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Senate Passes National Defense Authorization Act With Blumenthal-Championed Wins for Connecticut

Major investments in submarines, helicopters, joint strike fighters, & cutting edge technology fought for by Blumenthal will support national security & thousands of Connecticut jobs

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement after the Senate approved the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023. The defense authorization includes a number of significant Blumenthal-championed provisions to invest in Connecticut’s defense manufacturing workforce and enhance national security. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 83-11 and now heads to President’s Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.

“The historic investments in this legislation will bolster Connecticut’s workforce and ensure our state remains at the forefront of defense manufacturing,” said Blumenthal. “I’m proud to have fought for measures that will strengthen our state’s economy, aid our allies in Ukraine, increase pay for servicemembers, and provide important protection to survivors of military sexual assault. I look forward to President Biden’s signature as we continue to address national security challenges at home and abroad.”

As a member of the Committee tasked with crafting the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023, Blumenthal championed the following provisions to boost jobs and support critical industries with defense contracts in Connecticut:

Securing Major Investments for Connecticut’s Submarine Industrial Base: Blumenthal fought for $15 billion in broad funding for Connecticut’s submarine industry that guarantees our nation’s strategic advantages in undersea warfare while growing Connecticut’s jobs and economy. Blumenthal secured:

$5.857 billion to fund ongoing design and construction of the Columbia Class ballistic missile submarine, including $531 million for the submarine industrial base workforce development, and $130 million for supplier development, supplier infrastructure, and technology advancements that assist the growing demand for investment in these assets.

$4.534 billion to fully fund two Virginia Class submarines and over $2.03 billion in advanced procurement that will fund future boats. An additional $227 million in industrial base analysis and sustainment support that will ensure continued growth for the submarine industrial base. Robust funding of $1.04 billion in acoustic, communication, and support equipment necessary to support today’s submarine fleet with advanced combat control and undersea warfare capabilities. 

Over $1 billion in additional submarine research and development, including $496 million to fund New Design SSN, $351 million for Columbia research, development, test, and evaluation, $15.5 million to relocate an Underwater Electromagnetic Measurement system at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, and $110 million in advanced submarine system development that will continue innovations in Virginia, Columbia, and future submarines.

Supporting Production of Cutting Edge Helicopters: Blumenthal pushed for strong funding of helicopters, including the CH-53K King Stallion, HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter, UH-60M Black Hawk, 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:

$1.898 billion to fund a total of 12 CH-53K King Stallion Helicopters, which includes $250 million over the President’s Budget for 2 additional CH-53Ks;

$1.048 billion in procurement funding for 20 HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopters, which includes $350 million over the President’s budget for an additional 10 HH-60Ws;

$59 million for HH-60W capability upgrades and modernization developments;

$707.8 million to fund 27 UH-60M Black Hawk Helicopters;

$68 million in UH-60M advanced procurement funding; and

$178.7 million to fund 28 UH-60L and UH-60V Black Hawk Helicopters.

Blumenthal also fought to secure Block Buying Authority of the CH-53K, which will result in significant savings compared to the total anticipated costs of carrying out the program through annual contracts.

Expanding our F-35 Fleet: Blumenthal pushed for funding to expand the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. Connecticut’s Pratt and Whitney is the sole engine-manufacturer for the only fifth generation fighter in production. Blumenthal secured:

$8.062 billion for 69 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters across the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, which includes $1.1 billion above the President’s budget for 5 additional F-35As and 3 additional F-35Cs.

$605 million in F-35 advance procurement funding.

Modernizing F-35 Propulsion: Blumenthal secured a provision requiring an assessment of F-35 engine modernization efforts. Blumenthal’s provision requires the Department of Defense (DOD) to analyze the cost of alternative engines designed for the Adaptive Engine Transition Program to ensure that the modernization of the F-135 engine safely meets Block 4 upgrade requirements, timelines, and minimizes life cycle costs. 

Promoting Workforce Development and Outreach: Blumenthal worked to secure the Navy Workforce Shipbuilding Development Initiative that requires any awarded contract to include workforce development. This effort will provide government and private matching contributions that can be used for the creation of housing, transportation, and support services for worker relocation and retention, expansion of local talent pipeline programs, investments in outreach to middle and high school programs, attraction and retention bonuses, facilities dedicated to workforce development, and on-the-job training for key manufacturing skills. 

Supporting our National Guard: Blumenthal supported an amendment to backdate the effective date of rank for reserve officers in the National Guard due to undue delays in Federal recognition. This measure ensures that our National Guardsmen receive the recognition and compensation they deserve regardless of delays outside of their control.  

