September 18, 2017

Udall Votes for Major National Defense Bill to Benefit New Mexico & Nation

Bill includes several measures Udall fought for to secure NM priorities

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall joined the Senate in voting 89-8 for a major national defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), to support troops and military families, and to strengthen national defense programs in New Mexico and across the country. The bill, which will now be sent to the president, includes several measures that Udall has championed to benefit the national security mission being carried out at New Mexico’s national laboratories, military bases and installations, to strengthen the state’s economy, and to save taxpayer money.

“Every day, women and men at New Mexico’s labs, military bases, and federal installations are doing incredible work to keep our nation safe and to grow our state’s economy,” Udall said. "This major defense bill honors our service members and supports the critical national security mission being carried out across our state. I was proud to work to secure additional resources for New Mexico’s military families and for our labs and bases — true engines for our economy – in this major legislation, and I will keep working on the Appropriations Committee to ensure that New Mexico has the resources it needs to continue making unmatched contributions to the national defense.”

The annual NDAA sets policies and funding levels for the nation's military and defense operations, which are then funded through annual appropriations bills passed by the Appropriations Committee, of which Udall is a senior member. This year's bill, which authorizes $640 billion for national defense, includes provisions to bolster defense programs operated at New Mexico's federal installations and national laboratories — including support for safety at Los Alamos and Sandia national labs, and for cleanup operations. The NDAA also authorizes resources for construction projects at Kirtland, Holloman, and Cannon Air Force bases, clearing the way for significant improvements that will benefit the bases' national security mission and support New Mexico jobs.

This year, the NDAA includes a major bipartisan Udall-authored bill to modernize the federal government’s outdated IT systems and save taxpayers money.

It also gives service members a 2.1 percent pay raise.

In offering his support for the NDAA, Udall highlighted the following provisions as especially important for New Mexico and the nation:

Improving safety at New Mexico’s national labs: Udall and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) included a measure to require the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) to report to Congress annually on what additional resources needed to ensure that operations at New Mexico’s Sandia and Los Alamos national labs are kept safe for workers and the community. The amendment also expresses a sense of Congress that the DNFSB is critical to maintaining safety at our national labs, and that the congressionally chartered board cannot be terminated without congressional approval. The DNFSB is an independent body of expert board members and staff created to conduct safety reviews at Department of Energy nuclear facilities and offer public recommendations to the president and secretary of Energy periodically on important projects and procedures needed to ensure workers and the public are protected from dangerous nuclear materials.

The Modernization of Government Information Technology (MGT) Act: Udall and Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) included bipartisan legislation to modernize government information technology (IT), eliminate wasteful spending and strengthen cyber security. The federal government spends over $80 billion annually on major IT systems, with more than 75 percent of that money spent on maintaining legacy IT rather than investing in development and modernization that can dramatically improve services and lower costs. Using outdated software systems also leaves federal IT systems dangerously vulnerable to cyberattacks and other security risks. The MGT Act will establish working capital funds at federal agencies and create a centralized fund at the General Services Administration to support innovation and streamline IT systems, saving taxpayer money in the process. Similar legislation has already passed the House of Representatives on a voice vote.

Funding for New Mexico's Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories: The NDAA authorizes $14.5 billion in funding for the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration, an increase of nearly $1.6 billion over fiscal year 2017, supporting nuclear weapons programs and environmental cleanup at Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, as well as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

Plutonium Pit Strategy: Led by Heinrich and supported by Udall, this amendment presses the Department of Energy (DOE) and DOD to develop and communicate a comprehensive strategy for the plutonium mission currently being carried out at Los Alamos National Lab.

Construction projects at New Mexico Air Force bases: The NDAA includes authorizations for projects at New Mexico Air Force bases, including $50,228,000 for projects at Cannon Air Force Base, $4,250,000 for Holloman Air Force Base, and $9,300,000 for Kirtland Air Force Base. The NDAA also authorizes $8,600,000 for construction at the New Mexico National Guard Readiness Center in Las Cruces.

Albuquerque National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Building: Led by Heinrich and supported by Udall, this amendment allows the authorized funding for construction of a new NNSA building in Albuquerque to be appropriated over several years. Udall and Heinrich have secured $15 million in funding for this project in fiscal year 2017 and the pending Senate Energy and Water Appropriations bill for FY2018 includes $98 million for construction. The total cost for this new facility is $174 million.

Air Force Dual Credit Maintainers Pilot Program: Led by Heinrich and supported by Udall, this amendment authorizes $5 million for a pilot program for individuals in secondary or post-secondary school to receive skills training through civilian institutions located near military installations like Kirtland and Holloman Air Force bases. The amendment provides the Air Force and graduates the opportunity to fill the critical maintenance personnell shortage it is experiencing.

Third Offset Strategy: The NDAA authorizes over $500 million in additional funding to accounts meant to drive advancements in the department’s Third Offset Strategy and address unfunded requirements of the department, with the goal of bolstering U.S. military technological superiority, including over $50 million for basic research programs, and an additional $200 million for prototyping of directed energy systems. Udall and Heinrich continue to advocate for the DOD to open a “Defense Innovation Unit Experimental” (DIUx) office in New Mexico as part of the Third Offset Strategy.