Bipartisan Defense Bill Heads to the President’s Desk with Sullivan’s Support

Authorizes $738 billion in critical defense spending, contains numerous Sullivan-backed provisions that directly impact Alaska

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today joined 85 of his colleagues in voting to pass the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) following a constructive conference process between the House and Senate. The bill authorizes $738 billion in critical defense spending and includes numerous provisions and amendments introduced by Sullivan, many of which directly impact Alaska.

“The passage of this year’s NDAA – the fifty-ninth successive passage of this bill – shows that members of Congress can rise above partisan politics to perform their most important constitutional duty, to provide for the common defense,” said Senator Sullivan. “This bill focuses our military on the 2018 National Defense Strategy’s push to address great power competition with Russia and China, particularly in the Arctic, undoes a long-standing, discriminatory provision that targeted Native businesses competing for large DOD contracts, and provides support for Alaska’s military priorities. Importantly, it also gives our service members a well-deserved 3.1 percent pay increase, the highest in a decade.”

Strategic Arctic Port and the Arctic: 

“Over the past year, I have observed a sea change in how the media now covers the Arctic, namely as an emerging area of great power competition,” said Senator Sullivan. “Unfortunately, while even the press has come to recognize this fact, the Department of Defense has maintained a myopic view of how changing Arctic conditions affect our national security. Due to strong bipartisan support on the Senate Armed Services Committee, we continue to compel the DOD to think strategically about Arctic issues. This year’s NDAA includes several key Arctic provisions to help lay the foundation for a Strategic Arctic Port, better understand Russian and Chinese activities in the region, and carry out much-needed planning for potential mass-casualty scenarios in this remote and austere territory. The U.S. is an Arctic nation because of Alaska, and working with Senator Murkowski and Congressman Young, we continue to make progress on advancing critical Arctic initiatives in this strategically-important corner of the world.”

This year’s NDAA includes a number of Arctic-related provisions:

  • Strategic Arctic Port Designation: Requires the Secretary of Defense to study potential sites for Naval Arctic infrastructure and gives the authorization to designate a site or sites for a Strategic Arctic Port. As the importance of the region grows, ensuring U.S. Naval access and presence in the Arctic is critical. This designation aims to create the strategic imperative for the United States to invest in a deep-water port or ports along Alaska’s coast that can accommodate our national security needs.
  • Russian and Chinese Arctic Military Activities:  Requires a report on Arctic military activities by the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.
  • Chinese Arctic Foreign Direct Investment (FDI):  Requires a report on the People’s Republic of China’s foreign direct investment into the Arctic and an assessment of China’s strategic objectives.
  • Arctic Mass Casualty Planning: Requires the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop a plan for carrying out mass-casualty disaster response in the Arctic. The provision will help prevent challenges, such as those encountered by the Norwegian government earlier this year as it attempted to rescue 1,373 passengers from the cruise ship Viking Sky.
  • Arctic Strategy Implementation Plan: Requires the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the service secretaries to report on how they will implement the Department of Defense’s 2019 Arctic Strategy to defend the homeland, preserve freedom of the seas, and develop Arctic infrastructure and capabilities. 
  • DOD Official for the Arctic: Urges the Secretary of Defense to designate an existing Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense as the person within DOD to have the primary responsibility of overseeing military policy in the Arctic.
  • Arctic Sustainment Package: The Alaska National Guard independently developed an Arctic search-and-rescue package that allows the Guard to respond to potential large-scale mass-casualty events in the Arctic. This amendment brings attention to that effort and encourages the DOD to resource, field, and expand Arctic search-and-rescue capabilities.
  • Small-Unit Support Vehicle (SUSV) Replacement: Applauds the Army’s decision to make the Cold-Weather All-Terrain Vehicle – the replacement for the aging SUSV – a program of record, and encourages the Army to procure its entire 163-vehicle requirement.


Alaska-Specific Items:

The FY 2020 NDAA includes a number of provisions recognizing Alaska’s strategic importance and supporting the military and service members in Alaska. 

“I’ve always said that there are no greater champions of our military than the people of Alaska,” said Senator Sullivan. “Our state sells itself. This year’s NDAA provides important resources for the military in Alaska and the Alaska communities that support it. The bill takes a number of important steps to address the impacts of PFAS exposure and contamination, nearly doubles the size of the Innovative Readiness Training Program, seeks plans to modernize JPARC with advanced threats and the addition of F-35 Aggressors to augment Eielson’s aging F-16 Aggressors, and authorizes a new DOD program to support small spaceports, like the one in Kodiak.”

This year’s NDAA includes a number of Alaska-related provisions:

  • Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS): The FY 2020 NDAA requires the DOD to list all military installations and facilities where drinking water may exceed safe levels of PFAS, stop procuring any further firefighting foams containing PFAS chemicals by 2023 and completely eliminate the use of PFAS firefighting foams by 2024, and requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to include PFAS on the list of unregulated contaminants to be monitored by public water systems.
  • Aggressor Modernization: A provision in the FY 2020 NDAA requires the Air Force to consider locations – such as Eielson Air Force Base (AFB) – that would be ideal for early-model F-35s to serve as Aggressor trainers and provide realistic training for our 5th-generation combat aircraft. Additionally, the provision directs the Air Force to consider options for upgrading Eielson AFB’s Aggressors to make them a more realistic practice adversary. 
  • Innovative Readiness Training: This year’s NDAA adds $14.3 million to the President’s Budget for Innovative Readiness Training (IRT), for a total of $30 million dedicated to local reserve training projects, like “Operation Arctic Care,” which provides roving medical and dental care to rural Alaska villages. Additionally, the bill encourages the DOD to prioritize non-contiguous states, like Alaska, for IRT projects.
  • JPARC Modernization: The Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC) is the “crown jewel” of Air Force training ranges. A provision in the FY 2020 NDAA requires the Air Force to study what upgrades might be required for its test and training ranges, including JPARC, to ensure that they are capable of providing the best near-peer adversary threat environment for training 5th-generation combat aircraft pilots.
  • Combat Rescue Helicopter Fielding: The Air Force’s procurement of HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopters has left the Air National Guard at the end of the line for a critical replacement to the aging HH-60G helicopter. A provision in the FY 2020 NDAA would require the Air Force to reconsider its fielding plan and ensure that its plan for replacing HH-60Gs would not negatively affect the training of Guard rescue warriors, like Alaska’s 210th Rescue Squadron.
  • KC-46A Basing: In keeping with Senator Sullivan’s focus on overseeing the basing decisions for critical strategic assets, this provision requires the Secretary of the Air Force to submit a report on the projected plan for basing of the KC-46A aircraft outside of the continental United States.
  • Installation High-Intensity Energy Report: This provision requires the DOD to perform a comprehensive assessment of feasible and mission-appropriate energy initiatives to support energy production and consumption at military installations with high energy costs per capita, like our military installations in Alaska, especially in the Interior.
  • Commercial Spaceports Program: This provision authorizes the DOD to carry out a program to support space launches for small and medium-class payloads. The program would make investments in federally-licensed, non-federally-owned launch facilities, such as the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska in Kodiak.
  • Sister Subsidiary Performance: This provision directs the Secretary of Defense to develop policies and training to ensure that the past performance of Native 8(a) corporations’ sister subsidiaries is given proper consideration when Native corporations bid for new defense contracts.
  • F-35 Procurement: This year’s NDAA authorizes the purchase of 90 F-35s, the 5th-generation fighter aircraft critical to increasing the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps’ aviation capability.
  • Non-Homeport Shipyards: In an effort to avoid further delays in much-needed Naval vessel maintenance, this year’s NDAA requires the Secretary of Navy to assess the ability of shipyards, including those in Alaska, to perform repair work on Naval vessels at locations other than their homeports.
  • HAARP Support: The FY 2020 NDAA includes a provision recognizing the value of ionospheric research at facilities, like the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) operated by the University of Alaska, and encouraging the DOD to leverage this facility for conducting military-related research.
  • Impact Aid: The FY 2020 NDAA authorizes an increase in funding for impact aid for schools with military-dependent students by $40 million, and an increase in impact aid for children with severe disabilities by $10 million. School districts in Alaska that educate children of military personnel benefit from this program.
  • Report and Working Group on Remote and Isolated Installations: The FY 2020 NDAA requires a report on the process by which the DOD designates installations as “remote” or “isolated” and the process by which sufficient resources are provided to those installations. It also establishes a working group to develop solutions to challenges faced by remote and isolated installations. The provision will help ensure that remote and isolated installations – like Clear Air Force Station, Fort Greely, and Eielson AFB – are sufficiently supported by the DOD.
  • Prohibition on Conducting Additional Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC): In years past, BRACs have threatened military installations in Alaska.  Although the DOD did not request to conduct a BRAC this year, the FY 2020 bill would prohibit it.

Support for Service Members and their Families and the Creation of New Military Branch:

A number of provisions in the FY 2020 NDAA provide support and resources for our nation’s military service members and their families.

“Our military’s greatest advantage is its people,” said Sullivan. “This year’s NDAA ensures that we are doing all we can to take care of our service members and their families. In addition to the largest military pay raise in a decade, this year’s bill ensures America’s military families are living in the best possible housing, aids cross-state licensing for military spouses, improves military childcare, and guarantees that all veterans can have the full military funeral honors that they deserve.”

  • Pay Raise: This year’s NDAA supports a 3.1 percent pay raise for our military members while extending special pay and bonuses for service members.
  • Military Funeral Honors: The FY 2020 NDAA includes language from a stand-alone bill Senator Sullivan introduced, the Creig Sharp Funeral Honors for Veterans Act, to provide full military funeral honors to all veterans that request it and require installation commanders to have a plan to use off-base services if resources are lacking.
  • Military Housing Reform: Recognizing the urgent need to improve the quality of military family housing, this year’s NDAA includes extensive military housing reform measures, establishing a Tenant Bill of Rights, requiring new quality control measures, directing the military to develop dispute resolution guidelines, and increasing transparency for military families.
  • Support to Military Spouses: The FY 2020 NDAA supports easing the burden on military spouses of transferring licensure from state to state, doubling the reimbursement amount for licensure expenses, and authorizing a cooperative agreement with the Council of State Governments to improve professional license portability across states.
  • Military Education and Child Care Improvements: This year’s NDAA provides direct hire authority for child development centers to streamline hiring for military childcare and authorizes $40 million to assist local educational agencies with military dependent students and $10 million for local agencies eligible to receive payments for children with severe disabilities.
  • Burn Pits Accountability: A provision in this year’s NDAA includes language from Senator Sullivan’s Burn Pits Accountability Act, a bill for which he was the Republican lead, directing the DOD to assess, in periodic health assessments, whether military members deployed overseas have been exposed to open burn pits or toxic airborne chemicals, and document their exposure in both medical records and the Veterans’ Affairs burn pit registry.
  • Establishment of the U.S. Space Force: Recognizing space’s critical role in great-power competition, the FY20 NDAA established the U.S. Space Force as the sixth Armed Service, organized under the U.S. Air Force.  The bill creates a Chief of Space Operations to oversee the space warfighting domain who reports to the Secretary of the Air Force and serves as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Additionally, it establishes an Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration to focus on space acquisitions and an Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy to oversee space warfighting.

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