Murkowski supports bill to bolster national defense, address military suicide rates, monitor arctic activity

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) today voted in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), legislation that authorizes the appropriation of $750 billion in national defense funding for FY2020. The bill includes two amendments from Senator Murkowski to address suicide prevention in the military and to evaluate Russian and Chinese activity in the Arctic. In addition to the priorities supported by Senator Murkowski, the bill also provides a pay raise for troops, invests in modernizing military tools and infrastructure, equips our military with the resources they need to defend our nation, and improves the Department of Defense’s management practices. The bill passed by a vote of 86-8.

“I’ve been pressing the Defense Department to articulate its strategy for defending U.S. interests in the Arctic for years. We are beginning to see the Pentagon take our Arctic role seriously, but we need to know what it is that we are up against with both Russia and China increasing their interest and activity in the region. My amendment to this defense bill requires that the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the State Department and the Intelligence Community, provide Congress with a timely assessment of Russian and Chinese activities with military implications in the Arctic. This will enable policy makers to better understand whether the Defense Department is moving quickly enough to address longstanding deficiencies in our ability to protect and defend our interests in the Arctic region. I also made it a priority to address the disproportionately high rates of suicide among servicemembers and their families. It’s our duty to provide for the security of our nation and to do all we can to support those who protect it,” said Senator Murkowski. “I thank Senator Sullivan for all his efforts on the Senate Armed Services Committee. On behalf of Alaska and the nation, we remain committed to ensuring our national security remains a top priority.”

Suicide Prevention:

Senator Murkowski included an amendment requiring the U.S. Comptroller General to submit a report describing current programs and activities in place for the prevention of suicide among members of the military, whether the programs are appropriately resourced, and opportunities to improve the programs.

Russian and Chinese Activity in the Arctic:

America is entering a new era of strategic engagement in the Arctic. Because Russia and China continue to pursue opportunities in the region, Senator Murkowski included a provision in the bill requiring the Secretary of Defense to submit reports, within 180 days, on the military activities of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China in the Arctic region. The report is to include the extent to which their activities affect the interests of the United States and our allies in the region.

ALASKA HIGHLIGHTS:

PFAS: Includes a bill package to address contamination caused by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) by directing EPA to set drinking water standards for two prevalent PFAS chemicals, authorizing funding for communities to address emerging contaminants, and requiring interim guidance on PFAS disposal.

Military Funeral Honors: Includes language from the Creig Sharp Funeral Honors for Veterans Act, introduced by Senator Sullivan and co-sponsored by Senator Murkowski, which requires military installations to have a plan to provide full individual military funeral honors for all veterans upon their request and resources permitting.

Arctic Strategy: Spurs on the Department of Defense’s 2016 Arctic Strategy by requiring Service Secretaries and the Secretary of Defense to produce a report on how the plan will be implemented.

Military Construction: Allocated, $8,600,000 to military construction projects at Eielson Air Force Base, including construction of the F–35 AME Storage Facility.

Innovative Readiness Training: Increases funding for Innovative Readiness Training, which aims to produce mission-ready forces to provide key services for underserved communities throughout the U.S., such as the joint project led by the Air National Guard to help relocated residents of Newtok, Alaska.

JPARC Modernization: Requires the Secretary of the Air Force to submit a report by 2020, detailing the upgrades that need to be made to the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC), an Air Force training range that provides unparalleled opportunities for present and future Service, multinational, and interagency training.

Native Lands Mitigation: Ensures the Department of Defense takes responsibility for environmental effects on Native lands attributable to the DOD. Also required the DoD develops options to alleviate those effects

Fentanyl Sanctions Act: Adds sanctions on drug manufacturers from China and financial institutions that knowingly facilitate or take part in the trafficking of synthetic opioids and authorizes additional support to combat foreign opioid trafficking.

Isolated and Remote Military Installations: Helps ensure adequate support from the DOD for location similar to Fort Greely and Clear Air Force Base, by establishing a working group to address the opportunities and challenges of remote military installations.

Strategic Arctic Port Designation: Acknowledges that the Bering Strait is experiencing significant increases in international traffic from vessels transiting the Northern Sea Route and requires the Secretary of Defense to submit to the congressional defense committees a report evaluating potential sites for one or more strategic ports in the Arctic.

NATIONAL HIGHLIGHTS:

• Troop Pay Raise: Authorizes a 3.1 percent pay raise for members of the Armed Forces, the largest pay raise for service members in a decade.

• Rare Earth Elements: Authorizes an increase in funding for the Department of Defense to develop the capability to produce rare earth elements from coal ash, a market that China currently dominates.

• Military Construction: Authorizes $18.07 billion for nation-wide military construction, in base and OCO funding, including $3.6 billion to replenish funds for military construction projects repurposed for the national emergency declared on the southern border, and $2.63 billion for disaster recovery on military installations.

• Health: Authorizes $33 billion for the Defense Health Program.

• Ballistic Missile Defense System: Prioritizes America’s national security by requiring the Director of the Missile Defense Agency to report options to increase the capability, capacity, and reliability of the ground-based midcourse defense element of the United States ballistic missile defense system.

• Military Sexual Misconduct: Extends the term of the Defense Advisory Committee on Investigation, Prosecution, and Defense of Sexual Assault in the U.S. Military, and includes multiple provisions to improve the response to sexual misconduct, including preventing and addressing retaliation against victims for reporting offenses.

• Nuclear Modernization: Fully funds the nuclear modernization program, including the triad of delivery systems, as well as the Department of Energy’s warhead life extension programs and infrastructure recapitalization.

• Technology: Invests in innovation that will keep us competitive, including 5G networks, cybersecurity, hypersonic weapons, and missile defense

• Joint Strike Fighter aircraft: Authorizes $10 billion to procure 94 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft enabling the forces to modernize and equip themselves with the most cutting-edge and capable fifth-generation aircraft