(Washington, D.C.) – Today, the U.S. Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), critical legislation to fund U.S. national security priorities and direct defense policy on issues ranging from pay and compensation for service members to support for European allies threatened by Russian aggression. Senator Shaheen voted in favor of the legislation which included a slate of proposals that she put forward. Senator Shaheen is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee which authored the legislation.
“In Congress, one of our most important responsibilities is ensuring that our service men and women receive the resources they need to defend our country,” said Shaheen. “I’m pleased that this defense bill authorizes several of my proposals to support our service members in New Hampshire and those stationed around the world. I’m also very encouraged that the Senate has included my amendments that will bolster New Hampshire’s important role in our national security.”
Shaheen priorities included in the bill that passed:
Long-Term Duty Rules
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.
Eastern European Training Initiative
Senator Shaheen’s proposal to authorize an Eastern European Training Initiative aimed at enhancing the military training and readiness of key Eastern European allies and partners was included in the final bill with bipartisan support. This assistance will aid European partners in external defense and interoperability–a key factor when responding to NATO calls for collective action. The initiative will help the Department of Defense respond more effectively to Russian aggression and will fill a gap in U.S. efforts to train Eastern European allies and partners.
Special Immigrant Visas for Afghan Interpreters
Senator Shaheen successfully included an amendment to the bill that authorizes additional visas for the Afghan Special Immigrant visa program and extends certain deadlines and authorities associated with the program. The amendment ensures the program can continue to allow Afghans who provided faithful and valuable service to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and face threats as a result, to apply for visas to the United States.
The bill authorizes procurement of two new Virginia-class submarines in Fiscal Year 2016 and an increase of $800 million in advance procurement to mitigate an attack submarine shortfall projected for some time after 2020. Senator Shaheen has long been a stalwart supporter of the Virginia-class, and earlier this year she had the opportunity to embark on the U.S.S. New Hampshire, commissioned at Portsmouth Naval Ship Yard in 2008.
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
At Senator Shaheen’s urging, the bill includes the Navy’s request to fund their minimum depot capital investment program at 7.4 percent, which is higher than the current 6 percent. This additional funding will go directly to mission-critical shipyard infrastructure. The bill also authorized $150 million for the Energy Conservation Investment Program, which includes a steam decentralization project at Portsmouth Naval Ship Yard to improve energy efficiency.
Family Planning for Service members
Senator Shaheen successfully included a provision directing the Department to ensure that women in the military are provided the most up-to-date, evidence-based standard of care for the full range of contraceptive methods, especially during pre-deployment. The amendment would help address the higher than average unintended pregnancy rate among active duty servicewomen. Studies indicate that active duty servicewomen could benefit from comprehensive counseling and education on contraception.
Pease Air National Guard Base
With Senator Shaheen’s strong support, the bill provides the funding necessary for the Air Force to continue development of the KC-46A Pegasus Aerial Refueling Tanker program. Thanks to strong advocacy by Senator Shaheen and the New Hampshire National Guard, last year Pease was selected as the Air Force’s first Air National Guard KC-46A Pegasus 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. The bill also provide for the construction of a KC-46A flight simulator building at Pease to help support the Guard’s tanker mission.
Senators Shaheen and Ayotte successfully included a provision urging the Air Force to identify and notify those who may have been exposed to the perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) that were found last year in the Haven Well located at Pease. The provision also directs the Air Force to report to Congress on their progress by the end of this summer. The presence of PFCs is likely due to firefighting foams the Air Force used at Pease. Senator Shaheen continues to closely follow this issue and is working with local and state officials to ensure they receive the support they need from the Air Force to address this potential health risk.
F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets
Senator Shaheen successfully advocated for the bill to include an increase in procurement of fighter jets to address future threats and mitigate a shortfall across all three military services. At her urging, the bill increased quantities of both F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. 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.
Senator Shaheen included an amendment in the bill that calls for accountability from the Department of Defense on the recent disclosure that the military mistakenly shipped live anthrax to a minimum of 51 laboratories 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.