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In First Year as Chairman of Seapower Subcommittee, Courtney Votes to Pass FY 2020 Defense Authorization

July 12, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, voted to pass the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (H.R. 2500) in the House of Representatives. The House passed the FY 2020 NDAA by a vote of 220-197. Following passage of the FY2020 NDAA, Courtney made the following statement: 

“The National Defense Authorization bill is critically important to our national defense, our servicemembers and military families around the globe, and right here in eastern Connecticut,” said Congressman Courtney. “I’ve been proud to lead the Seapower Subcommittee this year—my first year as Chairman of the bipartisan panel—to ensure that we carried forward some of the most important priorities in support of our Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force projection forces. The bill we passed today answers the call from our nation’s combatant commanders for additional undersea capacity by including authorization for a third Virginia-class submarine, a vindication of my bipartisan ‘Three Sub’ effort last year which was opposed by the Trump Administration. This year, after intensive meetings with the Acting Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Navy, and some productive collaboration with Members of both sides of the aisle, this priority is now moving ahead. I was also pleased to assist efforts to include other important investments in Connecticut’s defense manufacturing and aerospace industry, such as significant funding for the F-35 Join Strike Fighter, the CH-53K heavy-lift helicopter, the VH-92A presidential helicopter, and more.

“We worked together on the House Armed Services Committee to ensure that the bill also addressed critical issues that will improve the lives of servicemembers and their families. Our bill includes a 3.1% pay raise for all servicemembers, the largest in a decade, and includes language to establish a tenant’s bill of rights to protect the military and their families from unsafe or poorly managed military housing. This legislation also prohibits the Department of Defense from unfairly banning our transgender individuals from serving in the armed forces, and blocks the Administration from diverting critical funding needed for our national defense to build a wall on the southern border. Finally, I am particularly pleased that this year’s House NDAA includes my bipartisan amendment to block the Department of Defense rule change that would deprive America’s most seasoned servicemembers from transferring their Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits to their loved ones.  

“The FY2020 NDAA represents forward progress for our armed forces, for eastern Connecticut’s manufacturing sector, and for many of our servicemembers and their families. There’s more work ahead to ensure that these priorities become law as we move towards conference on the FY2020 NDAA, and I look forward to continuing to press ahead on behalf of eastern Connecticut and our men and women in uniform.” 

Key provisions that Courtney championed in the 2020 NDAA:  

Seapower and Projection Forces Priorities  

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

Virginia Class Submarine – The bill fully authorizes funding for two Virginia class submarines in 2020 and advanced procurement for additional submarines in 2021 and 2022. In addition, the measure authorizes resources to initiate construction of a third submarine planned for FY2023 – fulfilling Courtney’s bipartisan efforts over the last two years to expand production above the current two-a-year rate to mitigate looming shortfalls in the fleet. In addition to his work in the HASC-approved NDAA, Courtney has worked with leaders on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate Armed Services Committee to secure funding for the third submarine as well.   

Columbia-Class Ballistic Missile Submarines – The bill fully authorizes the $1.6 billion requested for the development and design of the next-generation ballistic missile submarine. The bill also includes an additional $125 million Courtney secured for development of the submarine supplier base to shore up this critical supplier base in preparation for the growth in submarine construction work in the coming decade.  

Submarine Maintenance – The bill fully funds a $653 million unfunded request submitted by the Navy to complete much-needed depot-level maintenance on three Los Angeles-class submarines to ensure the readiness of our current submarine force. Two of these maintenance availabilities will be completed in private shipyards, an option Courtney has long pressed the Navy to take advantage of as our public shipyards are above capacity and private shipyards are ramping up for construction of the first Columbia-class submarine.

Long Range Strike Bomber – The bill fully supports the requested $3 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 bill authorizes $2.2 billion for 12 KC-46A tanker aircraft, which are powered by Pratt & Whitney engines.  

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.    

KMAX – The bill responds to an unfunded priority request from the Marine Corps by adding authorization for $18.5 million to continue development of unmanned logistics capabilities with the CQ-24A helicopter manufactured by Bloomfield-based Kaman Aerospace.  

Navy Shipbuilding -- Overall, the committee’s bill authorizes more than $22 billion to procure 11 battle force ships. This includes the procurement of three Virginia-class submarines, three DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, one Guided Missile Frigate, one LPD Flight II amphibious ship using incremental funding authority, one T-AO 205 oiler, and two T-ATS towing, salvage, and rescue ships. In addition, the bill restores funding for the refueling of the USS Harry S. Truman to allow the carrier to continue to contribute to our national defense over its full, 50-year service life.  

Recapitalization of our Domestic Sealift Capabilities – The bill includes several Courtney-led investments in the recapitalization of our domestic sealift and maritime response capabilities, responding to increasingly urgent testimony from leaders at the Maritime Administration and Transportation Command. The bill includes a long-term reauthorization of the Maritime Security Program, the creation of a new Tanker Security Program to help secure our military’s fuel supply, and establishment of a new-build domestic sealift vessel program based on an existing design and well-established shipbuilding practice. This bill also rejects the Administration’s efforts to cut funding for the National Security Multi-mission Vessel (NSMV), a program Courtney helped to initiate in 2016 that is critical to training the pipeline of mariners needed to support our sealift capabilities.  

