Blumenthal Applauds Passage Of Defense, Veterans Appropriations

Omnibus Appropriations Bill Includes Millions Of Dollars In Funds For Defense Weaponry Programs, Military Sexual Assault Prevention And Prosecution, And Veterans Health Services

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) applauded the passage of the FY2014 omnibus appropriations bill, which includes millions of dollars in funds for submarines, helicopters, and other defense weaponry programs, as well as funds for military sexual assault prevention and prosecution and veterans health services. The Senate passed the bill this evening by a vote of 72-26.

“This omnibus appropriations bill includes critically important funding for national security priorities, and provides significant certainty for the manufacturers, big and small, in Connecticut’s defense industry supply chain,” Blumenthal said. “This pivotal measure means Electronic Boat in Groton will continue to manufacture two submarines a year, Pratt and Whitney in East Hartford and Middletown will continue to build engines for Joint Strike Fighters, and Sikorsky in Stratford will develop the next generation of Air Force combat and search and rescue helicopters.”

Blumenthal added, “Critically, the bill will provide $25 million to ensure that every victim of sexual assault in the military will have their own counsel in trial proceedings.  Although more reforms are needed, victims will be encouraged to report such crimes.  Additionally, this bill provides an important down payment on our obligation to reduce the backlog of veterans claims for the benefits they are due.”

A list of the defense and veterans appropriations is below.

Department of Veterans Affairs Programs of Interest:

- The Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus provides $63.2 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs, a $2.3 billion increase over the last fiscal year.

- The Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus provides $7.2 billion for veterans mental health services, $103 million for veterans suicide prevention, and $246 million for veterans Traumatic Brain Injury treatment.

- The Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to create an includes an interoperable medical records system with the Department of Defense and provides $323 million for this effort within the Department of Veterans Affairs.

- The Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus provides $140 million for information technology upgrades and $88 million (a $13 million increase above the President's request) for the Board of Veterans Appeals; both are intended to reduce the backlog of pending claims for veterans benefits. There is also $90 million appropriated for potential overtime for claims processors and $10 million to train claims processors.

Department of Defense Programs of Interest (Equipment):

Submarines

-         Virginia Class submarines.  The Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus fully funds 2 Virginia Class attack submarines at $4.127billion, an increase of $1.17 billion above the President’s request and provides $2.3 billion for the advanced procurement of long lead-time items for Virginia class submarines in future years.

-         Ohio Replacement Program. The Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus provides $852 million as requested by the President to continue the development of the Ohio Replacement Program.

Joint Strike Fighter

-         Joint Strike Fighter.  The Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus provides $7.37 billion in total to purchase 29 aircraft and continue program development, approximately $900 million less than requested by the President.  

Helicopter Programs

-         Air Force Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) Helicopter. The Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus provides $333 million to continue the procurement of new rescue helicopters for the Air Force, $60 million less than requested by the President.

-         Marine Corps CH-53K Heavy Lift Replacement Helicopter program. The Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus provides $503 million for the Marine Corps to continue the acquisition of an enhanced heavy lift helicopter, a reduction of $41 million due to development test delays.

-         Navy MH-60R Program (MYP) including AP-CY.  The Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus provides $779 million, a reduction of $52 million. 

-         Navy MH-60S Program (MYP) including AP-CY.  The Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus provides $421 million, a reduction of $25 million. 

-         Navy MH-60 modernization program.  The Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus provides $81.4 million as requested by the President.

-         VH-71A Executive Helicopter Development.  The Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus provides $81 million, a reduction of $5 million.

-         Army UH-60 Blackhawk M Model (MYP).  The Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus provides $1.23 billion for Army Blackhawks, an increase of $72 million above the President’s request. 

 Programs of interest (Human Resources):

 -         Suicide Prevention Office.  The Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus provides $20 million as requested by Senator Blumenthal to combat military suicides.

-         Special Victims’ Counsel program. The Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus provides $25 million as requested by Senator Blumenthal to ensure victims of sexual assault in the military receive their own counsel during trial proceedings.

-          Medically Retired Military Personnel Pension “Fix” The Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus provides amends the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (the “Ryan-Murray Agreement”) to exempt medically retired personnel and survivor benefit plan annuitants from the temporarily reduced COLA provision. This will ensure that those who sacrificed the most in military service do not see any reduction in benefits as a result of the military retirement compensation reform that was included in the Ryan-Murray Agreement.

-         Military Pay Raise – The Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus provides a one percent pay raise for military personnel, matching the President’s request.