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December 17, 2019

Inhofe's NDAA Passes Senate: Includes Key Oklahoma Support

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, praised final passage of the conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. This legislation, approved by a vote of 86-8, provides necessary authorities and policies for the Department of Defense and critical national security programs within the Department of Energy.

 This year’s legislation provides for a total of $738 billion in base discretionary funding. In addition to supporting implementation of the National Defense Strategy, the conference report includes landmark reforms for military privatized housing, establishes a U.S. Space Force and ensures our troops receive their largest pay raise in a decade. It now heads to President Trump’s desk, where he is expected to sign it quickly.

“Everyone knows what happened to the military under President Obama. After decreasing military spending by 25 percent at the end of his Administration we were left with a military that had more F/18s that couldn’t fly than those that could. We were left with more Brigade Combat Teams that were deemed ‘not ready’ than those that were. Worse, we were left falling behind to our peer competitors, Russia and China, in key areas like hypersonic weapons and space.

“With President Trump, we’ve been rebuilding our military, but it doesn’t happen overnight. My NDAA gets us there faster. We fully fund needed improvements to resource key weapons systems, including our nuclear triad, as well as grow the Navy fleet, modernize Army capabilities and increase lethality. We increase end strength and invest in research and development so we can be prepared not just for the conflicts of today—but the conflicts of tomorrow. Most significantly, under the leadership and direction of President Trump, we also create a Space Force – a sixth branch of the military.

“With the passage of this year’s NDAA in the Senate, we are one step closer to delivering on President Trump’s and my promise to rebuild our military. I look forward to the President signing this quickly so we can make it a reality.”

Installations and Community leaders across Oklahoma praised Inhofe’s work to benefits the state in the NDAA:

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.

When the Senate passed the NDAA in June, Janna Driver, a former resident of Tinker Air Force Base and witness at a SASC Hearing on privatized housing that sparked the Armed Forces to make critical changes, acknowledged the Chairman’s work: “My family has suffered immensely due to the conditions of our on-base privatized housing. I am extremely grateful to have had Chairman Inhofe as a voice in Washington to enact change for military families in Oklahoma and around the country,” Driver said. “We are hopeful that the changes made in this year’s NDAA-including the Tenant Bill of Rights, dispute resolution process, added transparency and strengthening the chain of command- will help to increase the accountability that has been lacking and necessary in making living conditions safe and healthy for our military families who sacrifice so much for this country.” 

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.

“For too long, many generations of surviving spouses have been penalized by the unjust widow’s tax, and, for too long, legislators of both parties weren’t willing or able to take up legislation that would end the offset and bring more stability and financial peace to thousands of families of those who have given their last full measure of devotion. While my husband was  deployed, I worked as an intern for Sen. Inhofe, and, after he was killed in action, we kept working together on efforts to end the widows tax and support military families- especially the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Today we were successful and I am confident we would not be here today without Sen. Inhofe’s passion for the families of the fallen, hard work, and leadership,” said Jane Horton, Gold Star Wife.

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.

"Passage of the NDAA will continue to provide a major economic impact for the City of McAlester. Direct Hire Authority has greatly decreased the time it takes to move from application to hire. This has increased employment in our community which, in turn , has added significant revenue to our local economy. McAlester is very proud of the work done at MCAAP and with continuation of Direct Hire Authority anticipate and the benefits it provide, we look forward to continued growth," said Mayor Browne, McAlester Defense Support Association.

“Our ability to direct hire civilian personnel into key positions is critical to the long term readiness of our military,” Roy Williams, President and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber said. “Those positions include depot maintenance, cybersecurity, acquisition, and science, technology, and engineering. This authority must be fully utilized by the services in our to ensure they can efficiently fill these critical positions with uniquely qualified personnel.  This directly impact readiness and our national security.” 

“The Direct Hire Authority has been essential in aiding employment needs at McAlester Army Ammunition Plant. Previous to the Direct Hire Authority, McAlester was operating with 1,700 employees; since implementing they have increased to more than 2,000. This increase has benefited the local economy immensely and has decreased the workload gap,” said Jessica Gregg, Executive Director, McAlester Defense Support Association.

“McAlester Chamber of Commerce is pleased to share a reported increase of sales tax within our community of business owners over the past year,” said Krystal Bess, Executive Director of the McAlester Area Chamber of Commerce. “With our understanding of the direct hire authority, MCAAP has added an additional 300 jobs. As an organization, supporting local industry is a priority and we are grateful for the advancements MCAAP has been able to obtain through the Direct Hire Authority and the benefits our members have seen.”

PIM Program

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.

