Senate Armed Services Committee Advances Comprehensive Defense Authorization Bill with Blumenthal-championed Wins for Connecticut

Legislation includes robust investments in submarines, helicopters, and joint strike fighters fought for by Blumenthal to support 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 Committee approved the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021. The legislation contains a number of key provisions Blumenthal fought to include to invest in Connecticut’s defense manufacturing workforce and enhance national security. The bill passed out of Committee by a vote of 25-2 and will now move to the full Senate for consideration.

“This legislation’s unmatched, robust investment in strategic defense tools – submarines, helicopters, and aircraft built in Connecticut – will keep our country secure and our state’s economy strong. Thanks to manufacturing force dedication and supreme skill, Connecticut is the hub of excellence for our nation’s defense industry. I am proud to have fought for funding to support thousands of high-quality jobs in Connecticut and to ensure our great armed forces have unsurpassable resources to keep our nation and themselves safe,” Blumenthal said.

As a member of the Committee tasked with crafting the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021, 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:

  • $2.891 billion to fully fund the first Columbia Class ballistic missile submarine, the boat that will modernize the most survivable leg of the nuclear triad and replace the Ohio Class of ballistic missile submarines.
  • $1.298 billion in advance procurement for the Columbia Class, including an additional $175 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.
  • $2.260 billion to fully fund one Virginia Class submarine, and over $2.373 billion in advance procurement that will fund future boats, including long lead material to preserve the option for 10 Virginia Class submarines in the Block V contract.
  • Robust funding of the future of undersea warfare, including over $250 million to fund New Design SSN research, $149.188 million in advanced Nuclear Power Systems, and over $317 million to fund Ohio Replacement New Design research. 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.

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. The bill includes more than $9.158 billion for 93 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters across the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, including an additional 14 aircraft above the President’s budget request (58 F-35A fighters, 12 F-35B fighters, and 23 F-35C fighters). Additionally, Blumenthal secured $610 million in F-35A Advance Procurement funding, $785 million in F-35A Continuous Capability Development and Delivery and $2.228 billion in Spare and Repair Parts, including an additional $30 million above the President’s budget.

Ensuring Robust Production of Helicopters: Blumenthal pushed for strong funding of helicopters, including the CH-53K King Stallion, UH-60M Black Hawk, VH-92A Presidential Executive Helicopter, 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:

  • $793.324 million to fund 7 CH-53K King Stallion Helicopters, and over $406.406 million in research, development, test & evaluation funding.
  • $743.998 million to fund 21 UH-60M and 15 HH-60M Black Hawk Helicopters.
  • $1.147 billion in procurement funding for 19 Combat Rescue Helicopters.
  • $610.231 million to fund 5 VH-92A Executive Helicopters.
  • $652.937 million to fund Future Vertical Lift Research, Development, Test & Evaluation efforts.
  • $63.169 million to fund Combat Rescue Helicopter development and demonstration.

Prioritizing Work Force Development and Stability: Blumenthal secured $20 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. In addition, Blumenthal championed authorization for Navy contract authority for up to 2 Columbia Class submarines and incremental funding for payments under this contract to ensure cost efficiencies. This authority will help reduce uncertainty among Connecticut’s defense industrial base and help stabilize the workforce. 

Establishing a Joint Department of Labor and Navy Task Force on Shipbuilding Workforce: Blumenthal authored a provision creating a Workforce Task Force through the Navy and Department of Labor to assess trends within the shipbuilding workforce, ensure shipbuilders can benefit from existing Department of Labor programs, and provide recommendations to stabilize the shipbuilding industrial base. Together, the funding in workforce development and this provision will ensure that the submarine workforce has the training and education necessary to build a qualified and motivated workforce, with the ability to deliver submarines at the rate required by our nation. 

Expanding Opportunities for Partnerships between the Department of Defense and Connecticut Research Institutions: Blumenthal fought to expand opportunities for coordination between Department of Defense research requirements and Connecticut’s talented research universities. Blumenthal secured:

  • $63.897 million in funding for Undersea Warfare Applied Research, including $7.5 million above the President’s budget request for submarine research partnerships between the Navy and academia. This funding will enhance collaboration between the Navy, the University of Connecticut, and Electric Boat – to translate technological advances to emerging Navy undersea vehicles and systems in cost effective ways, to train a highly skilled workforce, and to support increased and sustained submarine production capacity.
  • Over $72 million, including an increase of $20 million from the President’s budget request, for the Defense Established Program to Simulate Competitive Research (DEPSCOR) program in an effort to expand the base of Universities that support defense research and innovative missions.
  • $103.280 million to provide additional competitive grant opportunities for the University of Connecticut and other academic-industry partnerships to develop advanced materials and materials manufacturing processes for the Air Force’s next generation of aerospace materials for hypersonic flight.

