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(WASHINGTON, DC) – Yesterday, the Senate adopted two of U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s (D-NH) amendments to must-pass legislation establishing our national defense policy. The first, calls for accountability from the Department of Defense on the recent disclosure that the military mistakenly shipped live anthrax to numerous laboratories in the U.S. and around the globe over a course of eight years or more. The second, provides a much-needed assessment of a new Department of Defense policy to reduce per-diem reimbursement rates for long-term temporary duty assignments.

“With the scope of the anthrax problem still unknown and the high likelihood that there are still packages unaccounted for, this mind boggling mistake still has the potential to do serious harm,” said Shaheen. “It’s very important that there’s a thorough investigation as well as regular assessments to prevent this from ever happening again. I’m very encouraged that my amendment calling for accountability has the backing of the U.S. Senate.”

“I’m also very encouraged that the Senate has taken action to assess the impact on shipyard workers in New Hampshire and across the country of this new reimbursement policy. It’s important that our shipyard workers are not discouraged in any way from volunteering on critical long-term assignments or get stuck with additional expenses.”

The anthrax amendment follows the recent disclosure that the military mistakenly shipped live anthrax to a minimum of 51 laboratories located in at least 17 states and 3 foreign countries over a course of eight years or more. The amendment calls on the Department of Defense to continue to investigate the cause of the incidents, to reassess standards on a regular basis to prevent a reoccurrence, and to keep the relevant congressional committees up-to-date on the investigation.

Last year the Department of Defense instituted a new policy that reduces the per-diem reimbursement rates for long-term temporary duty assignments. This reimbursement adjustment could impact shipyard workers who may have to pay expenses out-of-pocket and discourage workers from volunteering for long-term assignments. Senator Shaheen’s amendment requires the Government Accountability Office to study the impact of the policy change and gather data to determine if there is a negative impact on shipyard workers who travel on long-term temporary duty assignments. 

Senator Shaheen is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, as well as the Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.

Full text of the anthrax amendment can be found here and the GAO amendment can be found here.