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Bill will enhance national security and troop support while cutting unneeded programs

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) applauded the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012 (S.1867), which includes several measures authored or supported by Shaheen. The annual defense bill authorizes all Department of Defense programs for the coming fiscal year and addresses major defense policy issues. The measure passed in a 93 to 7 vote and must now be reconciled with the version of the bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

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

“This critical piece of legislation will strengthen our national security, provide for our troops and their families, maintain our military power, and keep our defense businesses competitive,” said Shaheen, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee that wrote the bill. “At the same time, this defense authorization bill improves oversight of American taxpayer dollars by cancelling and rolling back wasteful spending. I hope this important piece of legislation will get to the President’s desk as soon as possible.”

The bill provides hard-earned pay raises for all uniformed military personnel, as well as funding for critical equipment and training for troops. It also invests in defense science and technology, which is crucial to maintaining our nation’s superior military edge. The bill also includes a number of provisions that will enable the Defense Department to lead in the creation of a more secure energy future for our military and country. 

A number of Shaheen’s proposals were included in the measure, including a long-term extension of a critical small business research program, the cancellation of a wasteful and unnecessary weapons program, a shipyard modernization provision, a provision strengthening National Guard deployment support, and others.

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program Extension

The bill includes a bipartisan amendment that would extend for eight years the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which allows small businesses to compete for federal research dollars.  Shaheen, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a leading advocate of SBIR, ensured that a limited extension of the program covering defense programs was included in the NDAA when it passed out of committee, which helped pave the way for an amendment added on the floor this week to fully extend the program for all federal agencies.

 “In order to continue to create jobs in America and ensure our economy remains competitive in the global marketplace, we must focus on entrepreneurship and innovation—which is exactly what the Small Business Innovation Research program supports,” Shaheen said.

Cut funding for Redundant and Unnecessary Weapon System

Shaheen worked with Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Mark Begich (D-AK) to cut 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.

“The military has stated it has no intention to purchase MEADS in the future, and in this difficult economic climate, we can no longer afford to waste precious resources on programs that are unnecessary and underperforming.  I hope the Appropriations Committee and the Defense Department will work with us to find an alternative option to continuing this wasteful program,” Shaheen said.

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.

“Our public shipyards are absolutely critical to America’s naval power around the world, and they all suffer from a lack of critical investments,” Shaheen said. “The legislation requires the Navy to begin to address its lack of investment in the nation’s four public U.S. shipyards, including the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.”

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.

 “Locating and securing these weapons is crucial to protecting our air space. If these weapons fall into the wrong hands, they pose a serious threat to Americans who rely on air travel, our deployed forces abroad, and civil aviation worldwide,” Shaheen said. “I applaud my Senate colleagues for recognizing that this must be an immediate priority if we are to stop the use and spread of these weapons.”

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.

“Our Guard members have carried an incredible burden for our states and our country over the last decade.  They have been mobilized more often and in greater numbers than at any period since World War II.  It is critical that they have the support they need to utilize the benefits they have earned when they come home,” Shaheen said.

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.