Shaheen Priorities Included in National Defense Bill Heading to President Obama’s Desk
**Shaheen: “This bill will serve as a blueprint for our nation’s security strategy for the coming year and I’m happy to say that New Hampshire plays a key role in that strategy”**
**Shaheen provisions bolster the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and Pease Air National Guard Base**
** Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program, championed by Shaheen, is included**
(Washington, DC) – Today, the Senate passed the bipartisan 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), critical legislation to authorize funding for U.S. national security priorities, and sent the bill to President Obama for his signature. The bill contains a number of provisions championed by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), including funding to develop the KC-46A aircraft, which is scheduled to be based at Pease Air National Guard Base, as well as the infrastructure necessary to support the tanker’s mission. The legislation also includes Shaheen’s provisions to authorize infrastructure improvements at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Due in part to Senator Shaheen’s opposition in committee, this bill blocks 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 the legislation. The NDAA cleared the House with broad, bipartisan support last week.
“This bill will serve as a blueprint for our nation’s security strategy for the coming year and I’m happy to say that New Hampshire plays a key role in that strategy,” said Senator Shaheen. “This legislation preserves and strengthens New Hampshire’s critical role in our nation’s defense and security by providing support for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and Pease Air National Guard Base, as well as the workers, service members and neighboring communities. The bill also enhances programs that help small businesses participate in research and development, keeping the U.S. competitive and engaging small businesses in innovations vital to our nation’s security.”
The bill authorizes a waiver of reduced reimbursements for shipyard workers on long-term temporary duty. This waiver impacts shipyard workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard who could have to pay expenses out-of-pocket while traveling and could discourage workers from volunteering for long-term assignments.
“Portsmouth Naval Shipyard workers are in demand for submarine modernization projects around the country,” said Senator Shaheen. “There shouldn’t be a disincentive for shipyard workers to lend their specialized skills on long-term assignments. I’m pleased that the bill passed today includes my request to put this reimbursement reduction on hold.”
The bicameral legislation also includes additional visas for Afghan interpreters and other staff who supported the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and are under threat because of their service. The Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, which Senator Shaheen championed alongside Senator John McCain (R-AZ), will be reauthorized for four years; the bill provides 1,500 SIVs for interpreters and staff.
“It is no exaggeration to say that this is a matter of life and death as Afghans who served the U.S. mission continue to be systematically hunted down by the Taliban,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m very relieved that additional visas will be made available in this legislation. However, the number of visas needed for those in danger far surpasses what’s provided in this bill. The United States promised to protect these Afghans and I will continue to do everything in my power to make sure Congress doesn’t renege on that promise.”
Shaheen Priorities Included in the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act:
Pease Air National Guard Base
With Senator Shaheen’s strong support, the bill authorizes 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 Air National Guard, 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 fuselage trainer building at Pease to support the Guard’s tanker mission.
The bill authorizes procurement of two new Virginia-class submarines in Fiscal Year 2017 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.
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
Senator Shaheen successfully added her legislation to the NDAA that authorizes an additional $250 million for the repair, recapitalization and certification of dry docks at Naval Shipyards, including the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The bill also includes the Navy’s request to fund its depot capital investment program at 7.1 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 authorizes a waiver of reduced reimbursements for shipyard workers on long-term temporary duty. This waiver will impact shipyard workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard who would have to pay expenses out-of-pocket while traveling and could have discouraged workers from volunteering for long-term assignments.
At Senator Shaheen’s urging, the bill authorizes $17.8 million to replace the badly outdated junior enlisted barracks at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The bill also authorizes $30.1 million for nuclear platform improvements including the construction of an electrical substation and repairs to underground electrical infrastructure. The project will increase reliability and resiliency for utility systems that are primarily responsible for the protection of nuclear-powered submarines and support facilities. The current utility system is aging, lacks capacity, is vulnerable to severe weather and is prone to power failures.
Pay Raise for Service Members
The bill includes a 2.1 percent pay increase for service members across all branches of the armed forces, which would give troops their biggest pay raise in more than five years.
Upgrades to New Hampshire Army National Guard Facilities
Senator Shaheen successfully advocated for two new military construction projects in New Hampshire. The bill authorizes two New Hampshire Army National Guard vehicle maintenance shops at a total of nearly $20 million in Rochester and Hooksett. The projects are important investments in New Hampshire, which currently ranks 51 out of 54 in terms of the poor condition of its guard facilities and armories.
Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program
Due in large part to Senator Shaheen’s efforts, the bill includes additional visas for Afghan interpreters who supported the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and are under threat because of their service. 1,500 Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) will be available for interpreters and other staff, and the program will be extended for four years. While its reauthorization is a positive step, the number of applications far exceeds the number of visas included in this legislation. Without these additional visas, this program is expected to run out of visas in January.
Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Not Included
Based in part on Senator Shaheen’s successful opposition in the Senate Armed Services Committee, 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
Senator Shaheen successfully advocated for the bill to meet the request for procurement of fighter jets to address future threats and mitigate a shortfall across all three military services. 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.
Discriminatory Russell Amendment Language Not Included
Senator Shaheen joined 41 Senators in signing a letter opposing the Russell Amendment, which would have allowed Department of Defense funding to go to religiously-affiliated organizations that engage in discriminatory hiring practices. This language, which was initially included in the House-passed version of the bill before being dropped, in part because of Senator Shaheen’s successful opposition, would have expanded religious exemptions under the Civil Rights Act and Americans with Disabilities Act and enabled organizations receiving federal monies to discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identify, and religious identity, among others.
Family Planning for Service Members
Senator Shaheen successfully included a provision that would enhance an annual survey to have comprehensive questions on women’s health and family planning, including issues of access and whether deployment conditions affect women’s decision on which family planning methods to use.
Included in the bill is a provision led by Senator Shaheen improve utility data management practices that will enable transparency of federal energy use and improve efficiency practices, while saving taxpayer money. Specifically, the provision directs the Department of Defense, in consultation with the Department of Energy, to develop a pilot program to investigate the utilization of utility data management services to improve energy management practices at Department of Defense facilities. Currently, the utility bills of federal facilities are paid, processed and stored at various organizational levels within the government. The information in these bills involving energy consumption is not readily accessible, making this practice an obstacle for providing accurate analysis for energy reduction.
SBIR & STTR Reauthorization
At the urging of Senator Shaheen, the bill reauthorizes the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs for five years at all federal agencies participating in the programs. SBIR and STTR programs award competitive contracts to small businesses to develop innovative technologies that keep the U.S. economy competitive and address national security needs. As the lead Democrat on the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee (SBC), Senator Shaheen repeatedly called on Congress to act this year to ensure the programs would be reauthorized. Currently, SBIR and STTR are set to expire on September 30, 2017.