“The Army has been clear—long range precision fires is their top modernization goal, and the PIM is how we get there. Lawton knows the importance of this mission for the nation, for the Army and for our own community. We appreciate Chairman Inhofe’s work to ensure the PIM program is fully funded, which, in turn, fuels the economy of our region,” said Mike Brown, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army.

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.

“We applaud Senator Inhofe’s attention to our Nation’s #1 Defense Department priority, ‘Improving Military Readiness.’ He was able to obtain additional funding for the Research and Development of Advanced Pilot Training. Vance AFB has led the way in developing improved and efficient methods to increase the number of U.S. Air Force Pilots trained in Oklahoma by at least 34 percent. Senator Inhofe also secured funding for the new Advanced jet trainer, the T-7A Red Hawk, which is the much needed replacement for the T-38 utilized for Pilot Training at Vance AFB,” said Mike Cooper, Chairman of the Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission.

KC-46

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.

“As the Chairman of the Altus Military Affairs Committee and on behalf of the Altus community, we applaud Senator Inhofe’s tireless commitment to policy and funding in the FY20 NDAA to continue fundamental KC-46A program stability and support to meet the Air Force mission.  Our nation’s air refueling aircraft are crucial to the future of our national security and the KC-46A ‘Pegasus’ has started the process of replacing our aging tanker aircraft inventory.  Senator Inhofe’s tenacious work as the Chairman of the United States Senate Armed Services Committee has been nothing short of remarkable in support of the United States Air Force and his commitment to the delivery and support of the KC-46. The men and women in our nation’s armed forces deserve our absolute best effort and Senator Jim Inhofe has been the champion for readiness, enhanced military capabilities, and predictable budgeting for stabilized National Defense Strategy and execution. With the addition of the KC-46A mission set at Altus AFB, the tanker and mobility community will be able to capitalize on the synergistic training benefit to both meet and exceed global force requirements for our nation’s security,” said Dr. Joe Leverett, Chairman of the Altus Military Affairs Committee.

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.

“The backbone of ensuring the readiness of our military is our ability to sustain its weapons systems.  The leadership and operations at Tinker Air Force Base is at the core of sustaining that readiness and an integral part of our organic industrial base.  We must continue to improve our organic maintenance capabilities and effectiveness in order to ensure we have a combat ready force.  This assessment of the DoD organic industrial base will help up identify  shortfalls and resources required to ensure our organic industrial base, to include Tinker Air Force Base, remains the premiere provider of weapon system support,” said Roy Williams, President and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.

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.

"Developing ways to use and manage unmanned aerial vehicles to serve and protect society is a top tier research priority at Oklahoma State University, and that includes detecting and countering drones used for illegal or dangerous purposes," said Kenneth Sewell, Vice President for Research. "Funding this counter-UAS R&D will speed the progress of creating law enforcement and military tools that will ultimately protect Americans."

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.

“Impact Aid is critical to our ability to provide quality education in support of the children of our nation’s heroes, and provides communities such as our Southwest Oklahoma communities, necessary resources to meet the educational needs of our future generations,” said Brenda Spencer-Ragland, Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce. “Our military families deserve the absolute best education possible and this can be a reality through the continued funding of Impact Aid.” 

"The Oklahoma National Guard is very pleased for the continued support and funding for the Department of Defense STARBASE program,” Major General Michael Thompson, the Adjutant General, Oklahoma National Guard said. “We are proud to operate one of the nation's top STARBASE programs, exposing Oklahoma's youth to STEM instruction and activities as well as providing exposure to positive military role models found in our Oklahoma National Guard and Active Duty military installations."

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.

"Sen. Inhofe's provision to promote Cyber Centers of Academic Excellence in the NDAA is good news for the University of Tulsa," said TU President, Dr. Gerry Clancy. "The University of Tulsa is already a leader in cybersecurity research and education, and is well positioned for this opportunity to work with the DOD on the most pressing cyber issues facing our nation." 

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.

“We’re in the best economy of our lifetime, yet many military spouses have struggled to transfer professional licenses due to frequent moves. By doubling the amount that the Department of Defense can reimburse spouses for transporting their professional licenses, Chairman Inhofe shows once again that he’s a tireless advocate for military families. This reform will strengthen military family resiliency by making it easier for spouses to maintain employment,” said Jill Castilla, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army.

The National Military Family Association praised it as well: “The National Military Family Association (NMFA) is thrilled to see that the re-licensure reimbursement pilot program will be extended to 2024 and the reimbursement amount increased up to $1,000 per permanent change of station (PCS), allowing for a more comprehensive assessment of the need for this reimbursement. According to Department of Defense data, over 30 percent of employed military spouses work in fields that require a license or certification. Reimbursing spouses for fees incurred in efforts to maintain steady employment when moving across state lines, as a result of their spouse’s military service, will encourage employment efforts and enhance the financial resilience of the military family.

