Murkowski Helps Send NDAA Bill to President’s Desk
Supports Military Readiness, Servicemember Well-Being, and Alaska’s Unique Strategic Role in National Security
Click here to watch Senator Murkowski’s statement.
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted in favor of H.R. 7776, the James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023, which authorizes $857 billion for national defense priorities. The bill strengthens America’s national security, supports military members and their families through provisions to improve quality of life, ensures those who serve have needed equipment and resources, and invests in everything from aircraft and ships to ports and harbors.
H.R. 7776 contains a suite of provisions inserted by the Alaska delegation that highlight the state’s strategic importance. The bill provides additional support for the Coast Guard’s presence in Alaska waters, infrastructure on Alaska military installations, and military equipment for operating in cold weather climates. The majority of the Don Young Arctic Warrior Act – legislation championed by Senator Murkowski – is included in the bill to address hardships military members face while stationed in Alaska.
The Don Young Coast Guard Reauthorization Act and the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) are also part of this year’s NDAA. The measure passed the Senate by a vote of 83-11 and now heads to the President to be signed into law, as Murkowski concurrently pushes for the NDAA’s funding levels to be reflected in a year-end omnibus appropriations package.
“I’m proud to support America’s brave men and women in uniform and believe this year’s NDAA will help ensure all of them, especially those based in Alaska, have the training, equipment, and resources needed to complete their mission. We make significant investments in hard infrastructure, and we take real steps to improve the livelihoods of those who serve and their families, including through pay raises and funding to address the effects of inflation,” said Senator Murkowski. “I’m very proud that we were able to add many provisions of our Arctic Warrior Act, which aims to improve quality of life and expand mental health resources for military personnel. We designed these provisions as a direct response to the hardships of moving to and living in Alaska that service members and their families articulated to us. This bill will help address identified needs in Alaska and further strengthen our national security.”
Improving Quality of Life
- Don Young Arctic Warrior Act: Includes legislation introduced by Senators Murkowski and Sullivan to alleviate some of the hardships faced by servicemembers in Alaska through provisions that:
- Authorize a new special duty pay for service members who perform cold weather operations.
- Create a pilot program to reimburse Alaska-based servicemembers for cost of airfare to their home of record.
- Establish a pilot program for car sharing on remote or isolated military installations.
- Establish a voluntary pilot program for safe storage of firearms.
- Seek to train and retain more behavioral health providers to work with the military by authorizing annual bonuses up to $50,000 and developing a graduate program in counseling and social work at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
- Behavioral and Mental Health: Based on Senator Murkowski’s Guarding Mental Health Act, requires the Coast Guard (USCG) to achieve parity with the policies of the Department of Defense (DoD), allowing members to seek treatment for mental and behavioral health challenges without automatically being processed for discharge.
- Health Care Benefits for National Guard: Authorizes transitional health care benefits for members of the National Guard who are separated from full-time duty, called or ordered by the President or Defense Secretary for a period of active service greater than 30 days in response to a national emergency declaration.
- Pay Raise: Supports a 4.6 percent pay raise for military servicemembers.
- Basic Needs Allowance: Increases the eligibility threshold from 130 percent of the federal poverty line to 150 percent and authorizes the Secretary of Defense to approve eligibility up to 200 percent of the poverty line when appropriate.
- Military Children: Requires a pilot program to hire special educator inclusion coordinators at Child Development Centers with high populations of military children enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member program.
- Coast Guard Recruitment and Retention: Makes improvements for pregnant cadets to have more options and authorizes the USCG to enter into partnerships for Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps for underrepresented minorities or rural areas, to include Tribal Colleges and Alaskan Native-serving institutions.
- Military Travel: Authorizes Military Space-A travel for eligible USCG members, including retirees and dependents.
- Coast Guard Mental Health: Expands USCG service members’ access to counseling.
