Murkowski Proposes Alaska-Focused Amendments in Defense Bill

Senator: Actions Speak Louder Than Words When Demonstrating Support

With the National Defense Authorization Act still before the United States Senate, Senator Lisa Murkowski has submitted a number of amendments focused on supporting Alaska’s military through tangible projects such as rescue helicopters, aircraft and space launch capabilities.  She is also continuing her advocacy to protect victims of military sexual assault and support a ‘culture change’ within the military.

Aiming also to improve quality of life issues for the military, Senator Murkowski also offered legislation designed to improve the medical attention and mental health care given to service members, veterans and their families. Another amendment offered by Senator Murkowski would ensure the Alaska Fire Service remains stationed at Fort Wainwright by the Bureau of Land Management.

“Our men and women in uniform appreciate our verbal support, but I also believe that actions speak louder than words when it comes time to congressional action,” said Murkowski.  “That’s why I have submitted a number of amendments to the NDAA that will support our troops in a wide range of ways – from providing robust equipment and vehicles to boosting our health care and justice system among the ranks.”

Senator Murkowski’s amendments would: 

  • Strengthen Alaska National Guard Aviation – This amendment would require the U.S. Air Force study the nation’s aging combat rescue helicopter fleet with emphasis on the life expectancy of helicopters assigned to Air National Guard rescue squadrons and its plan to replace many of the critical Pave Hawk rescue helicopters used in life-saving search and rescue missions across Alaska that have been worn down through age and use. 
  • Boost Alaska’s Disaster Reponse Capacity – This amendment would require the U.S. Army to offer Governor Parnell title to eight C-23 Sherpa Aircraft for the Alaska National Guard that are currently parked and unused at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in order to give improve disaster response capabilities for events like the Yukon River flood and the recent Western Alaska storms. 
  • Sustain Spaceport Facilities Like Kodiak Launch Complex – This amendment would stress that the nation’s FAA-licensed commercial spaceports (like Kodiak and Wallops Island in Virginia) can enter cooperative agreements with the Pentagon and gain access to more resources through sustainment funding from the Air Force Space Command. 
  • Keep the Alaska Fire Service At Fort Wainwright – This amendment would ensure that the U.S. Army continues to house the Alaska Fire Service at Fort Wainwright, so it is positioned to respond to Interior fires like this past summer’s Stuart Creek 2 fire where the aircraft provided key firefighting services. 
  • Ensure Military Access to Behavioral Health Professionals – A new regulation proposes to drop Alaska licensed health counselors from the TRICARE network at the end of next year.  This amendment would push that deadline back a full year and requires TRICARE to fully explain why the health care counselors who have effectively treated Alaskan military personnel, veterans and their families cannot continue doing so. 
  • Aid Sexual Assault Victims in our Nation’s Service Academies – This amendment would require each branch of the Armed Forces to assess their current state of medical and mental health care – as well as forensic collection activities – for victims of sexual assault who are attending the academies, and provide Congress with a report of where things stand and how they will approve any deficiencies. 
  • Provide Legal Support to Sexual Assault Victims in the Military Academies – This amendment would provide attorney-advocates designated as Special Victims Counsel by expanding a new program available to active duty military and allow academy students the same service. 
  • Military Mental Health Improvement Act – This amendment would clearly and comprehensively communicate to service members entering the military exactly how their mental health records can be accessed or used throughout their career, so that misinformation that would make them more reluctant to share problems is not given a chance to take hold.

The Senate is presently scheduled to resume consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act on Monday, December 9th.