WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a conferee for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, today applauded the completion of the defense spending conference report. Senator Blackburn advocated for several provisions critical to groups in Tennessee that are included in the NDAA.
“This NDAA funds our key priorities of implementing the National Defense Strategy, rebuilding the military, and taking care of our troops and their families. Tennessee is proud to be home to multiple military bases,” Senator Blackburn said. “The sacrifice our members of the military make in service to our country can never be repaid. It is essential that we provide our men and women in uniform with the support they need to protect the United States and support their families. This bill seeks to meet that goal.”
The FY 2020 NDAA provides our men and women in uniform with a 3.1% pay increase – the first since 2010. It eliminates the “Widow’s Tax” over three years, resulting in full annuity to be paid out on and after January 1, 2023. The legislation also provides much-needed oversight of the Privatized Military Housing Program, including creation of a Resident Bill of Rights.
Senator Blackburn’s work in the FY 2020 NDAA:
- Implements military spouse professional licensure reciprocity to make it easier for spouses to continue working when moved across state lines for their service. This provision comes as a result of discussions with members of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell as they seek to facilitate a seamless adjustment for their family members.
- Invests in the well-being of the servicemember, including through establishment of a “network of support” for DoD families of incoming servicemembers.
- Includes STEM courses in JROTC training to educate young men and women in science- and technology-related skills.
- Requires DOD to track how much time members of the National Guard are deployed, as extended periods away can cause undue stress on their civilian jobs. This comes as a result of discussions I had with members of the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Poland and Ukraine, including several guardsmen and women from Knoxville and the surrounding area who described this as being one of the biggest hurdles in their service.
- Requires healthcare providers to ask questions about environmental exposures during post-deployment health assessments. Many servicemembers who have deployed to austere environments out of Tennessee have been exposed to open-air burn pits and other environmental hazards. This provision will also give healthcare providers with access to the burn pits registry and a plan will be implemented to phase out burn pits entirely.
- Provides full funding for procurement, research, testing, and development of mission-essential aircraft, including CH-47 Chinook helicopters and MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned Aerial Systems.
- Increases infrastructure and operations budget for our national nuclear security enterprise, which includes the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee. This bill will properly fund facilities that have been neglected since after the Cold War.
- Invests in the future of our military through the implementation of the Space Force.
- Supports the partnership between the U.S. military and its strong and unwavering partnership with the Kurds in Syria.
- Maintains the enduring and critical partnership the U.S. enjoys with Israel, including through full funding of missile defense articles, cooperation on countering unmanned aerial systems, and extension of anti-tunnel cooperation activities.