Final Defense Legislation Includes Critical NH Priorities Secured by ShaheenDecember 09, 2019
**Legislation Procures Additional KC-46 Pegasus Refueling Tankers, the Same Aircraft Replacing KC-135s at Pease Air National Guard Base**
** Bill Authorizes Two Virginia-class Submarines—which are Maintained and Repaired at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard – to Help Avert Projected Submarine Shortfall**
**Bill Includes Legislation Cosponsored by Shaheen to Crack Down on Fentanyl Coming from China & Mexico**
**Defense Bill Includes Bipartisan Shaheen-Portman Legislation to Boost EPA Response to PFAS Contamination**
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued the following statement after Senate and House conferees released the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year (FY) 2020. The annual legislation authorizes national defense objectives for the fiscal year.
The FY20 NDAA will next be considered by both chambers of Congress before it is sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law. The New Hampshire and national defense priorities supported by Shaheen include:
- Ban on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from firefighting foam, PFAS blood testing for military firefighters and authorization of an additional $10 million to continue the PFAS health impact study Shaheen established in the 2018 NDAA;
- Authorization of 12 KC-46 Pegasus refueling tankers, aircraft that will replace the Air Force’s 1950’s-era aerial refueling fleet of KC-135s at the New Hampshire Air National Guard base at Pease, which will be a main operating base;
- Procurement of 2 Virginia-class submarines – which are maintained and repaired at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard — and the authorization of funds for advanced procurement to mitigate an attack submarine shortfall;
- Provides 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees;
- 3.1% pay raise for service members – which represents the largest such increase in a decade;
- Eliminates the military “Widow’s Tax” that prevents as many as 65,000 surviving military spouses nationwide from receiving their full Department of Defense (DOD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) survivor benefits; and
- Bipartisan legislation to crack down on fentanyl coming from China and Mexico.
“The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is the largest employer in the Seacoast and bolsters New Hampshire’s role in support of our national defense, which is why I’m very pleased by the priorities secured in this defense bill that will ensure the Shipyard is empowered with the resources it needs to complete its missions,” said Shaheen. “This legislation also invests in the future of our air operations at Pease and provides a well-deserved pay raise to our service members. I appreciate the bipartisan efforts that went into crafting this bill to respond to our defense priorities in New Hampshire and across the country, and I look forward to seeing this legislation through Congress and to the President’s desk.”
NEW HAMPSHIRE PRIORITIES SECURED OR SUPPORTED BY SHAHEEN IN THE FY 2020 NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT INCLUDE:
Military Readiness Priorities for Portsmouth Naval Shipyard:
Shaheen worked to authorize the procurement of two new Virginia-class submarines—which are repaired and maintained at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard—as well as the authorization of funds for advanced procurement to mitigate an attack submarine shortfall. Senator Shaheen has long been a steadfast supporter of the Virginia-class, and a fierce advocate for Shipyard priorities.
Last month, Shaheen announced with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) that a $158 million contract was awarded to a New England company to construct a superflood basin and extend portal crane rails for Dry Dock #1 at the Shipyard. The superflood basin, similar to a navigational lock, will enable Los Angeles-class and Virginia-class submarines to dock without the use of buoyancy assist tanks. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Shaheen helped secure this funding in the fiscal year 2019 funding legislation. Shaheen recently participated in a groundbreaking ceremony at the Shipyard for the new Paint, Blast and Rubber facility and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Consolidated Warehouse. Senator Shaheen fought tirelessly to secure funding for these two specific projects. She was also instrumental in successfully defending Shipyard construction projects – including this the Paint, Blast and Rubber Facility – against the President’s threats to divert potential Shipyard funding towards the border wall.
Due in part to Senator Shaheen’s successful opposition, the defense 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.
Investments at Pease Air National Guard Base:
Senator Shaheen fought to procure 12 KC-46 Pegasus refueling tankers. 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-46 main operating base, an economic benefit to Pease and the surrounding community. The KC-46 replaces 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. The last KC-135 departed Pease in March to make way for the KC-46. Shaheen participated in the arrival event for the first KC-46 to Pease in August.
