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Blumenthal Statement on Senate Passage of Comprehensive Defense Bill

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) welcomed the final passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018. As a member of the House-Senate Conference Committee and Senate Armed Services Committee, Blumenthal fought for provisions in the NDAA that will boost jobs and support critical industries with defense contracts in Connecticut, support servicemembers, and improve defense policy.

“This measure makes America safer and stronger – and adds thousands of jobs and economic ‎drive to Connecticut. The vote today completes months of intensive negotiations and difficult decisions in the Armed Services committees. The result is significantly more resources for airpower and submarines, both highly important to our nation and Connecticut,” said Blumenthal.I welcome the passage of this bipartisan, bicameral defense bill, which I helped craft to support our troops, strengthen our economy, and protect our shores. As a member of the Conference Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee, I fought to include critical funding to support Connecticut’s defense manufacturing sector, including robust funding for the state’s prized programs – nearly $8 billion for Virginia and Columbia Class submarines, over $2 billion for Black Hawks and CH-53Ks, and over $10 billion for joint strike fighters. I call on the President to sign this strong defense bill without delay.”

Blumenthal worked to secure the following provisions in the Senate-passed NDAA, which he fought to include first as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and then as a member of the Conference Committee:

Strong Investments in Connecticut’s Submarine Industrial Base: Blumenthal led an amendment during Committee markup to restore full funding of $1.9 billion for the Columbia Class program. He also worked to ensure $5.9 billion for Virginia Class submarines, which includes nearly $700 million above the President’s request to provide advance procurement funding for a third Virginia Class submarine in FY 2020 or to support the expansion of the industrial base as production ramps up. Blumenthal also led an amendment that requires the Navy to produce a plan to address their submarine maintenance backlog. This plan will examine public and private shipyard capacity, including the shifting of any work to private yards like Electric Boat. Any additional maintenance availabilities awarded to Electric Boat will help maintain workforce levels as they continue to ramp up hiring for increased submarine production in the years to come.

Funding the Future of the F-35: Blumenthal fought to ensure this year’s NDAA includes over $10.1 billion for 90 Joint Strike Fighters across the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, adding 20 jets above the President’s budget request. Connecticut’s Pratt and Whitney is the sole engine-maker for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Ensuring Robust Production of Helicopters: Blumenthal secured over $1 billion for 53 Black Hawks, $1 billion for 4 CH-53Ks, and $354 million for the Air Force’s Combat Rescue Helicopter program.

Supporting the Connecticut National Guard: Blumenthal ensured $7 million in military construction funding to construct a base entry complex for Connecticut’s National Guard at Bradley International Airport was included in the bill. This funding will bring the base into compliance with Department of Defense antiterrorism and force protection requirements.

Supporting and Expanding University of Connecticut Research Programs: Blumenthal fought to include $10 million in research and development funding for workforce partnerships for submarine and undersea programs. This funding can be used enhance collaboration between the Navy, the University of Connecticut, and Electric Boat – providing new and innovative ways to improve the design and construction of boats while expanding opportunity for Connecticut college students.

Supporting American-Made Systems: Blumenthal worked to secure funding for 27 upgraded UH-60A Black Hawks to replace Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters used by the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. This is the second tranche of helicopters, following Blumenthal’s successful efforts to ensure the US military supplies American-made helicopters to our Afghan partners.

Investing in B-21 Bomber Program: Blumenthal fought to include $2 billion in this year’s authorization to fund research and development for the newest stealth bomber. Connecticut’s Pratt & Whitney is one of the seven major contractors on this program.

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

Aiding Wounded Ukrainian Soldiers: Blumenthal partnered with Connecticut’s Ukrainian-American community to secure a provision that creates a new funding authority for the treatment of wounded Ukrainian soldiers at DoD military treatment facilities, as well as provides for the training and education for Ukrainian healthcare specialists to provide continuing care and rehabilitation services for their soldiers. Ukrainian soldiers are currently able to come to America to be treated at military facilities when Ukraine cannot provide adequate care, but funding is not guaranteed and is often unaffordable. This legislation will provide a new route through the Ukrainian Security Assistance Initiative to cover medical care and associated costs at DoD treatment facilities. This year’s bill includes $350 million for the Ukrainian Security Assistance Initiative, $200 million above the President’s request, to provide security assistance to Ukraine to counter Russia’s military aggression in eastern Ukraine.

Combatting Military Sexual Assault: Blumenthal secured two amendments to assist survivors of sexual assault. The first amendment improves transparency in the handling of sexual assault cases by requiring Discharge Review Boards and Boards for the Correction of Military Records to publish information about cases in which sexual assault is alleged to have contributed to the original discharge characterization. Blumenthal’s second amendment further promotes transparency by directing the Secretary of Defense to provide a report on measures to prevent retaliation against survivors of sexual assault and harassment in the performance evaluation process.

Extending the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program: Blumenthal cosponsored an amendment that secures an additional 3,500 Afghan Special Immigrant visas. The Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program allows Afghans who help our servicemembers seek refuge in the United States if their lives are endangered through the course of their work. Blumenthal brought Hewad Hemat, an Afghan interpreter resettled in New Haven, CT, as his guest to President Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress. Mr. Hemat worked on behalf of the United States in Afghanistan for eight years. This provision will ensure we fulfill our promises to Afghans like Mr. Hemat who have served our country.