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U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Votes For National Defense Authorization, Gets Results for Wisconsin Veterans, Workers and Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin today voted for the final version of the bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 that includes a number of measures that deliver results for Wisconsin. The final version of the defense funding bill passed the House and Senate with a veto-proof majority and now heads to the President’s desk for his signature.

“I voted in favor of this bipartisan defense authorization legislation because it makes important investments to strengthen our national security and support the health and well-being of our nation’s veterans,” said Senator Baldwin. “In particular, I am pleased the bill will help expand health care coverage for veterans who need it, and makes critical investments that support Wisconsin’s communities, military personnel and our Made in Wisconsin economy.”

The final NDAA did not include strong Buy American standards that Senator Baldwin has long championed to help drive local economic growth and support good-paying jobs in Wisconsin. “I strongly believe that when we build ships for America’s Navy, we should use American workers and American made goods, and I’m disappointed that the final legislation does not include the strong Buy American standards that I recommended,” said Senator Baldwin.   

Providing Health Care Benefits to Vietnam Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange

The NDAA includes an amendment, supported by Senator Baldwin, that would expand the VA’s list of medical conditions associated with exposure to Agent Orange to include Bladder Cancer, Hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism—health conditions that each meet the historical standard for being added to the presumptive list for service-connection as it relates to Agent Orange exposure. Currently, thousands of Vietnam veterans living with chronic health conditions developed as a result of their service are being denied critical benefits and health care from VA. This provision would require VA to provide a presumption of service-connection for Bladder Cancer, Hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism—expanding care and benefits for veterans suffering from these three conditions.

Supporting K2 Veterans

The NDAA includes language from Senator Baldwin’s bipartisan K2 Veterans Toxic Exposure Accountability Act to help veterans who served at Karshi Khanabad (“K2”) Airbase in Uzbekistan to obtain the health screenings and services they need. Specifically, the bill requires the DoD to conduct a study on toxic exposure at K2—the first step in establishing presumptive health and disability coverage for K2 related illnesses.

Supporting Military Personnel

The bill includes an across-the-bill pay raise of 3 percent for all service members. Additionally, the bill includes a number of initiatives that will increase diversity and inclusion in the armed forces, and monitor progress going forward. These include the creation of a Chief Diversity Officer in the Department of Defense, and the creation of a new Deputy Inspector General to oversee diversity and inclusion programs within the Department and to address supremacist, extremism, and criminal gang activity within military ranks.

New Investments in Military Construction in Appleton and at Wisconsin’s Fort McCoy

At Baldwin’s request, the bill includes $11.6 million for a Wisconsin National Guard Readiness Center in Appleton and $14.6 for a reconnaissance range at Ft. McCoy. Senator Baldwin also secured an additional $2.5 million that was not included in the President’s budget request to continue construction of new barracks at Ft. McCoy.

Supporting Made in Wisconsin Shipbuilding

The NDAA supports the Made in Wisconsin shipbuilding industry by authorizing funding for one guided missile Frigate (FFG), to be built at Fincantieri Marinette Marine. The bill also fulfills a top priority of the U.S. Navy by authorizing funding for the construction of two Virginia-class submarines. Wisconsin is home to 40 companies that supply key components for the Virginia-class program.

Investing in Workforce Development to Boost Shipbuilding

At Senator Baldwin’s request, the NDAA will create a new, joint Navy and Department of Labor working group to support the domestic shipbuilding workforce. The shipbuilding industry faces ongoing challenges due to workforce shortages and contract instability. This working group will assess existing trends within the shipbuilding workforce, ensure shipbuilders are able to benefit from existing federal government programs, and provide recommendations to Congress to stabilize the shipbuilding industrial base. Additionally, this provision directs the Secretary of the Navy to examine current and future shipbuilding contracts to maximize employment stability and provide a more stable workload to shipyards.

Evaluating Impact of Trump Administration’s Budget Cuts on Oshkosh Defense’s Tactical Wheeled Vehicles

The Trump Administration once again cut funding to medium and heavy tactical wheeled vehicles as a part of its annual budget request. These vehicles are built in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and supported by crucial suppliers across the Midwest. At Senator Baldwin’s request, the NDAA requires the Army to report to Congress on its justification for continuing to request funding below the levels needed to keep production open in Oshkosh. Additionally, the Army must report on how its cuts to these accounts impact the small and medium sized businesses that make up the tactical wheeled vehicle supplier base.

Limiting the Transfer of Certain Military Equipment to Local Police Departments

The NDAA includes an amendment supported by Senator Baldwin to help end police militarization and limit the transfer of certain surplus military-grade equipment to local law enforcement agencies across the country. The amendment will prohibit the transfer of military equipment to law enforcement agencies, including bayonets, lethal grenades, weaponized tracked combat vehicles and weaponized drones. This prohibition does not prohibit the transfer of defensive equipment, such as body armor.

The bill also requires Federal law enforcement agents and military personnel who respond to a civil disturbance to display the individual’s name, or other unique identifier such as a badge number, along with the name of the agency or service of the individual.

Renaming Military Bases

The NDAA includes language supported by Baldwin that requires, within three years, the renaming of all names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia on DoD property that honor the Confederacy. The provision would also establish a commission to make recommendations and create a renaming plan, identify costs, and include local community input and provide $2 million in funds for the commission. Senior DoD officials support this long overdue and essential move. 

Noise Mitigation for Truax Field

The NDAA includes a provision that Senator Baldwin pushed for to establish a 5 year pilot program that would provide funds to install noise insulation in properties impacted by military aviation noise. It also includes language that notes the issue of military aviation noise in our communities will continue as more fifth generation aircraft are deployed, and encourages the DoD to look for ways to work with communities to proactively address their concerns about noise.

Pressing for Chiropractic Health Care for Current and Former Military Personnel

Inspired by Baldwin’s Chiropractic Health Parity for Military Beneficiaries Act, the NDAA requires the Department of Defense (DoD) to report to Congress on the expected date that TRICARE will cover chiropractic services for military members, retirees and reservists, if the Department determines that it is feasible to expand these services.

Improving Care for Guard and Reserve Servicemembers

The final NDAA included legislation cosponsored by Senator Baldwin to improve Guard and Reserve servicemembers’ access to consistent mental health services by allowing the DoD to fund needed behavioral or mental health care regardless of deployment status. Currently, members of the National Guard and Reserves undergo annual health assessments to identify medical issues that could impact their ability to deploy, but any follow-up care must almost always be pursued at their own expense. The CARE for Reservists Act will also allow members of the Guard and Reserve to access Vet Centers for mental health screening and counseling, employment assessments, education training and other services to help them return to civilian life.