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Blumenthal Applauds Senate Approval of National Defense Authorization Bill With Wins for Connecticut

Bill includes significant investments in submarines, helicopters, and joint strike fighters championed by Blumenthal to bolster national security and Connecticut jobs

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement after the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022. The legislation contains a number of key provisions Blumenthal advocated to invest in Connecticut’s defense manufacturing workforce and enhance national security. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 89-10 and now goes to President Joe Biden’s desk for signature.

“This military measure makes smart, strategic investments in submarines, helicopters, and other defense tools built by Connecticut’s skilled manufacturing force,” said Blumenthal. “It will tremendously fortify our country’s safety and strengthen our state’s economy. I am proud to have fought for this funding to ensure that our great armed forces have state-of-the-art resources to keep our nation and themselves safe.” 

As a member of the Committee tasked with crafting the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022, Blumenthal championed the following provisions to boost jobs and support critical industries with defense contracts in Connecticut: 

Making Strong Investments in Connecticut’s Submarine Industrial Base: Blumenthal fought for robust submarine funding to fortify our undersea superiority and grow Connecticut jobs. Blumenthal secured:

  • $2.923 billion to fully fund another Columbia Class ballistic missile submarine, to include over $346 million in research, development, test & evaluation funding.
  • $1.844 billion in advance procurement for the Columbia Class, including an additional $300 million above the President’s budget request to invest in submarine supplier development. This funding will support the health of Connecticut submarine suppliers who provide vital services, material, and expertise to both the Columbia and Virginia Class programs.
  • $4.249 billion to fully fund two Virginia Class submarines, and over $2.120 billion in advance procurement that will fund future boats, including long lead material as the Navy has decided to exercise the option for 10 Virginia Class submarines in the Block V contract.  Additionally, $570 million to expand the industrial base in anticipation of moving to three fielded Virginia Class submarines per year starting in FY25.
  • Robust funding of the future of undersea warfare, including over $653 million to fund New Design SSN research, $74 million in acoustic warfare development, $112 million in undersea warfare applied research, $15 million in deep water active technology, and $203 million in advanced Nuclear Power Systems. These funds will support the ongoing research, development, testing, and evaluation necessary for the Columbia program to remain on schedule for its first deterrent patrol in 2031, and allow Connecticut companies like Electric Boat to continue to produce submarines that maintain the qualitative military edge.

Prioritizing Work Force Development and Stability: Blumenthal secured $10 million to support workforce development and fund investments in the submarine construction workforce training pipeline to support increased hiring needs. It is projected that over the next decade the submarine shipbuilding industry must hire at least 18,000 new skilled workers to support the production of the Columbia and Virginia Class submarines.

Funding the Future of the F-35: Blumenthal fought to fully fund the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program as Connecticut’s Pratt and Whitney is the sole engine-manufacturer for the only fifth generation fighter in production. Blumenthal secured:

  • $8.772 billion for 85 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters across the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, including an additional aircraft above the President’s budget request (48 F-35A fighters, 17 F-35B fighters, and 20 F-35C fighters).
  • $818.5 million in F-35 Advance Procurement funding and $1.785 billion in F-35 Continuous Capability Development and Delivery.
  • $175 million to procure an additional 20 F135 power modules to address shortages for the F-35 in the fleet Armed Forces and an additional $118 million for F-35B spare engines, a key item on the Marine Corps’ unfunded priority list.
  • $2.71 billion for 24 F-15EX aircraft whose engines are made by Pratt and Whitney, twelve more aircraft than requested. 

Ensuring Robust Production of Helicopters: Blumenthal pushed for strong funding of helicopters, including the CH-53K King Stallion, UH-60M Black Hawk, Combat Rescue Helicopter Program, and Future Vertical Lift Program. Funding of these programs ensures the health of Sikorsky helicopters and countless other Connecticut businesses that support the helicopter industrial base. Blumenthal secured:

  • $1.503 billion to fund a total of 11 CH-53K King Stallion Helicopters, which includes $250 million over the President’s Budget for 2 additional CH-53K. 
  • $841.8 million to fund 9 UH-60M and 24 HH-60M Black Hawk Helicopters and $146.1 million in advanced procurement funding.
  • $792.2 million in procurement funding for 14 Combat Rescue Helicopters.
  • $280.9 million to fund Future Vertical Lift Research, Development, Test & Evaluation efforts including 188 million for advanced technology. 

