Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate delivered final passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (NDAA) by a vote of 91-3, sending this legislation once again to President Obama’s desk for signature. The bill is the product of months of negotiations by U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, respectively, and delivers some of the most significant reforms to the Defense Department in decades while reinvesting savings in enhancing the readiness and capability of American service members. The bill also includes several important measures that will ensure the State of Arizona continues to make vital contributions to national security.
Last month, the President vetoed an earlier version of the NDAA over broader budget disagreements – the first time in history that a President has vetoed the NDAA for reasons unrelated to defense. However, President Obama is poised to sign the amended legislation that passed Congress today following approval of a two-year Congressional budget agreement that resolved the President’s issues with domestic spending.
Chairman McCain released the follow statement applauding measures that are particularly important to the State of Arizona:
“I am very proud that Congress has once again overwhelmingly passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016. This bill will ensure our men and women in uniform, many who are still serving in harm’s way around the world have the vital resources they need to protect and defend the nation.
“As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am especially proud that this bill once again recognizes Arizona’s important contributions to the military and ensures our state continues to play an outsized role in defending the nation. It stops the Air Force from prematurely retiring the A-10 fleet and seven EC-130H Compass Call electronic attack airplanes stationed at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson; supports the manufacturing of new weapons systems and defense technologies in our state; authorizes much-needed military construction projects at Arizona bases; and strengthens vital border security operations to keep our communities safe. Most importantly, this bill includes critical provisions that will improve the lives of military service members and their families while ensuring we care for the ill, wounded and injured.
“At a time of growing threats to our national security, it is past time for the President to finally sign this bill into law. Any further delay will only serve to embolden our adversaries and put American lives in greater danger.”
Arizona defense leaders supporting the state’s service members and military installations also applauded passage of this legislation:
“The Southern Arizona Defense Alliance (SADA), which works to strengthen community support in Tucson, Sierra Vista and Yuma and complements the support groups in those communities that in turn support their military installations, embraces the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016,” said David Godlewski, Chairman and President of the Southern Arizona Defense Alliance. “This bipartisan bill strengthens national defense in Southern Arizona, supports the economy, our servicemen and women, and the critical installations at Davis Monthan AFB, Fort Huachuca, Yuma Proving Ground and Marine Corp Air Station in Southern Arizona.”
“For the local community strongly supporting Fort Huachuca, the successful passage today of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 under Chairman McCain's leadership will ensure the critical mission of the Defense Information Systems Agency will receive almost $4 million for facility renovations,” said Kevin Peterson, President of Huachuca 50, a nonprofit organization supporting the continued development of Fort Huachuca and Sierra Vista, Arizona. “The two-year budget agreement with stable funding for the Army through next year also paves the way for us to work with the Chairman and the rest of the Arizona delegation on additional opportunities to strengthen the Fort's missions and local economic development for the Sierra Vista community in the next budget cycle.”
The provisions of the bill that are of critical importance to the State of Arizona are below:
KEEPING THE A-10 FLYING AT DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE
The NDAA once again prevents any premature retirement of the A-10, which continues its vital role of protecting American service members and our allies in combat. Despite the Obama Administration’s repeated attempts to retire the A-10 fleet, the NDAA prohibits the Air Force from retiring any A-10 Warthogs and fully funds the flight hours, pilot training, fuel, maintenance and 30mm ammunition for all A-10s for the upcoming year. The NDAA also requires the Secretary of the Air Force to maintain a minimum of 171 combat-coded A-10 aircraft, many of which are stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (AFB) in Tucson, and directs the Government Accountability Office to conduct an investigation and review of the A-10’s close-air support mission. Finally, the NDAA reduces the number of A-10s allowed to be placed into backup inventory status to 18, from the 36 allowed in the FY15 NDAA.
PRESERVING THE EC-130H COMPASS CALL ELECTRONIC ATTACK FLEET AT DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE
The NDAA prevents the Air Force from following through on its proposal to retire seven EC-130H Compass Call electronic attack airplanes stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. These jamming and surveillance aircraft are critical to protecting our airmen and women from sophisticated electronic attacks in conflicts across the Middle East such as Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan as well as against potential threats in the Pacific and Europe. The NDAA also requires the Air Force to submit a report on all aspects of the EC-130H aircraft, including how it will recapitalize the capability requirement for the Compass Call mission into the future.
SUPPORTING ARIZONA’S MILITARY INDUSTRIAL BASE
The NDAA ensures that Arizona’s businesses continue to manufacture and innovate new weapons systems and defense technologies that our troops need to defend and protect the nation:
MESA: Fully funds the Army’s request for 64 Apache helicopters to be remanufactured at Boeing in Mesa;
TUCSON: Increases the military’s budget to purchase 49 additional Tomahawk missiles, which will be manufactured at Raytheon in Tucson;
TUCSON: Increases the military’s budget by $140 million to purchase additional anti-tank missiles, which will be manufactured at Raytheon in Tucson.
SUPPORTING NEW MILITARY CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS IN ARIZONA
The NDAA provides much-needed funding for military construction projects in Arizona, including:
DAVIS-MONTHAN AFB: $16.9 million at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson for C-130 storage and cleaning facilities;
YUMA: $50.6 million at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma for aircraft maintenance facilities;
LUKE AFB: $33 million at Luke AFB for an Air Force Squad Operations Facility;
LUKE AFB: $13.2 million at Luke AFB for an aircraft maintenance hangar;
LUKE AFB: $5.5 million at Luke AFB for a bomb maintenance facility;
LUKE AFB: $5 million at Luke AFB for a fuel offloading facility;
FORT HUACHUCA: $3.8 million at Fort Huachuca for communications facility renovations.
TRANSFERRING MOBILE HOMES TO NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBES
The NDAA also allows the transfer of approximately 125-200 unneeded mobile homes from the Department of Defense to Native American tribes at no cost to the American taxpayer. The Navajo Nation and other tribes have long advocated for such transfers.
STRENGTHENING ARIZONA BORDER SECURITY
The NDAA also includes several measures that strengthen Arizona’s border security operations that keep communities safe across the U.S.-Mexico border, including:
$45 million for Operation Phalanx, which would increase border security operations by the National Guard along the southern border and could result in an approximately 60 percent increase in aerial surveillance of the region;
Up to $75 million in additional assistance to Customs and Border Protection operations to secure the southern border, which may include the deployment of personnel, surveillance assets, and intelligence support;
$50 million to address U.S. Southern Command's unfunded priorities to increase surveillance and interdiction operations in Central America, a primary transit point for illicit trafficking into the United States;
Enables the Secretary of Defense to transfer excess defense articles and equipment to the Department of Homeland Security for border security activities.