Blackburn Includes Mission-Critical Military Priorities in Senate-Passed Defense Bill

July 23, 2020

Authored 51 Provisions

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate has passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 with the support of Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). As a member of the Senate Armed Services and Veterans Affairs’ Committees, Senator Blackburn was able to include language to fund mission-critical projects that will directly impact military communities in Tennessee.

Senator Blackburn authored 51 of the provisions included in this bill, which includes $148.08 million for programs vital to Tennessee and to the national defense.

“Our nation is forever indebted to the servicemembers who put their lives on the line in the name of freedom,” Senator Blackburn said. “Tennessee is honored that multiple military installations call the Volunteer State home. As a member of the Senate Armed Services and Veterans Affairs’ Committees, I take seriously the task of ensuring these great Americans have the tools they need to protect our country in this new and challenging era of Great Power Competition. The FY 2021 defense authorization package fully funds our national defense priorities for our forces and their families. I look forward to working with my Senate and House colleagues to ensure that these provisions make it through conference negotiations and to the President for his signature.”

This year’s Senate defense authorization bill meets President Donald Trump’s requested budget of $740.5 billion to fully fund our military and provide for the national defense, provides a 3% pay raise for our troops, and cares for military families and our civilian workforce. Through the encouragement of innovative technological development, this funding restores, maintains, or expands our comparative advantage over China and Russia.

Senator Blackburn secured funding for key projects that will have a direct effect on military communities in Tennessee, and on the mission of the Armed Forces to protect and defend the United States.

Senator Blackburn’s work in the FY 2021 NDAA falls under three vectors.

VECTOR ONE: Promoting indigenous innovation and high-skilled work in Tennessee.

  • Secures American supply chains by requiring a certain percentage of critical technologies to be manufactured and assembled in the United States or a cooperating country.
  • Authorizes the continuation of JROTC educational opportunities in STEM fields, the first of which is at Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport.
  • Invests in collaborations with academia by supporting military-funded, in-state research programs, including Pathfinder Air Assault and Minerva, to help strengthen our Armed Forces against adversaries such as China, Russia and Iran. These programs will be conducted at the University of Tennessee, University of Memphis, and Vanderbilt University.
  • Increases funding for machine and advanced manufacturing research, which is conducted at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee, to strengthen American companies’ capabilities to manufacture cutting-edge machine tools.
  • Increases demand for American-made products by expanding the Department of Defense’s procurement authority, which gives preference to domestically produced and manufactured products and promotes increased development of the domestic unmanned aircraft systems industry, including small UAS providers in Tennessee. This helps small and medium size businesses identify solutions to secure their platforms and enable their participation in the defense industrial base.
  • Increases funding for an additional Virginia-class submarine, of which many components are made in Tennessee.

VECTOR TWO: Empowering the future of Tennessee’s military installations, including Fort Campbell, Arnold Engineering and Development Complex, McGhee Tyson Airfield, Berry Field, and the Memphis Air National Guard Base.

  • Increases funding to assist in the revitalization of Army deployment infrastructure, including runway and ramp repair at Fort Campbell.
  • Fully funds infrastructure and operations priorities for our national nuclear security enterprise, which includes the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 National Security Complex.
  • Provides full funding for research, development, and procurement of mission-essential aircraft, including MH-47 Chinook helicopters, and technologies essential for future basing of MQ-9 Reapers in Tennessee.
  • Increases funding to equip National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams, including at Berry Field, to enhance capabilities in detecting nuclear and radiological hazards.
  • Increases funding for military spouse professional licensure portability to make it easier for spouses to continue working when moved across state lines for their service. This provision builds on Senator Blackburn’s work last year, which established licensure reciprocity for spouses, in order to facilitate a seamless adjustment for servicemembers and their families.
  • Supports quality of life and enhances retention of the special operations community, including our Green Berets and Night Stalkers. The provisions will provide new opportunities for special and incentive pay parity. Language supporting the Protection of the Force and Family (POTFF) initiative will also ensure that the POTFF continues to improve human, psychological, spiritual, and social performance programs.
  • Urges the adoption of Live-Virtual-Constructive advanced training environments that support timely development, acquisition, and fielding of cutting-edge air combat training systems.

VECTOR THREE: Streamlining the work of the Department of Defense across services and domains to increase interoperability, reduce stove piping, and increase efficiency.

  • Creates a pilot program to allow National Guard cybersecurity assistance to state and local governments through state fusion centers. Cyber incidents require a whole-of-government response, and this pilot will improve homeland security by leveraging DoD resources against foreign adversaries.
  • Requires DoD and the Defense Health Agency to take steps to modernize body armor for female servicemembers to prevent injuries caused by ill-fitting personal protective equipment.
  • Supports the strong and unwavering partnership between the U.S. and Taiwan by requiring DoD to assess the feasibility of senior U.S. military officers providing educational training at the National Defense University of Taiwan.
  • Enhances U.S. global leadership through the newly-created Pacific Deterrence Initiative to counter China by devoting appropriate attention and resources to multinational fusion centers in the Indo-Pacific.

The executive summary of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 can be found here.