Ban on PFAS Chemicals in Firefighting Foam, Shaheen Legislation to Bolster EPA Response to PFAS & Boost in Funding for PFAS Health Impact Study:
Senator Shaheen has spearheaded efforts in Congress to uncover the potential health effects related to PFAS contamination, respond to the chemical exposure and remediate polluted sites. The defense bill released today includes a provision secured by Shaheen that would phase out the use of PFAS in DOD firefighting foams and prohibit its use in the military after October 1, 2024. The provision also requires the military to publish a new firefighting foam military specification by January 1, 2023 and ensure it is available for use by October 1, 2023. Additionally, Shaheen successfully authorized $10 million to continue the PFAS health impact study she established in the FY2018 NDAA. Shaheen has repeatedly secured the necessary authorization and funding to implement the study.
“For years, New Hampshire residents have rightly fought for more information, and greater transparency and accountability, in response to their exposure to PFAS chemicals in drinking water. The provisions included in this annual defense bill will help answer those long overdue questions and concerns,” said Shaheen. “This bill ensures that the health impact study at Pease will continue to move forward without delay and addresses occupational exposure, which impacts our firefighters and military members at a higher rate. While this legislation takes important steps forward, I’m disappointed that some PFAS provisions, which have garnered overwhelming bipartisan support, were substantially weakened. Our work must not end here – remediating polluted sites, investing in research and development to find alternatives to PFAS and understanding the full health implications related to PFAS exposure must remain top congressional priorities. I will continue to raise these issues with the administration, reach across the aisle on legislation to confront these problems head on, and work with our local partners to ensure New Hampshire voices are heard and represented every step of the way.”
The defense bill also includes a significant package of legislation, cosponsored by Shaheen, aimed at combating PFAS exposure. This PFAS package includes Shaheen’s bipartisan legislation with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), the Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act, which would expedite analysis of water contaminants like PFAS and provide support and resources to states dealing with the health challenges posed by these potentially harmful materials. In addition to the Shaheen bill, the NDAA requires federal facilities, including military and National Guard installations, to expedite cooperative agreements with states to address PFAS contamination and add PFAS chemicals to the Toxics Release Inventory, requiring certain manufacturers and producers of PFAS to publicly report their use of the chemicals to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The PFAS package would also require the U.S. Geological Survey to develop advanced testing methods to detect PFAS in the environment and conduct nationwide sampling to test surface and groundwater sources for PFAS.
Also included in the defense bill is Shaheen’s legislation with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) that would confront occupational exposure to PFAS— the Protecting Military Firefighters from PFAS Act. The bipartisan bill would require the Department of Defense to include blood testing for PFAS as part of routine physicals for military firefighters. Shaheen and Murkowski previously called on federal health agencies to prioritize studies on the health effects of firefighters exposed to PFAS.
Support for Military Spouse Occupational Licensing:
Senator Shaheen worked to include her bipartisan legislation with Senator Cotton (R-AR) that would improve the transferability of occupational licenses from state to state for military spouses, and would also help alleviate the burden spouses endure if they’re small business owners from having to constantly re-register their businesses. At a press conference with Senator Cotton and Second Lady Karen Pence earlier this year, Shaheen highlighted the story of Andrea Krull, whose husband is a Granite Stater, and her personal experience of having to continuously re-establish her business as a consultant with every move.
“Our military families make enormous sacrifices on behalf of our country, so if we have the opportunity to help make things a little easier for them we need to seize it,” said Shaheen. “Military spouses face serious challenges starting over in new communities, which are exacerbated when they have to jump through hoops to re-establish their professions. This bipartisan legislation is a commonsense fix to a bureaucratic problem that hinders military spouses from practicing their professions or restarting their businesses as they move with their families throughout the country. I appreciate the bipartisan support this effort received to be included in the defense bill. I look forward to seeing this legislation move through Congress and swiftly signed into law.”