Making Strong Investments in Research and Development of Next Generation Military Technology: Blumenthal fought to include more than $6 billion in funding to support investment, research, and development including: 

  • $1 billion to fund Next Generation Air Dominance research and development and $690 million to fund the Adaptive Engine Transition Program, including $50 million above the President’s budget request. These funds will support Connecticut’s Raytheon Technologies Corporation and Pratt & Whitney’s efforts to design, fabricate, integrate, and test flight-weight adaptive engines for the next generation of combat aircraft.
  • $95 million to fund the F119 Aircraft Engine Component Improvement Program and over $665 million in funding for Air Force F-22A Squadrons and Operational Systems Development. The F119 powers the F-22A 5th generation fighter and these investments support Connecticut’s United Technologies Raytheon Technologies Corporation’s effort to mature adaptive engine technologies and improve the F119 engine program to increase safety and reduce life cycle costs.
  • $124 million to fund Army research and development of command, control, communications, and intelligence, including $2 million above the President’s budget request to fund quantum computing technology.
  • $3.5 billion to support increased oversight and funding for Hypersonic Weapon Systems Research. Among other provisions, it will reduce uncertainty in the industrial base by requiring the Pentagon to submit a long-term plan describing potential targets and uses for hypersonic systems, including use on Navy submarines and surface combatants.

Investing in the Metals Affordability Initiative: Blumenthal secured over $160 million to invest in material research and development, including an increase of $5 million from the President’s budget to specifically support the Metals Affordability Initiative. This initiative is an innovative public-private partnership that has saved more than $1 billion during the program’s 21-year lifetime by making metals lighter, stronger, and more affordable to meet warfighter needs.

Supporting the Domestic Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Industry: Blumenthal has actively opposed the government purchase of Chinese manufactured UAS due to the security threat they pose. Instead, he secured language in support of the domestic UAS industry that:

  • Encourages the DoD to take additional steps to promote further development of the domestic UAS industry;
  • Encourages DoD to make it easier for small UAS providers by reducing burdensome requirements and expand the use of capabilities from small, innovative, domestic UAS companies to provide the greatest opportunity to meet objectives; and,
  • Encourages the use of rapid acquisition authorities to contract for proven commercial off-the-shelf technologies.

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

The Female Body Armor Modernization Act: This year’s NDAA includes the Female Body Armor Modernization Act, bipartisan legislation that Blumenthal authored with U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). This provision requires that the Pentagon expedite the fielding of a new generation of personal protective equipment (PPE) that will better fit and protect all servicemembers, particularly women. It also authorizes a tracking system and survey questions to determine the prevalence of preventable injuries servicemembers experience that are attributable to ill-fitting PPE. This provision is critical to ensure that women servicemembers have proper-fitting body armor and personal protective equipment.

Ensuring Benefits for Veterans: For years, Blumenthal has fought for benefits for veterans who suffer from conditions relating to toxic exposure during their service. This year’s NDAA will improve documentation of exposure to burn pits for future generations of transitioning servicemembers.

Improving the Transition to Civilian Life: Blumenthal led a provision to apply evidence-based methods to improve the Transition Assistance Program, address issues likely to pose the greatest challenge to transitioning servicemembers, and evaluate the populations predicted to have the greatest challenges.

Expanding Benefits for Reserve Component Servicemembers: Blumenthal has been a steadfast supporter of the National Guardsmen who have played a critical role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in communities across the nation. Members of the reserve components, including National Guardsmen, may face unique barriers to accessing mental health care. This year’s NDAA requires a report on the delivery of federal, state, and private mental health services to members of the reserve components, which will help address both these barriers and deeply concerning suicide rates among the National Guard.

Funding Traumatic Brain Injury Research: More than 320,000 servicemembers have been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the last 15 years. These injuries can have a variety of devastating long-term effects, including cognitive impairment and psychiatric disorders, but diagnostic tools have been inadequate, resulting in delays in needed medical care. Blumenthal fought for increased investment in research to develop and field TBI diagnostic capabilities and devices. Blumenthal’s efforts will:

  • Encourage the deployment of mild TBI diagnostic devices to the lowest possible echelon of medical care to help medical personnel and commanders better understand when injured servicemembers must receive more specialized medical evaluation and treatment.
  • Support the basic research required to swiftly develop and field acute TBI diagnostic capabilities.
  • Encourage collaboration and information sharing between civilian researchers in TBI research and the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Streamline the approval process for research funding for studies relating to TBI to accelerate the development of diagnostic and treatment tools.

Supporting Allies and Partners in Ukraine: While Ukrainian soldiers can receive treatment at DoD facilities for severe injuries such as burns and amputations when Ukraine cannot provide the care in country, the costs were often unaffordable for the Ukrainian government until Blumenthal won an additional funding stream to cover them in the 2018 NDAA. This year’s NDAA expands on this work through a Blumenthal-authored provision that compels the Secretary of Defense to coordinate with Ukrainian defense officials to resolve issues related to the funding of non-medical expenses. It also encourages coordination between the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State to assist Ukraine in developing its capacity to care for wounded members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces through education and training.

The NDAA also includes a provision supporting the designation of Ukraine as an enhanced opportunities partner under the Partnership Interoperability Initiative of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which maintains and deepens the interoperability of partner forces, allowing them to operate together with NATO forces according to NATO standards, rules, procedures, and using similar equipment.