Infrastructure and Equipment
- Military Construction:
- $99 million for military construction at Fort Wainwright
- $72 million for military construction at Clear Space Force Station
- $68 million for Air Force military construction at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson
- Aircraft: Authorizes funding for ten times more HH-60s, which are used by the Alaska National Guard. Accelerates production of E-7s, to upgrade early warning capabilities in Alaska and elsewhere.
- Cold Weather Gear: Supports our military serving in the High North through $32 million for Arctic clothing and individual equipment and $9 million for Cold Weather Clothing Systems.
- Emergency Equipment: Requires the USCG to develop an operations and maintenance plan for Rescue 21 (Channel 16 emergency communications) upgrades in Alaska to achieve 98 percent operational availability for remote fixed facility sites.
- Supply Chain: Authorizes over $2.7 billion for munitions production and capacity expansion for increased production, following our nation’s munitions count depletion in providing support to Ukraine. Authorizes $1 billion for the National Defense Stockpile to acquire strategic and critical materials required to meet the nation’s defense, industrial, and civilian needs.
- Ports and Harbors Projects (included within WRDA):
- Authorizes the navigation project for the Elim Subsistence Harbor.
- In recognition of its strategic importance to the nation, modifies the cost share for Nome Arctic Deep Draft Port to provide the community with significant savings.
- Creates a program for projects to address storm damage prevention and reduction, coastal erosion, and ice and glacial damage in Alaska with a minimal 10 percent cost share for economically disadvantaged communities.
- Provides relief to the City of St. George from retroactive cost increases associated with the previously completed harbor project.
- Directs the Army Corps to expedite the Juneau Auke Bay wave attenuator study.
- Authorizes and improves the Tribal Partnership Program, revising the cost share requirements for projects and studies carried out in partnership with Indian tribes.
- Improves the technical assistance authorities of the Army Corps.
- Includes a technical fix to ensure the Unalaska Dutch Harbor project may be dredged to the appropriate depth at the existing cost share basis.
- Maritime Administration:
- Extends for one year the ability of the MARAD Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP, a grant program) to pay for shore side dock electrification projects that serve passenger vessels and cargo vessels, which could benefit Southeast Alaska communities interested in dock upgrades to support cruise ships.
- The Transportation Secretary is allowed to consider a port’s location in a noncontiguous state or territory, the geographic isolation of the state or territory and the economic dependence of the state or territory on the port in a proposed project for PIDP, benefitting the Port of Alaska Modernization Program.
- For PIDP grants, the Transportation Secretary may factor infrastructure improvements identified by DoD for strategic seaports for projects that would improve the commercial operations of the Port of Alaska.
Arctic Presence and Domain Awareness
- Commercially Available Icebreaker: Authorizes the acquisition of a commercially available icebreaker and includes Senator Murkowski’s language ensuring that the procured vessel will have the capability to operate consistently in the Arctic.
- Coast Guard Presence in St. Paul Island: Enables the USCG to lease the hangar on St. Paul to house deployed helicopters and personnel, which will be essential for search and rescue operation in the Bering Sea as the fishing fleet moves further north in search of their catch.
- Arctic Operations: Requires the Government Accountability Office to produce a study on the Arctic operations and infrastructure of the USCG to include how the DoD and USCG are collaborating in the Arctic domain.
- Northern Sea Route: Requires the USCG to report to Congress on their ability and timeline to conduct a transit of the Northern Sea Route and periodic transits of the Northwest Passage.
- Western Alaska Oil Pollution Standards: Directs the USCG to promulgate a new higher and robust standard for oil spill response organizations and regulated tank vessels to comply with in Western Alaska. The new standards will improve response time, response capacity, and resource deployment at a time of increasing vessel traffic.
- Point Spencer: Amends the membership of the Point Spencer Coordination Council to make Bering Straits Native Corporation (BSNC) the Council chair, while also adding the Denali Commission, an Oil Spill Removal organization, and a salvage and marine firefighting organization to the Council.
- Arctic Research: Includes a provision sponsored by Senator Murkowski that requires the Office of Science and Technology Policy put together a crosscut report on Arctic research programs.