Supporting our National Guard: Blumenthal advocated to maintain the current levels of Air Force Total Aircraft Inventory, with this year’s bill directing the Secretary to maintain an inventory of 292 aircraft. Additionally, he secured:

  • $17.5 million to fully fund the new Connecticut Army National Guard Readiness Center in Putnam, Connecticut.
  • $17 million for the Connecticut Air National Guard’s top MILCON priority, a Construct Composite and Vehicle Maintenance Facility. This project will create a sustainable facility to replace 4 aging and energy inefficient buildings totaling 22,777 SF.

Blumenthal also fought for provisions to support servicemembers and improve defense policy, including:

Supporting Survivors of Military Sexual Assault: Blumenthal championed inclusion of provisions to implement all the Lines of Effort recommended by the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military and expanded access to Special Victim’s Counsel, and an independent review of installation culture across the DOD. He applauds the decision whether to prosecute eleven crimes, including domestic violence, stalking, murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, and other special victim offenses from the chain of command. The new, independent prosecutors, known as Special Trial Counsels, will be under civilian control, reporting to the secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Removing commanders from the decision-making process will protect the privacy of victims when reporting these crimes that often involve very intimate details. I believe that this is a crucial step to encourage victims to come forward and report these heinous crimes.

Preventing Gun Violence: Blumenthal proposed and secured a provision that will require the DOD to report on missing, lost, and stolen weapons, large amounts of ammunition, destructive devices, and explosive material and provide such information to Congress and local law enforcement. This will ensure the weapons designed and purchased for military use do not end up in the hands of violent offenders. Blumenthal wrote Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in June seeking an Inspector General investigation of the DOD policies and security procedures that had allowed as many as 1,900 weapons to go missing over the last decade – including assault rifles, fully-automatic machine guns, and armor piercing grenade launchers. He has also raised this issue directly with Admiral Michael Gilday during his nomination hearing to be Chief of Naval Operations and Christine Wormuth during her nomination hearing to be Secretary of the Army. 

Protecting Servicemembers and Their Families from Exposure to Harmful Chemicals: Blumenthal supported a provision to investigate, combat and remediate exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at current and former U.S. military installations across the country. This provision codifies the DOD’s PFAS Task Force, establish a deadline for PFAS testing at DOD installations, and direct DOD to submit a status report on PFAS remediation efforts at U.S. military installations. Within two years of the measure’s enactment, DOD will have to test for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at all U.S. military bases and National Guard facilities that were identified, as of March 31, to have PFAS releases. Testing will determine whether the facility has been contaminated or caused contamination outside the base, as well as if additional environmental actions are necessary. 

Addressing Violent Extremism in the Military: Blumenthal fought for a new punitive article in the UCMJ prohibiting and defining violent extremism in the ranks. According to a survey conducted last year by the Military Times, more than one-third of all active-duty troops and more than half of minority service members reported that they have personally witnessed examples of white nationalism or ideological-driven racism within the military. 

Housing Improvements for Junior Servicemembers: Blumenthal secured a provision that will require the Comptroller General to evaluate the condition of all military barracks across DOD and identify all unfunded requirements through the next 10 years.

Ensuring Education Benefit Transferability: Blumenthal included a provision requiring the Secretary of Defense to work with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to ensure servicemembers and their families are able to use the education benefits they have earned. The VA relies upon service and separation dates supplied by DOD in assessing whether servicemembers are eligible to receive or transfer education benefits, including benefits provided through the post-9/11 GI Bill. Complicated transferability calculations and isolated data systems have resulted in unfair confusion for veterans; stories of servicemembers who were told that their service had covered college tuition for their children, only to be told later to repay significant sums because they were a few days short of the transferability date, are common. This provision prompts DOD to take action to remedy these issues.

Caring for Injured Americans Posted Overseas: Blumenthal fought to provide an additional $115 million in funding to address the threat characterization and treatment of certain uniformed members, civilian employees, and their family members affected by anomalous health incidents, commonly referred to as “Havana Syndrome.” He also supported a provision that will establish an anomalous health incidents interagency coordinator.

Supporting Allies and Partners in Ukraine: Blumenthal supported $300 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which provides invaluable support to Ukraine’s military, sending a strong message of support to a crucial ally.