Shaheen Priorities in Defense Bill Head to the President’s Desk for Signature

Bicameral Legislation Includes Provisions to Fund the KC-46A Tanker

November 10, 2015

(Washington, DC) – Following today’s Senate passage of the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that had previously passed the House, Senator Shaheen announced her priorities that were included in the bill. Among them are provisions to fund the development of the KC-46A scheduled to be based at Pease Air National Guard Base as well as funding the infrastructure necessary to support the tanker’s mission. The bill does not include a new round of Base Realignment and Closing (BRAC), which could have threatened jobs at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Senator Shaheen is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee that authored this legislation. This new bill brings defense spending in line with the recent bipartisan budget agreement and is expected to be quickly signed into law by the president.

 

“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. “This legislation bolsters New Hampshire’s important role in our national security and I’m pleased that it’s headed to the President’s desk for signature.”

 

Shaheen Priorities Included in the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act:

 

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 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 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 provides for the construction of a KC-46A flight simulator building at Pease to help support the Guard’s tanker mission.  

 

Virginia-class Submarines

The bill authorizes procurement of two new Virginia-class submarines in Fiscal Year 2016 and funds 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 Shipyard in 2008.

 

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

At Senator Shaheen’s urging, the bill includes the Navy’s request to fund their depot capital investment program at 7.4 percent, which is higher than the current minimum of 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.

 

Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Not Included

Based in part on Senator Shaheen’s successful opposition, the bill does not include a new round of Base Realignment and Closing (BRAC), which could endanger national security and potentially damage New Hampshire’s economy by threatening jobs at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. According to nonpartisan experts, the 2005 BRAC round exceeded initial cost estimates by $14 billion.

 

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. 

 

Training for Eastern European Allies and Partners

Senator Shaheen’s proposal to enhance the military training and readiness of key Eastern European allies and partners through multilateral exercises 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 a provision to substantially increase the number of Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans who assisted American personnel in Afghanistan and face threats as a result. Her provision increases the total number of Special Immigrant Visas for eligible Afghans from 4,000 to 7,000. This increase will help address the backlog of Afghan interpreters seeking refuge in the United States.

 

Family Planning for Service members

Senator Shaheen successfully included a provision directing the Department to ensure that women in the military are provided access to contraception throughout their military careers, especially during pre-deployment. The provision would help address the higher than average unintended pregnancy rate among active duty servicewomen. Studies indicate that active duty servicewomen would benefit from comprehensive counseling and education on contraception.

 

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 discourages workers from volunteering for long-term assignments. Senator Shaheen’s provision requires the Comptroller General 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.