[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement today after the Senate voted to approve the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017:
“The National Defense Authorization Act is critical legislation that will enhance our national defense and support our state economy. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I was proud to help craft this bill, and to fight for provisions that would invest in Connecticut jobs and manufacturing,” Blumenthal said. “I was also proud to champion broad reforms and policy improvements that will support and sustain our servicemembers.”
As a member of the Committee tasked with crafting the bill, Blumenthal championed provisions that will boost jobs and support critical industries with defense contracts in Connecticut:
Investing in Connecticut’s Submarine Industrial Base: Blumenthal worked to secure $5 billion for two Virginia Class submarines, as well as $1.9 billion for Ohio Replacement Program. Ohio Class – ballistic missile submarines that are particularly valuable because they are the leg of the nuclear triad most likely to survive nuclear conflict – will soon begin to retire. Electric Boat has been selected as the Navy’s prime contractor to build the twelve replacement submarines. For years to come, the talented men and women of the submarine industrial base, particularly at Electric Boat, will carry a heavy workload, keeping good-paying, high-skilled jobs right here in Connecticut.
Funding the Future of the F-35: Connecticut’s Pratt and Whitney is the sole engine-maker for F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. This year’s defense authorization bill includes $8.5 billion for 63 Joint Strike Fighters across the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, and fully meets the President’s budget request. Blumenthal also secured an additional $50.8 million above the President’s request for Marine Corps’ F-35B spares and repair parts, bringing the total funding for spares and repairs to $1.46 billion.
Ensuring Robust Production of Helicopters: Blumenthal fought to ensure that funding in the NDAA met the President’s budget request for $929.3 million for 36 Black Hawks, $437 million for the first year of procurement funding for two Marine Corps’ new heavy-lift helicopters known as the CH-53Ks, as well as $61.2 million of funding for the MH-60R Naval Hawk helicopter which will finish production the coming fiscal year – all made by Sikorsky in Connecticut. Blumenthal also secured an additional $302.3 million for eight additional HH-60 Black Hawks that are to be part of the helicopters that will replace the aging UH-1N helicopters tasked with protecting our intercontinental ballistic missile fields out west. Although the President’s budget request only called for $18 million for this program, as part of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Blumenthal worked to ensure that the Committee considered and accelerated the UH-1N replacement program after hearing from military leaders of the urgent need to replace the ailing helicopters that are operating on national security waivers to provide rapid security protection for our missile sites.
Supporting the Connecticut National Guard: Blumenthal secured $6.3 million in military construction funding for the Small Air Terminal at Bradley International Airport for the Connecticut National Guard. This funding will allow the 103rd Airlift Wing to have the facilities they need to support their recent conversion to the C-130 mission. It will consolidate several Logistics Readiness Squadron functions into one facility, conveniently located adjacent to the flight line to support the new C-130 mission.
As a member of the Committee, Blumenthal also fought for provisions to support servicemembers and improve defense policy, including:
Supporting Servicemembers with Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS): Blumenthal included a provision requiring defense review boards and the Board for the Correction of Military Records include a mental health specialist to review claims in which PTS or traumatic brain injury may have been a contributing factor in a servicemember’s discharge. This provision also requires defense review boards to publically disclose online the number of claims considered in which a mental health condition, including PTS, of the claimant could have contributed to the charges of dismissal.
Modernizing Caregiver Leave: Blumenthal worked to help craft a provision to modernize caregiver leave by revising maternal, spousal, and adoption leave policies to ensure these policies are inclusive of non-traditional families. Updating outdated caregiver leave will help improve retention rates. This provision authorizes six weeks of convalescent leave and up to six additional week of uncharged leave for servicemembers who are primary caregivers in the case of the birth of a child. It also provides for six weeks of leave for primary caregivers in the case of the adoption of a child. Further, it allows for 21 days of paid leave for secondary caregivers in the case of the birth or adoption of a child.
Window Coverings: Following the death of several children due to window-covering cords in recent years, Senator Blumenthal included a provision that directs the Secretary of Defense to remove and replace window coverings with accessible cords from military housing units in which children under the age of nine reside.
Engaging with Small Businesses: Because many small businesses face hurdles when trying to work with the Department of Defense, Blumenthal included provisions that will make it easier for the Department of Defense to engage and support small businesses in the defense industry by establishing a pilot program for nontraditional contractors and small businesses, as well as making two other small business pilot programs – Small Business Technology Transfer Program and Small Business Innovation Research Program – permanent.