Murkowski Applauds Senate Passage of NDAA
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) today voted in favor of the final Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill passed the Senate by an 84-13 vote and now heads to the President’s desk.
This major national security bill authorizes the annual budget for the Department of Defense (DoD), providing funding for training and readiness, to improve the livelihoods of military members and their families, modernize military technology, and includes multiple provisions to address high rates of suicide among the military community. The legislation includes portions of a bill introduced by Senators Murkowski and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) which authorizes a new regional Department of Defense (DoD) Center for Arctic Security Studies. The Center, named after the late Ted Stevens, would be the first DoD Regional Center focused on the Arctic, its infrastructure and America’s leadership in the region. The bill will also reform the Department of Defense’s 1033 program, which authorizes the federal transfer of military equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies.
“Around the globe, emerging conflicts and security challenges require us to remain as vigilant as ever. In order to ensure America’s national security, we must first ensure that our military forces are fully equipped to carry out their assigned duties, both on American soil and overseas. At a national level, this legislation invests in all sectors of the military—technology and equipment, training, infrastructure, and most importantly, the overall well-being of our troops and their families. We also include a pay raise for service members, provisions to help shore up some of the gaps in our military’s mental and behavioral health needs, and reforms to the Department of Defense’s 1033 program.
“Recognizing the emerging threats and challenges in the Arctic, this legislation prioritizes the needs of Alaska’s military and America’s role in the Arctic region. Within the legislation we authorize military construction projects for Fort Greely and Fort Wainright, including infrastructure to support missile defense and improve child care capabilities. Building on my longstanding efforts to bolster America’s presence in the Arctic, the bill includes provisions that improve Arctic security, enhance communications infrastructure, and focuses our military and national security leadership on defense strategies in the region. I’m proud that the bill includes a provision that the Alaska delegation worked hard to secure—authorization for the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies. And to address our nation’s growing dependence on foreign countries, including China, for minerals and metals, we include two key provisions championed by Senator Sullivan. The passage of NDAA is good news for Alaska and America.”
- Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies: Includes a key provisions from legislation introduced by Senators Murkowski and Sullivan creating a new Department of Defense (DoD) Regional Center focused on the Arctic, named in honor of the late U.S. Senator Ted Stevens. If enacted, the Ted Stevens Center for Security Studies would be the first DoD Regional Center focused on the Arctic. The center’s aim is to support defense strategy objectives and policy priorities through a unique academic forum and to foster strong international networks of security leaders to support multilateralism and diplomacy in the region.
- Polar Security Cutters: Authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to enter into one or more contracts for the procurement of three Polar Security Cutters, previously approved in 2019, as well as three additional Polar Security Cutters.
- Military Construction: Authorizes $162M for MILCON projects in Alaska, including:
- Fort Greely Communications Center
- Fort Wainwright Unaccompanied Enlisted Personnel Housing
- Fort Wainwright Child Development Center
- Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2020 – For the first time ever, the Coast Guard authorization is included in NDAA. The Authorization will continue through fiscal year 2021, and enables the Coast Guard to carry out needed vessel capitalization and infrastructure development, and support its range of missions, including maritime safety, drug and illegal migrant interdiction, enforcement of U.S. laws at sea, protection of our nation’s borders, and support for DOD’s national security operations.
- Maritime transportation system emergency relief program: Creates a grant program, administered by MARAD, to provide relief for U.S. port owners and operators and those involved in vessel construction, transportation by water, or support activities for transportation by water during a national emergency such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic or natural disasters.
- North Warning System Modernization Report: The North Warning System is a series of long– and short–range radar stations which provide observation and surveillance capability for cruise missiles. The bill directs the Secretary of Defense to develop a report on the status of the North Warning System infrastructure and to create a plan to modernize the system.
- Pay Raise for Troops: Includes a 3% pay raise for the troops, increases hazardous duty pay by 10%, and reauthorizes more than 30 other types of bonuses and special pay.
