U.S. Sen. Tom Udall
U.S. SENATE News:
WASHINGTON — Thursday, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall joined the Senate in voting for final passage of a major national defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), to support troops and military families, and to strengthen national defense programs in New Mexico and across the country.
The bill, which will now be sent to the president, includes several measures that Udall has championed to benefit the national security mission being carried out at New Mexico’s national laboratories, military bases and installations, to strengthen the state’s economy, and to save taxpayer money.
“New Mexico’s labs, military bases, and federal installations are invaluable assets to our national security and engines of our state’s economy,” Udall said. “I’m proud to have fought for New Mexico priorities in the NDAA, which supports our men and women in uniform and the work being done across our state to keep the country safe. As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, where these defense programs are ultimately funded, I will keep fighting for the resources we need to keep New Mexico and the nation strong and secure.”
The annual NDAA sets policies and funding levels for the nation’s military and defense operations, which are then funded through annual appropriations bills passed by the Appropriations Committee, of which Udall is a senior member. This year’s bill, which authorizes $700 billion for national defense, includes provisions to bolster defense programs operated at New Mexico’s federal installations and national laboratories — including support for safety at Los Alamos and Sandia national labs, and for cleanup operations. The NDAA also authorizes resources for construction projects at Kirtland, Holloman, and Cannon Air Force bases, clearing the way for significant improvements that will benefit the bases’ national security mission and support New Mexico jobs.
This year, the NDAA includes a major bipartisan Udall-authored bill to modernize the federal government’s outdated IT systems and save taxpayers money. See a separate press statement about the MGT Act HERE.
It also gives service members a 2.4 percent pay raise.
In offering his support for the NDAA, Udall highlighted the following provisions as especially important for New Mexico and the nation:
Improving safety at New Mexico’s national labs: Udall and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) included a measure to require the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) to report to Congress annually on what additional resources needed to ensure that operations at New Mexico’s Sandia and Los Alamos national labs are kept safe for workers and the community. The DNFSB is an independent body of expert board members and staff created to conduct safety reviews at Department of Energy nuclear facilities and offer public recommendations to the president and secretary of Energy periodically on important projects and procedures needed to ensure workers and the public are protected from dangerous nuclear materials. See a separate press statement about the DNFSB HERE.
The Modernization of Government Information Technology (MGT) Act: Udall and Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) included bipartisan legislation to modernize government information technology (IT), eliminate wasteful spending and strengthen cyber security. The federal government spends over $80 billion annually on major IT systems, with more than 75 percent of that money spent on maintaining legacy IT rather than investing in development and modernization that can dramatically improve services and lower costs. Using outdated software systems also leaves federal IT systems dangerously vulnerable to cyberattacks and other security risks. The MGT Act will establish working capital funds at federal agencies and create a centralized fund at the General Services Administration to support innovation and streamline IT systems, saving taxpayer money in the process. Similar legislation has already passed the House of Representatives on a voice vote.
Funding for New Mexico’s Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories: The NDAA authorizes over $14 billion in funding for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, an increase of nearly $1 billion over fiscal year 2017, supporting nuclear weapons programs and environmental cleanup at Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, as well as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).
Plutonium Pit Strategy: Led by Heinrich and supported by Udall, this amendment presses the Department of Energy (DOE) and DOD to develop and communicate a comprehensive strategy for the plutonium mission currently being carried out at Los Alamos National Lab.
Construction projects at New Mexico Air Force bases: The NDAA includes authorizations for projects at New Mexico Air Force bases, including $50.2 million for projects at Cannon Air Force Base, $4.2 million for Holloman Air Force Base, and $9.3 million for Kirtland Air Force Base. The NDAA also authorizes $8.6 million for construction at the New Mexico National Guard Readiness Center in Las Cruces.
Albuquerque National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Building: Led by Heinrich and supported by Udall, this amendment allows the authorized funding for construction of a new NNSA building in Albuquerque to be appropriated over several years. Udall and Heinrich have secured $15 million in funding for this project in fiscal year 2017 and the pending Senate Energy and Water Appropriations bill for FY2018 includes $98 million for construction. The total cost for this new facility is $174 million.
Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Programs: The NDAA authorizes over $500 million in additional funding to accounts meant to drive advancements in the department and address unfunded requirements, with the goal of bolstering U.S. military technological superiority, including over $50 million for basic research programs, and an additional $100 million for prototyping of directed energy systems. Udall and Heinrich continue to advocate for the DOD to open a “Defense Innovation Unit Experimental” (DIUx) office in New Mexico.