Standing By our Allies in Ukraine: Blumenthal fought for provisions to advance our national security abroad while also replenishing our stockpiles at home, with particular assistance for Ukrainian defense as the country defends itself from Russia’s aggression, including:

Extending and modifying the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) and authorizing $800 million in fiscal year 2023, an increase of $500 million above the President’s budget, to provide security assistance to Ukraine via this authority;

$156 million for production of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, a top Ukrainian artillery request to curtail Russian advances;

Multiyear procurement authority for HIMARS, Stinger missiles, Javelin missiles and other critical munitions to replenish US stockpiles given to Ukrainians to defend themselves; and

Establishment of a partnership program between United States and Ukraine for military trauma care and research not later than February 2023.

Promoting Humanitarian Demining Assistance for Ukraine: Blumenthal fought for a provision to cut administrative red tape currently preventing enhanced international cooperation on humanitarian demining in Ukraine.

Supporting Accountable and Transparent Security Assistance to Ukraine: Blumenthal supported a provision directing a review of allocations and use of security assistance provided to Ukraine. This measure assesses the timeliness of U.S. assistance, how the DOD is tracking equipment, and to what extent DOD is mitigating the proliferation of equipment provided. 

Strengthening Israel’s Security: Blumenthal fought to fully fund our commitments to the security of Israel through $300 million for Israeli Cooperative Programs, including authorizing funding for the procurement of the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system, David’s Sling Weapon System, and Arrow 3 Upper Tier Interceptor Program. Blumenthal also supported $92 million, $20 million above the President’s budget, in funding for the extension of U.S.-Israeli cooperation on countering unmanned aerial vehicles authorizing in recognition of the growing threat posed by Iran and their proxies. Blumenthal also supported an amendment requiring an expansion on the annual report on the military power of Iran to specifically analyze the threat posed by the Houthis, Kata’ib Hezbollah and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq. 

Blumenthal also fought for key provisions to support servicemembers, including:

Historic Reforms to Support Survivors of Military Sexual Assault: Blumenthal fought for the inclusion of a modified version of the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act and other reforms to the Uniform Code of Military Justice including:

Changing the convening authority from the Commanding Officer to an unbiased Judge Advocate for an additional 17 covered offenses that are common-law felonies in most states;

Inclusion of additional punitive articles to Special Trail Counsel jurisdiction;

Providing a Restricted Reporting Option for DOD Civilian employees choosing to report sexual assault;

Further implementation of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military requiring the convening authority of a court martial to randomize the selection of members of the panel; and

Requiring the Department of Defense to distribute information on the availability of resources from civilian legal service organizations to military-connected sexual assault victims.

Protecting Servicemembers and Their Families from Exposure to Toxic PFAS Chemicals: Blumenthal fought for key funding and provisions to protect servicemembers from toxic chemical exposure, including:

Requiring DOD to publish a description of any research collaboration relating to the health effects of perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances, treatment options, and associated budget information on a website to ensure it is easily accessible to the public;

Prohibiting DOD from procuring or purchasing personal protective firefighting equipment if it contains any perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances; and

Requiring Congress produce an annual report on any known or suspected contamination on or around military installations located in the United States resulting from the release of any perfluoroalkyl substance or polyfluoroalkyl substance. 

Supporting Women Warriors: Blumenthal secured $32.5 million to accelerate development of armor for female servicemembers to improve form, fit, and function, as well as to reduce pain and increase mobility. As women join the armed services in growing numbers, this funding will ensure more body armor options are available for female servicemembers to improve comfort and security in the battlefield. This provision is based on bipartisan legislation Blumenthal co-sponsored to ensure body armor and personal protective equipment (PPE) is adequate, properly-fitted, and readily available for female servicemembers.

Increasing Servicemember Pay and Allowance: Recognizing the sacrifice and impact of their contributions to our national defense, Blumenthal championed a 4.6 percent pay increase for our servicemembers and DOD civilians and supported increases to maximum amounts for bonus and special pay authorities in critical-skill positions. Blumenthal also fought to expand servicemembers’ access to quality housing by extending the authority to adjust the basic allowance for housing (BAH) in high-cost areas and encouraging DOD to coordinate efforts to address housing shortages. 

Fighting Food Insecurity and Hunger Among Military Families: Blumenthal fought to expand the Basic Needs Allowance by increasing the eligibility threshold and allowance size from 130 percent of the Federal poverty line to 150 percent of the Federal poverty line. Blumenthal also fought to authorize the Secretary to increase this benefit to 200% of the poverty line where appropriate.   

Expanding Healthcare for Servicemembers and their Families: Blumenthal secured significant improvements to TRICARE Dental to give eligible beneficiaries additional enrollment options in dental insurance plans. Certain enlisted members will also pay reduced premiums and co-payments under this provision.