Shaheen Ushers Through Key NH & National Security Priorities in Senate-Passed Defense Bill
**Key New Hampshire Priorities Included: Full Repeal of Unfair Per Diem Travel Policy, Authorization for Second Year of PFAS Health Impact Study Funding & Shaheen Legislation to Create National Database for Service Members & Veterans Exposed to PFAS Chemicals**
**Key National Defense Priorities Included: Shaheen Resolution to Alleviate Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen & Shaheen Amendment to Establish a Top-to-Bottom Review of American Policy in Syria**
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued the following statement after the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual defense bill, passed the Senate with bipartisan support. The Senate and House of Representatives will now conference on the chambers’ respective bills before the approved legislation is sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
“I’m very pleased the defense bill includes key New Hampshire and national security priorities and that it passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support,” said Shaheen. “This year’s legislation includes significant objectives for the Granite State, such as the elimination of significant burdens facing shipyard workers in Portsmouth, authorization for crucial funding to move the PFAS health impact study forward so families have the information they need and deserve, and expanded access to contraception coverage for service members. This bill also includes numerous critical national security measures, including a path forward to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, a comprehensive review of American policy in Syria to develop a serious strategy in the region, and enhanced security requirements for the Department of Defense’s cyber infrastructure to thwart attacks from foreign adversaries. However, I am disappointed that my bipartisan legislation to extend the visa program for Afghan support staff that have supported the U.S. mission in Afghanistan was not included in the final bill. The service of these Afghans has saved American lives, and they are being targeted by the Taliban as a result; we have an obligation to allow them to find refuge in America. As Congress moves the defense bill forward, I’ll keep fighting to ensure these necessary priorities are included in the final legislation that is sent to the President’s desk.”
Last week, Shaheen urged the Senate to support the continuation of the bipartisan Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program (SIV), which allows Afghans who have supported the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and face threats as a result of their service to apply for refuge in the United States. Senator Shaheen has led efforts in Congress to protect and extend the SIV program and helped secure 3,500 visas for the current fiscal year alongside Senator John McCain (R-AZ). Senator Shaheen’s bipartisan legislation to extend the program is cosponsored by Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Jack Reed (D-RI), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Tim Kaine (D-VA).
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 & Establishment of National Database for Service Members and Veterans Exposed to PFAS Chemicals:
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 bill passed by the Senate 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.
Additionally, the NDAA includes Shaheen’s legislation to create a national database for service members and veterans experiencing health problems potentially due to PFAS exposure. Shaheen’s PFAS Registry Act is a bipartisan effort with Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) that would allow military personnel and veterans to receive updates on recent scientific developments on the effects of PFAS exposure and information on what resources may be available to address their health concerns.
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 is taking urgent steps to end the civil war in Yemen, alleviate the humanitarian crisis, and reduce the risk to civilians posed by military operations conducted by the Government of Saudi Arabia.
Top-to-Bottom Review of American Policy in Syria:
Shaheen, also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, successfully added her amendment that establishes a comprehensive strategic review of American policy in Syria. Shaheen previously passed this proposal through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last year. She had urged the leadership of the Senate State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Subcommittee, as well as the leadership of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to move forward and establish a Syria Study Group. Shaheen also helped introduce the bipartisan Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act, which would instruct the Secretary of State to report on war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Syria.
Cybersecurity Requirements to Boost U.S. Cyber-Infrastructure
Shaheen successfully added language to require the 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 U.S. government systems. 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, like the source code, of software. Currently, there are no requirements for companies to share this information with the U.S. government, despite the risk of threats to remain embedded in U.S. systems. 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, which received overwhelming support and was adopted in Committee. Given Turkish President Erdogan’s willingness to take American hostages, and his inability to fully guarantee the safety of American and NATO assets in Turkey, Senators Shaheen and Tillis felt it inappropriate and dangerous to send Turkey F-35 planes at this time. Senators Shaheen, Lankford and Tillis have also teamed up to free Pastor Andrew Brunson, who is one of several Americans being unjustly held by the Turkish government. Senators Shaheen and Tillis led a 66 Member letter to the President of Turkey, demanding the release of Brunson, and she jointly announced with Senator Lankford that she would pursue targeted sanctions against Erdogan and officials complicit in the hostage-taking of Americans in this year’s Fiscal Year 2019 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs spending bill.
Contraception for Non-Active Service Members & Dependents:
Senator Shaheen successfully included an amendment to ensure that all non-active servicemen and women, and their dependents, in addition to active-duty service members who already have this coverage, have equal access to contraception without cost-sharing. For military servicewomen, contraception is critical to ensuring military readiness, for family planning, and as treatment for various health conditions.
Permanent Reauthorization of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) & Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs:
Included in the bill is a provision that would make permanent the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs for the DOD. These programs help small businesses engage in the research and development that helps keep the U.S. competitive, and many of the partnerships created through SBIR and STTR involve the DOD, leading to innovations important to our national security. In the Fiscal Year 2017 NDAA, Senator Shaheen secured a five-year extension of the programs for all federal agencies. Senator Shaheen is also a member of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.
Full Funding for Critical Super Flood Basing at PNSY 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.