Improving Safety in the Maritime Sector – The bill includes a provision championed by Courtney to permanently establish the Maritime Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Committee (MACOSH). This committee makes recommendations to the Secretary of Labor on matters related to the health and safety of workers in the maritime sector, including shipbuilding, ship repair, and longshoring. The provision would mean that this important committee does not need to be reestablished every two years as previously structured.   

Additional Courtney priorities included:  

Joint Strike Fighter – The bill augments the Administration’s request by providing $8.5 billion for the procurement of 90 F-35s and includes additional flexibility to procure additional aircraft within the authorized amount if production savings are found.   

Blackhawks – The bill supports the requested $1.4 billion for 73 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, a significant increase over FY19.  

CH-53K – The bill authorizes $808 million for the new Marine heavy-lift helicopter, the procurement of 6 aircraft, and $497 million for continued research and development.  

Combat Search and Rescue Helicopter – The bill includes total funding of $1.1 billion for procurement of 12 aircraft and continued development of the HH-60W Air Force search and rescue helicopter.  

VH-92A Presidential Helicopter – The bill supports the Administration’s request for $658 million for procurement of 6 aircraft and continued development of the next-generation presidential helicopter as well as $8 million for upgrades in support of the existing Presidential Helicopter program.   

Pier Construction at New London Submarine Base — The bill authorizes $72.3 million to replace the aging Pier 32 at Naval Submarine Base New London. The new pier will be longer and wider that than the existing pier, allowing adequate space to fully support modern Virginia-class submarines and allow vehicle traffic to traverse the pier more safely.  

Sexual Assault at Military Service Academies – The bill includes a requirement for the military service academies to implement a “safe to report” policy which allow sexual assault victims to report their assaults without fear of being punished for minor collateral misconduct they may have committed at the time. Courtney brought an amendment during committee markup to ensure that this provision applies to the US Coast Guard Academy in New London as well.  

Oversight of Sexual Assault Prosecutions at the Coast Guard Academy – The bill includes Congressman Courtney’s amendment that would add the Coast Guard Academy to the list of military service academies covered by Section 538, which establishes a “chief prosecutor” pilot program to oversee sexual assault prosecutions at the military service academies. 

Academic Partnerships for Undersea Research – The bill 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.  

Ukraine – The bill authorizes $250 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative and includes a Courtney-requested evaluation of Ukraine’s naval capabilities which could be improved through further US assistance following Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian naval vessels and 24 Ukrainian sailors.   

Procurement Technical Assistant Program – The bill follows a Courtney request to increase support for Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) to $44.5 million from the requested level of $25 million. PTACs help small businesses understand and meet the requirements in order to do business with the Department of Defense. 

DOD Impact Aid – The bill authorizes $60 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.  

Honoring the Cadet Nurse Corps – Congressman Courtney co-sponsored an amendment offered by Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) that designates members of the Cadet Nurse Corps who served during and in the years after 1943-1948 as honorably-serving veterans, thus entitling them to VA burial benefits including eligibility to be buried at national cemeteries, on par with other veterans. 

Other Notable Provisions 

Paid Family Leave  The bill includes language that guarantees all federal employees 12 weeks of paid family leave. 

Military Tenant Bill of Rights – The bill includes several provisions to improve oversight of privatized military housing, including a requirement that the military services have a tenant’s bill-of-rights. These rights would include a right to prompt provision of maintenance, information about known or potential hazards, and a prohibition on reprisal against a servicemember for filing a complaint about housing conditions. The bill would also ban the use of non-disclosure agreements in privatized military housing leases. 

Protections for Transgender Servicemembers – H.R. 2500 includes an amendment to overturn the Trump Administration’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the U.S. armed forces.  

No Funding for U.S.-Mexico Border Wall – The bill prohibits any defense funding to be used for the construction of a wall, barrier, or fence along the U.S. southern land border. It also reforms existing authorities which the Trump Administration has sought to abuse in order to spend defense funds on a border wall. 

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

Military Pay Raise – The bill provides a 3.1% pay raise for the military, in line with a statutory requirement to keep pace with private sector wage growth, and the same amount requested by the Trump Administration. 

Climate Change Resiliency – The bill requires DOD to consider the potential effects of climate change on military installations in current and future military construction projects to ensure responsible energy use and resilience against possible future extreme weather events.  

Defense Community Infrastructure Program – The bill 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.  

Workforce Training – The bill includes two provisions to incentivize investments in workforce development by military contractors. The first would require the development of an incentive in military contracting for bidders who invest in qualified training programs for their workers. The second provision would incentivize military construction contractors to meet or exceed an apprenticeship employment goal of at least 10% of their project workforce.  

Reduce the Environmental and Health Risks of Fluorinated Compounds around Military Installations – The bill includes several provisions which restrict the release of fluorinated firefighting foam (which contain PFAS) at military installations except in cases of emergency or for designated testing or training, requires the DOD to develop an alternative to fluorinated firefighting foam by 2025, and allocates funding for research and remediation activities to limit environmental and personnel exposure to the compounds.