Legislation to Strengthen National Defense Signed into Law with Provisions Championed by Senator Collins

The bill will provide the largest pay increase for service members in a decade, includes provisions important to Maine

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a senior member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, announced that the fiscal year (FY) 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes $730 billion for national defense, has been signed into law. 

 

“Our state has an integral role in our national security thanks to the numerous Mainers who have answered the call to serve our nation in uniform and the thousands of hardworking Mainers who build and maintain our naval fleet, aircraft, and other military assets,” said Senator Collins.  “This legislation is vitally important, not only for strengthening the defense of our nation, but also for bolstering our support for the brave men and women in our armed forces and ensuring that they have the equipment they need to carry out their missions effectively.  I am particularly pleased that the NDAA authorizes the largest pay increase for our troops in a decade as well as an amendment I authored to help servicemembers acquire the skills they need to obtain good-paying jobs upon returning to civilian life.”

 

Senator Collins advocated for a number of provisions that are important to Maine including:

 

·         Repeal of the Widow’s Tax: Includes legislation authored by Senators Collins and Doug Jones (D-AL) to repeal the offset of Department and Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs survivor benefits, commonly referred to as the “Military Widow’s Tax.” 

 

·         DDG-51: Authorizes three DDGs for $5.03 billion. It also authorizes $260 million above the President’s budget request for advanced procurement (to accelerate purchase of long lead time materials).

 

·         Frigate/FFG(X): Authorizes the procurement of the lead FFG(X), a class of multimission guided-missile frigates, for $1.28 billion.  The contract for the next class of Navy frigates is expected to be awarded in 2020.

 

·         F-35 Procurement: Authorizes 90 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft (all F-35As), which is 12 more than requested in the President’s budget.  Engine components for the F-35 are made at Pratt & Whitney’s North Berwick facility.

 

·         CH-53K Procurement: Authorizes the procurement of six CH-53K Heavy Lift helicopters for the U.S. Marine Corps.  The rotating drive shafts are a critical component of the aircraft and are produced at Hunting Dearborn’s facility in Fryeburg. 

 

·         Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS): Prohibits the Department of Defense (DoD) from procuring firefighting foam that contains PFAS/PFOA chemicals after October 2024, with an exception for shipboard use, and prohibits the uncontrolled release of fluorinated aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) and the use of AFFF in training exercises at military installations. The agreement encourages the Secretary to finalize cooperative agreements with states to address contamination by these substances and authorizes the National Guard to use Defense Environmental Remediation Account funds for the purpose of addressing PFOS and PFOA exposure and contamination. 

 

·         Pay Raise: Authorizes a 3.1 percent pay raise for members of the Armed Forces, the largest pay increase in a decade, as well as an average pay raise of 3.1 percent for civilians.

 

·         Paid Family Leave: Authorizes 12 weeks of paid parental leave for all federal employees.

 

Senator Collins also sponsored an amendment that was included in the NDAA:

 

·         Apprenticeships: Senators Collins and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) sponsored a provision that would further expand the DoD Skillsbridge Program by allowing the inclusion of federal agencies as program participants. Currently, at the discretion of military commanders, DOD authorizes servicemembers transitioning to civilian life to carry out skills training, apprenticeships, and internship programs beginning up to six months before the completion of their military obligation. This program allows servicemembers to receive job training that eases the transition to civilian life and can lead to full-time civilian jobs. In a recent report to Congress, the DoD recommended that Congress expand this authority to allow for the inclusion of federal agencies as participants, not just private industry employers.