Sullivan Praises National Defense Bill that Includes Critical Alaska Priorities

With New NDAA, Congress Commits to Rebuilding America’s Military

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, joined 91 of his Senate colleagues in passing the conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. The FY 2017 NDAA – continuing the 55-year bipartisan tradition of passing this bill – authorizes $619 billion in critical defense spending, and includes a number of provisions important to Alaska.

“This time last year, many of my colleagues and I expressed deep concern about the declining size and state of the U.S. military. The FY 2017 NDAA marks a change in course, with a significant investment toward increasing the size of our Army, advancing our missile defense capability, and giving our service men and women a much-deserved pay raise,” said Senator Sullivan. “The world is an increasingly dangerous place and this bill finally takes the steps needed to ensure our brave men and women have what they need to defend this great nation.”

“As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and conferee of this bill, I know that our military depends on the annual defense authorization to ensure that our fighting men and women have everything they need to protect our nation against an increasingly complex and diverse array of global threats,” Senator Sullivan added. “From near-peer adversaries like a resurgent Russia and an emergent China, to unstable and unpredictable threats from ISIS, Iran, and North Korea, I fought to include provisions in this bill that will ensure that our troops always have the overwhelming advantage as our nation takes on growing threats in regions like the Asia-Pacific and the Arctic.”

Key provisions secured by Senator Sullivan:

Working with many of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, Senator Sullivan successfully included 21 provisions in the FY 2017 NDAA. His amendments advanced initiatives that will play an important role in ensuring Alaska’s and America’s long-term security.

Missile Defense Defend and Deter Act: 

Senator Sullivan’s provision mandates that the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) conduct a flight test at least once per year to show Americans—and, more importantly, rogue nations like North Korea—that we have a missile defense system that will protect our citizens from the irrational threats and actions of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

Arctic Strategic Port Designation:

Senator Sullivan’s provision requires the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Coast Guard and other relevant federal agencies, to create the designation and associated criteria for a “Strategic Arctic Port.” Within two years, the Secretary of Defense must submit a plan to begin the process of designating a “Strategic Arctic Port.”

Additional Sullivan NDAA Amendments: 

  • Remote Travel Reimbursement for National Guard Members – The Rural Guard Act:

This provision allows the Secretary to authorize higher reimbursement to reservists and guardsmen who reside in the same state as the inactive duty training location, reside outside of a population of 50,000 or more, or must commute via aircraft or boat from a distance of 75 miles or greater.

  • High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) Land Transfer:

This provision directs the U.S. Air Force to convey the HAARP facility to the University of Alaska, and its surrounding areas to AHTNA, Inc., which originally owned the underlying land. Senator Sullivan worked closely with Senator Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young on this important issue.

  • Galena Land Transfer:

A priority of the Alaska congressional delegation, this provision transfers 1,300 acres of land from the U.S. Air Force on Campion Air Force Radar Station to the town of Galena.  

  • High Energy Intensity Report:

This provision requires a much-needed report on the Department of Defense’s efforts to reduce the cost of energy at the installations that need it most, those in the highest 20% per capita of all military installations. Many of Alaska’s installations fall into this category.

  • KC-46 OCONUS Basing:

Given Alaska’s status as the hub of combat airpower, with the F-35A squadrons, large F-22 presence, and other strategically located aviation assets, this provision expresses the sense of Congress that the Air Force should give basing preference to airbases that have ample training opportunities, a strategic location, and sufficient airfield and airspace—characteristics that are abundantly found in Alaska—when considering OCONUS locations for basing the KC-46A. 

  • Congressional Support for Keeping the 4-25 Brigade Combat Team in Alaska:

This provision restates the support of senior DoD leadership for the decision to halt the reduction of Alaska’s 4-25 IBCT (ABN), affirms the importance of forward-based forces like the 4-25 IBCT (ABN) to deterring aggression, and encourages the Army to reassess its force structure based on the changing global security environment. 

  • Arctic Search and Rescue Report:

This provision directs the DoD to develop a strategic plan for resourcing Arctic capabilities, like the Arctic Sustainment Package (ASP), and the tactics, techniques, and procedures required to test and deploy these capabilities.

  • FAA State-Sponsored Spaceports:

This provision highlights the unique importance of the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska (PSCA) on Kodiak Island and expresses the belief that this facility can be used to support the national security space program from the Department of Defense, Air Force Space Command, Operationally Responsive Space Office, and Missile Defense Agency. 

  • HH-60/Combat Rescue Helicopter Report:

This provision ensures that the HH-60G (the helicopter that the Alaska Air National Guard Combat Rescue Squadron flies) continues to be maintained, aircrew trained, and supported until Alaska gets the new Combat Rescue Helicopters in 2027-2028.

  • Independent Review of U.S. Military Forces in the Asia-Pacific:

In support of the President’s Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, this provision requires the Secretary to commission an independent review and report to Congress on the US’ strategy for the Indo-Asia-Pacific region in Fiscal Year 2018. Notably, this amendment highlights the need to assess the Arctic ambitions of actors in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

  • Innovative Readiness Training (IRT):   

This provision expresses the understanding of the value of the IRT program and encourages the Department of Defense to continue to utilize the IRT for programs across the country, including ones in Alaska, such as the runway construction in Old Harbor and Operation Arctic Care (roving medical and dental care in rural Alaska villages). 

  • Rural and Remote Considerations for TRICARE:

As a part of some of the changes to TRICARE and military healthcare, this provision requires the Secretary of Defense to address the unique challenges that Alaska, Hawaii, and other rural and remote locations present to deliver effective healthcare. This provision helps ensure that these new reforms take Alaska’s unique healthcare challenges into consideration to ensure Alaska service members get timely access to high-quality care and better health outcomes. 

Additionally, the provision requires the Secretary of Defense to – before making any changes – certify to Congress that the unique characteristics of Alaska have been considered and that the provider reimbursement rate for these areas ensures timely access to high-quality primary and specialty care. This provision also helps ensure that managed care support contracts under TRICARE include providers within the Alaska Native Health Compact with the Indian Health Service, as is currently used by the VA.