Washington, D.C. – Days after House-passage of the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference agreement, the Senate is poised to pass the $619 billion defense policy bill tomorrow. The bipartisan, bicameral legislation – which prioritizes military strength and readiness – makes key reforms and improvements for military operations, including vital increases to the end strength of the Armed Forces and the largest military pay-raise in six years.
Alaska Congressman Don Young, who successfully worked throughout the legislative process to secure numerous Alaska-focused provisions within the bill, commended the NDAA’s 375 to 34 passage in the House and called upon the Senate to follow suit.
"This year's national defense authorization is an important step to rebuilding the strength, agility, and readiness of our nation’s military,” said Congressman Don Young. “Not only does it increase end strength for every branch of the Armed Services and make critical investments in our military personnel and infrastructure, it effectively reverses the disastrous drawdown facing JBER’s 4-25. Importantly, this legislation solidifies Alaska’s role – with our unparalleled training areas, robust military infrastructure and unique ability to complete the mission – as a strategic partner in the safety and security of our nation. This has been a long and drawn out process, but I commend all those – including Chairman Thornberry and my two Senators – for remaining focused until the end. With growing uncertainty across the globe, I find great hope in the work and priorities reflected within this bill and the fact that the needs and interests of Alaska have been protected. We owe a great deal a debt and gratitude to our military men and women, and I am pleased to see a bill that ensures they have the resources needed to serve the mission.”
The FY17 NDAA authorizes $619 billion in national defense spending, which includes spending for military personnel, national security operations, weapons systems and foreign military operations. The bill eliminates harmful cuts to the size of our nation’s military – boosting troop levels across the Armed Services – and provides service members with the largest pay increase in six years at 2.1% (President Obama proposed a .5% reduction in troop raises). In addition to making reforms to protect the health and safety of our military men and women, the NDAA contains numerous Alaska-focused provisions secured by Congressman Young and the congressional delegation.
Language Secured by Congressman Young in the FY 2017 NDAA:
Rural Guard and Reserve Act:
- This language seeks to eliminate barriers facing rural members of the National Guard and Reserves by reforming an arbitrary reimbursement cap for members traveling to training exercises and activities. Congressman Young introduced the Rural Guard and Reserve Act on February 2, 2016.
Galena Land Transfer:
- This language directs the Secretary of the Interior to convey approximately 1,290 acres of public land, the former home of the Campion Air Force Radar Station, to the town of Galena, Alaska for the purposes of ensuring the safety of the town in future Yukon River flood events. This land will be crucial to the future well-being of Galena’s residents, as it will allow them to continue to rebuild from the 2013 flooding of the Yukon River without future threats. Congressman Young previously secured this language as an amendment to the FY 2016 NDAA, but it was excluded, along with other land transfer provisions, during negotiations with the Senate.
HAARP Transfer to University of Alaska and Ahtna, Inc
- This language directs the Secretary of the Air Force to convey the High Frequency, Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) facility to the University of Alaska, and its surrounding areas the Ahtna, Inc.
- Following a 2014 decision by the Air Force to discontinue use of the HAARP facility, the University of Alaska worked to continue its use. Although the University has secured an operational agreement, legislation is necessary to provide for a full transfer of the facility.
- Congressman Young’s request fulfills the Air Force’s desire to relinquish ownership of the HAARP facility and its surrounding areas by authorizing the Air Force to transfer the facility and underlying land to the University of Alaska, and the surrounding areas to Ahtna, Inc.
168th Air National Guard Refueling Wing
- Directive Report language requiring the Secretary of the Air Force to take into account the basing of two F-35 squadrons at Eielson Air Force base when conducting its business case analysis for converting the 168th Air Refueling Wing at JBER to an Active- Guard unit.
Arctic Small Unit Support Vehicles (SUS-V):
- Directive Report language requiring the Army to present a plan to Congress for replacing the Small Unit Support Vehicles (SUS-V) – the primary Arctic support vehicle.
- The Army’s SUS-V fleet is used to train and operate in extreme cold weather conditions, providing units with unique arctic capabilities. According to the Army, these vehicles are far beyond their normal service life and have become extremely difficult to maintain.
Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska:
- Directive Report language requiring a a review of state-owned spaceports and the role they play in Department of Defense space launch operations, including the role of the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska.
