The House this week easily approved, by a vote of 360-59, the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that spells out how the Pentagon can spend its funds in the next fiscal year as well as establishes other policy changes for the Armed Forces.
The five-member Connecticut delegation all supported passage of the bill after the House waded through dozens of floor amendments offered over the last two weeks. The Senate has yet to schedule floor debate on its version of the bill.
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, who serves as the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, issued a press release moments after the vote expressing his support for the bill that would authorize up to $716 billion in military spending — including submarines, helicopters, jet engines and other products made in Connecticut.
“While this bill contains many important provisions for Connecticut, the addition of $1 billion above the budget request to set us on the path to building three submarines per year in 2022 and 2023 stands out as major development for our region and our nation,” said Courtney, whose eastern district includes Electric Boat.
President Trump’s 2019 budget request included plans to build 10 submarines in the next multi-year contract — three fewer than Congress authorized in its 2018 NDAA. Courtney said that he worked with Republicans on the Armed Services Committee to boost the number back up.
“This NDAA seizes on the unique opportunity we have this year to add more desperately-needed submarines into the plan — and I will continue to work to ensure that that the Trump Administration, Congress, and the Navy take full advantage of the support provided in this bill to grow our undersea fleet,” he said.
The bill also includes a Courtney-sponsored provision to ensure that members of the military serving in dangerous locations receive “Imminent Danger Pay” in a timely fashion. He offered the measure after learning that bureaucratic foot-dragging at the Pentagon left soldiers in Niger waiting more than seven months for “Imminent Danger Pay” — even as four of the soldiers were killed months earlier.
Courtney said the bill would benefit many of the large and small defense contractors in Connecticut. His breakdown can be found in our DC News Junkie report from May 11.
U.S. Rep. John Larson said he was “proud” to vote for the bill calling it a “win for the manufacturing ecosystem that helps drive the Connecticut economy.” In particular, he noted it would support Pratt and Whitney, Kaman and over 160 smaller manufacturers in his district.
Larson noted that more than 4,600 jobs in the 1st District are supported by work on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program which the bill authorizes the Pentagon to spend up to $10.6 billion to purchase 77 of the aircraft.
U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty likewise issued a statement saying she was proud to support the defense bill.
“This important piece of legislation invests in our national defense and clearly recognizes the importance of ensuring our veterans have access to the resources they need to support themselves after they return from their service,” she said.
The bill, Esty noted includes three measures she had sought:
• Requiring the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs to establish a uniform definition of “military sexual trauma” to be used for all aspects of delivering relevant care and benefits to service members and veterans who has suffered that crime.
• A feasibility study of whether members of the Armed Forces should be required to apply for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs ahead of being discharged from the military.
• And, encouraging the Pentagon and Federal Aviation Administration to work together to prevent unauthorized flights of unmanned aircraft over Arlington National Cemetery that may disrupt burial ceremonies.