Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Includes Hawai'i Priorities in Final House Defense Funding Bill
Includes Provisions to Expand Access to TRICARE and Strengthen Hawai‘i Missile Defense
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) today voted in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 (NDAA). The bipartisan bill passed by a measure of 269-151.
“My priority as a member of the House Armed Services Committee is to make sure our troops have the resources they need to keep the American people safe, and this funding measure provides critical resources to do that,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. “In addition to almost $500 million in investment for Hawai‘i military priorities, I passed amendments to the bill that will help increase Hawaii’s protection against missile threats from North Korea. The bill also includes my amendment to finally reverse the Department of Defense policy decision that negatively impacted more than 1,000 veterans in Hawai‘i, especially those on our neighbor islands, who were no longer able to access the TRICARE Prime health benefits that they had earned. My amendment allows them to re-enroll and finally receive the care they deserve.
“Additionally, as we continue to fight against the terror of Islamic extremist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda, I co-sponsored a provision that would authorize direct assistance to the Kurdish and Sunni fighters who are courageously battling against ISIS in Iraq. This will arm them with the weapons and equipment they need and bypass the Shiite-led, Iranian influenced, central government in Baghdad. I also supported a provision in the bill that requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a comprehensive strategy to Congress on how the U.S. is taking action to counter Islamic extremism worldwide.”
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s amendments and priorities in the NDAA:
Restoring Access to TRICARE Prime: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard sponsored an amendment included in the NDAA with Congressman John Kline (R-MN), that provides military retirees living beyond 100 miles from a military treatment facility the option to re-enroll in TRICARE Prime after they had lost access due to a 2013 policy change by Department of Defense (DOD). The amendment would provide a one-time election for all affected retirees to have access to TRICARE Prime.
Missile Defense for Hawai‘i: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard cosponsored two amendments that will help ensure Hawai‘i has ballistic missile defense capabilities that will keep the people of Hawai‘i safe. Both passed unanimously in Committee. The first pushed back the timeline for moving the Sea-Based X-band radar from Pearl Harbor to a site on the East Coast and requires the Missile Defense Agency to certify that Hawai‘i will have missile defense coverage before the move. The other requires DOD to give Congress a plan for radar capability that will enhance the defense of Hawaiʻi against threats posed by emerging ballistic missile technologies.
U.S. Pacific Command: The NDAA contained several important provisions that support Pacific Command’s capabilities, including:
- Rep. Gabbard’s provision that requires DOD to provide the Committee with a briefing on the in-theater capabilities provided by the Maui High Performance Computing Center, a hub for innovation and technology that provides high-speed communications infrastructure, support services, expert staff, and resources to the U.S. Air Force.
- A provision co-sponsored by Rep. Gabbard that requires the President to provide an overall strategy for U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific region, coordinate implementation of the strategy across the federal government, and provide a separate section in the President’s budget request that identifies the resources put into the Indo-Asia-Pacific strategy.
- An amendment that keeps operational control over U.S. Navy forces assigned to the Pacific fleet under the control of U.S. Pacific Command.
Hawai‘i Military Construction - $469,750,000: Military construction funding will be used for continued upgrades to critical infrastructure and training assets in-state. These funds ensure that Hawai‘i is viewed as a pivotal location during our nation’s rebalance to the Asia-Pacific:
· $30,623,000 for power grid upgrades at Pacific Missile Range Facility
· $228,689,000 for projects at Marine Corps Base Hawai‘i (MCBH), including airfield lighting modernization, housing, and support facilities
· $60,881,000 for projects at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) including the F-22 Fighter Alert Facility, welding school shop consolidation, and others
· $107,563,000 for various projects at Schofield Barracks to construct a behavioral health and dental clinic facility (supports efficient medical and dental services)
· $19,520,000 for energy conservation upgrades at MCBH and JBPHH
· $22,384,000 for waterfront improvements at JBPHH for the Navy’s Seal Delivery Vehicle Team 1
Red Hill Underground Fuel Facility Infrastructure Plan: This provision would require an infrastructure plan to make improvements to the Red Hill Underground Fuel Facility moving forward. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) is currently conducting an engineering assessment to determine the best available practicable technological (BAPT) solutions for the recapitalization of the storage tanks to ensure the long-term integrity and environmental compliance of the facility. This provision requires the Defense Logistics Agency to present a plan to recapitalize the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility as quickly as possible.
Barking Sands Technical Underwater Range Replacement: The bill provides an additional $15 million to begin designing a critical upgrade to the Barking Sands Tactical Underwater Range, the largest underwater instrumented range in the world. The current underwater range system is beyond its twenty year design life, and this funding will help ensure the Pacific Missile Range Facility continues to provide unparalleled training, readiness, and test and evaluation support for the United States military, in addition to providing marine mammal monitoring and research capabilities.
Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Eradication: The coconut rhinoceros beetle is an invasive species that can cause millions of dollars of damage to property. The beetle was likely introduced to Guam via military shipments from Indonesia, and the beetle has been introduced to Hawai‘i through military shipments from Guam. This provision would require the Secretary of Defense to develop a program to eradicate the coconut rhinoceros beetle.
DOD Per Diem Rates: In 2014, DOD put a policy in place that significantly reduced per diem rates for civilian employees and servicemembers who travel over 30 days. Since learning about DOD’s plan, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has worked with her colleagues in the House to reverse this policy, and the bill restores $24 million of federal per diem rates for those impacted by this policy.
Women in Combat: Rep. Gabbard cosponsored a provision that would expedite the opening of combat roles to women in the military by reducing the ‘notify and wait period’ that the DOD has to abide by before opening closed combat military positions.
Direct assistance to the Kurdish Peshmerga and Sunni fighters:Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard cosponsored a provision that makes it U.S. policy to bypass Baghdad and provide direct assistance to Kurdish and Sunni fighters who are battling against ISIS in Iraq. The bill authorizes $715 million for the Iraqi train and equip program, and creates the mechanism necessary to supply 25% of the funds directly to Kurdish and Sunni forces. This amendment is critical to ensuring that these ground forces have the resources they need to defeat ISIS.
Comprehensive Strategy for the Middle East and to Counter Islamic Extremism: The bill requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a comprehensive strategy to Congress on U.S. efforts to counter Islamic extremism worldwide. The strategy must detail U.S. objectives; the roles and responsibilities of the Department of Defense; and actions to counter Islamic extremism globally.
Major Training Range Infrastructure Investment Study: A number of critical military training ranges exist in the PACOM Area of Responsibility. The Armed Forces have launched a number of efforts aimed at preserving military training ranges while also minimizing environmental effects of training activities. This section would direct Congress to study investments in infrastructure needed at major testing and range facilities, and present a plan moving to modernize ranges throughout the nation, including those in Hawai‘i.
Increased Investment in Small Shipyards: This provision would require the Secretary of Defense to prioritize investments in small shipyards, specifically those run by small businesses that are ancillary to public shipyards.
Public Schools on Military Installations: The Department of Defense, acting through the Office of Economic Adjustment, has provided grants to local educational agencies to construct, renovate, repair, or expand elementary and secondary public schools on military installations. Many of these schools are in Hawai‘i and are in dire need of an investment to bring them up to standard. This provision would ensure that schools which have already been allocated funding in the past are upgraded using existing funds while reevaluating the schools in the lower tiers to gauge necessary reprioritization.