ICYMI: Tennessean: Marsha Blackburn Touts Military Pay Raises, Benefits To Tennessee In Defense Spending Bill

August 3, 2023

NASHVILLE, TENN. – U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) fought to secure vital wins for Tennessee in the Senate-passed FY 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).



Marsha Blackburn touts military pay raises, benefits to Tennessee in defense spending bill

Vivian Jones


 New funding for military facilities and technology in Tennessee and a 5.2% pay raise for service members will be among the items funded in the federal government’s annual military spending bill, U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn says. 

“We’ve got so many people that are thrilled to see that pay raise there – because inflation has been difficult, and Congress realizes that there needs to be a way to offset that inflation,” Blackburn, R-Tennessee, said in an interview.

After the August recess, Congress will begin to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act, which the Senate passed last week. The Senate version authorizes $886 billion for national defense, up from $816.7 billion last year, and $777.7 billion in fiscal year 2022. 

Several contentious provisions are included in the House version, which passed earlier this month, including one to prohibit the Pentagon from paying for abortion-related travel expenses, gender transition surgeries, or hormone treatments for transgender individuals. The House version also blocks funding for diversity, equity and inclusion administrators.

“Unfortunately, the Pentagon has recently decided to prioritize political agendas that don’t have anything to do with national defense while the rest of the world laughs at us,” U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, said of the House version. “I’m glad to see this bill preventing taxpayer dollars from funding ridiculous things like race-baiting trainings, transgender surgeries, and cross-state abortions.”

Typically considered a must-pass funding bill, the NDAA has passed both chambers along largely party line votes. Republicans in Tennessee’s Congressional delegation voted in favor, while U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, opposed the bill.

Blackburn highlighted new funding she helped secure in the Senate version, including new funding to make permanent the pilot Pathfinder Program — an effort that allows university engineers to visit with troops in the field to identify ways technologies could be helpful, then design innovative technologies to fill troop-specific needs.

Last year, engineers at Vanderbilt University met with troops in the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell and conceptualized a first-of-its-kind exoskeletal system to assist soldiers repeatedly lift heavier objects while avoiding fatigue and back injury. The product, dubbed the “Exosuit,” is now almost ready to move to the commercial market, Blackburn said. 

Similar partnerships also exist with the University of Memphis, Tennessee Technological University, and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

“When you start a pilot project and it proves successful, being able to move this into a full-time project — it’s just exciting to see it happen,” Blackburn told The Tennessean. “This is solving problems — that’s what people expect. And the great thing is that it is talent in Tennessee that is solving those problems.”

U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tennessee, worked with U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Arizona, to include permitting reforms in the Senate version, aimed at bringing semiconductor manufacturing back to the U.S.

“Producing semiconductors in America is essential to our economic and national security, and commonsense permitting reform is necessary to advance this important goal,” Hagerty said in a statement.

Blackburn also worked alongside U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nevada, to ensure $10 million was included in the bill to fund mobile mammography services for female veterans. Research shows that female veterans are significantly more likely to experience breast cancer than their civilian counterparts. 

“We have quite a number of female veterans in Tennessee, and this is something that will really increase their access [to mammograms],” Blackburn said. 

More funding coming to Tennessee in the Senate bill includes:

  • $2.5 million to plan and design a new air traffic control tower at Fort Campbell.
  • Funding for a multipurpose training range at Fort Campbell. 
  • More than $16 million for new technology (including for the 101st Airborne and 160th SOAR at Fort Campbell) to aid in low-visibility scenarios such as low light, dust, or fog.
  • $177.5 million total for CH-47 Block II Chinook Helicopters including for Fort Campbell.
  • Funding for construction of the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge.
  • Continued funding for uranium-233 processing and extraction of thorium-229 for cancer treatments at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
  • $3 million in new funding for Defense Nuclear Systems at Y-12, as well as continued funding for weapons activities aimed at effective U.S. nuclear weapons deterrence. 
  • $5 million in new funding for the Air Force Research Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to build a new prototype of an advanced isotope power system.