December 10, 2019
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced provisions he authored in the National Defense Authorization Act that will benefit Oklahoma military installations, military families and support a strong national defense.
“Each year, Congress passes the annual National Defense Authorization Act – key legislation that fulfills our greatest responsibility to defend American families and ensure that our armed forces have the training, resources and equipment they need to complete the mission and return home safely. The NDAA is more than just numbers and budget items. It is the policy that supports the men and women who risk their lives to defend our freedoms. It creates a Space Force, guarantees we can stand up to Russia and China, and continues rebuilding the military after it was degraded during the Obama administration.
“As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I worked this year to make military families the focus of this year’s legislation. The result: a 3.1 percent pay raise for our troops, the largest in a decade, historic reforms to privatized military housing, increased oversight over military families’ relocation and personal property movement, and professional development opportunities for military spouses. Finally, I’m thrilled that this legislation finally repeals the widow’s tax in a fiscally responsible manner. By putting military families first, we can strengthen our entire armed forces, as well as increase recruitment and retention.”
About the National Defense Authorization Act:
· Authorizes growing topline for national defense ($738B + $5B disaster recovery).
· Largest troop pay raise in a decade – 3.1%
· Fully funds nuclear modernization
· Creates Space Force as the 6th Branch of the U.S. Military
· Authorizes 200+ new-start programs that MUST be authorized before appropriations or programs cannot begin: Artificial Intelligence (AI), 6th-gen fighter (NGAD), Hypersonic Weapons, Long-range missiles, Unmanned Systems, Cyber Capabilities, Combat Networks, B-21 bomber, 5G
· Expands equipment purchases:
o F-35s, F-15s, F-18s, destroyers, subs, carriers, amphibious ships, Army helicopters & vehicles
· Sanctions against Syria, Russia, North Korea, China
· Cares for military families: child care, professional licensing for military spouses, improve moving process
The FY2020 NDAA included the following provisions Inhofe authored that will benefit Oklahoma military installations and members of the military community:
Reforms to Privatized Military Housing
Following reports of serious problems with housing on military installations across the country, including Tinker Air Force Base, the NDAA includes a landmark overhaul of the Military Housing Privatization Initiative. These reforms include: improving quality of life for service members and their families living in privatized military housing by creating a Tenant Bill of Rights, setting up a dispute resolution process, and increasing transparency; holding private military housing companies accountable, ensuring they set high standards for construction, mitigate and stop health and hazard violations, and quickly address any problems with housing; and strengthening management of military housing within the chain of command and at the Department of Defense, including ensuring each installation has the necessary government housing employees and implementing thorough oversight and planning measures. Additionally, it would create a Senate-confirmed DOD position to oversee the military privatized housing initiative across all services.
Inhofe has led the greatest number of hearings on the issues in privatized military housing over the past year. Additionally, he has visited Tinker Air Force Base on multiple occasions to witness the housing situation firsthand and hold Balfour Beatty accountable. The provisions in the NDAA are a direct result of his leadership and engagement on this critical issue.
No BRAC Round
The FY2020 NDAA explicitly prohibits a base realignment and closure (BRAC) round, ensuring the vital missions at all Oklahoma bases can continue to grow. After years of budgetary instability during the Obama Administration, readiness declined to a dangerously low level. Inhofe’s provision in the NDAA ensures it will not be reduced any further while we rebuild the force and its readiness.
Repeals “Widow’s Tax”
Currently, surviving spouses of deceased service members can face an unfair deduction in benefits known as the widow’s tax. Inhofe, the first SASC Chairman to cosponsor legislation to address the issue, has been working since 2001 to end the deduction and support military families. The FY2020 NDAA phases in a complete repeal of the offset over three years.
Direct Hire Authority
Last year, Inhofe authored language that extends civilian hiring authority for depots, shipyards, plants and arsenals to help maintain and grow the workforce at Tinker Air Force Base and the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant. However, the implementation of the provision has been inconsistent, resulting in continued delays and underutilization. Inhofe corrected that in the FY20 NDAA by authoring language to clarify that direct hire authority can come from secretaries of military departments, directors of defense field activities and directors of defense agencies.
The civilian workforce maintains aging equipment, adopts new technologies and is consistently recognized by industry as the benchmark of success. Because of this, the workload demands continue to grow along with the need for higher levels of technological skill sets.
Inhofe authored language that fully authorized the president’s budget request for the Paladin Integrated Management (PIM) program, the primary indirect fire weapons platform in the U.S. Army’s Armored Brigade Combat Teams (ABCT). The PIM, assembled in Elgin, Oklahoma, and used at Fort Sill, will improve force performance and survivability, while also reducing the logistics burden for soldiers.