- Suicide Prevention Initiative: Includes several provisions to address the disproportionate rates of suicide among the military community. The report will provide an assessment of current policy guidelines, prevention programs, standards for response actions and data collection, and protection of privacy regarding suicide at remote installations.
- Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) - This year’s bill has a collection of PFAS related provisions such as, prizes for development of non-PFAS containing fire-fighting agents, notification requirements for agricultural areas exposed to DoD PFAS use. Additionally, an interagency body will be stood up to research PFAS. The agencies comprising this body include EPA, NIEHS, NSF, DoD, NIH, DOI, NOAA, DOT, DHS and many others. The interagency group will provide strategic focus on the many federally funded PFAS studies already ongoing, focus on alternatives to PFAS, and methods of removal or destruction of PFAS. Additionally, this year’s NDAA restricts DoD from procurement of PFAS in houseware and other equipment and promotes development of alternatives. Senator Murkowski also cosponsored an amendment included in the final bill to increase funding for CDC’s study of PFAS health implications.
- Strategic and Critical Materials: Includes a provision secured by U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) that requires DoD to acquire strategic and critical materials from domestic sources whenever possible. This recognizes the important role that Alaska’s world-class mineral base can play in support of our nation’s economic and national security.
- Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) Program: Authorizes an unprecedented $30M for the DoD to continue utilizing the IRT program to provide hands-on and mission-essential training for Active, Reserve and National Guard forces across the country. The IRT Program, which is being used in Alaska, is a military training opportunity that increases deployment readiness by providing key services such as health care, construction, transportation, and cybersecurity to American communities.
- Native American lands environmental mitigation program: Creates an environmental mitigation program for Native lands. Within this program, the Secretary of Defense will be able to undertake actions, including the identification, investigation, and documentation of suspected environmental effects attributable to past Department of Defense actions, develop mitigation options for such environmental effects, including development of cost-to-complete estimates and a system for prioritizing mitigation actions, and direct mitigation actions that the Secretary determines are necessary and appropriate.
- Micronuclear Reactor Programs and Report: Includes a provision calling for a report assessing the costs and feasibility of deploying micronuclear reactors to provide power and heat to Department of Defense facilities. Some of the most promising sites for potential micronuclear deployment are located in Alaska. The report also authorizes $50 million for the program to develop mobile micronuclear reactors that could be deployed in Alaska after testing is completed in the lower 48.
- Assignment of Arctic Issues to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Western Hemisphere: Establishes Arctic focused leadership at the senior level within the DoD by requiring the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs to assign responsibility for the Arctic region to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Western Hemisphere or another Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense.
- Arctic Shipping Federal Advisory Committee: This provision establishes a Federal advisory committee tasked to develop recommendations on matters related to Arctic maritime transportation. Specifically, the committee shall recommend policies to enhance the leadership role played by the United States in the Arctic, policies that would improve the safety and reliability of Arctic maritime transportation in accordance with customary international maritime law, and consider establishing a congressionally chartered Arctic seaway development corporation modeled on the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. Additionally, the bill requires a Special Representative for the Arctic Region, appointed by the Department of State, to coordinate any activities recommended by the committee's implementation plan and to facilitate multilateral dialogues with member and observer nations of the Arctic Council. Senator Murkowski is the author of this legislation and championed inclusion in this year’s Coast Guard Authorization.
- Permafrost Studies: Directs the Secretary of Defense to complete a study on the impact of permafrost from a warming climate in areas that possess critical infrastructure vital to national defense.
- Arctic Communications: Authorizes funding to establish more robust communications in the Arctic to support an initial satellite capability for the region.
- U.S. Coast Guard Unmanned Aircraft Program: Includes a provision to require the Coast Guard and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to assess the feasibility and advisability of using unmanned aircraft systems for Arctic surveillance in order to establish and maintain regular maritime domain awareness, respond to illegal activities, and collaborate with State, local, and tribal authorities, and international partners, in surveillance missions over the water.