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Bill enhances national security, extends critical small business innovation program

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) praised today’s final passage of The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012, which enhances our national security and supports our troops, while also saving taxpayer money by cutting unnecessary programs. The annual defense bill, which includes several measures authored or supported by Shaheen, authorizes all Department of Defense programs for the fiscal year and addresses major defense policy issues.  It passed in an 86-13 vote and now heads to the President for his signature.

Shaheen spoke recently on the Senate floor about the bill and a copy of her remarks can be seen by clicking here.

“This important legislation will help us strengthen our national security, keep our defense businesses competitive, and support our troops, while also improving oversight of taxpayer money. I urge the President to sign it quickly,” said Shaheen, who helped write the bill as a member of the Armed Services Committee. “I was particularly pleased to see included a long-term extension of a small business innovation program and a plan to modernize the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.”

A number of proposals authored or supported by Shaheen were in the measure and are described below.

U.S. Naval Shipyard Modernization Plan

The bill includes a Navy shipyard modernization provision that Shaheen introduced with Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).  In 2009, the U.S. Navy estimated that our shipyards face a $3 billion backlog in overdue infrastructure improvements, including a $513 million backlog at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard alone.  The provision requires the Navy to develop a modernization plan to meet these challenges and to better ensure that our shipyards can continue to safely and efficiently maintain the ships that protect our shores.

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program Extension

The bill includes a bipartisan amendment that would extend for six years the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which allows small businesses to compete for federal research dollars. 

"The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program has been operating under short-term extensions for too long, and I am glad that we will finally be able to restore some stability to this important program. This will allow even more businesses in New Hampshire and across the country to grow and hire new employees by taking advantage of the program, which can provide a critical boost to innovative small companies,” said Shaheen, a member of the Senate Small Business Committee.

“I believe that long-term authorization of the SBIR program will help me plan to make advances in technologies based on possible future SBIR awards,” said Bill Hersman, CEO and Founder of Xemed LLC, a Durham-based medical diagnostic company that has received 22 SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) awards. “Xemed is presently poised to hire an additional scientist and long-term authorization of the SBIR program gives Xemed the additional confidence required to commit to a new employee. Uncertainty regarding the future of the SBIR program can also weigh on non-technology decisions, such as Xemed’s recent decision to put off construction of expanded laboratory space. Removing this uncertainty can improve the willingness of banks to lend, and the confidence of companies like Xemed to invest.”

The final bill passed today increases the amount of federal research and development dollars allocated to SBIR incrementally from 2.5 percent to 3.2 percent. Ultimately, this will mean an extra $641 million each year for small businesses to help the government solve its research and development problems and commercialize technologies.

Shaheen, a member of both the Senate Armed Services and Small Business Committees, has been a leading advocate for SBIR.

Cut funding for Redundant and Unnecessary Weapon System and Audit the Pentagon

Shaheen worked with Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Mark Begich (D-AK) to withhold over $400 million in development funding for the redundant Medium Extended Air Defense System, or MEADS. Shaheen has been working to cut the funding since April. Shaheen also cosponsored a provision designed to enhance the Pentagon’s ability to conduct complete financial audits.

Locating and Securing Libyan Weapons

The Senate unanimously accepted a bipartisan amendment that Shaheen coauthored with Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA) that urges greater action by the Obama Administration to keep Libya’s stockpile of about 20,000 portable anti-aircraft missiles out of the hands of terrorists. This amendment requires the Administration to conduct an urgent intelligence assessment of the threat these missile pose to the American people and our allies.  It also requires the President to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to mitigate this threat. Senator Shaheen sent a letter to the White House in April, soon after fighting began in Libya, expressing concern about the large number of unsecured shoulder-fired missiles in that country and encouraging that full effort be taken to locate and secure them.

Enhancements to National Guard Support and National Guard Empowerment Act

The bill includes a version of Shaheen’s Citizen Soldier Support Act. Many states, including New Hampshire, have established innovative and highly successful support programs to assist returning citizen soldiers.  This amendment will authorize the National Guard to more fully evaluate these programs and to share these best practices with the rest of the country, leading to much more effective, results-based care for National Guard members and their families.

The bill also includes a measure based on the National Guard Empowerment Act that was cosponsored by Shaheen and that would make the Chief of the National Guard Bureau a full member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Export Control Reform

Shaheen extended her commitment to reforming the nation’s outdated export control system with a provision that would encourage the Department of Defense and the next Secretary of Defense to maintain a proactive approach with respect to reforming our export control system.

Trade in defense manufacturing is an area of tremendous potential export growth for New Hampshire, as well as the rest of the country. Export control reform will bring the current system, which is outdated and overly restrictive, in line with 21st century realities.