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Courtney Statement on the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Conference Report

December 4, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, issued the following statement on the conference report to accompany the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (H.R. 6395), the 60th consecutive, annual defense authorization package. The FY21 NDAA conference report provides support for Courtney and the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee’s bipartisan effort to restore full funding for the construction of the second Virginia-class submarine—a vessel that the Navy listed as its most important unfunded priority in 2021—and includes many other important provisions.

"The fact that we are on path to pass the NDAA for the 60th consecutive year exemplifies the bipartisan nature of the House Armed Services Committee. I’m proud of the way we came together once again to get the job done for both the security of our nation and our men and women in uniform,” said Chairman Courtney. “We were up against some unprecedented challenges this year—including a global pandemic, and an administration that started this process with the weakest shipbuilding plan in over a decade, and it is ending with nonsensical veto threats—but we’ve worked together across the aisle every step of the way. The final NDAA that our conference committee produced adds an additional $3.5 billion to the anemic shipbuilding proposal we received from this administration, and it capitalizes on eastern Connecticut’s defense manufacturing sector in major ways.

“I’m particularly pleased that our bipartisan, bicameral conference committee negotiations yielded a final NDAA that retained many of the House’s most important priorities this year. Restoring construction of an entire submarine was a big win, but our final NDAA does a lot more than that. The final agreement also authorizes an across-the-board pay raise for our troops, supports critical airlift platforms operated by the Connecticut National Guard, provides strong continued backing for important academic partnerships in undersea research like those at UConn, and much more. We’ve worked together from start to finish to ensure our priorities would be included in a final NDAA, and that was proved today when our final bill was easily delivered out of Conference Committee.

“Congressman Adam Smith, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Mac Thornberry, our Ranking Member, deserve a lot of credit for setting the tone and leading the way in this year’s successful effort to produce a bipartisan defense authorization. Our final NDAA restores the second Virginia-class submarine, supports the Columbia-class program, and does right by our men and women in uniform in eastern Connecticut and all around the globe. I was proud to put my signature on this final conference report, and I’m looking forward to passing this bill once and for all.”

In July, the House Armed Services Committee voted 56-0 to authorize the 2021 NDAA for final consideration and the full House followed suit on July 21st, passing the bill in a strong bipartisan vote of 295-125. Last month, Courtney was named a core conferee to negotiate the final conference report to accompany the FY 2021 NDAA by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

Key provisions that Courtney championed in the 2021 NDAA 

Seapower and Projection Forces Priorities 

As Chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, Courtney has advocated for Navy, Air Force and maritime priorities important to Connecticut and the nation. 

Virginia Class Submarine – The report authorizes $6.8 billion for the Virginia class submarine program, an increase of $2.6 billion over the budget request that Courtney secured to restore a second submarine in 2021. The Trump Administration requested just one submarine in 2021, breaking the steady two a year build rate that has been in place since 2011 and undermining efforts to address looming shortfalls in the submarine fleet.

Columbia-Class Ballistic Missile Submarines – The report authorizes $4 billion to initiate construction of the new Columbia-class submarine. Last month, the Navy announced the award of $10.3 billion in contracting options for the first two submarines in the program to Electric Boat. The report also includes Courtney’s provision to authorize incremental funding for these submarines within the National Sea Based Deterrence Fund, which will ensure the cost-effective and efficient construction of this important program. 

Submarine Workforce and Development Training – Authorizes $20 million to support training programs to help support expansion of the skilled submarine workforce as the industrial base ramps up construction of new submarines. Courtney has strongly supported workforce development efforts in the region to support hiring at Electric Boat and the supply chain through programs like the Eastern Connecticut Manufacturing Pipeline. 

Long Range Strike Bomber – The report fully supports the requested $2.8 billion for continued development of the B-21 Raider. Pratt & Whitney is a partner in the next-generation long range strike bomber program. 

KC-46A Tanker – The report authorizes $2.7 billion for 15 KC-46A tanker aircraft, which are powered by Pratt & Whitney engines. The agreement also mandates that the Secretary of the Air Force develop a complete, permanent solution to the KC-46 remote visual system (RVS) operation limitations, submitting the solution Congress no later than February 1, 2021. 

C-130H Modernization – The measure continues Congressman Courtney’s efforts to accelerate the modernization of the C-130H cargo aircraft fleet, like those flown by the Connecticut Air National Guard. In addition to fully supporting the efforts to upgrade and modernize the avionics of the fleet, the bill authorizes $134 million for additional upgrades for engines, propellers and other systems on the aircraft beyond the President’s request.

P-8 Poseidon – The report authorizes $1.4 billion for 8 P-8 Poseidons, the Navy's newest maritime, patrol and reconnaissance aircraft. This will bring the Navy closer to the warfighting requirement of 138 aircraft and ensure the continued modernization of the Navy Reserves’ legacy P-3 fleet.  

KMAX Unmanned Helicopter – The report authorizes $7 million to continue development of unmanned logistics capabilities with the CQ-24A helicopter manufactured by Bloomfield-based Kaman Aerospace.

