WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall announced that he has introduced several amendments to a major national defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets Department of Defense spending levels and policies for the upcoming fiscal year.
Udall’s five amendments include measures to fight unemployment and homelessness among veterans by improving access to education and life skills training for service members; help increase collaboration between the labs, nonprofits and foundations by streamlining the process the national labs must follow to accept grants; and facilitate technology transfer from the national labs to the marketplace.
Standing up for New Mexico’s National Labs: Udall introduced three amendments to help strengthen Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories and boost the state’s economy by helping the labs diversify the work they do and by encouraging tech transfer.
“New Mexico’s national labs are critical to our national security, and they provide a vital economic foundation for our state. Especially in the wake of sequestration budget cuts, we must keep them strong and nimble. My amendments would reduce bureaucratic red tape so it’s easier for the labs to partner with nonprofits and foundations — and so nonprofits and foundations can more easily draw on the expertise at the labs to advance the public good,” Udall said. “In addition, Los Alamos and Sandia labs produce some of the most innovative research and technology, but we need to make it easier to move that cutting-edge research and technology from the lab bench to the marketplace. I believe that improving tech transfer is one of the keys to growing a premiere high-tech industry in New Mexico, and I’ve been proud to champion this effort. My amendment was developed with input from the labs and investor community in New Mexico. It would facilitate ways to help the Department of Energy, the labs, entrepreneurs, industry, the investment community and nonprofits work together.”
Tech Transfer: Udall’s amendment would improve the collaboration between the Department of Energy (DOE) and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the national labs and the private sector. The creation of an industry-focused technology transfer working group is critical to building a two-way dialogue between our national labs, which innovate, and those in industry who can develop and deploy new technologies in the market. The amendment also includes enhanced annual tech transfer accountability reporting. The new working group will convene regularly to encourage innovation, and the enhanced reporting will track annual progress.
Diversifying Work at our Labs: Udall’s amendment would encourage the efforts of foundations and nonprofits to utilize the expertise of research and development grants at the national labs. Currently, competing federal regulations between the DOE and the Internal Revenue Service make it difficult for the national labs to work with and receive grants from foundations and other nonprofits. This amendment would resolve the conflict between these federal regulations, empowering our lab directors to waive overhead costs and enabling the labs to do additional work in the public interest. In the past, organizations such as the Gates Foundation have worked collaboratively with the labs to advance research on HIV/AIDS, and this amendment would help them and others conduct similar work with less red tape in the future.
Recognizing the importance of B61 LEP: Udall’s amendment, cosponsored by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), would establish that it is the sense of Congress that further delays to the B61 life extension program would have unacceptable effects on the reliability of the nation’s nuclear deterrent. The B61 LEP is an important part of the president’s stockpile stewardship program and is carried out in large part by Sandia and Los Alamos national labs.
Helping Service Members Transition to Civilian Life: Udall’s two amendments on service member education would assist military men and women transitioning back to civilian life. The first would take steps to prevent homelessness among veterans helping them get improved financial skills education while they are still in active duty. The second would expand eligibility for post-9/11 educational assistance for members of the Reserve and National Guard.
“Many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are finding it difficult to move from military life to civilian life, and too many are struggling to find a job and falling into homelessness. On any given day, one in every five people experiencing homelessness is a veteran. According to a recent study, one of the causes is a lack of basic money management skills or an understanding of how to budget and avoid scams. We can and must do better for our service members — these are skills that should be taught before they leave active duty,” Udall said. “My amendments would ensure the Department of Defense has the tools to provide better education, training and life skills to help service members make a smooth transition to civilian life, avoid homelessness, and build successful careers.”
Prevention of veteran homelessness: Udall’s amendment calls for a review and, if necessary, a revision of the current efforts by the military to prepare both enlisted and commissioned members of the armed forces with basic financial management tools. It requires the Defense Department (DOD) to consult with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Education, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and public and private organizations dedicated to financial skills education in reviewing and revising these requirements.
Expanded eligibility for the Post 9/11 GI Bill: Under current law, members of the National Guard and Reserve who haven’t accumulated 24 months of non-entry-level training aren’t eligible for full benefits under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Udall’s amendment would change the way training time is counted for the purpose of educational benefits for Guard and Reservists who have served in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. Those who have served on the front lines deserve to have the same GI Bill benefits earned by our active duty forces.