WASHINGTON, DC—Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo announced that the House Armed Services Committee has favorably reported out H.R. 4909, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, which authorizes and sets policy for the Department of Defense. The bill was reported to the full House of Representatives by a vote of 60 yeas to two noes. The FY17 NDAA authorizes approximately $543.4 billion for national defense programs as well as an additional $58.8 billion for overseas contingency operations. The bill moves to the full House of Representatives for consideration.
H.R. 4909 authorizes $7.7 billion for military construction, including $253.885 million for Guam that authorizes the full appropriations passed by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees earlier this month with an additional authorization for $5.2 million for the Reserve medical training facility for the Air Force Reserves. Military construction projects for Guam will support the Marine realignment as well as current operations which include the hardening of select military facilities. See the full table below.
During the full committee markup, Bordallo led an effort to strike an amendment that would provide the DoD with broad authority to prevent the designation of federal properties as National Historic Landmarks, World Heritage Sites, or as listing on the National Register of Historic Places, without input from local communities. Congresswoman Bordallo believes that community input is critical and that local concerns should be heard and considered by the DoD during the process. She argued that the process currently works as intended and cited concerns raised in Guam to prevent the development of a live-fire training range near Pagat to support the Marine realignment. She believes that local communities should have a voice in the designation of historic areas and DoD should not be able to circumvent the process.
Bordallo also worked with Republican leadership to include report language to address the high rates of denial of H-2B visa renewal applications on Guam. The NDAA bill report will include language that expresses the committee’s concerns that these denials could impact ongoing and future projects on Guam and directs the DoD to work with federal agencies to ensure that hat H-2B visa applications are appropriately processed and that there is sufficient workforce to meet construction demands.
Bordallo also successfully worked with her Republican and Democratic colleagues on the Armed Services Committee to include provisions important to Guam that were passed by the Readiness Subcommittee last week. These includes holding the DoD accountable to its “net negative” policy; promoting an increased role for the Guam National Guard to support permanent basing of the THAAD battery on Guam; lifting restrictions on funding for civilian infrastructure projects on Guam; and promoting invasive species prevention and management in the Asia-Pacific region.
“This year’s NDAA is a critical vehicle for providing our men and women in uniform and their families with the tools and support they need to accomplish their missions. However, I do have concerns with certain elements of the bill, particularly that it does not end sequestration so that we can provide the Department of Defense with certainty over the budget for planning purposes. This lack of certainty risks our national security interests over the long-term.
“I am, however, pleased that the bill addresses issues important to Guam relating to the realignment of Marines as well as for improving cooperation between our civilian and military community. In particular, I am pleased that the NDAA authorizes $253.885 million for military construction projects on Guam, further lifts restrictions on funding for civilian infrastructure funding, and holds the DoD accountable to their “net negative” policy. The bill will also take steps to address invasive species and provide a greater role for our Guam National Guard for the deployment of the THAAD batter on Guam. This will provide more jobs for our community and cost savings to the Army.
“I also appreciate the cooperation of my Republican colleagues to include language to resolve the denials of H-2B visa denials, which are having a negative impact on our construction and health industries. While I strongly encourage the hiring of local employees, our current workforce is not able to fully fill these positions, and we let labor shortages impede progress that we continue to make.
“As the bill moves to the full House of Representatives, I will work with my colleagues to protect our Guam provisions and ensure that all our service members have the resources they need.”
Provisions impacting Guam are outlined below:
• Addresses high rates of denial of H-2B visa renewal applications on Guam by directing the DoD to work with relevant federal agencies to ensure Guam as an adequate workforce to meet labor demands. The language notes that specialized labor needs, particularly for construction, are needed to support the Marine realignment;
• Lift restrictions on funding for the development of civilian infrastructure related to the realignment of Marines from Okinawa to Guam. The provision authorizes the use of funds for infrastructure projects that were identified in the Economic Adjustment Committee report issued in October 2015, including the construction of a cultural repository, public health lab, and further upgrades to Guam’s water and wastewater system;
• Holds DoD accountable to its “net negative” policy by requiring the Navy to report to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on the status of implementing the policy. The report should include the total number of acres of real property controlled by the Navy on Guam as well as the process to determine lands to be returned to the Government of Guam in accordance with the “net negative” policy;
• Requires DoD to provide a briefing on the feasibility of re-establishing port calls by Taiwanese Naval vessels in U.S. ports during their annual training exercises. The potential for port calls is consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act and could enhance theater security cooperation plans;
• Requires a quarterly report from the DoD on Freedom of Navigation Operations consistent with the recommendations of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission which help to ensure we are making clear the U.S. position on China’s reckless actions in the South China Sea. This was an amendment co-sponsored with Congressman Randy Forbes, a co-chair of the Congressional China Caucus with Congresswoman Bordallo;
• Expresses a Sense of Congress supporting senior military exchanges between the United States and Taiwan. Increased engagements would further develop the bilateral relationship and encourage the sharing of knowledge, training, and experiences. This was also a bipartisan effort with Congressman Forbes.
• Promotes an increased role by the Guam National Guard to support the permanent basing of the THAAD battery on Guam. The Committee encourages the Department of the Army and the National Guard Bureau to explore integrating the Guam National Guard in the security force mission of the THAAD, and to ensure that there are adequate resources budgeted in FY18 to support a joint Active Duty-National Guard concept for the THAAD on Guam;
• Promotes invasive species prevention and management in the Asia-Pacific region by requiring a briefing on the Regional Biosecurity Plan on recommendations at will minimize the harmful ecological, social, cultural, and economic impacts of invasive species. The briefing will help to hold the Department of Defense and other federal agencies accountable for providing sufficient funding for the successful implementation of this plan;
• Authorizes a review of service records for each military department of Asian American and Pacific Islanders who served during the Vietnam War and earned the Distinguished Service Cross but may be eligible for the Medal of Honor. The provision will correct an oversight of the FY02 NDAA which authorizes similar review for Jewish American and Hispanic American war veterans;
• Directs a briefing on how the Department of the Navy is implementing guidance regarding the clearance of unexploded ordinance in Guam, including impacts on cost and schedule of construction projects. It also tasks the Navy with briefing Congress on an update on technology demonstrations as well as other procedural or policy modifications that may be under consideration to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of munitions clearance;
• Directs the Marine Corps to assess technology available and determine the feasibility of incorporating safe, environmentally sound technology into their training ranges to ensure the safety of its personnel and the community while maintaining training requirements. The language seeks to reduce pollutants that may pose environmental and safety concerns from projectiles and bullets;
• Expresses the Sense of Congress that that the U.S. should continue to support trilateral cooperation with Japan and South Korea. The provision also calls for continued support for defense cooperation between Japan and South Korea on the full range of issues related to North Korea, as well as non-proliferation, cyber security, maritime security, security technology and capability development, and other areas of security mutual benefit.
• Supports the President’s Budget request MQ-4 Triton Navy Unmanned Ariel Vehicle (UAV), and adds funding to procure an additional MQ-4 to meet Navy requirements;
• Supports the President’s Budget request for the Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) program;
• Provides an additional $6.7 million for the National Guard State Partnership Program to meet the National Guard Bureau requirement;
• Provides an additional $1.2 million for the Sea Cadet Program to maintain reduced out-of-pocket for attendees;
• Provides an additional $15 million above President’s Budget for a total of $75 million for the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program (REPI). (PR)