(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) voted in support today of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2013, which was passed out of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) by a unanimous vote. The bill includes a number of measures authored or supported by Shaheen.
“This legislation will strengthen our defense, improve the readiness of our military, and improve the health and safety of our brave men and women in uniform,” said Shaheen, a member of the committee. “I was pleased that the bill included several of my proposals to strengthen our national security, better care for our troops, and use our defense dollars wisely. I am proud the committee continued its tradition of operating in a bipartisan way to make our nation more secure.”
The annual defense bill authorizes all Department of Defense (DOD) programs for the coming fiscal year and addresses major defense policy issues. This year’s bill authorizes $631 billion for national defense programs, which is $9 billion below the House of Representatives’ version. It provides a 1.7 percent pay raise for all military personnel, limits planned troop reductions, fully funds critical weapons programs, strengthens sexual assault regulations and improves oversight of overseas contracting in Afghanistan, among other provisions.
A number of Shaheen’s requested provisions were included in the measure, including restored funding for construction of a second Virginia class submarine in 2014, cancellation of wasteful and unnecessary weapons programs and reauthorization of a 2010 Shaheen initiative to enhance mental health services and suicide prevention for National Guard and Reservists.
Following is a partial list of provisions Shaheen worked to get included in the bill:
Restored funding for a second Virginia Class Attack Submarine in Fiscal Year 2014
At the Navy’s request, Senator Shaheen led an effort with Senators Collins (R-ME) and Ayotte (R-NH) to restore funding to build a second Virginia class submarine in Fiscal Year 2014. Building two boats as planned in FY14 will mitigate the risk of submarine shortfalls in future years and reduce the cost of each boat. Funding for submarine construction had been reduced in the President’s proposed budget.
“The effectiveness and flexibility of our attack submarine fleet continues to provide outstanding service to our Navy and excellent value to the taxpayer. In the past year, we saw our submarines play a lead role supporting NATO operations in Libya and supporting a Special Forces hostage rescue in Somalia, all while fulfilling ongoing intelligence gathering operations,” said Shaheen. “Regardless of the mission, our sub fleet’s ability to operate covertly is invaluable to our security. I was pleased we were able to come up with a solution that allows the Navy to keep sub construction on schedule.”
Eliminated Duplication and Waste
Senator Shaheen continued her effort to identify and eliminate underperforming and duplicative defense programs.
For the second consecutive year, she joined a number of senators in an effort to terminate funding for development of the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS). Despite no intention to purchase the final product, the Department of Defense planned to spend an additional $804 million to complete the development of the MEADs program. The program has been consistently over-budget and delayed, and provides minimal new capabilities for our military. Shaheen has been a vocal opponent against allocating additional funding to the MEADS system.
“In this difficult budget environment, we need to ensure that every dollar is spent effectively and efficiently. This project serves as proof that there are ways to reduce our spending on defense without endangering our national security. We cannot afford underperforming systems that we don’t intend to use or that duplicate capabilities we already have,” Shaheen said.
Health Care Equality for Servicewomen
Senator Shaheen led an amendment that would lift the ban on military funding for abortion care in cases of rape and incest, providing military women with the same reproductive health coverage as their civilian counterparts. The amendment was included in the bill by a bipartisan vote of 16-10, with support from the Chair and Ranking members of the Committee.
“This is about equity,” Shaheen said. “Civilian women who depend on the federal government for health insurance – whether they are postal workers or Medicaid recipients – have the right to access affordable abortion care if they are sexually assaulted. It is only fair that the thousands of brave women in uniform fighting to protect our freedoms are treated the same.”
Guard and Reserve Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
Senator Shaheen continued her efforts to support returning servicemen and women, particularly National Guard and Reservists. At her request, the bill includes an extension through 2015 of a 2010 Shaheen provision that ensures DOD mental health services and suicide prevention programs take into account the unique circumstances facing returning Guard and Reserve members.
Following deployment, Guard and Reservists typically do not have access to the same services as their active duty counterparts living on military bases or in military communities. Non-military communities are often ill-equipped to help with the challenges of demobilization. Shaheen’s provision focuses on improving community awareness in non-military communities.
“Our military men and women undertake an incredible sacrifice to protect our country, and too often the immense mental tolls of this task are overlooked,” Shaheen said. “As we work to provide the necessary systems of support, it’s critical we ensure those programs also take into account the unique challenges faced by returning Guard members and Reservists.”
Senator Shaheen also joined her colleagues in rejecting the Department of Defense’s request for a new round of base closures under the BRAC process.
“While I appreciate the Department’s effort to reduce costs and improve efficiency, it is difficult to conceive how a BRAC round could be done effectively at this time, given the President’s new strategy and the subsequent uncertainty regarding our future force structure and overseas basing requirements,” Shaheen said. “Frankly, the last time we went through this process, it ended up costing us 50 percent more than we were told and it achieved significantly less savings than we expected. Until we better understand what our future needs are and what went wrong last time, it would be premature to consider another round."
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