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Senate Armed Services Committee Approves National Defense Authorization Bill With Blumenthal-Championed Wins for Connecticut

Legislation includes significant investments in submarines, helicopters, and joint strike fighters fought for by Blumenthal to support national security and thousands of 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 2022. The legislation contains a number of significant 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 23-3 and will now move to the full Senate for consideration.

“This legislation makes smart and strategic investments in submarines, helicopters, and aircraft—all built right here in Connecticut—key tools to defend our nation and keep servicemembers safe. These investments are a vital boon to national security—and a great boost to jobs. They are also a tribute to our state’s defense workforce, unmatched in its skill and dedication. I am proud to fight for this significant federal funding that supports quality jobs and helps families.”

“This bill commendably includes important provisions I advocated for to overhaul the military’s handling of sexual assault. It gives decision-making power concerning major crimes, including sexual assault, to professional military prosecutors.”

“I’m proud of other provisions I helped lead, including ensuring servicemembers and their families can fully use educations benefits and reduce their exposure to toxic PFAS chemicals. It also helps prevent stolen military weapons and ammunition being used in violent crimes. I hope Congress will pass this strong defense bill without delay,” Blumenthal said.

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:

  • $3.003 billion to fully fund another Columbia Class ballistic missile submarine, to include over $346 million in research, development, test & evaluation funding.
  • $1.644 billion in advance procurement for the Columbia Class, including an additional $130 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.
  • Robust funding of the future of undersea warfare, including over $503 million to fund New Design SSN research, $12 million in undersea vehicle research, $5 million in deep water active technology, and $55 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:

  • $12.109 billion for 86 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, $619.5 million in F-35 modernization funding, and $1.983 billion in F-35 Continuous Capability Development and Delivery – including an additional $20 million above the President’s budget.
  • $180 million to procure an additional 20 F135 power modules to address engine shortages for the F-35 in the fleet Armed Forces.

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:

  • $1.536 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. 
  • $630.2 million to fund 9 UH-60M and 15 HH-60M Black Hawk Helicopters and $146.1 million in advanced procurement funding.
  • $792.2 million in procurement funding for 14 Combat Rescue Helicopters.
  • $1.125 billion to fund Future Vertical Lift Research, Development, Test & Evaluation efforts.
  • $29.9 million to fund Combat Rescue Helicopter development and demonstration.

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 fought for changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that will take sexual assault, sexual harassment, and serious felony crimes out of the chain of command. He 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. Blumenthal is an original co-sponsor of the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act, which would professionalize how the military prosecutes serious crimes by moving the decision to prosecute from the chain of command to independent, trained, professional military prosecutors, and provides for several new prevention provisions such as more and better training for commanders and increased physical security measures, while ensuring that commanders still have the ability to provide strong leadership and ensure a successful command climate.

Preventing Gun Violence: Blumenthal proposed and secured a provision that will require the DOD to report on lost, stolen, or recovered weapons 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 co-sponsored an amendment 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 would codify 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.

Addressing Violent Extremism in the Military: Blumenthal fought to include a provision requiring the DOD report on reforms to the UCMJ to address 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 $30 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.”

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 encouraging the Secretary of Defense to coordinate with other government agencies and NGOs to find non-medical funding in support of wounded Ukrainian soldiers.

Bolstering Traumatic Brain Injury Research: More than 430,000 servicemembers have been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the last 20 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 language that will incentivize DOD to explore how to prevent TBI using non-helmet devices like a Q-Collar, which has been used to protect against concussions and other brain injuries in young athletes.

Supporting Allies in Afghanistan: Blumenthal advocated for the inclusion of provisions to ensure the safe passage of America’s Afghan allies, including interpreters and their families who were essential in U.S. military operations through a well-coordinated strategy.