Advanced Pilot Training (T-X)
Pilots, like those at Vance Air Force Base, need to train on the newest and most advanced platforms in order to be prepared for the next-generation of fighter and bomber aircraft. Inhofe authored language in the NDAA that will support procurement for the T-X advanced pilot training system, replacing the legacy T-38 trainers that have become outdated and led to longer training times.
Inhofe supported increased funding and procurement of three additional KC-46 aircraft, bringing the total FY20 procurement to 15 KC-46 aircraft. The KC-46 tankers ensure our military’s ability to engage in operations around the globe. Altus Air Force Base is programmed to receive 8 KC-46 aircraft and will provide training for all KC-46 pilots and boom operators. Tinker Air Force Base provides all depot maintenance for the KC-46, and construction is underway for KC–46 maintenance and fuel hangars.
Supporting Organic Industrial Base
As part of the organic industrial base, defense maintenance depots, like the Air Logistics Center at Tinker Air Force Base, are developing new technologies to repair damaged parts quickly and without distortion. Inhofe authored language in the NDAA that would allow the Air Force Research Lab and the Air Force Depot Innovation Centers to work with private sector partners to bring new skills and processes into full time use to repair and get Air Force systems back in service faster.
Additionally, our organic industrial bases, like Tinker, have faced challenges due to recent changes in acquisition processes—despite being recognized as critical parts of our national security infrastructure. Inhofe’s NDAA requires a report from the DOD to understand the impact of the recent changes to ensure the future of the organic industrial base.
Counter UAS University Research
Throughout the last few years, DOD and Congress have recognized the growing use and capabilities of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Absent a comprehensive response, research universities are important partners in providing military and civilian agencies with reliable threat assessments and technology evaluation. Inhofe included a provision in the NDAA that would increase funding to universities, like Oklahoma State University, to work with the DOD and rapidly respond to advancements in drone technology.
Impact Aid and STARBASE
Inhofe was successful in including language that fully funds supplemental Impact Aid to local educational agencies and schools with military dependent children as well as specific Impact Aid for schools with military dependent children with severe disabilities.
Inhofe also supported language that reauthorizes STARBASE, a program to educate and motivate students to explore Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. STARBASE currently operates at 76 locations in 40 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, primarily on military installations. The Oklahoma National Guard runs the STARBASE program out of four locations, the Will Rogers Air National Guard Base, the Tulsa Air National Guard Base, Tinker Air Force Base and Burns Flat.
Cyber Centers of Academic Excellence
Inhofe secured several provisions in the NDAA to ensure DOD works directly with academic institutions that have National Security Agency cyber centers of academic excellence designations. Because of the University of Tulsa’s existing leadership in cybersecurity research and education, they are well suited to engage in these efforts.
Military Spouse Professional Development
Military spouses serve and sacrifice alongside their service member, facing frequent moves and long deployments that often result in barriers to meaningful professional employment. To support military families, Inhofe authored two provisions to promote professional development opportunities for military spouses. First, he doubled the amount DOD can reimburse spouses for the cost of obtaining a new professional license or credential after a permanent change of station. Too many spouses face extended unemployment after a relocation because of the time and resources it takes to reestablish professional licenses and Inhofe’s provision would alleviate some of the barriers they face. Secondly, his FY2020 NDAA authorizes a cooperative agreement with the Council of State Governments to encourage license portability.
Other Military Construction Projects for Oklahoma
Inhofe supported authorization to fully fund the second phase of the Advanced Individual Training Barracks Complex at Fort Sill and the Fuels Storage Complex at the Tulsa International Airport for the Oklahoma Air National Guard.
ATC Hiring Reform
Inhofe authored a provision directing the Federal Aviation Administration to give preferential consideration to individuals applying to become air traffic controllers who have prior military experience or graduated from an Air Traffic – Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) school. Both the University of Oklahoma and Tulsa Community College are AT-CTI schools, whose graduates will benefit from this program. This provision builds on provisions that Sen. Inhofe authored that were included in the 2016 FAA reauthorization bill.
Aviation Workforce Development
Inhofe’s provision builds on his existing workforce development provisions, this would allow pilot- and aviation-oriented organizations like AOPA and EAA to apply for pilot education grants, ensuring that these organizations that are already engaged in bringing ground school and other aviation STEM education opportunities to high school students have the ability to apply for federal grants to amplify their existing efforts. This provision expands on a top priority from the 2018 FAA reauthorization bill that Sen. Inhofe originally introduced in his 2018 FLIGHT Act.