June 27, 2019

Udall Votes for Major Defense Bill to Strengthen New Mexico & Nation

Supports several measures to benefit service members, provide relief to NM communities impacted by PFAS contamination, and support the state’s national labs and military bases

Senate will hold historic vote tomorrow on bipartisan Udall-Kaine amendment to prevent an unconstitutional war with Iran

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall joined the full Senate in voting 86-8 for the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a major national defense bill including several measures that Udall championed to support New Mexico’s service members, military families, veterans, military bases, nuclear security labs, and defense programs across the state. This year, the NDAA debate will consider a bipartisan amendment from Udall and Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) that would prevent an unauthorized war with Iran. The Senate will conduct a historic vote tomorrow on the Udall-Kaine amendment, which will be retroactively included in the NDAA if it passes.  

The annual NDAA sets policies and funding levels for the nation’s military and defense operations at the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which are then funded through annual appropriations bills passed by the Appropriations Committee, where Udall is a senior member. This year’s bill, which authorizes $750 billion for national defense, includes critical provisions to benefit the national security missions being carried out at New Mexico’s national laboratories, military bases and installations, along with measures to provide relief to communities impacted by PFAS contamination. The NDAA also authorizes funding and resources for military constructions projects Hollomon Air Force Base, White Sands Missile Range, and Kirtland Air Force Base to make significant improvements that will support their national security missions. 

“New Mexico has a long and proud tradition of service, and is home to some of the nation’s premier military bases and federal installations. As a result, the people of New Mexico play an indispensable role in keeping our country safe and growing our economy,” said Udall. “This bipartisan bill honors our service members with a well-deserved pay raise and bolsters essential defense programs across our state. In particular, I’m proud to have fought for critical provisions to provide long overdue relief to communities impacted by PFAS contamination and secure additional resources for New Mexico’s national labs and bases, which are engines of economic growth. As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, I’ll keep fighting for the resources we need to keep New Mexico and the nation safe and secure.” 

Udall added, “Tomorrow, the Senate will take up a vote on the final piece of this bill, my bipartisan amendment to prevent the president from unilaterally starting an unauthorized war with Iran. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to do their constitutional duty and support my amendment -- before this administration launches us into another war in the Middle East that Congress has not authorized and that the American people do not want.”   

Specific provisions of the NDAA that Udall championed include:

Pay Raise for Troops:  The NDAA authorizes a 3.1 percent pay raise for members of the Armed Forces.

PFAS Damages Act: Udall, along with Senator Martin Heinrich and Representative Ben Ray Luján, introduced the PFAS Damages Act to provide relief to communities and businesses impacted by PFAS contamination in groundwater around Air Force bases in New Mexico and across the country. In 2018, the U.S. Air Force confirmed that firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals (PFOA and PFOS) used around Cannon Air Force Base and Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico contaminated nearby groundwater. The contamination has affected several agricultural wells near Cannon Air Force Base that feed New Mexican dairies, causing major disruptions for the local dairy industry. 

Udall’s PFAS Damages Act was included in the NDAA by an amendment from Heinrich during committee consideration. The measure would ensure that DOD takes precautionary action to prevent human exposure, including through agricultural products, provide alternative water or water treatment for contaminated agricultural water, and acquire contiguous property that is contaminated.  The Act would also mandate that the Department of Defense (DOD) create a plan of action to clean up contaminated sites and take all necessary steps to prevent further risks to public health.

Construction Projects at New Mexico Bases and Facilities: The bill authorizes $63.7 million for military constructions projects in New Mexico. 

Holloman Air Force Base: $20 million for the construction of a climate-controlled, storage and shipment facility at Holloman Air Force Base for military support equipment. 

White Sands Missile Range (WSMR): $5.8 million to build a solar, natural gas, and battery system micro-grid at White Sands to ensure uninterrupted power reliability.  

Kirtland Air Force Base: $15.5 million for the construction of a Combat Rescue Helicopter Simulator Facility at Kirtland Air Force Base along with another $22.4 million for the construction of a UH-1 Replacement Facility at Kirtland to house new simulators used for training flight crew personnel.

The amount of overall appropriations for military construction in FY 2020 will ultimately determine which projects are funded in the upcoming fiscal year.

DNFSB Provisions: The FY2020 NDAA includes a committee amendment from Senator Heinrich to ensure that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviews DOE’s Order 140.1 on information sharing -- an order that undermines the DNFSB’s oversight responsibility by restricting its ability to get health and safety information from DOE sites -- and a Heinrich-Udall floor amendment that clarifies that Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) board members may serve up to two terms, ensuring better continuity at the board which is the only independent safety oversight over DOE nuclear facilities. 

Environmental Cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL): The bill authorizes $195.5 million for soil and water cleanup and removal of radioactive waste offsite. Funding will help address the hexavalent chromium and Royal Demolition eXplosive (RDX) plumes in groundwater around Los Alamos.

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP): The bill authorizes $398 million for WIPP, including $17.5 million for repairs of aging equipment.