Navy Shipbuilding -- Overall, the report authorizes more than $22 billion to procure 9 new battle force ships, two more than the budget request, in. The budget requested one of the lowest levels of new ships in nearly a decade and did not include the long range shipbuilding plan required by law to provide insight into future plans to grow the fleet. Courtney pressed Defense Secretary Mark Esper on his failure to abide by the law in a hearing earlier this year. The final agreement also includes language Courtney authored to restrict some funding for the Office of Secretary of Defense until the 30-year shipbuilding plan is delivered, and prohibits the retirement of any Navy vessel until the Secretary of Defense provides a Navy force structure assessment. 

Recapitalization of our Domestic Sealift Capabilities – The report includes several Courtney-led investments in the recapitalization of our domestic sealift and maritime response capabilities. These includes authorizing the purchase of additional used vessels to replace aging sealift ships but rejecting a Defense Department request to eliminate the requirement to initiate a domestic new build ship. The bill also authorizes a new Tanker Security Program to address the alarming gap in at-sea logistics, authorizes the fourth National Security Multi-Mission Vessel and authorizes a $180,000,000 increase in funding for the Maritime Security Program to address the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on our domestic shipping fleet. 

Additional Courtney priorities included: 

Rare Earth Minerals – the report includes an amendment Courtney authored that requires the Secretary of Defense to prioritize the acquisition of strategic and critical materials from U.S. and allied sources ensuring the continued protection of our national defense supply chains. These types of minerals and materials are used in everything from cell phones to the joint strike fighter and a secured supply chain of these materials is of utmost importance to national security. 

Academic Partnerships for Undersea Research – The report authorizes $10 million to support partnerships with academic institutions that conduct research on undersea unmanned warfare and energy technology, such as the National Institute for Undersea Vehicle Technology, a collaborative program between the University of Connecticut and the University of Rhode Island. During debate on the bill in the House, Courtney and Rep. James Langevin (D-RI) passed an amendment to increase funding for this effort from $5 million to $10 million. 

Joint Strike Fighter – The report provides $8.7 billion for the procurement of 93 F-35s and includes additional flexibility to procure additional aircraft within the authorized amount if production savings are found and if prime suppliers remain on-schedule. 

Blackhawks – The report authorizes nearly $1 billion for 71 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, an increase over the budget request, built by Sikorsky. 

CH-53K – The report authorizes $800 million for procurement of 7 new Ch-53K Marine heavy-lift helicopters, built by Sikorsky. 

Combat Search and Rescue Helicopter – The report supports the Administration’s request for $909 million for procurement of 16 HH-60W Air Force search and rescue helicopters built by Sikorsky. 

VH-92A Presidential Helicopter – The report supports the Administration’s request for $589 million for procurement of 5 aircraft, which will be the next-generation presidential helicopter. 

Ukraine – authorizes $250 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. 

DOD Impact Aid – authorizes $50 million for the DOD supplemental impact aid program, which provides support to local school districts with high proportions of military children, including Groton public schools. This program is in addition to the primary Impact Aid program funded through the Department of Education, which does not fall within the jurisdiction of the House Armed Services Committee.

Coast Guard Reauthorization – the agreement includes the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act, bipartisan legislation to further strengthen our nation’s Coast Guard by enhancing navigation and maritime safety, authorizing new family leave and child care policies, and increasing gender and racial diversity in the Coast Guard Academy in New London and across the ranks. 

Other Notable Provisions 

Renaming Confederate Military Installations – The agreement includes an amendment that Courtney cosponsored that establishes an independent commission to make binding recommendations to the Secretary of Defense for the modification or removal of all names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederate States of America or any person who served voluntarily with the Confederate States of America from all assets of the DoD. 

Limitations on Funds to Remove Active Duty Troops from Germany – The agreement bars the Department from using any funds authorized by Congress to reduce the number of active duty troops stationed in Germany until DOD submits a report to Congress certifying that any reduction would not undermine the security of the U.S. or our allies in the region.  

BRAC – The report does not authorize a base closing round. 

Military Pay Raise – The report provides a 3.0% pay raise for the military, in line with a statutory requirement to keep pace with private sector wage growth.

Agent Orange Exposure Benefits– the report adds additional diseases to Section 1116(a)(2) of Title 38, USC including Parkinsonism, bladder cancer, and hypothyroidism to the list of diseases associated with exposure to certain herbicide agents. The report would also mandate that the Department of Veterans Affairs provide benefits to veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and later diagnosed with these afflictions.

Climate Change Resiliency – The agreement requires a report updating Congress on the implementation of provisions from the FY2020 NDAA related to installation master planning, updates to installation building codes, sea-level rise modeling, and climate assessment tools. The final agreement would also require DoD to submit a report on its greenhouse gas emission for the last 10 years.

Pacific Deterrence Initiative – the report authorizes a new Pacific Deterrence Initiative to reassure allies and partners of U.S. commitment to the region and to enhance congressional oversight of military activities throughout the area of responsibility. 

Defense Community Infrastructure Program – Authorizes $50 million for the program, allowing DOD to help states and local governments fund off-base infrastructure projects that support operations and the base community. Infrastructure improvements could include transportation projects, schools, first responder facilities, and utility projects.