Defense Bill Includes $400 Million for Hawai"i Military Construction
The U.S. Senate tonight passed the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) compromise bill by a vote of 84-15, which will fund provisions important to Hawai"i's economy and military community, and increases overall defense funding in Hawai"i while other states have seen reductions in defense spending. NDAA also included bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai"i) - the Military Installations Enhancement Act of 2013 - to promote the long-term viability of military bases with smart growth planning and construction that curbs urban sprawl on military bases and helps preserve Hawaii's precious land and natural resources.
"As the U.S. moves towards a strategic rebalancing to the Asia Pacific, Hawaii plays an ever-increasingly critical role," said U.S. Senator Brian Schatz. "The national defense bill protects Hawai"i's defense priorities, including projects that will allow the Navy and Marine Corps to make the improvements to the facilities they need to bring new V-22 Osprey squadrons to Marine Corps Base Kaneohe, and to modernize the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard so that workers can continue maintenance of nuclear-powered submarines and the surface fleet. The defense bill also allows the Army to move forward with construction of a new U.S. Army Pacific Command and Control Facility at Fort Shafter, helping the Army strengthen its foothold in Hawai"i as it rebalances to the Asia Pacific."
Schatz's Military Installations Enhancement Act of 2013, which was incorporated into NDAA, promotes defense readiness at U.S. military bases with smarter investments in base construction. Schatz's legislation requires commanders, in creating the development plan for their base, to consider new building designs and construction that will curb urban sprawl and help reduce long-term costs. It would also require bases to consider ways to diversify and connect base transportation to local transit systems. This would help address traffic in communities surrounding bases and give workers commuting to and from bases more options.
"Decisions for new base construction have long-term implications, with facilities and other development projects lasting for decades," said U.S. Senator Brian Schatz about the Military Installations Enhancement Act. "Our bill will provide smarter and more sustainable development at military bases that will curb urban sprawl and preserve Hawaii's precious land and natural resources."
In addition to Senator Schatz's bipartisan amendment, the 2014 NDAA includes a number of provisions that will benefit Hawai"i's economy and defense community. Specifically, the bill:
Authorizes $400 million for military construction in Hawai"i: Makes an investment in our local economy and helps to strengthen Hawai"i's strategic role in the rebalance to the Asia Pacific.
Prohibits DoD from conducting another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC): Congress does not believe that it would provide DoD the savings it needs to manage its fiscal challenges and would only hurt service members and their families.
Continues funding for key missile defense programs: Maintains investment in missile defense systems, including those conducted at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai.
Authorizes more than $26 million for Maui research and development: Continues funding for the Maui Space Surveillance System, a one-of-a-kind electro-optical facility that supports the Air Force's efforts to track space debris.
Sustains the military's environmental restoration activities: Continues efforts to identify and remove unexploded ordnance at former military sites across the neighbor islands, ensuring that military training and activities remain in balance with Hawai"i's cultural and environmental sensitivities.
Authorizes more than $13 million in energy conservation projects in Hawai"i: Funds energy conservation projects at Camp H.M. Smith and at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam that will help the military save money on its energy bills while reducing its vulnerability to energy disruptions.
Ensures access to TRICARE Prime for certain retirees: Allows qualified military retirees in Hawai"i who lost access to TRICARE Prime on October 1, 2013 a one-time option to keep their TRICARE Prime healthcare coverage.
Protects funding for DoD science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs: Authorizes more than $20 million to continue the Science and Technology Academies Reinforcing Basic Aviation and Space Exploration program (STARBASE), continuing DoD's commitment to building the future workforce needed to support Hawai"i's defense industry.
Improves efforts to implement military electronic health record program: Strengthens efforts within the Departments of Defense and Veterans to implement an electronic health record program that will streamline data sharing and help improve the backlog of veterans healthcare claims that is still preventing thousands of veterans in Hawai"i from receiving the care they need.
Schatz's legislation will improve military readiness while achieving smarter development.
Specifically, Schatz's Military Installations Enhancement Act would require commanders to consider:
Using existing developed space to construct new facilities instead of building on undeveloped land, which increases military construction costs and timelines;
Consolidating facilities into fewer buildings through mixed-use development;
Developing toward the interior of the base to preserve range and training areas around installation boundaries; and
Diversifying transportation options on installations, including opportunities that reduce traffic and improve safety for all road users.
Importantly, Schatz's legislation would ensure that final decisions about base construction rest with installation commanders.