Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) who served as a conferee on the Department of Defense (DoD) Authorization for 2013, released the following statement on Senate passage of the bill, which now goes to the President's desk to be signed into law:
"After spending the greater part of the last year working on this bill as a member of the Armed Services Committee and a conferee on the final version, I am happy to see it pass the Senate," Portman said.
"We faced hurdles in bringing this bill to the Senate floor, and I remain frustrated that it took so long to pass this bill so critical to the safety and livelihood of our servicemen and women and to the security of our country. I am pleased that the Senate was finally able to push the bill over the finish line and ensure that our taxpayer dollars are spent wisely without compromising our national defense."
Portman successfully advocated for the following measures, which are included in the final version of the Defense Authorization Bill produced by the Conference Committee:
* $136 million to procure future M1A2 Abrams tank upgrades. This funding will ensure sufficient production at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC) in Lima through 2014 and potentially longer dependent upon our success with Foreign Military Sales, saving taxpayer dollars and reducing risk to this critical industrial base.
* Authorizes $150 million in funding to allow the Department of Energy (DOE) to continue its two-year American Centrifuge research, development, and demonstration program. This program, first proposed by DOE in October of 2011, was designed by the department to help develop U.S. enrichment technology capable of meeting vital national security, nonproliferation, and energy security needs while also enhancing taxpayer protections.
* The establishment of a National Commission to evaluate and determine the best force structure of the Air Force. This will allow an independent commission to recommend a structure for the Congress to consider and avoid irreversible cuts that could negatively affect operational readiness and long-term costs. The bill also includes a requirement for the Air Force to maintain an additional 32 aircraft to fulfill intra-theater airlift missions, like those performed by the 179th Airlift Wing from Mansfield while deployed to Afghanistan and in support of Superstorm Sandy relief efforts.
* Expands educational opportunities for defense industry employees at the Air Force Institute of Technology. At no expense to the taxpayer, this provision will enable more industry employees to attend and benefit from the advanced education at AFIT and further utilize this premier educational institution.
* Directs DoD to coordinate with FAA and NASA to conduct joint research and find solutions to challenges associated with the integration of Unmanned Air Systems in the National Airspace System. Effective coordination will ensure enhanced safety measures and permit the research and development done at Wright-Patt to effectively continue.
* Strengthens existing protections against human trafficking, which will ensure that overseas government contracts, paid for by taxpayer dollars, operate in a manner consistent with our deeply-held values as a nation. This will require the best practices adopted by some contractors become standard practice on all significant U.S. government contracts abroad.
* Expands the Marine Corps Embassy Security Guard (MCESG) program to help increase the number of Marines assigned to diplomatic missions worldwide by directing the Secretary of Defense to develop a plan to increase the size of the program by up to 1,000 Marines to meet State Department emerging requirements.
* Directs DoD to establish a plan to standardize educational transcripts issued to separating veterans to make sure their transition to civilian life is as seamless as possible. The provision will ensure our veterans receive appropriate academic credits for their military training.