund a health study of water contamination around Haven Well at the Pease International Tradeport – Shaheen’s amendment establishes the first-ever nationwide study on the human health effects of those exposed to PFCs in their drinking water;
  • Shaheen advocated for the authorization of necessary funding in the bill to allow the Air Force to continue development of the KC-46A Aerial Refueling Tanker program. This is significant for the Granite State because Pease was selected as the Air Force’s first Air National Guard KC-46A main operating base, an economic benefit to Pease and the surrounding community; 
  • Shaheen helped prevent the Department of Defense from conducting another round of Base Realignment and Closing (BRAC) to ensure Portsmouth Naval Shipyard continues to support New Hampshire jobs and our national security;
  • Shaheen’s amendment to ban Kaspersky Lab software from being used by the federal government. The Moscow-based software company has ties to the Kremlin. Shaheen’s previous amendment to ban Kaspersky Lab software from being used by the Department of Defense was included in the committee-passed version of the bill in June. In September, the Trump administration heeded Senator Shaheen’s call to ban the software company from all federal agencies;
  • Shaheen negotiated an additional 3,500 visas for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. The SIV program allows Afghan interpreters and support staff who have assisted in the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and face threats as a result of their service to apply for refuge in the United States. Shaheen’s efforts have been instrumental in keeping this program operating for the brave men and women who have worked beside Americans in the field, putting themselves and their families at risk to support American troops and operations.

“This bill contains a number of significant victories for New Hampshire communities and families, such as the first-ever national study on health implications of those exposed to emerging contaminants in drinking water, critical investments in the Pease Air National Guard Base, and the assurance that jobs at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard are here to stay,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m also pleased by the bill’s inclusion of my bipartisan amendment to ban Kaspersky Lab software from the entire federal government, and with the authorization of additional visas for Afghan interpreters who risk their lives beside American soldiers on the front lines every day. This defense bill supports both New Hampshire and national priorities, and I look forward to seeing it signed into law.”

SHAHEEN PRIORITIES INCLUDED IN THE FY2018 NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT:

Establish Health Study on PFOA, Emerging Contaminants in Drinking Water

The bill includes Senator Shaheen’s bipartisan amendment that would grant the Department of Defense authorization to fund the first-ever nationwide health study on implications of perfluorinated chemicals, such as PFOA, in drinking water. This amendment is particularly important for Seacoast families, following the Air Force’s announcement in May that it would not fund a health study of water contamination around Haven Well at Pease. The national study will be conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Shaheen has also introduced the Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act, bipartisan legislation that will help expedite the analysis of contaminants, such as PFOA, and provide resources to states dealing with the health challenges posed by these potentially harmful materials.

Ban Kaspersky Lab Software from the Entire Federal Government

Senator Shaheen’s amendment to ban Kaspersky Lab software from the entire federal government expands her previous amendment to ban the Moscow-based software company from being used by the Department of Defense. The Trump administration heeded her warnings about the Kremlin-linked company, and in September, ordered federal agencies to remove the software from government computers within 90 days. Shaheen has been a leading figure in calling for a ban on the software. In October, Senator Shaheen sent a letter to the leadership of the Senate Armed Services Committee, requesting a hearing on the use of Kaspersky Lab software to hack the National Security Agency in 2015. Shortly thereafter, Shaheen called on the Trump administration to declassify information on Kaspersky Lab to raise public awareness regarding the serious threat that company poses to the United States’ national security.

Secure Additional Visas for Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program

Senator Shaheen secured the authorization of 3,500 visas for the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for Afghan interpreters and support staff to be included in this legislation. Senator Shaheen has championed the Afghan SIV program, which allows Afghans who have supported the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and face threats as a result of their service to apply for refuge in the United States. Earlier this year, Shaheen played a critical role in securing additional Afghan visas to avert a lapse in the program.

Expand Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) Program

The bill includes Shaheen’s legislation, the Invest in Rural Small Business Act, which expands a key small business program in rural New Hampshire and across the country.  The U.S. government is the world’s largest buyer of goods and services, but small businesses often have difficulty accessing the federal marketplace.  The amendment increases the ability of rural small businesses to qualify for the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) program. The current one-size-fits-all formula for determining a HUBZone leaves many otherwise eligible communities outside the program.  The law requires 3 percent of contracts be awarded annually to HUBZone firms, but in 2016, only 1.67 percent of federal contracting dollars were awarded to these businesses.  Shaheen’s amendment expands the pool of HUBZone eligible communities and enhances the program’s ability to be a targeted economic development tool.  Shaheen introduced this legislation in April after being contacted by Costa Precision Manufacturing in Claremont, New Hampshire about qualifying for the HUBZone program. 

Invest in Pease Air National Guard Base

With Senator Shaheen’s strong support, the bill authorizes the funding necessary for the Air Force to continue development of the KC-46A Aerial Refueling Tanker program.  Thanks to strong advocacy by Senator Shaheen and the New Hampshire National Guard, Pease was selected as the Air Force’s first Air National Guard KC-46A main operating base, an economic benefit to Pease and the surrounding community.  The KC-46A will replace the Air Force’s 1950’s-era aerial refueling fleet of KC-135s and will serve as the backbone of American air operations for decades to come.

Acquire Virginia-class Submarines

The bill authorizes procurement of two new Virginia-class submarines in Fiscal Year 2018 and funds advanced procurement to mitigate an attack submarine shortfall projected for some time after 2020. Senator Shaheen has long been a steadfast supporter of the Virginia-class.

Based in part on Senator Shaheen’s successful opposition, the bill does not include a new round of Base Realignment and Closing (BRAC), which could endanger national security and potentially damage New Hampshire’s economy by threatening jobs at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. According to nonpartisan experts, the 2005 BRAC round exceeded initial cost estimates by $14 billion.

Increase Allotment of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters

Senator Shaheen successfully advocated for the bill to include 24 additional F-35s above the President’s budget request for procurement of fighter jets to address future threats and mitigate a shortfall across all three military services.  Ramping up production of F-35s in particular will drive down unit cost and more quickly fulfill the requirements of our military and our allies. 

The NDAA heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.