Congresswoman Chellie Pingree voted today for H.R. 2647, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (NDAA). The bill passed the House by a vote of 281-146. Passage in the Senate is expected next week.
"This bill invests in sensible national security strategies that will keep our country safe, and improving the care and benefits for our men and women in uniform," Pingree said. "And it takes an important step towards trimming wasteful defense spending."
"Although the bill is not perfect and could be substantially improved in a number of ways, this bill will have significant positive impact on Maine's economy," Pingree said. "I am extremely pleased that the final bill includes my authorization request for almost $12 million that will go directly to Maine's economy." Pingree requested funding to build cellulose nanocomposite panels for ballistic protection at the University of Maine, for the design of high-speed composite boats, and to improve security gates at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
"The bill also authorizes the last increment of funding for the DDG-1000, which will be built at Bath Iron Works. This is an essential increment of funding that will help bring stability and longevity to the talented men and women of BIW," Pingree said. "I am extremely proud to have worked so hard to include this funding, and it speaks volumes for the men and women of BIW that the funding is included in the final bill."
Congresswoman Pingree also said she was pleased with a compromise agreement worked out between House and Senate negotiators that will make it possible for the Department of Defense to transfer land from the Brunswick Naval Air Station to the community without requiring that the local redevelopment authority come up with tens of millions of dollars to purchase the land. Pingree sponsored a bill requiring no cost transfers of land at former military bases, and her provision became the basis for a compromise agreement in the Defense Authorization Act.
The bill also gives members of the Armed Services a 3.4% pay increase, expands TRICARE health coverage for reserve members and bars fee increases on TRICARE inpatient care for one year. "I'm glad we've prohibited an increase in Tricare inpatient fees," Pingree said. "And I will continue to advocate against any increase-we've made a promise to our military retirees and we should keep it"
The Defense Authorization Act also deals with the ongoing war in Afghanistan. "The bill requires an assessment of progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan toward security and stability," Pingree said. "As the President considers new strategies in Afghanistan, nothing could be more important than oversight of our progress in the region and I hope these reports will shed a powerful light on the reality that the United States needs a focused and smart strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan; not a surge of troops and additional spending."
Pingree took issue with a provision in the bill that authorizes development of an alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. "I think that spending is wasteful and unnecessary, and represents politics as usual in defense spending," Pingree said. "Pratt and Whitney has already developed a reliable and technologically advanced engine for the F-35. Not only am I opposed to this, but so is the President, the Department of Defense and national security experts. This authorization is a step in the wrong direction but it's not the final battle and I'm going to continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that the alternative engine is not funded."
The bill also includes the exact provisions of H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, an act which passed the House in April and will extend hate crimes to include acts of violence that occur against a person because of perceived gender identity, gender, disability or sexual orientation. In addition, these provisions will also provide local law enforcement with access to additional resources to combat these crimes and would further deter hate crimes through enhanced penalties.
"I was proud to cosponsor the Hate Crimes bill when it was in the House," Pingree said. "And I'm glad to see it included in the bill we passed today that will soon be on its way to the President."