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Sen. Jones: Millions for Alabama priorities in annual defense bill

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Thursday highlighted how the latest National Defense Authorization Act could positively impact Alabama service members, state universities and businesses that work with the U.S. military.  

The fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), approved on Thursday by the Senate Armed Services Committee, now goes before the full Senate for a vote. 

“Alabama is an undisputed leader in securing our nation and this legislation recognizes that by providing significant funding for our troops, including a three-percent pay raise, and continued funding for our defense assets,” Jones, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “Each year, this bill is an example of the kind of work we can do when we come together on a bipartisan basis around a common goal – protecting our country and supporting our service members and their families. This bill provides the support and funding needed for Alabama to continue to lead in this effort, and I look forward to its passage in the full Senate soon.”

Jone’s office in a press release noted that the latest NDAA provides a three-percent pay raise for service members for a second year in a row, and addresses several quality of life issues for military children and spouses. 

Key provisions in the FY 2021 NDAA for Alabama’s servicemembers and their families, military installations, and contractors and research institutions are listed below.

 Strengthening Alabama’s Defense Infrastructure and Industry

  • $24 million for advanced electrical generation and storage facilities at Fort Rucker in Dale County;
  • $23 million for next generation fighter aircraft (F-35) facilities at Maxwell Air Force Base;
  • $18 million to construct a small arms parts demilitarization facility at the Anniston Army Depot;
  • $10 million to help steel manufacturers meet future defense needs, protecting current and future employment of thousands in Birmingham;
  • $5 million to improve efficiency and readiness at the Army’s Aviation and Missile Center in Huntsville; and,
  • $2 million for the Aerospace Education Research and Innovation Center (AERIC) at Tuskegee University, and a $5 million increase overall for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Funding for Alabama’s Contribution to the National Defense Strategy

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  • $349.7 million for an additional THAAD ballistic missile defense battery, key parts made in Troy;
  • $35 million for Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASM), made in Troy;
  • $10 million for research into lightweight power sources for Navy ships. The University of Alabama conducts leading edge research and development of silicon carbide power sources;
  • $7.3 million for continued research and development of advanced plastics technology. The Mobile area is home to a company that is pioneering thermoplastic tailorable composite manufacturing;
  • $5 million for research into advanced repair and modification processes. The University of Alabama is currently working with the DoD to develop these technologies;
  • $5 million to complete development of new satellite technology. Huntsville is home to companies that are leaders in this field and are well-positioned to compete for these funds;
  • $5 million to accelerate the Army helicopter modernization program. Bell Helicopter, in Ozark, is participating in this program;
  • $3 million to develop a hypersonic missile testing facility. Huntsville is home to a number of companies that contribute to the Defense Department’s hypersonics research and development;
  • $10.5 million to build a high energy laser system lab to help with the Army’s weapons modernization programs. The Army’s high energy laser program is headquartered at Redstone and works with a number of Huntsville companies; and,
  • $3 million for hybrid additive manufacturing research and development to help with the Army’s weapons modernization programs. The additive manufacturing industry is robust and growing in Alabama, with research and development ongoing in Birmingham. 

Support to Improve the Safety and Health of Military Housing and Bases

  • Requires the Secretary of Defense to implement within 90 days all applicable security and emergency response recommendations to protect U.S. military installations, which follows a call by Senator Jones to increase base security after Enterprise, Alabama native Joshua Kaleb Watson was killed during a terrorist attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola last year; and,
  • Requires the Secretary of Defense to ensure that each installation conducts or develops a plan to conduct regular live emergency response training with first responders.

Funding for Coronavirus Response

  • Increases funding to support the Defense Department’s coronavirus vaccine research and to integrate with other vaccine research programs; and,
  • Authorizes hazard pay for troops deployed in response to the coronavirus.

Expanding Support and Opportunity for Minority Service Members

  • Authorizes pilot programs to reduce barriers to participation in satellite ROTC programs and to provide flight training scholarships at HBCUs;
  • Takes steps toward identifying and eliminating barriers to minority participation in elite units in the armed forces; and,
  • Supports continuing and expanding the Air Force JROTC pilot training scholarship program to increase diversity in the pilot ranks and address the pilot shortage.

 Support for Military Spouses and Children

  • $50 million for Impact Aid to schools that serve military children;
  • $20 million for aid to military children with disabilities;
  • $15 million for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) youth educational programs (STARBASE);
  • Authorizes a pilot program to expand eligibility for attendance at DoD schools for military dependent children living off-base;
  • $4 million to continue development of interstate agreements on licensed occupations for military spouse; and,
  • Increases reimbursement to military spouses for state licensure and certification costs resulting from relocations.

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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