Defense Bill Includes Ayotte Priorities to Support Troops, Military Readiness
Legislation also includes measures to strengthen Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Pease, and the NH National Guard
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Senate Armed Services Committee today approved its version of the Fiscal Year 2015 defense authorization bill, which includes more than two dozen proposals authored or cosponsored by U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). Ayotte, who serves as Ranking Member of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, worked to include amendments that strengthen military readiness, provide our troops the weapons they need, cut waste, reform the Pentagon's POW/MIA programs, address sexual assault in the military, and support service members and military families. The bill also includes priorities Ayotte fought for that are important to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Pease Air National Guard Base, and the New Hampshire National Guard. The defense bill now awaits consideration by the full Senate later this year.
"This bipartisan legislation supports the men and women of our armed forces while also improving efficiency at the Defense Department and eliminating waste. I'm especially pleased that the bill addresses key priorities at the Shipyard and Pease, which perform critical military readiness functions," Ayotte said. "I also worked to ensure that the bill specifically doesn't authorize a new BRAC round. Now is not the time to spend billions of up-front dollars on another BRAC round, especially as costs for the last one have dramatically exceeded expectations. We are still paying for the 2005 BRAC round."
She continued: "This bill also includes bipartisan legislation I helped author, the Victims Protection Act, to prevent military sexual assault and better support victims. It changes the status quo by eliminating the ‘good soldier defense,' holding commanders more accountable for treating victims with dignity and respect, and ensuring that perpetrators are fully prosecuted under the law."
As part of her efforts to address the heroin crisis in New Hampshire, Senator Ayotte also worked to include in the bill provisions aimed at battling the drug trade - including an amendment that calls for Southern Command to devote additional resources to the detection, monitoring, and interdiction of illicit trafficking through South and Central America to the United States.
HIGHLIGHTS OF AYOTTE PROVISIONS INCLUDED IN FY 2015 NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT:
Protecting Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
As ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee, Ayotte opposed the Administration's request for another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round in 2017. Ayotte, joined by Senator Shaheen, also worked successfully to include language that notes the Navy's failure to meet the statutory requirement to invest at least six percent of the average total combined maintenance, repair, and overhaul workload funded at the depots and public shipyards such as Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in infrastructure and capital assets. The language urges the Navy to adhere to the law and recommends funding increases which will meet the minimum capital investment threshold.
Senator Ayotte also worked successfully to include an amendment that encourages the Navy to utilize public shipyard infrastructure and expertise for unmanned underwater vehicle research and development. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard has been working to support the Navy in this area of growing importance, and Ayotte's language supports that effort.
Supporting Pease and the KC-46A
The Readiness subcommittee, which Ayotte helps lead and which oversees military construction, authorized $41.9 million for facilities construction at Pease Air National Guard base in preparation for receiving the KC-46A tanker. Pending the results of an environmental impact study, Pease will be the first Air National Guard unit to receive the next generation tanker in fiscal year 2018. Ayotte has used her position on the Senate Armed Services Committee to advocate for Pease and the 157th Air Refueling Wing.
Working On Behalf of the National Guard
Mirroring a National Guard trend around the country, the average condition for assessed New Hampshire Army National Guard facilities was recently rated as ‘poor' trending to ‘failing'. Ayotte believes members of the New Hampshire Army National Guard-and service members like them around the country-deserve better. Senator Ayotte included language that urges the Pentagon to devote the necessary resources to military construction and requires DoD to provide details regarding neglected military construction requirements.
Victims Protection Act
Senator Ayotte was successful in including in the bill key provisions of bipartisan legislation she authored with Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) that better protect and support victims of military sexual assault. The measure eliminates the "good soldier" defense for cases of sexual assault, provides for victim input on whether or not their case is pursued in military or civilian court, and strengthens the role of prosecutors in decisions to go to court-martial.
Supporting Service Members, Veterans, and Military Families
• Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl: As part of ongoing efforts to urge the Department of Defense to do all it can to find Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl and bring him home safely, Senator Ayotte worked successfully to include a provision in the bill that presses Pakistan to fully cooperate in the search for SGT Bergdahl.
• Body Armor: Senator Ayotte included an amendment that directs the Secretary of the Army to conduct a technical study to ensure soldiers have the best possible body armor to protect them in harm's way.
• Prosthetics: Senator Ayotte's amendment directs the Department of Defense to assess the quality and capability of current prosthetics provided to service members compared to the best prosthetics available commercially to ensure our injured service members receive the most advanced prosthetics available.
• POW/MIA: Continuing her efforts to streamline and reform the Department of Defense organizations that are responsible for recovering American personnel who are prisoners of war or missing in action, Senator Ayotte cosponsored a bipartisan measure with Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) to reorganize the accounting offices into a single agency. The provision designates one agency director for accountability, calls for strengthening public-private partnerships, and permits acceptance of voluntary personal support to ensure the department is making every effort to locate and bring our missing and fallen service members home.
Providing Our Warfighters the Weapons They Need, Cutting Waste, and Holding the Pentagon Accountable
• Cutting Waste. As Ranking Member of the Readiness Subcommittee, Ayotte voted for a $324.7 million reduction to improve efficiency and prevent waste, a $15 million reduction for unjustified Enterprise IT programs, and a $12.5 million reduction to the Logistics IT program for unjustified cost growth.
• Small Businesses. Small defense businesses promote innovation that protects our troops and reduce cost by encouraging competition. Ayotte included an amendment that calls on the Pentagon to meet contracting goals for small businesses and seeks to better understand the impact of defense sequestration on small businesses that provide our troops the equipment they need.
• DOD Audit: Continuing her leadership efforts to push the Pentagon to be a better steward of tax dollars and achieve auditability milestones, Senator Ayotte included an amendment to better monitor the Pentagon's progress toward achieving audit-ready financial statements. Ayotte has pressed the Pentagon to achieve audit readiness in order to help better distinguish between necessary budget cuts and those that would damage readiness.
Fighting Drug Trafficking and the Heroin Epidemic
• Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Resources to Fight Drug Trafficking. In her continued efforts to fight drug trafficking and the heroin epidemic in New Hampshire and around the country, Senator Ayotte worked successfully to include an amendment that calls on Southern Command to devote additional resources to the detection, monitoring, and interdiction of illicit trafficking through South and Central America to the United States. She also voted to support an additional $20 million for resources for Southern Command to support this effort.
• National Guard Counterdrug Program. Ayotte also included an amendment aimed at ensuring that the National Guard Counterdrug Program (CDP) keeps pace with the evolving nature of the illicit trafficking enterprise. The CDP plays an essential role in providing National Guard military capabilities and expertise to support the counterdrug activities of federal, state, and local authorities.
• DOD Medication Management: While prescription opioids can play an integral role in proper pain management and treatment of health conditions, these drugs can also be addictive when used improperly or not taken as prescribed. In order to fight the mismanagement of opioid prescriptions and ensure the best possible care for our service members, Senator Ayotte's amendment will ensure the DoD places a greater focus on proper prescribing practices and medication management for opioid drugs.