Senate Overwhelmingly Passes FY 2020 Defense Authorization

$750 billion military spending bill includes 30 Sullivan-authored provisions

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), 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), which authorizes $750 billion in critical defense spending and includes 30 provisions and amendments introduced by Sullivan, many of which directly impact Alaska. The FY 2020 NDAA passed out of committee on a vote of 25 to 2.

“This year’s NDAA takes seriously the complexity of threats to our national security and the multitude of friction points around the world that deserve the attention of a fully-resourced U.S. military,” said Senator Sullivan. “Importantly, this defense authorization recognizes Alaska’s leading role in our nation’s defense with significant resources to bolster our missile defense system, grow the military’s Arctic presence and capabilities, and support the world-class military and training installations in Alaska.” 

Strategic Arctic Port and the Arctic: 

“Today we took another important step in strengthening U.S. leadership in the Arctic region. This defense authorization includes a number of important initiatives, including the requirement to designate a site or sites for a Strategic Arctic Port. This important step helps demonstrate increased U.S. interest in an area of the world that has become an arena for strategic competition among the great powers,” said Sullivan. “Thankfully – and due to the great bipartisan support of my colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee – we are finally starting to realize that the U.S. is an Arctic nation and that we need to be present in the region if we hope to keep it peaceful and conflict-free.” 

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

  • Strategic Arctic Port Designation: Requires the Department of Defense 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. Additionally, this designation aims to create the strategic imperative for the United States to invest in a port or ports along Alaska’s coast that are deep enough to accommodate our national security needs.
  • Arctic Strategy Implementation Plan: Requires the Secretary of Defense and 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.
  • 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. This provision will help prevent challenges, such as those encountered by the Norwegian government as it attempted to rescue 1,373 passengers from the cruise ship Viking Sky earlier this year.
  • 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 for overseeing military policy in the Arctic.
  • Arctic Sustainment Package: The Alaska National Guard independently developed an Arctic search-and-rescue package that allows them 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.
  • SUSV Replacement: Applauds the Army’s decision to make the Cold-Weather All-Terrain Vehicle – the replacement for the aging Small-Unit Support Vehicle – a program of record, and encourages the Army to procure its entire 163-vehicle requirement.

Missile Defense:

Continuing to be the Senate’s leader on our nation’s missile defense, Senator Sullivan successfully included seven amendments in this year’s defense bill, including a provision to expand America’s stated missile defense policy to include defending against cruise and hypersonic missile threats. Sullivan also included amendments to preserve critical missile defense acquisition processes, push the Department of Defense to pursue advanced missile defense technologies, explore ways to increase homeland missile defense, identify ways to speed up advanced kill vehicle procurement, and congratulate the Missile Defense Agency for its successful 2018 test campaign. Finally, Senator Sullivan continued his push to field a space-based sensor, including a provision requiring the Department of Defense to begin on-orbit testing of a space-sensor layer by December 31, 2021. 

“It is not just about defending against ballistic missiles anymore. Our adversaries are rapidly advancing their offensive missile capabilities, including both hypersonic and cruise missiles, and we need to ensure our defense stays ahead of the threat,” said Sullivan. “This year’s bill continues to recognize missile defense as a critical aspect of our national security and the provisions I worked to include will ensure that we are rapidly deploying a space sensor layer, focused on defending all types of missiles, not just ballistic missiles, and continue to have acquisition approaches and technology that keep us ahead of the threat.”   


Alaska Specific Items:

  • Military Funeral Honors: The 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.
  • KC-46A Basing: Requires the Air Force to report on likely locations for basing the KC-46 outside of the continental United States. The report must take into account factors favorable to Alaska, such as strategic location, ample training opportunities, sufficient airfield space, existing infrastructure, and minimal construction costs. Additionally, the provision restricts the Secretary of the Air Force’s access to funds until the report is complete.
  • Aggressor Modernization: A provision in the FY20 NDAA requires the Air Force to consider locations – such as Eielson AFB – that would be ideal locations for using early-model F-35s as aggressor trainers to 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, 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.
  • JPARC Modernization: The Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC) is the “crown jewel” of Air Force training ranges. A provision in the FY20 NDAA requires the Air Force to study what upgrades to the range might be required to ensure that it is capable of providing the best near-peer adversary threat environment for training Alaska’s and visiting 5th-generation combat aircraft.
  • 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 FY20 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.
  • Installation High-Intensity Energy Report: This amendment requires the Department of Defense 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 and especially the Interior.
  • Native Lands Mitigation: This year’s NDAA includes a provision requiring the Department of Defense to take responsibility for environmental effects on Native lands attributable to the DOD and develop options to mitigate those effects.
  • 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 include making investments in federally-licensed, non-federally-owned launch facilities, such as the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska in Kodiak.
  • Burn Pits Accountability: A provision in this year’s NDAA includes language from Senator Sullivan’s Burn Pits Accountability Act, a bill of which he was the Republican lead, directing the Department of Defense 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.
  • PFOA/PFOS Installation Report: The FY 20 NDAA includes an amendment to ensure that Coast Guard installations are accounted for in a listing of military installations and facilities whose drinking water may exceed the PFOA and PFOS level recommended in the Environmental Protection Agency’s PFOA and PFOS Lifetime Drinking Water Health Advisories.
  • HAARP Support: The FY 20 NDAA includes a provision recognizing the value of ionospheric research at facilities like the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program (or HAARP), operated by the University of Alaska, and encouraging the Department of Defense to leverage this facility for conducting military-related research.

Other Alaska-Related Provisions:

  • Impact Aid: The FY 20 NDAA authorizes an increase in the 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 20 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. This provision will help ensure that remote and isolated installations – like Clear Air Force Base, Fort Greely, and Eielson – 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 and although the DoD did not request to conduct a BRAC this year, the 2020 bill would prohibit it.

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