“Our Association is encouraged to see an expansion of the My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) Program. Extending eligibility to spouses of U.S. Coast Guard service members as well as continuing program coverage for spouses who are enrolled when their service member spouse promotes in rank beyond the initial eligibility ranks ensures that military spouses will be able to attain their educational and professional aspirations. Additionally, expanding the program to cover any associates degree will allow military spouses to pursue a broader range of career paths.”

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.

"The military construction funding of $18.9 million to support construction at the Tulsa Air National Guard Base provides organic bulk fuel to support surge flying operations- critical to increasing the unit's overall readiness," said Brigadier General Brent Wright, Chief of Staff-Air, Oklahoma National Guard

“Because of Chairman Inhofe’s leadership, this year’s NDAA fully funds the Advanced Individual Training Barracks Complex on the base. These barracks ensure that Fort Sill can continue to accommodate key missions and priorities—ensuring that it will play an important role in Army modernization for years to come,” said Mike Brown, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army.

"We applaud Senator Inhofe’s work on securing funding for the Defense Community Infrastructure Program, Ensuring the ability to leverage State and Community dollars to assist the Department of Defense’ efforts to improve Quality of Life for our service Members and complete necessary infrastructure projects to improve Military Readiness," said Mike Cooper, Chairman of the Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission.

Low-Cost Attributable Aircraft Technology

Unmanned wingman aircraft, like the Oklahoma City-built Valkyrie, are an important part of the future of U.S. air superiority. To promote continued research and development in this field, Inhofe increased funding for the Air Force’s Low Cost Attributable Aircraft Technology program, which would support eventual collaboration between manned and unmanned technology.  

"Kratos is leading change with the development of its Valkyrie and we are proud to be part of their team,” said Vic Bird, Director of Aeronautics in Oklahoma.  "Their development of this low cost attributable loyal wingman aircraft has begun a transformation in how we will execute air combat operations in the future and enhance our ability to execute air operations across the spectrum of operations."

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 Sen. Inhofe authored that were included in the 2016 FAA reauthorization bill.

“On behalf of University of Oklahoma and Max Westheimer Airport, we want to thank Senator Inhofe for his assistance with the National Defense Authorization Bill and new language in favor of the value of FAA Air Traffic-Collegiate Initiative Training (AT-CTI) programs such as our OU program,” said Lance Lamkin, Airport Director at the University of Oklahoma’s Max Westheimer Airport in Norman. “Having air traffic controllers who are collegiately trained provides a cadre of highly qualified candidates who possess the knowledge and leadership skills to move into supervisory and management roles in the air traffic system, airport management, and other aviation industry positions. By emphasizing applicants who have completed collegiate education with career specific ATC training, we ensure the highest level of safety for our citizens traveling within the National Airspace System.”

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 organizations 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 SARA Act.

“Senator Inhofe has shown exceptional vision and leadership in his efforts to introduce the next generation of pilots to careers through STEM-based aviation curriculum,” said Mark Baker, President and CEO Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. “AOPA’s aviation curriculum is being used by more than 5,000 high school students in 34 states today, including students in Oklahoma, and this grant program will certainly help advance the development of aviation curriculum for students and teachers nationwide.”

About the National Defense Authorization Act:

o   Authorizes growing topline for national defense ($738B + $5B disaster recovery).

o   Largest troop pay raise in a decade – 3.1%

o   Fully funds nuclear modernization

o   Creates Space Force as the 6th Branch of the U.S. Military

o   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

o   Expands equipment purchases:

        - F-35s, F-15s, F-18s, destroyers, subs, carriers, amphibious ships, Army helicopters & vehicles

o   Sanctions against Syria, Russia, North Korea, China

o   Cares for military families: child care, professional licensing for military spouses, improve moving process

o   Killed over 150 progressive provisions that would have harmed national security:

        - No restrictions on border/wall:

        - No GTMO closure or authority to transfer detainees to U.S.

        - No limits on POTUS authority to defend nation - No 2002 AUMF repeal or 2001 AUMF restriction

        - No restrictions on U.S. support/arms sales to Saudi/UAE to counter Iran

        - No halting nuclear modernization (Dems wanted to cut 1/3 of nuclear triad).

        - No transgender policy changes

        - No restrictions on global U.S. arms sales

        - No nationwide PFAS Superfund to enrich trial lawyers and bankrupt chemical companies

Read more about the NDAA Conference Report here.


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