WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee passed the annual national defense bill that includes provisions led and supported by U.S. Senator Gary Peters that will benefit servicemembers and their families as well as Michigan’s defense interests that contribute to our national security. It will also help improve efforts to address PFAS and authorize investments in infrastructure, advanced technology and important defense systems that protect U.S. security interests and our allies, including the State of Israel. The National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy for the Department of Defense (DoD), now goes to the full Senate for consideration. The annual defense bill has been signed into law for over 55 straight years.
“Michigan plays a vital role in protecting America’s national security, through the dedication of our servicemembers to the critical work of defense manufacturers and researchers,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Armed Services Committee and a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve. “I’m proud that the national defense bill advancing to the full Senate includes provisions that will give our servicemembers a much-deserved pay raise and make critical investments in Michigan interests that contribute to the safety of our servicemembers overseas and our safety here at home.”
The following provisions Peters led or supported were included in the committee-passed bill:
Supporting Our Troops and Their Families:
- Pay Raise for Troops: This bill includes 3.1% pay increase for all servicemembers that Peters supported.
- Examining Shortfalls in Care for Servicemembers Facing Fertility Challenges: Peters led a bipartisan provision that requires the Department of Defense to conduct a study on infertility among servicemembers and report its findings to Congress. According to the Service Women’s Action Network, military women and veterans report having trouble getting pregnant when actively trying to do so at a rate that is “dramatically higher than the national average” and that “treatment options are limited by location, accessibility, and cost.” This study will provide additional data for the Department of Defense and Congress to work on remedying this issue and address shortfalls in care.
- Strengthening Coordination to Help Servicemembers Transitioning to Civilian Life: Peters sponsored a provision in the bill to improve coordination between the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs and veterans services organizations to help servicemembers transitioning out of the military. The provision allows servicemembers to opt-in to provide contact information to veterans service organizations that provide resources to help veterans transition to civilian employment or receive the benefits they have earned.
- Increasing Resources for STARBASE Military Educational Program: Peters supported a measure that authorizes an additional $15 million in funding for the Science and Technology Academies Reinforcing Basic Aviation and Space Exploration (STARBASE) program. This highly successful program offers hands-on educational experiences in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Macomb County was the original STARBASE and continues to operate one of the premiere programs in the country.
- Addressing Issues with Privatized Military Housing: Peters’ provision will allow servicemembers to receive a report with all information regarding maintenance at a military housing unit for the previous 10 years before moving in. This will provide transparency as servicemembers decide on military housing for them and their families and aims to incentivize landlords to properly maintain housing units. The Senate Armed Services Committee has received testimony about horrendous conditions in certain privatized military housing units that have caused health issues, including from a servicemember originally from Michigan living at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Investing in Michigan Defense Interests and Advanced Technology:
- Authorizing Significant Investment in Michigan Military Construction Project: Peters secured an authorization of $24 million for a military construction project at the Detroit Arsenal in Warren, MI. If enacted this would mark the largest investment in a Michigan military construction project in nearly five years. The investment would help allow the Arsenal to upgrade its electrical substation, which will support the research and development of ground vehicle systems and growth that has occurred at the installation.
- Authorizing Important Investment in Fuel Cell Systems and Autonomous Controls: The bill contains Peters’ provision that authorizes $20 million for research and development of fuel cell propulsion and autonomous driving control technology, which will support the Next Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV). The Ground Vehicle Systems Center in Warren, MI is working with General Motors (GM) on hydrogen fuel cell propulsion technology that is a priority for the Army. This partnership allows the Army to benefit from GM’s significant engineering and design expertise, assembly facility and proving grounds while GM tests the limits of fuel cell capabilities in a challenging military environment.
- Funding Stryker Vehicle Upgrades: Peters supported provisions providing additional support to the U.S. Army Stryker vehicle program. The Stryker is the Army’s most versatile and deployable combat vehicle. The bill authorizes $550 million to provide critically needed upgrades to the Army’s Stryker vehicle fleet. The Stryker “A1 configuration” includes safety and survivability modifications, including greater mine resistance and improved mobility. General Dynamics Land Systems in Sterling Heights is the prime contractor for the Stryker armored vehicle and many Michigan companies serve as suppliers.
- Support for Ground Vehicle Sustainment: Recognizing that many of the Army’s legacy vehicles rely on parts that are no longer in production or are difficult to procure, Peters supported a provision in the bill authorizing $5 million for the Ground Vehicle Systems Center in Warren, MI to invest in manufacturing research and manufacturing techniques, like 3-D printing, which can be used to produce these spare parts at a significant cost savings.
ADDRESSING PFAS CRISIS:
- Increasing Coordination on PFAS Remediation Efforts Between DoD and States: Peters secured a provision that would encourage the Department of Defense to finalize cooperative agreements with states and partner with Governors to address, test, monitor, remove, or remediate PFAS contamination originating from DoD activities, including at decommissioned military installations and National Guard facilities. If a cooperative agreement is not reached within one year of the request from a state, the Secretary of Defense must report to Congress explaining why. This measure is similar to bipartisan legislation that Peters introduced earlier this month with Senator Debbie Stabenow and other colleagues.
- Preventing DoD from Buying Firefighting Foams: The bill also prevents the Department of Defense from buying firefighting foam that contains PFAS after October 1, 2022. This builds on Peters’ work in last year’s annual defense bill that is now law, which urged DoD to develop fluorine-free firefighting foams.
INVESTING IN MISSILE DEFENSE AND SUPPORTING U.S. SECURITY INTERESTS
- Investing in Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Research: Peters led a provision in the bill that authorizes a program for joint research and development with Israel on counter-unmanned aerial systems technology. A range of unmanned aerial systems from small, commercially available platforms to larger, armed aircraft pose a threat to both the United States and Israel. This cooperative research program will allow the United States military to benefit from Israel’s expertise and experience in countering unmanned aerial systems.
- Funding Cooperative Missile Defense Programs with the State of Israel: The bill authorizes $500 million for cooperative missile defense programs with Israel, including the Iron Dome, Arrow, and David’s Sling, consistent with the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding signed with the Government of Israel.
- Investing in Defense Community Infrastructure Programs: Peters supported a provision in the bill that authorizes $100 million for the Defense Community Infrastructure Program. This program provides matching grants to state and local government projects that address critical infrastructure needs that impact military bases but are located off-base. State and local governments may apply for matching grants for infrastructure, utility, public safety, and services projects that will benefit a military base. Peters is the co-chair of the Senate Defense Communities Caucus, a bipartisan organization of senators committed to advancing issues important to defense communities. Defense communities in Michigan include those near Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Fort Custer Training Center, Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center, the Battle Creek Air National Guard Base, and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center.
- Identifying Potential Locations for a Missile Defense Site: Peters supported a provision that requires the Department of Defense to publish the Environmental Impact Statement conducted to identify potential locations for a missile defense site. Fort Custer Training Center near Battle Creek, MI is one of three candidate sites that were evaluated. Designating Fort Custer as the preferred location for a missile defense site would serve to recognize the installation’s strategic significance and the importance of Fort Custer for years to come.
- Improving Resilience of Military Installations Vulnerable to Impacts of Severe Weather: The bill includes a provision Peters led that would authorize the Department of Defense to strengthen the resilience of installations vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The provision would allow the DoD to partner with state and local governments to plan pre-disaster mitigation efforts and it directs DoD to study storm surge impacts on military bases. Military bases whether in Florida or Nebraska for example have been devastated by severe weather this year pre-disaster mitigation efforts would help prevent damage and save federal taxpayers.