12.17.19

Peters Provisions Supporting Servicemembers and Michigan Defense Sector Headed to President’s Desk in National Defense Bill

Peters Led and Supported Measures in National Defense Bill to Give Troops Largest Pay Raise in a Decade, Resolve Issue for Reservists and Guardsmen Accessing Benefits, Invest in Michigan’s Defense Sector that Protect Our National Security

WASHINGTON, DC – The Senate today passed provisions led and supported by U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) that will benefit servicemembers and their families as well as Michigan’s defense sector that contribute to our national security as part of the national defense bill. The bill includes a 3.1 percent pay raise for servicemembers, an end to the “Widow’s Tax,” bipartisan legislation Peters supported to crack down on international manufacturers and traffickers of fentanyl and a provision based on his legislation to help reserve component members – including members of the Reserve and National Guard – receive the benefits they have earned following their retirement or completion of service. 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 heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law. The annual defense bill has been signed into law for over 55 straight years.

“Michigan’s role in safeguarding our national security has never been more critical, and this bill supports our state’s servicemembers and growing defense footprint,” 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 Senate is sending this bipartisan bill to the President’s desk that will give our servicemembers a much-deserved pay raise, help resolve an issue facing members of our National Guard and Reserve in accessing the benefits they’ve earned and make critical investments in Michigan’s defense sector that contribute to the safety of our servicemembers overseas and our safety here at home.”

“We face a growing number of threats to our national and states security, and the National Defense Authorization Act provides much-needed certainty and direction to our military to provide the resources to build the readiness to face these challenges head-on,” said Major General (Retired) Gregory J. Vadnais, Former Commanding General of the 38th Infantry Division and Former Adjutant General of the Michigan National Guard. “Senator Peters’ leadership on this legislation and on the Armed Services Committee was critical and much appreciated. This bill gives our service members a much deserved pay raise, supports our military installations in Michigan and positions our military to counter both current and future threats. I’m glad this bill has strong support and will support our Nations and Michigan’s military priorities and significantly contribute to building the readiness of the total force to effectively deal with a dangerous world.”

“Michigan is the Arsenal of Democracy and we are happy to see several provisions in the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act that will continue to support our National Guardsmen, veterans, their families, and the industrial base within our state,” said Scott L. Meyers, President, National Guard Association of Michigan. “We are thankful for Senator Peters leading the effort to ensure all National Guard and Reservists receive a capstone document at the end of their service so they can receive the benefits they have earned.  We are also thankful for his support giving a 3.1% pay raise to our service members, repealing the Widow's Tax, and supporting $30 million for the STARBASE program, investing in hands on STEM experiences for our future generations.”

“Over 60% of Michigan defense contracts are awarded to the 650 defense companies that have a presence in Macomb County. That’s why any push to strengthen Macomb County’s defense footprint will mean more jobs and economic growth in the area,” said Kelley Lovati, CEO of the Macomb County Chamber of Commerce. “We are glad that Senator Peters was able to work in key provisions to boost Michigan and Macomb County. These efforts will continue to put Macomb County on the map as a hub for defense manufacturing for years to come.”

The following provisions Peters led or supported were included in the final bill:

Supporting Our Troops and Their Families:

  • Pay Raise for Troops: This bill includes 3.1% pay increase for all servicemembers that Peters supported. This is the largest increase in a decade.
  • Repealing the ‘Widow’s Tax’: The final bill would repeal the Military ‘Widow’s Tax,’ ending a law that has penalized our nation’s Gold Star families and had prevented them from receiving the full survivor benefits they have earned and deserve. Military widows and widowers who qualify for the VA’s Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) are currently forced to take a dollar-for-dollar offset from the Survivors Benefit Plan benefit.
  • Ensuring Servicemembers and Their Families Receive the Benefits They Have Earned: The final bill includes a provision based on Peters’ bipartisan legislation he introduced to provide members of the National Guard and Reserves a record of service after their retirement or completion of service. This will be similar to a DD-214. The DD-214 form is often required by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other private sector institutions to certify qualification for benefits. Currently, Reservists do not receive a separation document detailing their service and Guardsmen do not receive the same forms as Active Duty servicemembers after completion of service. This change will help ensure that members of the National Guard and Reserves have documentation to receive the benefits they have earned.
  • 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 $30 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 7 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.
  • 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 over $916 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 $4 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 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, 2023 and from using such foams after October 1, 2024. This builds on Peters’ work in last year’s annual defense bill that is now law, which urged the Department of Defense to develop fluorine-free firefighting foams.
  • Preventing Use of PFAS-laden Firefighting Foams in Training Exercises: The bill directs the Secretary of Defense to prohibit the use of firefighting foams containing PFAS in military training exercises.

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.
  • Identifying Potential Locations for a Missile Defense Site: Peters supported a provision that requires the Department of Defense to publish a report on a potential future missile defense site. Fort Custer Training Center in 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.

Other Provisions:

  • Combating Fentanyl Trafficking: Peters supported a provision based on a bipartisan bill he cosponsored to crack down on international manufacturers and traffickers of fentanyl by helping curb  the production and distribution of illicit synthetic opioids. These provisions would also pressure China to pursue legitimate enforcement of those regulations by directing the Administration to impose sanctions on Chinese drug manufacturers, trafficking organizations and any financial institutions that assist these entities.
  • Investing in Defense Community Infrastructure Programs: Peters supported a provision in the bill that authorizes $75 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.
  • 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. 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.  

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