Sanctions Legislation to Crack Down on Fentanyl Coming from China & Mexico:
The defense bill includes targeted fentanyl sanctions legislation – the Fentanyl Sanctions Act – which Shaheen cosponsored. The bipartisan sanctions legislation applies pressure on the Chinese government to strictly enforce their commitment to make all fentanyl illegal and provides the United States with more tools and resources to target illicit traffickers in China, Mexico and other nations. The legislation was originally introduced by Shaheen with Democratic Leader Schumer and Senators Cotton (R-AR), Brown (D-OH), Rubio (R-FL), Menendez (D-NJ) and Toomey (R-PA).
Shaheen met with New Hampshire law enforcement officials earlier this year to discuss the Fentanyl Sanctions Act, as well as continued efforts to help stem the opioid crisis in New Hampshire. Senator Shaheen is a leader in the Senate on tackling the opioid epidemic. As a senior member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, she helped negotiate the bipartisan agreement in 2018 that outlined two years of opioid response spending – totaling $6 billion to address the opioid crisis. This included the set-aside funding for states with the highest mortality rates, like New Hampshire. This critical additional funding, which Shaheen helped broker, has been ncluded by Congress over the last two fiscal years. As a result of the Congressional Delegation’s efforts, New Hampshire received a more than seven-fold increase in annual grant award funding provided through the State Opioid Response Grant program.
Concord National Guard Readiness Center:
Senator Shaheen supported the authorization of $5.95 million in federal funding for a new National Guard Readiness Center in Concord. This effort builds on Shaheen’s priorities in the FY2019 NDAA, where she successfully authorized funding to build the Pembroke Readiness Center, which supports administrative and logistical requirements for the New Hampshire Army National Guard.
ADDITIONAL SHAHEEN DEFENSE PRIORITIES INCLUDED IN FY 2020 NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT:
Prohibits F-35 Aircraft to Turkey & States Congress’ Intentions Regarding Sanctions Against Turkey’s Purchase of the S-400 Air Defense System:
Senator Shaheen’s provision prohibits funds authorized by the NDAA to be used for the transfer of F-35 joint strike fighters to Turkey if Turkey continues to move forward with the Russian S-400 air defense system. This prohibition also applies to equipment, intellectual property and technical data necessary for the F-35, and to construct facilities to store the F-35 in Turkey. Shaheen, on a bipartisan basis, was the first to push to ensure that F-35 planes would not be transferred to Turkey as long as a threat to those aircraft and the corresponding technology existed. Since that time, Russia has delivered components of the S-400 system to Turkey and the Department of Defense has implemented this ban. This NDAA provision would codify the ban so it cannot be easily reversed.
In addition to the F-35 prohibition, Shaheen successfully included an amendment with Senator Lankford (R-OK) to clarify congressional intent regarding sanctions against Turkey’s leadership for its purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Shaheen played a leading role in negotiations of CAATSA – Russian sanctions legislation. The Shaheen-Lankford amendment specifically expresses the sense of Congress that Turkey’s acquisition of Russia’s S-400 air defense system undermines the security interests of the United States, weakens the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and is incompatible with Turkey’s own security interests.
These measures are based on Shaheen’s standalone legislation, which she introduced in March with Senators Lankford, Tillis (R-NC) and Van Hollen (D-MD). Last year, Shaheen, Lankford and Tillis introduced a similar bill to restrict the transfer of fighter aircraft to Turkey by directing the Secretary of Defense to submit a plan to Congress to remove Turkey from participation in the F-35 program. That bill was ultimately included in the FY2019 NDAA. Shaheen, Lankford and Tillis also teamed up to raise the case and free Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was unjustly held by the Turkish government. Pastor Brunson was released in October 2018 after being detained for two years.
Require Secretary of State to Comply with Law & Prioritize Afghan Women’s Inclusion in Peace Negotiations:
Senator Shaheen added her provision requiring the Secretary of State to comply with the Women, Peace and Security Act– which she authored with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)—to prioritize Afghan women’s inclusion in peace negotiations.
