Shea-Porter Priorities Included in House National Defense Authorization Act
WASHINGTON, DC— Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), a four-term Member of the House Armed Services Committee, today announced that several of her provisions and priorities have been included in the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which was approved this morning by the Committee.
“As a former military spouse, protecting the men and women who serve our country will always be a top priority,” said Shea-Porter. “This year’s bipartisan defense bill supports our military and their families, and includes several critical Granite State priorities, including provisions to support the KC-46 air refueling tankers at Pease Air National Guard Base and a provision to reduce the use of PFC-laden fire fighting foam, which has caused groundwater contamination near Pease and across the country. The bill authorizes nearly $150 million for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and will reverse severe cuts to shipyard workers’ benefits. Furthermore, it fixes unacceptable bureaucratic delays that have cost National Guard officers significant pay.”
“I am thankful to all my colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee for once again working in a bipartisan manner to produce legislation that will keep our country safe and protect the health and safety of our servicemembers.”
The FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act includes the following provisions:
Reducing the Use of PFC-Based Fire Fighting Foam: The Readiness Title of the FY2019 National Defense Authorization includes Shea-Porter’s directive report language. The provision acknowledges efforts to replace the legacy fire fighting foam and to replace it with foam that does not contain PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals). Numerous peer-reviewed studies indicate the health dangers of PFCs. Shea-Porter’s provision directs DoD to describe its progress in replacing the foam and any future actions necessary to deploy PFC-free fire fighting foam. It also asks DoD to accelerate these efforts.
“We cannot continue to use dangerous fire fighting foam that contains PFCs which continue to contaminate bases and groundwater sources across the country,” said Shea-Porter. “The Pentagon must work as quickly as possible to find an alternative that meets mission needs and does not harm our communities. My provision directs the Department of Defense to report back with all the actions it’s taken to meet this goal, and what additional research and development may be required so we ensure this effort is progressing.”
Investing in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard: The bill authorizes $149.7 million for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The money will be used to upgrade Dry Dock #1, construct new portal crane rail at Dry Dock #1, and modernize an existing portal rail crane. The renovations to Dry Dock #1 are critical to the future of the shipyard. As the Navy moves away from the Los Angeles Class submarines to increased use of the Virginia (VA) Class submarines, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard needs to increase its capacity to support modernization and repairs of two VA Class submarines simultaneously.
“I am so pleased that this year’s National Defense Authorization Act will include nearly $150 million for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to expand its capacity to repair the most modern generation of Navy submarines, the Virginia Class,” said Shea-Porter. “As the Navy moves away from older Los Angeles Class submarines to the Virginia Class, it is absolutely critical that the shipyard be able to use all of its dry docks to work on these vessels, and that’s what this funding will do. The bill also includes an important provision that opens the door for expanded hiring authorities to help the shipyard fill nearly 200 positions. The shipyard generates over $750 million in economic activity annually. We must continue to invest in this vital facility that creates jobs and is essential for the defense of our nation.”
Raising Pay and Benefits for Shipyard Workers: When shipyard workers are detailed to facilities outside of New Hampshire, such as the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Detachment-San Diego, they receive a per diem stipend during their travel. In 2014, the Defense Department cut the per diem rates by 25 percent for travel in excess of 30 days and by 45 percent for travel longer than 180 days. This took substantial money out of the pockets of shipyard workers, who are called upon to travel across the nation and work on both coasts. Shea-Porter cosponsored and helped secure a provision to reverse these harmful cuts.
“Shipyard workers deserve good pay and benefits,” said Shea-Porter. “In 2014, the Defense Department cut stipends by 45 percent reduction for our shipyard workers who are detailed to the detachment in San Diego. This was unfair, and took money out of the pockets of these hardworking men and women. I am so pleased that this year’s defense policy bill will include my provision to reverse these harmful cuts and will directly raise wages for many shipyard workers.”
Ensuring National Guard Officers Get Paid When They Are Promoted: Shea-Porter’s bipartisan National Guard Promotion Accountability Act was adopted by the Committee and included in the National Defense Authorization Act. When soldiers and airmen in the National Guard receive a promotion to a higher rank, it must be recognized by both by the state and the federal government. While thorough review is important, undue delays in the federal recognition process can have particularly negative consequences for Guard officers. The National Guard Promotion Accountability Act would provide back pay for officers whose promotions have been delayed due to bureaucratic red tape at the Pentagon.
“It is completely unfair that Guard officers are being promoted and asked to work in their new jobs with greater responsibilities, but are being paid at their former salaries because of bureaucratic delays at the Defense Department,” said Shea-Porter. “We need to get this fixed. Such delays deprive National Guard members of the pay they deserve, reduce their time in rank, and may pose retention problems.”
Supporting the KC-46 Program: The bill includes a provision Shea-Porter supported that will require DoD to describe how it intends to meet future air refueling requirements. The language pushes DoD to address gaps in its air refueling capabilities with an eye towards increasing the use and production of the new KC-46s. KC-46s will be based at Pease Air National Guard Base in Portsmouth.
Reducing Waste and Fraud by Increasing Oversight and Transparency for DoD Contractors: The Shea-Porter amendment reverses language from the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act, which radically reduced the scope of DoD’s contractor inventory reporting standard, and returns DoD to the previous reporting standard of comprehensive inclusion of DoD contracts, so that costs are transparent and oversight is possible. The contractor inventory is the way that DoD tracks its contracts and contractors. Without a sufficiently inclusive reporting standard, DoD does not have a comprehensive view of its contracts, making it difficult to track and audit them accurately. The Defense Business Board has noted that DoD spends $141.7 billion or 24 percent of its topline on 777,000 contractors, which makes oversight essential. Without this amendment, all contracts below $3 million would continue to be excluded from the contractor inventory.
Accelerating Research for Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Shea-Porter-requested a provision to direct the Defense Health Agency to accelerate research into treatments for TBI and PTSD and improve cooperation between DoD, VA, and NIH. It was adopted by the Committee and included in the NDAA. The provision requires the Secretary of Defense to provide an action plan to the Defense Committees within 180 days of enactment to describe the efforts it will undertake to maximize coordination and utilization of scientific research efforts by DoD, NIH, and VA. It also encourages DoD to look at ways to leverage private resources to accelerate the detection, diagnosis, and delivery of therapies for military patients.
Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs: The bill includes a critical provision to require the Department of Defense (DoD) to establish a prescription drug monitoring program and to share information with state prescription drug monitoring programs.
Issuing a Congressional Charter for Spirit of America: Spirit of America is a nonprofit organization that provides humanitarian and economic assistance, as well as equipment, in support of US missions and the local populations overseas that they seek to assist. They operate in war zones in direct support of the needs of US military commanders and diplomats. A charter was required because any change in US commanders required Spirit of America to renegotiate its activities and start over with all of its assistance programs. A provision Shea-Porter requested was included in the base bill to officially charter Spirit of America, eliminating this burdensome barrier to assisting US servicemembers and our allies.