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Senator Doug Jones Champions Alabama Priorities in Final Defense Bill

WASHINGTON – The Senate and House Armed Services Committees today released the final text of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with numerous provisions and Alabama priorities secured by Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.). The annual legislation authorizes national defense objectives for the next fiscal year. The bill will now be voted on by both houses and if it passes, it will go to the President for his signature. 

“This bill is proof that Congress is still capable of putting aside partisanship and getting things done for the American people. Providing 12 weeks of paid leave for federal employees, securing a 3.1 percent pay raise for troops, and eliminating the military widow’s tax will make a huge difference in the lives of people in Alabama and across the country,” said Senator Jones, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The fact that this bill authorizes so many Alabama priorities is a testament to the importance of Alabama’s role in our national defense and the quality of our servicemen and women.”

The final legislation includes funding for key Alabama projects like ship-building, helicopter construction, and combat vehicle upgrades. It will also authorize the U.S. Space Force and ensures strong space defense programs. And, it will support military families and children through privatized housing reforms, additional aid to schools serving military children, and inter-state licensing transfer compacts to help spouses transition their careers more seamlessly. 

Senator Jones’ bipartisan bill to support victims of Iranian terrorism was also included in the package. TheSupporting Victims of Iranian Terrorism Act will allow family members – at least 35 of whom live in Alabama – of the victims of the1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, as well as families of 9/11 victims, to seek restitution for their loved ones’ deaths by allowing them to make claims on $1.68 billion in Iranian funds that are currently being held by a Luxembourg-based firm.

The bill will also establish 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees. In August, Senator Jones wrote to the leaders of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees to express support for a paid leave policy and called on them to include 12 weeks of leave in the final defense bill.

HIGHLIGHTS — KEY PROVISIONS SENATOR JONES CHAMPIONED IN THE ANNUAL DEFENSE BILL:

Toplines:

  • Military Widow’s Tax Elimination Act;
  • Supporting Victims of Iranian Terrorism Act;
  • 3.1 percent pay raise for troops – the largest in a decade;
  • 12 weeks of paid family leave for federal workers, more than 50,000 of whom reside in Alabama.

Funding for Ship-building, Helicopter Construction, and Combat Vehicle Upgrades

  • $151.6 million in funding for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift Helicopter Modernization Program will help the Army’s Future Long Range Assault Aircraft Program achieve its goal of having the first unit equipped (FUE) by 2028. Bell Helicopter in Ozark is competing for the contract to provide the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft.
  • $1.281 billion for the award of one Guided Missile Frigate FFG(X) contract. Austal USA, in Mobile, is competing for this work, and keeping the program on schedule is very important to its local workforce and suppliers.
  • $249.2 million for Stryker Combat Vehicle Lethality Upgrades to increase standoff distance, improve survivability, and retain our Army’s superiority, as directed by the National Defense Strategy. Stryker production begins and ends in Anniston, with over 300 employees involved in production.

Ensuring Strong American Space Defense Programs

  • Authorizes a U.S. Space Force

Support for Military Families and Children

  • $40 million for Impact Aid to schools serving military children to address challenges from frequent deployments, security requirements, higher accountability rules, and concentrations of children with disabilities. The Daleville City Board of Education, Enterprise City Schools, and Madison City Schools educate 1,481 children of active duty military personnel and depend upon these resources to help address the unique challenges faced by these children.
  • $4 million to facilitate Interstate Licensing Compacts for military spouses to make it easier for spouses to transition their careers to new locations as they frequently move to new posts.
  • Improved access to child care facilities for military families by reducing waiting periods
  • $2 million for an HBCU Aerospace, Education, Research and Innovation Center
  • $30 million for the STARBASE K-12 STEM education program
  • $10 million for aid to schools serving military children with disabilities

Improving Military Housing and Facilities

  • Reforms and increases oversight of military privatized housing
  • $38 million for aircraft & flight equipment building at Redstone Arsenal to consolidate towed artillery repair and overhaul from four separate buildings into one.

Support for Military Readiness and Training

  • $12 million for a National Guard Readiness Center in Foley, Ala. to enhance training, administration, automation, communications, and logistical readiness for the Alabama Army National Guard.
  • $34 million for the Enlisted Transient Training Barracks at Fort McClellan Army National Guard Training Center to construct a 112,206 square foot Transient Training Enlisted Barracks, additional primary facilities for the Battalion Headquarters Building, and Transient Training and Company Supply/Administrative Buildings.

Strengthening Research and Development

  • $2 million for Cybersecurity Threat Simulation Research to model emerging and proliferating threats to weapons systems and networks. These funds would be available to research universities to assist the U.S. Army’s Threat Systems Management Office and will help produce the next generation cyber workforce. 
  • $10 million for the Department of Defense experimental program to stimulate competitive research to provide defense-related science and engineering research funding to colleges and universities in historically underrepresented states, including Alabama.
  • Over $100 million in additional funding for Hypersonics Research and Testing to compete with Russian and Chinese advances in hypersonic technology that have outstripped those of the United States. Redstone Arsenal and many businesses in the Huntsville area are engaged in this cutting-edge work, and the substantial funding in this bill will both enhance existing efforts and open the door for new programs.

Improving Diversity in Service Member Recruitment and Retention

  • Support for expanding programs to recruit women and minority pilots to expand the Air Force’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Flight Academy and its use as a model by the other services. Senator Jones introduced a similar initiative with the bipartisan CAVU (Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited) Act earlier this year with Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).
  • A report on the condition of ROTC facilities at minority-serving institutions to include a description of the current condition of these facilities and an assessment of whether the condition of the facilities has an adverse impact on the recruitment and retention of participants in such units.

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