Murkowski: Defense Authorization Bill Will Bolster Alaska, National Security
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted in favor of S. 1605, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22), helping it to pass the Senate by a bipartisan vote of 88-11.
This year’s NDAA authorizes $768 billion for national defense, including $740 billion for the Department of Defense’s (DOD) annual budget to ensure the Pentagon can compete and thrive amid strategic competition. The bill prioritizes military members and their families, training and readiness, strengthening defense technology, addressing high rates of suicide among the military community, and more. As in previous years, Senator Murkowski was able to prioritize Arctic security provisions.
“The NDAA is one of the most critical pieces of legislation that Congress passes each year, ensuring our troops have the training, equipment, and resources needed to carry out their missions. This year’s bill includes a well-deserved raise for our troops and prioritizes improving the lives of our servicemembers and their families. It will improve military healthcare, aid spouses’ access to meaningful employment, and provide much-needed reform for military justice.
“We provide resources to maintain a strong and robust global presence—including for our force posture in the Indo-Pacific—improve and increase readiness, and bolster the capabilities of our allies, such as Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan, to counter the growing aggression of Iran, Russia, and China.
“I’m pleased this bill supports my efforts to build out America’s leadership as an Arctic nation. I thank Senator Sullivan and Congressman Young for their efforts to boost the defense budget and to help include provisions to create an Arctic Security Initiative, reduce suicides on rural, remote, and isolated installations, and authorize construction on a new National Guard Readiness Center,” said Senator Murkowski.
Murkowski pointed out the many provisions that she and the Alaska congressional delegation added to the FY22 NDAA.
“This bill specifically helps troops in Alaska. It directly addresses Alaska’s alarming suicide rate among servicemembers, authorizes funding for a new National Guard Readiness Center, and provides for upgraded cold weather clothing and equipment for our Arctic troops. In light of the recent announcement that Anchorage will be the home of the newly established Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies, we are codifying important technical changes for the center – including its name, location, and establishment – into law.”
Murkowski also spoke to the amendments she added to the bill, including several adopted during Senate floor debate.
“I was able to secure amendments to help align America’s combat rescue aircraft acquisition strategy with our national defense strategy, taking into account the Indo-Pacific and Arctic regions; ensure all veterans have access to their rightfully earned burial benefits in National Cemeteries; and create an emissions tracking pilot program at certain military installations.
“The final NDAA also authorizes long overdue and well-deserved Congressional Gold Medals for all surviving WWII Merchant Marine veterans. And, to continue assisting our Afghan partners, we authorize DOD to transport Special Immigrant Visa holders and other threatened Afghan partners out of Afghanistan.”
Summary of Alaska and Arctic Provisions
- Arctic Region Assessment: Requires the Department of Defense to conduct an independent assessment of the Arctic Region and permits the Secretary of Defense to create an Arctic Security Initiative—a bill led by Senator Sullivan and cosponsored by Senator Murkowski.
- Combat Rescue Aircraft: Includes an amendment authored by Senator Murkowski which requires the Secretary of the Air Force to submit a strategy to Congress for the acquisition of combat rescue aircraft, which meets the requirements laid out in the national defense strategy and the Air Force’s Arctic Strategy.
- Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies: Codifies the center – its name, location, and establishment – into law. Senators Murkowski and Sullivan sponsored the initiative to create the Stevens Center in the FY21 NDAA, and through Murkowski’s role as an appropriator, secured $10 million for the center in the FY21 appropriations package.
- Permafrost Research: Authorizes funding for completion of the Army Corps of Engineers Permafrost Tunnel, a facility vital to understanding a changing Arctic environment.
- Suicide Prevention: Authorizes funding for continued research on suicide prevention in rural, remote, and isolated areas such as Alaska in partnership with the Center for Alaska Native Health Research.
- Missile Defense: Authorizes the Missile Defense Agency to develop a highly reliable missile defense interceptor for the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system.
- Arctic equipment: Authorizes full funding for unfunded Army ($4.43 billion) and Air Force ($4.2 billion) requirements, which include Army Cold Weather Gear.
- Polar RADAR: Authorizes an increase of $25 million for development of the polar Over-the-Horizon radar capability for Far North detection.
- National Guard/Reserve Pay Parity: Requires parity in special and incentive pays for members of the reserve and active components helping the large demographic of National Guard and Reserve forces across Alaska.
- National Guard Facility: Authorizes the Alaska National Guard to plan and design a new Readiness Center on JBER.
Summary of National Provisions
- Pay Raise: Ensures a 2.7 percent pay raise for both military servicemembers and the DOD civilian workforce.
- Basic Needs Allowance: Establishes a Basic Needs Allowance to ensure that all servicemembers can meet the basic needs of their families.
- Parental Leave: Increases parental leave to 12 weeks for all servicemembers for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child.
- Bereavement Leave: Creates a new category of bereavement leave for military personnel that would permit servicemembers to take up to two weeks of leave in connection with the death of a spouse of child.
- Healthcare: Makes much-needed improvements to military healthcare such as expanding the treatment of eating disorders and improving postpartum care; expands breast cancer research; and takes major steps to address the mental and behavioral health of our troops.
- Military Spouses: Prioritizes efforts to guarantee military spouses have access to meaningful employment and establishes a pilot program for direct hire authority to hire military spouses.
- Military Housing: Ensures military families have access to high-quality, affordable housing in all locations including OCONUS locations such as Alaska.
- Cybersecurity: Protects against persistent cyberattacks by assessing and strengthening both offensive and defensive capabilities.
- Military Construction: Provides the largest investment in military construction in a decade including for ongoing and future projects in Alaska.
- Nuclear Security: Enhances deterrence by recapitalizing and modernizing the U.S. nuclear triad and ensuring the safety, security and reliability of our nuclear stockpile, delivery systems, and infrastructure.
- Allies: Provides support for our allies and partners such as Israel, Taiwan, Ukraine, and Afghan civilians and translators who have supported U.S. counterterrorism efforts.
- China: Enhances the Pacific Deterrence Initiative and the Indo-Pacific Maritime Security Initiative, hardens our defense industrial base and supply chains against threats posed by China, and requires the President to draft a grand strategy for China.
- Vietnam War Veterans: Includes an amendment from Senator Murkowski which retroactively authorizes the burial of any American citizen or lawfully admitted alien that served honorably with a special guerilla unit or irregular forces in Laos during the Vietnam War.
- Vaccines for Servicemembers: Provides for servicemembers who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine to receive an Honorable Discharge or a General Discharge under honorable conditions, thereby preserving more of their veterans’ benefits.