Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-1st Dist. OK) voted to send HR 4909, the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) from the House Armed Services Committee to the full House this morning. The bipartisan bill authorizes funding for America’s armed forces and sets Department of Defense policy. Congress has passed the National Defense Authorization Act 53 years in a row.
Three major amendments sponsored by Congressman Bridenstine were adopted in the bill according to press releases from his staff:
• Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) exports — Codify in law a 30-day limit for Department of Energy (DOE) to issue final decisions on applications. Congressman Bridenstine commented, “Energy security is national security. Exporting LNG to our allies strengthens our national security by reducing dependence on hostile regimes, plus it grows the American economy. America is the world’s largest producer of natural gas. Oklahoma is the fourth-largest producing state. DOE bureaucrats are currently holding up 30 LNG export applications which have already completed full environmental and permitting reviews. ”
• Prevent re-listing of Lesser Prairie Chicken and de-list American Burying Beetle from Endangered Species Act (ESA). Bridenstine noted, “Training and operations on military bases is disrupted by compliance with ESA mandates. This is unnecessary when the species are not actually threatened. Additionally, ESA requirements make base expansion and modification cumbersome and expensive. These two species populations are present at Altus Air Force Base, Fort Sill, and McAlester Army Ammunition Plant.”
• Prohibit housing unaccompanied alien children on U.S. military installations. The Congressman said, “Housing children on bases with ongoing operations – including live artillery ranges – is inappropriate. The Obama Administration has commandeered military bases to temporarily house unaccompanied children, including Fort Sill in Oklahoma in 2014. Housing them on bases damages military readiness by shifting limited defense resources to non-defense missions. Rather than imposing on an overstretched military, the Administration could use some of the 77,000 vacant or underutilized buildings owned by the Federal government.”
NDAA includes other provisions that Congressman Bridenstine worked to support Oklahoma’s National Guard, including:
• Redirected funding to procure F-16 simulators. The 138th Fighter Wing at Tulsa Air National Guard Base flies F-16s.
• Redirected funding to support critical requirements for National Guard State Partnership Program.
NDAA includes several provisions from Bridenstine’s American Space Renaissance Act (ASRA). Earlier this month, Congressman Bridenstine introduced HR 4945, groundbreaking legislation to enact bold reforms across military, civil, and commercial space sectors. NDAA is the first step in Congressman Bridenstine’s strategy to enact ASRA piece-by-piece in different legislative vehicles.
NDAA includes ten provisions, including:
• Establishing a pilot program for the Air Force to buy, test, and evaluate commercial weather data. Utilizing data provided by innovative private sector weather companies can lower costs to taxpayers, produce better weather products for the warfighter, and complicate the targeting solutions of our enemies by distributing space architectures.
• Redirecting funding to jump start a pilot program to test next-generation satellite communications (SATCOM) technologies. Private sector SATCOM companies are offering leap-ahead capacity for commercial customers. The Department of Defense should take advantage of this through a pilot program.
• Modifies SATCOM Analysis of Alternatives to ensure accurate cost estimates and full consideration of commercial SATCOM technologies.
With regard to Bridenstine’s objection to the use of military bases to house unaccompanied migrant children, the detaining of these children was a consequence of The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008, signed by President George W. Bush and changed the policies and procedures for handling unaccompanied migrant children. The particular instance which incensed Bridenstine took place in 2014 and only involved the “commandeering” of empty barracks at Fort Sill for 120 days – while the barracks were not in use and at no cost to Oklahoma taxpayers. Long before military training was to commence, the children were gone.