WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nexstar) — The Senate passed the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act Friday despite President Donald Trump’s objections and threats to veto the bill. The $740 billion defense bill is now heading to his desk.
“I think this is the most important bill of the year,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said.
The bill gives a 3% pay raise for U.S. troops and authorizes other critical military programs. It also takes steps to improve the quality of life for military children and spouses.
“This annual defense bill is a prime example of how we can work in a bipartisan way to serve the American people by protecting our country, supporting good jobs at home, and ensuring our troops and their families have the support they need,” Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) said. “This year’s legislation once again invests in Alabama’s defense industry and recognizes our state’s preeminent role in national security and spaceflight. It also includes key provisions that I’ve fought for to target money launderers and other criminal elements that operate in the shadows of our financial system, as well as to strengthen the diversity of our military and attract top talent to serve in uniform.”
The final package of the bill contains Sen. Jones’ bills to crack down on money laundering and financial crimes, to block fentanyl imports from China, and to bring back jobs from China by incentivizing investments in American semiconductor manufacturing. It also contains a provision that Sen. Jones supported, to remove Confederate names from military bases. Trump, however, objects to this provision.
Trump threatened to veto the bill unless it repeals the law giving tech giants like Twitter and Facebook content liability immunity.
“I don’t know who is ill advising the president to be concerned about an issue that has nothing to do with the military,” Inhofe said.
“I understand the president’s concerns,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said.
Still, Cornyn said the bill is too important to fail, and enough lawmakers agreed. The NDAA passed both chambers this week with enough votes to override the threatened veto.
“My hope is when the president sees the big margins in the House and Senate, he will let us fight those fights on another vehicle,” Cornyn said.
“This is something that we all firmly believe that no president should be hijacking,” Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) said. “If the president has other issues, let’s address those, but we need to be sure that we are taking care of our service men and women,” Rosen continued.
Championed by Sen. Jones, the bill contains hundreds of millions for Alabama priorities. Below are key provisions in the bill for Alabama’s service members and their families, military installations, contractors, and research institutions.
Strengthening Alabama’s Defense Infrastructure and Industry
- $24 million for advanced electrical generation and storage facilities at Fort Rucker in Dale County;
- $23 million for next generation fighter aircraft (F-35) facilities at Dannelly Field;
- $18 million to construct a small arms parts demilitarization facility at the Anniston Army Depot;
- $10 million to help steel manufacturers meet future defense needs, protecting current and future employment of thousands in Birmingham;
- $5 million to improve efficiency and readiness at the Army’s Aviation and Missile Center in Huntsville; and,
- $2 million for the Aerospace Education Research and Innovation Center (AERIC) at Tuskegee University, and a $5 million increase overall for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Funding for Alabama’s Contribution to the National Defense Strategy
- $349.7 million for an additional THAAD ballistic missile defense battery, key parts made in Troy;
- $260 million for an expeditionary fast transport (EPF) ship, made in Mobile;
- $35 million for Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASM), made in Troy;
- $7.5 million for research into lightweight power sources for Navy ships. The University of Alabama conducts leading edge research and development of silicon carbide power sources;
- $7.3 million for continued research and development of advanced plastics technology. The Mobile area is home to a company that is pioneering thermoplastic tailorable composite manufacturing;
- $5 million for research into advanced repair and modification processes. The University of Alabama is currently working with the DoD to develop these technologies;
- $5 million to complete development of new satellite technology. Huntsville is home to companies that are leaders in this field and are well-positioned to compete for these funds;
- $5 million to accelerate the Army helicopter modernization program. Bell Helicopter, in Ozark, is participating in this program;
- $3 million to develop a hypersonic missile testing facility. Huntsville is home to a number of companies that contribute to the Defense Department’s hypersonics research and development;
- $10.5 million to build a high energy laser system lab to help with the Army’s weapons modernization programs. The Army’s high energy laser program is headquartered at Redstone and works with a number of Huntsville companies; and,
- $3 million for hybrid additive manufacturing research and development to help with the Army’s weapons modernization programs. The additive manufacturing industry is robust and growing in Alabama, with research and development ongoing in Birmingham.
Support to Improve the Safety and Health of Military Housing and Bases
- Requires the Secretary of Defense to implement within 90 days all applicable security and emergency response recommendations to protect U.S. military installations, which follows a call by Sen. Jones to increase base security after Enterprise, Alabama native Joshua Kaleb Watson was killed during a terrorist attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola last year; and,
- Requires the Secretary of Defense to ensure that each installation conducts or develops a plan to conduct regular live emergency response training with first responders.
Funding for Coronavirus Response
- Increases funding to support the Defense Department’s coronavirus vaccine research and to integrate with other vaccine research programs; and,
- Authorizes hazard pay for troops deployed in response to the coronavirus.
Expanding Support and Opportunity for Minority Service Members
- Authorizes pilot programs to reduce barriers to participation in satellite ROTC programs and to provide flight training scholarships at HBCUs;
- $14 million for Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) at HBCUs
- Takes steps toward identifying and eliminating barriers to minority participation in elite units in the armed forces; and,
- Supports continuing and expanding the Air Force JROTC pilot training scholarship program to increase diversity in the pilot ranks and address the pilot shortage.
Support for Military Spouses and Children
- $50 million for Impact Aid to schools that serve military children;
- $20 million for aid to military children with disabilities;
- $15 million for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) youth educational programs (STARBASE);
- Authorizes a pilot program to expand eligibility for attendance at DoD schools for military dependent children living off-base;
- $4 million to continue development of interstate agreements on licensed occupations for military spouses; and,
- Increases reimbursement to military spouses for state licensure and certification costs resulting from relocations.
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