U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today joined her Senate colleagues in a unanimous vote of 98-0 in favor of the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The annual bill includes a number of provisions authored or supported by Shaheen.
"Ensuring our military has the equipment and the resources needed to defend our nation is one of our most important responsibilities," said Shaheen a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "Overall this year's bill will strengthen our national security, enhance our military readiness, and improve the quality of life for our service members. I was pleased that the final bill incorporated a number of proposals I have strongly supported, including investments in our military's energy security, restored funding for Virginia-class submarines, improvements in the health care of female service members, the elimination of a wasteful and unnecessary weapons program, and enhanced oversight of U.S. reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan."
Notable provisions in this year's NDAA include a 1.7 percent pay raise for all members of the Armed Services, funding to combat Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan, as well as investments in our military's ability to deal with 21st century threats, including cyber warfare, terrorism, and the proliferation of nuclear materials around the globe. The bill also provides the necessary investments in equipment and cutting edge technology that our men and women in uniform need to be successful on the battlefield while cutting wasteful programs which are not needed to defend our security.
Numerous provisions authored or supported by Senator Shaheen were in the final bill, and a few are summarized below.
Military Energy Security
Senator Shaheen was a lead cosponsor and strong supporter of two amendments that will ensure DOD is able to enhance American energy security and continue investing in homegrown alternative energy, including advanced biofuels.
"Reducing our dependence on foreign oil is critical to our national security," said Shaheen. "Biofuels have demonstrated the ability to power our most advanced military equipment, and are produced right here in the United States. Our military leaders are committed to improving our nation's energy security, and I am pleased that the Senate voted not to put arbitrary limits on their efforts."
Senator Shaheen has long supported the military's effort to reduce our nation's dependence on foreign oil. Earlier this year she published an op-ed with Senator Susan Collins supporting the military's investment in advanced biofuels. She also chaired an Energy Subcommittee hearing aboard the USS Kearsarge highlighting Navy and Marine Corps energy advancements.
Restored Funding for a Second Virginia-Class Attack Submarine in Fiscal Year 2014
Senator Shaheen led an effort with Senators Collins (R-ME) and Ayotte (R-NH) to restore funding in the bill to build a second Virginia class submarine in Fiscal Year 2014. Building two boats as planned in FY14 will mitigate the risk of submarine shortfalls in future years and reduce the cost of each boat. Funding for submarine construction had been reduced in the President's proposed budget.
"The effectiveness and flexibility of our attack submarine fleet continues to provide outstanding service to our Navy and excellent value to the taxpayer. In the past two years, we saw our submarines play a lead role in NATO operations in Libya and supporting a Special Operations Forces hostage rescue in Somalia, all while fulfilling ongoing intelligence gathering requirements," said Shaheen. "Regardless of the mission, our sub fleet's ability to operate covertly is invaluable to our security. I was pleased we were able to come up with a solution that allows the Navy to keep sub construction on schedule."
Health Care Equality for Servicewomen
The Shaheen provision would lift the ban on military insurance coverage for abortion care in cases of rape and incest, providing military women with the same abortion coverage as their civilian counterparts. The amendment was adopted, with the support of the Chair and Ranking Member, during committee mark-up by a bipartisan vote of 16-10.
"This is about equity," said Shaheen. "The Department of Defense should provide the same abortion coverage for a servicewoman who is a victim of rape as the non-military women who depend on the federal government for health insurance. The least we can do is ensure our women in uniform have the same options as the civilians they protect."
Oversight over Contracting Dollars
Senator Shaheen continued her effort to promote more effective oversight of the federal contracting process by authoring an amendment to require the suspension and debarment branches within the DOD to report to Congress on their pending backlog and their plans for addressing these critical cases. Significant delays in suspension and debarment decisions risk allowing money to flow to dangerous, corrupt or poorly performing contractors.
The legislation follows her request for information on the response time for suspension and debarment proposals from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). It was reported that the average response time to SIGAR's recommendations took a total of 323 days from start to finish.
Shaheen, also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has consistently pushed for increased transparency and oversight of the contracting process and taxpayer dollars.
"I am pleased that this good governance amendment was agreed to by unanimous consent and was included in the bill. I think everyone can agree that we should be processing suspension and debarment recommendations as quickly as due process allows. Right now, I'm not sure we are meeting that mark."
Guard and Reserve Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
Senator Shaheen continued her efforts to support returning servicemen and women, particularly National Guard and Reservists. At her request, the bill includes an extension through 2015 of a 2010 Shaheen provision that ensures DOD mental health services and suicide prevention programs take into account the unique circumstances facing returning Guard and Reserve members.
Following deployment, Guard and Reservists typically do not have access to the same services as their active duty counterparts living on military bases or in military communities. Non-military communities are often ill-equipped to help with the challenges of demobilization. Shaheen's provision focuses on improving awareness in non-military communities.
"Our military men and women make incredible sacrifices to protect our country, and too often the immense mental tolls associated with their service are overlooked," Shaheen said. "As we work to provide the necessary systems of support, it's critical we ensure those programs also take into account the unique challenges faced by returning Guard members and Reservists."
Elimination of Duplication and Waste
Senator Shaheen continued her effort to identify and eliminate underperforming and duplicative DOD programs. Shaheen joined a group of Senators in an effort to terminate the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS). Despite no intention to purchase the final product, DOD planned to spend an additional $804 million to complete the program's development. Shaheen has been a vocal opponent against further funding to the repeatedly delayed, over budget program.
"We need to ensure that every dollar is spent effectively and efficiently, regardless of the budget situation. This project is a perfect example of an opportunity to reduce defense spending without compromising our national security. We simply can't afford programs we don't intend to use, or that duplicate capability we already have," Shaheen said.