The Women, Peace and Security Act bolsters women’s roles in peace negotiations and conflict resolution around the world. Shaheen has led efforts in Congress pushing the Trump administration to prioritize Afghan women’s inclusion in peace negotiations. In February, Shaheen led a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, urging the administration to prioritize women’s inclusion in peace negotiations between the United States and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and to protect the United States’ investment in the rights of women and girls. During a Senate Foreign Relations hearing in April, Shaheen repeatedly asked Secretary of State Pompeo to commit to making Afghan women’s inclusion in negotiations a foreign policy priority, to which he refused. Earlier this year, Shaheen met with women leaders in Afghanistan about the urgency and importance of their representation in the peace talks.
New Senior Coordinator Position to Address ISIS Detainee Issues:
Shaheen successfully added a provision to establish a senior coordinator position within the Executive Branch for all ISIS detainee issues. This position would lead all diplomatic engagements and planning regarding the future of ISIS detainees. The provision mandates an annual report to Congress on the status of the repatriation, detention and prosecution of high-value ISIS detainees, including detainees associated with the notorious British ISIS cell known as the “Beatles,” as well as efforts to inform family members of U.S. victims about the status of detainees responsible for crimes against Americans. The creation of this role was originally a recommendation of the Syria Study Group’s (SSG) interim report, but it has since taken on additional importance given the President’s abrupt decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria where a majority of ISIS detainees were held. Shaheen established the Syria Study Group in the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that was signed into law last October. The Syria Study Group is a bipartisan panel created with the purpose of completing a comprehensive strategic review of America’s policy in Syria. Shaheen has worked closely with the family of James Foley, an American journalist and Granite Stater who was viciously murdered by ISIS jihadists. Shaheen has fought to ensure that ISIS terrorists culpable in Foley’s murder, as well as other U.S. citizens, are brought to trial in the United States.
Reauthorizes Afghan SIV Program & 4,000 Visas:
As the lead in the Senate for the continuation of the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, Senator Shaheen successfully saw to the reauthorization of the program, as well as 4,000 Afghan SIVs. Shaheen has led bipartisan efforts in Congress to reauthorize additional Afghan SIVs, and historically partnered with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) on this priority. In May, Shaheen introduced new bipartisan legislation that would reauthorize 4,000 Afghan SIVs for FY 2020. Her provision to reauthorize this critical program was included in the FY2020 State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill that passed the committee.
Targeted Sanctions to Stop Russian Efforts that Exploit Europe’s Energy Dependence:
Senator Shaheen successfully included a provision based on her standalone legislation with Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) to impose highly-targeted sanctions on the pipe-laying ships involved in Russia’s Nord Stream 2 project. The targeted vessels are being used to construct deep sea pipelines for Russian energy export projects, including Nord Stream 2. This measure also reasserts the importance of the U.S.-Germany alliance and includes several provisions to encourage Germany to alleviate the harm to Ukraine and Europe’s energy independence that will likely result from the Nord Stream 2 project.
Expand TRICARE Coverage for Life-Improving & Cost-Saving Technology for Diabetes Treatment:
Senator Shaheen, co-chair of the Diabetes Caucus, added an amendment that would update TRICARE criteria for the use of continuous glucose monitors and direct the Secretary of Defense to provide an update on its progress no later than 90 days after the defense legislation is enacted. Shaheen has historically partnered with fellow Diabetes Caucus co-chair Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) to expand coverage for continuous glucose monitors, which are critical in helping diabetic patients manage the chronic disease.
Tracking Toxic Exposure in Iraq and Afghanistan:
Senator Shaheen supported a provision that would require the Secretary of Defense to include an evaluation to determine whether a member of the Armed Forces has been exposed to open burn pits or toxic airborne chemicals during periodic health assessments, physical examinations and in separation history. Members of the Armed Forces who have been exposed to toxic airborne chemicals or stationed near an open burn pit would be automatically enrolled in the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, unless they opt out, to ensure their records are easily accessible should health complications arise from their exposure. Open burn pits have been used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan and have been linked to a number of illnesses. Senator Shaheen previously cosponsored the legislation offered as an amendment as a standalone bill introduced by Senator Klobuchar.
