U.S. SENATE News:
WASHINGTON, D.C. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, voted to advance the committee’s fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The bill includes key provisions Senator Heinrich worked to include that benefit New Mexico’s men and women in uniform, military installations, private industry, national laboratories, and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).
The bill, which sets the Department of Defense spending levels and policies for the upcoming fiscal year, was reported out of committee today and will now advance to the full Senate for consideration. The bill also authorizes funding for the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons programs at Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories, as well as the Department of Energy’s environmental cleanup programs including WIPP.
“New Mexico plays an essential role in our national security and defense, and are at the forefront of research and development that contribute immensely to our country’s safety. This largely bipartisan bill supports our servicemembers and military families, and authorizes funding for important programs across our state and the nation,” Heinrich said. “However, I’m disappointed that the bill uses budget gimmicks that ultimately are a disservice to our men and women in uniform. We still must find a solution to the damaging impact sequestration has on our military readiness and vital domestic programs.”
The following list includes many of the programs and provisions Senator Heinrich advocated for during the markup process that were included in the NDAA:
- New Mexico Military Construction Projects:
- $3 million for Holloman Air Force Base, Marshalling Area Arm/DE-Arm Pad. This project is to construct a marshalling area required for additional aircraft to accommodate the F-16 mission.
- $3.2 million for Holloman Air Force Base Fixed Ground Control Station. This project will construct a facility to accommodate the growing RPA missions.
- $12.8 million for Kirtland Air Force Base Space Vehicles Component Development Lab. This project will construct a high-tech, state-of-the-art facility to support space vehicles component development, replacing eleven substandard, inadequate and obsolete facilities.
- $7.8 million for Cannon Air Force Base, Construct AT/FP Gate-Portales. This project is to construct a new entry control gatehouse and vehicle inspection station that comply with antiterrorism/force protection criteria.
- $20.4 million for Cannon Air Force Base Construct Pumphouse and Fuel Storage. This project will construct additional operating fuel storage and truck fillstands to support immediate refueling requirements at Cannon AFB.
- $11.565 million for Cannon Air Force Base SOF Squadron Operations Facility. This project will construct an operations and training facility for instructors to plan, teach, and critique combat crews on special operations forces.
- $13.146 million for Cannon Air Force Base SOF ST Operational Training Facilities. This project will construct a facility to accommodate pre-deployment training requirements for special operation forces.
- Microlab Technology Commercialization Act: Key elements of Heinrich’s bill to accelerate technology transfer by establishing off-campus microlabs that would serve as the “front-door” to national laboratories were included in the authorization act. The microlabs would give academia, local government, businesses owners, and communities direct access to equipment, facilities, and personnel of national laboratories. Heinrich introduced the bill with Cory Gardner, R-Colo. in March 2015.
- Remotely Piloted Aircraft Missions at Holloman and Cannon Air Force Base: Heinrich supported an increase of $480 million for an additional 24 MQ-9 aircraft to support increased combatant commander requirements for medium altitude intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. This request was included on Air Force Chief of Staff, General Welsh’s unfunded priorities list. Due to RPA pilot shortfalls and the increased workload facing our nation’s RPA airmen, Heinrich included language requiring the Air Force to submit a report on remotely piloted aircraft career field manning policies and actions the Air Force will take to rectify personnel shortfalls, to include recruitment/retention bonuses, incentive pay, use of enlisted personnel, and increased weighting to remotely piloted aircraft personnel on promotion boards. This is a critical issue in New Mexico, which is the nation’s premier RPA training location.
- Melrose Range at Cannon Air Force Base: Heinrich included language that directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a comprehensive range plan for Melrose Range at Cannon Air Force Base to include proposed investments over the next five years by the Air Force and Special Operations Command (SOCOM) to address training range requirements. Melrose Range is a critical part of the military missions in New Mexico and Heinrich’s language seeks to strengthen the missions at Cannon and protect the base against any future BRAC.
- Directed Energy Initiative: Heinrich supported the establishment of a new $400 million initiative to maintain and enhance the military technological superiority of the United States by accelerating the fielding of certain technologies with an emphasis on Directed Energy. $200 million of the $400 million would be authorized specifically for Directed Energy, and the Secretary of Defense would be mandated to develop a Directed Energy strategy to ensure that appropriate technologies are developed and deployed at an accelerated pace and update it every two years. Heinrich also included language noting that there is no inter-service entity dedicated to advancing promising directed energy platforms beyond the development point towards acquisition, and expressed concern that the DoD’s Directed Energy initiatives are not resourced at levels required to transition them to full-scale acquisition programs.
- White Sands Missile Range: Heinrich included language urging the DoD to provide increased military construction investment at White Sands Missile Range due to the lack of investment and sustainment of Major Range and Test Facility Bases (MRTFB). Heinrich also authored language urging DoD to examine current reimbursement process for Major Range and Test Facility Bases (MRTFB), like White Sands Missile Range, and simplify the process in order to maximize effectiveness and efficiency for training units.
- 58th Special Operations Wing / 150th Special Operations Wing, Kirtland Air Force Base: Heinrich included language providing temporary relief to the Tacos to ensure additional New Mexico Air National Guardsmen can provide pilot training on CV-22s where there currently lacks legal authority and a lengthy and burdensome waiver process is required.
- Operationally Responsive Space: Heinrich continued his fight for small satellite programs to support our nation’s responsive space capabilities by increasing funding for ORS by $14 million to match the previous year’s funding levels.
- Medical Evaluation Parity for Servicemembers Act: Key elements of Heinrich’s bill to improve the way the military identifies and assesses mental health issues were included in the authorization act. The language requires a report from the Secretary of Defense that will provide recommendations with respect to establishing a preliminary mental health screening and requires coordination with the Secretary of the Veterans Administration, Health and Human Services, surgeons general of the military departments, and experts in the field, including the National Institute of Mental Health. Heinrich introduced the bill earlier this year with U.S. Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, which is endorsed by more than 40 military, veteran and mental health advocacy groups.
- Electronics Recycling in the Department of Defense: Heinrich included language directing the GAO to conduct an assessment of the disposition of used DoD electronics, including the volume of electronics that are recycled, reused, refurbished, and de-manufactured, among other things. End-of-life electronics contain a wealth of valuable materials. Traditionally, these materials have either not been recovered at all prior to disposal, or the processing may not have allowed for maximum recovery of the materials, meaning that tens of millions of dollars’ worth of valuable materials may literally be thrown away each year.
- Waste Isolation Pilot Plant: Heinrich included language requiring quarterly reports to Congress on recovery activities at WIPP.
- Laboratory Directed Research and Development: Heinrich increased the maximum percentage each laboratory director may set aside for Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) from 6 to 8 percent of the lab’s budget. The Department of Energy’s discretionary LDRD program advances the frontiers of science and engineering, invests in critical national security missions, and helps recruit and retain staff for national laboratories. The language was modeled after legislation Heinrich introduced with U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.
- Cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory: Heinrich supported an increase of $20 million to $208.6 million for LANL cleanup, which is needed to help resume the safe processing of transuranic (TRU) waste containing nitrate salts.
- Life Extension Programs: Both Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs are instrumental in carrying out programs to maintain our nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. The authorization act fully authorizes the president’s request for ongoing Life Extension Programs.
- DoD Laboratory Infrastructure Modernization: Heinrich supported a pilot program authorizing the use of $100 million for construction of laboratory facilities in order to support Kirtland Air Force Bases’ Air Force Research Laboratory and White Sands Missile Range’s Army Research Lab.