- State-owned spaceports, like Alaska Aerospace Corporation’s Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska, have played a large role in supporting national security and missile defense launch activities. This language notes the value of these spaceports, and requires the Secretary of Defense to detail opportunities to enhance the capability of these state-owned spaceports to support national security.
- Report language to require a study on the Department of Defense’s Space-A Travel program, which allows military personnel to use excess seating aboard military aircraft.
- Many military flights originating in Alaska are vastly underused; this language requires a study on the effects of adding the inclusion of reserve component personnel and their dependents.
Provisions of Alaskan Interest Included in the FY17 NDAA:
- Military Pay Raises: Funds a 2.1% pay raise for our troops, the highest level in six years.
- Alaska Military Construction: Authorizes $561 million in Alaska-based Military Construction beginning in Fiscal Year 2017.
- Basic Allowance for Housing: Does not include any changes to housing allowance, including for dual military families.
- F-35 Procurement: Authorizes the procurement of 38 F-35A Fighters. This funding continues progress on stationing two squadrons of F-35’s at Eielson Air Force Base, which is critical to ensuring the on-time delivery of these aircraft to Interior Alaska.
- F-22 Production Study- Directs the Air Force to study the costs associated with resuming production of the F-22.
- National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program: Authorizes $160.5 million for civil military programs, which funds the Alaska Military Youth Academy ChalleNGe Program, one of 35 Youth Challenge programs across the country.
- Preserving Army Force Structure, Protecting JBER’s 4-25: Language authorizing Army Active-Duty end strength at 476,000 soldiers (12,000 increase above FY16 levels). This end strength would stop the Army’s drawdown to 450,000 troops and eliminate reductions facing JBER’s 4-25. This language is in line with the POSTURE Act, legislation cosponsored by Congressman Young.
- TriCare-Indian Health Services Contracting Authority: Ensures the existing relationships between the VA, the DoD, and Native Health Organizations continues despite ongoing reforms to the TRICARE system.
- Increases Air Force End Strength: Authorizes 321,000 Air Force Active-duty members (4,000 increase above FY 16 levels), which ensures the Air Force will have sufficient maintainers to support the bed down of F-35s at Eielson AFB and across the nation.
- Ground-based Missile Defense: Authorizes $5.95 billion for Ground Based Missile Defense Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation. This funding will continue the development and sustainment of the GMD weapon system, including the Ground based interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska.
- Long Range Discrimination Radar: Authorizes $162 million for the continued development of Missile Defense Agency’s Long Range Discrimination Radar, to be based at Clear Air Force Station, Alaska.
- Military Defense, Defend and Defer: Requires the Missile Defense Agency to conduct an annual test of the mostly Alaska-based ground-based midcourse defense element of ballistic missile defense system.
- KC-46 OCONUS Basing: Expresses a sense of Congress regarding the OCONUS basing of the KC-46A aircraft, placing emphasis on characteristics – strategic location, training opportunities, airfield and airspace availability – abundantly found in Alaska.
- HH-60 Sustainment Report: Ensures the aircrews of the HH-60G Helicopter – utilized by the Alaskan Air National Guard Combat Rescue squadron – are fully trained and maintained until Alaska begins to transition to the new Combat Rescue Helicopter (HH-60W) in 2027-2028.
- Strategic Arctic Port Designation: Requires the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Coast Guard and others, to submit a report to Congress assessing the future security requirements for one or more strategic Arctic ports. Further, the language requires the establishment of criteria for designation a Strategic Arctic Port and recommendations for the designation of one or more such ports.
- Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC): Includes a provision explicitly stating nothing in the NDAA should be construed as authorizing an additional round of BRAC.
- Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility: The FY17 NDAA continues annual restrictions against transferring detainees from the detention facility at Guantanmo Bay to the United States and building or modifying facilities in the United States for housing detainees. The bill also prohibits DOD from using funds to transfer the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay back to Cuba.
- California National Guard: Provides relief for these Guardsmen by directing a process for the fair adjudication of cases. Unlike current policy, the Department will be responsible for reaching out to each impacted Soldier and notifying credit reporting agencies when a Soldier’s debts have been forgiven.