Elimination of the Military “Widow’s Tax”:
The defense bill includes legislation cosponsored by Senator Shaheen that eliminates the unfair “Widow’s Tax” law that prevents as many as 65,000 surviving military spouses nationwide from receiving their full Department of Defense (DOD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) survivor benefits.
“The last thing that military spouses should have to deal with after losing a loved one is an unjust reduction in income,” said Shaheen. “This bipartisan reform finally provides the surviving spouses of our servicemen and women with the full benefits and financial assistance to which they’re entitled. I’m glad we were able to work across the aisle to take this important step on behalf of military families.”
Under current law, the surviving spouse of a retired member who dies of a service-connected cause, or a service member killed on active duty, is entitled to what is known as Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from the VA. If the military retiree was also enrolled in the Survivors Benefits Plan (SBP), the surviving spouse’s SBP benefits are reduced by the amount of DIC. This leaves many widows and widowers with far less per month than they had expected to receive to support their families after their loved one’s passing. Each case varies depending on rank and the year of service-related death, but the average DIC offset to SBP pay is $925 per month. The provision included in the defense bill repeals this required offset and authorizes payment of both SBP and DIC in the case of a service-connected death. In August, Senator Shaheen sent a letter with her colleagues to the chairs and ranking members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees urging them to include this provision in the final NDAA.
Robust Military Housing Reform in Support of Service Members’ Families:
The defense bill contains robust military housing privatization reform in support of service members and their families, including a “Tenant Bill of Rights.” This provision specifically includes a number of legislative fixes that are addressed in a standalone bill Senator Shaheen cosponsored with Senators Feinstein (D-CA), Kaine (D-VA), Warner (D-VA) and Harris (D-CA). In April, Shaheen sent a letter with fellow cosponsors of the bill – the Ensuring Safe Housing for Our Military Act – to the Senate Armed Services Committee leadership, requesting that the bill be included in the FY2020 NDAA.
The NDAA also requires the Department of Defense to consider any performance history of a landlord along with the recommendation of the installation commander when renewing or starting a new agreement. This effort builds off the unacceptable reports of sub-standard conditions in various military housing installations. These provisions are necessary to ensure that contractors are responsive to service members’ concerns, that military housing officials are exercising proper oversight and that service members are empowered to leave any home that is unsafe for their family without fear of incurring a financial penalty.
Paid Parental Leave for Federal Employees:
The defense bill includes a provision to provide federal employees with 12 weeks of paid parental leave. The federal government is the nation’s largest employer, but federal workers currently have no guaranteed access to paid family or medical leave. Senator Shaheen voted in favor of a motion to instruct Senate conferees to include this provision in the defense bill and has historically been a proponent of paid family leave. Shaheen is also cosponsor of the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act or FAMILY Act, legislation to create a universal, gender-neutral paid family and medical leave program to support caregivers in the workforce.
Establishment of Tech Fellowship for Students:
Senator Shaheen supported a provision that would create a one-year technology fellowship for the Department of Defense and Congress. This would place civilians in the Department of Defense or congressional offices with the goal of increasing the number of national security professionals with science, technology, engineering and mathematics credentials employed by DOD and Congress.
Help FAA Hire More Air Traffic Controllers and Prioritize Hiring of Veterans & Graduates of FAA Certified Schools:
Senator Shaheen’s bipartisan bill with Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) to help improve the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) hiring process for air traffic controllers was included in the FY2020 NDAA. Their bill – the ATC Hiring Reform Act – would ensure the agency is able to prioritize the hiring of veterans and graduates of FAA Certified Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) schools – candidates who have a statistically lower attrition rate during qualification training at the FAA Academy.
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