Shaheen Secures Significant NH & National Security Measures in Final Version of Defense Bill

July 23, 2018

** Full Repeal of Unfair Per Diem Travel Policy & Authorization of Funding for Second Year of PFAS Health-Impact Study **

** Shaheen Resolution to Alleviate Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen & Investments to Boost US Cyber Infrastructure**

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued the following statement after the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual defense bill, was unveiled this afternoon by Senate and House conferees. This legislation is expected to pass both chambers in the near future and be signed into law by the President. 

“New Hampshire plays a critical role in support of our national defense programs, and I’m very pleased that a number of measures included in this bill will allow our state and workforce to continue to make these important contributions,” said Shaheen. “This legislation is a boon for New Hampshire communities. It includes authorization of funding to carry out the second year of the PFAS health-impact study and secures a full repeal of the costly and unfair per diem policy that targets Portsmouth Naval Shipyard workers. Additionally, the NDAA prioritizes a number of significant national security objectives, including a strategy to end the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, important adjustments to boost the United States’ cybersecurity infrastructure and a bipartisan provision to delay Turkey’s acquisition of F-35 aircraft to help secure the freedom of Americans unlawfully imprisoned by the Turkish government. I appreciate the bipartisan work that moved this bill forward and I look forward to seeing it signed into law.” 

SHAHEEN PRIORITIES INCLUDED IN THE FY 2019 NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT:

Full Repeal of Unfair DOD Per Diem Policy Impacting PSNY Workers 

Shaheen joined with Senators Hirono (D-HI), King (I-ME) and Kaine (D-VA) to fully repeal the unfair Department of Defense long-term Temporary Duty (TDY) reduced per diem policy. The policy was intended to reduce DOD costs, but has failed to function as it was intended. Instead, the policy places an unfair economic burden on civilian workers by reducing the per diem rate payable to the worker for each full day while they are away from their families for extended periods of time to provide critical maintenance to our ships and submarines. This results in diminished per diem coverage for workers the longer they’re deployed, and forces civilian workers, including many at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY), to pay out of pocket for meals and incidentals. 

Authorization of Additional Funding for PFAS Health Impact Study 

Senator Shaheen has led efforts in Congress to uncover the potential health impact of emerging contaminants in water supplies, and in the 2018 NDAA, established the first-ever nationwide health study on the impacts of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water, as well as funding for the study in the government funding bill that was signed into law in March. In the bipartisan, bicameral bill released today, Shaheen successfully secured the authorization of $10 million for the second year of the study. Shaheen also included specific language in the bill to streamline the process of transferring funds from the Department of Defense to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which is carrying out the study. Because of Shaheen’s efforts, the Pease International Tradeport will serve as the model site for the nationwide PFAS health study.

US Response to Alleviate the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen

Shaheen’s bipartisan resolution with Senator Todd Young (R-IN) to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen was included as an amendment to the bill. Shaheen’s measure prohibits the US military from continuing to provide aerial refueling support for the Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen unless the Secretary of State repeatedly certifies that the Government of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates in Yemen are taking urgent steps to end the civil war, alleviate the humanitarian crisis, and reduce the risk to civilians posed by military operations. 

Cybersecurity Requirements to Boost U.S. Cyber-Infrastructure 

Shaheen successfully added language to require the Department of Defense (DOD) to list the countries posing the greatest risk to the cybersecurity of the United States and to track these countries’ ability to gain access to sensitive U.S. government information. This provision is the first of its kind to mandate disclosures for companies doing business with the Department of Defense while allowing countries of concern to access the inner workings of their software. Currently, there are no requirements for companies to share this information with the U.S. government, despite the risk to U.S. systems operating compromised software on classified and otherwise sensitive networks. This provision builds on Shaheen’s efforts to strengthen national security efforts around cybersecurity, having successfully established a government-wide ban on the Kremlin-linked Kaspersky Lab software across all federal agencies in the FY 2018 NDAA. 

Bipartisan Effort to Restrict F-35 Transfer to Turkey 

Senator Shaheen’s bipartisan amendment with Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), which would prevent the transfer of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey until the F-35 program in Turkey is re-evaluated, was successfully included in the final legislation. Senators Shaheen and Tillis felt it inappropriate and dangerous to send Turkey F-35 aircraft at this time, while the Turkish government continues to wrongfully imprison Americans and U.S. embassy staff. Senators Shaheen, Tillis and James Lankford (R-OK) have teamed up to free Pastor Andrew Brunson, who is one of several Americans being unjustly held by the Turkish government. The amendment is in-part based on standalone legislation introduced by Senators Shaheen, Tillis and Lankford. Shaheen and Lankford also worked with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to include targeted sanctions against Turkish officials complicit in the unlawful arrest of Americans in this year’s Fiscal Year 2019 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations bill. Senator Shaheen visited Turkey earlier this month and met with Pastor Brunson as well as President Erdogan, whom the Senator pressed for Pastor Brunson’s release. 

The bill also includes language condemning the unlawful imprisonment of Brunson, Turkish-American scientist Serkan Golge and other American diplomatic staff, and calls for their immediate release. 

Provide Funding for Critical Super Flood Basing at PSNY to Support Future Increased Submarine Maintenance Capacity

To address the shallow levels at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and its impediment to the docking and undocking of submarines, Shaheen successfully secured the authorization to fund a Super Flood Basin. The Super Flood Basin would create a controlled navigational lock structure to raise the elevation of the water above the tidally controlled Piscataqua River. This project will eliminate operational restrictions on Los Angeles class submarines and is critical to the Navy’s efforts to expand dry dock capacity to support essential submarine maintenance. 

Pembroke National Guard Readiness Center 

Senator Shaheen added a measure that authorizes the funding for a project to establish a National Guard Readiness Center in Pembroke, New Hampshire. The center would support administrative and logistical requirements for the New Hampshire Army National Guard. This project is critical to New Hampshire to improve facilities and increase space for training equipment and enhance mission readiness.

The NDAA will now go before the full Senate and House of Representatives for consideration, and upon passage in both chambers, will head to the President’s desk to be signed into law.