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Blumenthal Vows to Protect Investments in Connecticut Jobs and Industry on Defense Bill Conference Committee

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Blumenthal secured investments in submarines, helicopters, and joint strike fighters that will support national security and Connecticut jobs during Senate consideration of the defense bill

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) was appointed to serve on the House-Senate Conference Committee for National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018, which is tasked with reconciling the differences between the House and Senate-passed versions of the annual defense authorization. As a member of the Conference Committee, Blumenthal vowed to fight for provisions in the NDAA that will boost jobs and support critical industries with defense contracts in Connecticut. Blumenthal is also committed to protecting language he secured in the Senate-passed bill that supports servicemembers and improves defense policy.

“As a member of the Conference Committee, I am committed to fighting for Connecticut jobs and critical funding to support our state’s defense manufacturing sector. I will continue to support provisions that ensure robust funding for submarines, helicopters, and joint strike fighter engines needed to defend our nation, and champion investments in workforce opportunities for Connecticut communities. I look forward to continuing this bipartisan effort with our colleagues from the House to develop a strong final version of the national defense bill,” Blumenthal said.

Over the last several weeks, Blumenthal has written the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Armed Services Committees to establish several of his priorities in the NDAA, including: funding for Navy research and workforce partnerships for undersea programs; robust funding for Connecticut-made CH-53K and Black Hawk helicopters; aiding the Ukrainians against Russian aggression; and improving opportunities for veterans to appeal their discharge status.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Blumenthal worked to secure the following provisions in the Senate-passed NDAA, which he will fight to protect 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 $1.8 billion for the Columbia Class program. He also worked to ensure $6.4 billion for Virginia Class submarines, which includes $1.2 billion above the President’s request to provide advance procurement funding for a third Virginia Class submarine in FY 2020. 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 $12 billion for 94 Joint Strike Fighters across the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, adding 24 above the President’s budget request. Connecticut’s Pratt and Whitney is the sole engine-maker for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The bill also authorizes block buy authority for the F-35, which will provide significant costs savings while procuring jets sooner.

Ensuring Robust Production of Helicopters: Blumenthal secured $1 billion for 48 Black Hawks, $1.3 billion for 6 CH-53Ks – two more than the President’s budget request, 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 $25 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.

Enhancing the Warfighter’s Nighttime Capabilities: Blumenthal secured $2.5 million above the President’s request for night vision testing equipment to verify the accuracy of critical night vision goggles. Connecticut’s Hoffman Engineering makes advanced night vision testing devices that ensure the safety and reliability of the goggles our warfighters rely on to carry out their missions.

Supporting Connecticut’s Capabilities: Senator Blumenthal fought to ensure our combat vehicles will be integrated with the required laser warning detection system necessary for their protection, securing $4 million that can be harnessed by United Technologies Aerospace System who makes the necessary laser detection system.             

Provides Opportunity for Aerospace Propulsion: Blumenthal secured $201 million in funding for aerospace propulsion research – an $8 million increase above the President’s request. This funding can be harnessed by United Technologies Aerospace Systems to develop high efficiency heat exchangers, which will help improve and regulate next generation fighter jet engines. Earlier this year, Blumenthal urged the Air Force in a letter to ensure increased funding for 2017 to invest in this vital capability.

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.

Supporting an Enhanced Maritime Sensor: Blumenthal secured $15 million in funding above the President’s request – nearly doubling the Presidential budget request – to help support the production and demonstration of maritime enhanced sensor technology, developed by United Technologies Aerospace Systems, that will significantly improve the Navy’s ability to gather intelligence and assess a full range of Anti-Surface Unit Warfare and Anti-Submarine Warfare capabilities.

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:

Improving Opportunities for Veterans: Blumenthal authored a provision repealing the 15-year statute of limitations on requests for review of veterans’ discharge status. The repeal will enable all veterans to bring their case before the Discharge Review Boards for an in-person hearing where they can be considered for a discharge characterization upgrade. Currently, cases from over 15 years ago must go to Boards for the Correction of Military Records where there is no right to a hearing and veterans have a significantly lower rate of successfully appealing their discharge characterization. This provision also authorizes DoD to allow veterans to present evidence of their case through affidavit, telephone, or video conference when feasible – improving their access to justice.

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.

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 $500 million for the Ukrainian Security Assistance Initiative, $350 million above the President’s request, to provide security assistance to Ukraine to counter Russia’s military aggression in eastern Ukraine.

Extending the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program: Blumenthal cosponsored an amendment that secures an additional 4,000 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.