Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Secures Funding for Hawai‘i Military Priorities in Defense Bill
Includes Provisions to Expand Access to TRICARE and Strengthen Hawai`i Missile Defense
Washington, D.C. – At 4:45 A.M. this morning, after a House Armed Services Committee meeting that lasted over 18 hours, U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), voted in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 (NDAA). The Committee passed the funding measure by a bipartisan vote of 60-2.
“With competing priorities, readiness needs, and a variety of threats that are constantly evolving in different parts of the world, it's important that we ensure our troops have the resources they need to do their job in keeping the American people safe,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.
“Given the evolving threats we face in the Asia-Pacific region, I’m pleased that in addition to almost $500 million in investment for Hawai‘i military infrastructure, two of my own amendments were included in the bill that help ensure Hawai‘i will be protected against missile threats from North Korea. Additionally, Congressman John Kline and I worked together to include an amendment that will keep the pressure on the Pentagon to provide access to affordable healthcare for those military retirees who live outside the TRICARE Prime service area. The Department of Defense's 2013 policy change disproportionately negatively impacted our neighbor island residents, which is a wrong that must be fixed.”
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s amendments and priorities in the NDAA are listed below:
Missile Defense for Hawai‘i: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard cosponsored two amendments that will help ensure that Hawai‘i is equipped with 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 The Department of Defense (DOD) to give Congress a plan for a radar capability that will enhance the defense of Hawaii against threats posed by emerging ballistic missile technologies.
TRICARE Prime: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard worked with Congressman John Kline (R-MN), to successfully pass an amendment that keeps the pressure on DOD to give affordable healthcare to those who lost eligibility for TRICARE Prime solely because of where they live. The DOD’s 2013 policy change that reduced TRICARE Prime service areas impacted over 1,000 people in Hawai‘i . The island geography of Hawai‘i presents unique access challenges for our veterans, particularly those who require inter-island transportation in order to get medical care and treatment. Because of a DOD 2013 change in policy, retirees on neighbor islands became automatically disqualified from opting in because they live on an island where they could not physically drive to an available primary care manager within the distance requirements. This is unacceptable and must be corrected.
Supporting Capabilities for Pacific Command: The NDAA contained several important provisions that support Pacific Command’s capabilities including:
• Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard passed an amendment that requires the Department of Defense 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, and an expert staff and resources to the Air Force.
• Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard cosponsored a provision that requires the President to provide an overall strategy for U.S. interests in the 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 to the Indo-Asia-Pacific strategy.
• An amendment that keeps operational control over U.S. Navy forces assigned to the Pacific fleet to remain under the operational and administrative control of U.S. Pacific Command.
Hawai‘i Military Construction - $469,750,000 -- Military construction (MILCON) funding is used for continued upgrades to critical infrastructure and training assets in the state. This will 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 Marine Corps Base Hawaii and Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam.
• $22,384,000 for waterfront improvements at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam for the Navy’s Seal Delivery Vehicle Team 1.
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. Last night the Committee passed an amendment that restored these cuts led by Congressman Mark Takai.
Women in Combat: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard cosponsored an amendment that would expedite opening combat roles to women in the military by reducing the ‘notify and wait period’ that the Department of Defense has to abide by before opening closed combat military positions.
Direct assistance to the Kurdish Peshmerga: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard cosponsored an amendment that makes it U.S. policy to bypass Baghdad and provide direct assistance to Kurdish and Sunni fighters in Iraq. The bill authorized $715 million for the Iraqi train and equip program, and created the mechanism necessary to supply 25% of the funds directly to Kurdish and Sunni forces.
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 long-term integrity and environmental compliance. This provision requires the Defense Logistics Agency to present a plan to proceed with efforts 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, this funding would help ensure the Pacific Missile Range Facility will continue 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 Secretary of Defense to report on a program to eradicate the coconut rhinoceros beetle.
Major Training Range Infrastructure Investment Study: A number of critical military training ranges exist in the PACOM AOR. 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 investment 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 (OEA), 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 need of dire investment to bring them up to standard. This provision would ensure that schools that 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.
Strategy for the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region: The bill requires the President to provide an overall strategy for U.S. interests in the 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 to the Indo-Asia-Pacific strategy.