House Passes 2021 Defense Bill

Smith: Defense bill helps service members, NJ military missions, $37M for JB-MDL

December 9, 2020

Joint Base, MDL –The House passed and Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) voted for the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) today, new legislation that will protect the airlift and air refueling missions at America’s only tri-service installation, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB-MDL), and brings $37 million in construction jobs that will support construction work for the local economy.

    “The bill requires the Secretary of the Air Force to maintain a minimum of 50 KC–10 Extender tankers—many of which are based at JB-MDL here in New Jersey—through fiscal year 2021, 38 Extenders through FY2022 and 26 through 2023,” Smith said. “This timetable should allow the critical air mobility mission at JB-MDL to continue without major disruptions as the Joint Base receives the new Boeing KC-46 tankers in the years ahead. We should see the first of 24 new aircraft in late 2021.”

   The NDAA also restricts the premature retirement of KC-135 Stratotankers—such as operated by the New Jersey National Guard—from retiring. “The missions of the active duty 305th Air Mobility Wing and its sister Air Force Reserve 514th Air Mobility Wing, as well as the NJ Air National Guard’s 108th Air Refueling Wing, have never been more important,” Smith said.

      Smith noted the bill authorizes construction of two key military projects at JB-MDL located in part in his congressional district:

·         $22 million for the Air Force for a much-needed Munitions Storage Area

·         $15 million for the New Jersey National Guard to build a National Guard Readiness Center to help with deployments of Guard members from the base.

   The bill also addresses key military challenges including suicide prevention in the ranks and sexual assault and harassment and it improves information sharing on human trafficking activities to counter this heinous crime.  The bill also provides 3 percent raises for all military personnel and hazard duty pay for certain deployments and combat. 

The 2021 NDAA also

·         initiates mental healthcare reforms for service-members, family members and retirees and seeks to improve the effectiveness of DoD’s suicide prevention programs.

·         addresses sexual assault and harassment in the military with reforms designed to improve reporting, improve and protect the rights of victims, and provide for more effective responses for sex-related offenses.

·         authorizes improvements to Military Family Housing with long overdue upgrades to identification and remediation of severe environmental hazards, and support for families displaced for mold and other hazards.

·         provides reforms for military families, including childcare shortages, reforms to programs that support military families with children with special needs.

·         ensures service members have the diagnostic equipment, testing capabilities and PPE they need, along with providing medical surge capacity, and health benefits to members of the National Guard that supported the COVID-19 response.

·         improves U.S. coordination and information-sharing to combat international human trafficking and reauthorizes a stronger, survivor-led U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.

·         strengthens tools to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorist programs.

   The author of the recently House-passed Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and Ranking Republican on the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China also highlighted key NDAA provisions that protect the U.S. from Chinese military and cyber threats and U.S. interests in promoting and protecting democracy around the world. 

       “Specifically, the bill expands the prohibition on DoD acquiring certain sensitive materials from China, or certain printed circuit boards from China,” Smith said.  “It also requires a report on the vulnerabilities to the medicine supply chain of the United States from foreign nations like China, and a Presidential assessment on how to deter Chinese industrial espionage and large-scale cyber theft of intellectual property and personal information. The NDAA also requires public reporting of Chinese military companies operating in the United States and for that list to be published on the Federal Register.

        “On human rights issues, democracy and the rule of law, President Xi is in a race to the bottom with North Korea,” said Smith, noting that for over 30 years, “I have pushed back on the fantasy notion that trade with China—in reality, a gutting of American manufacturing and a wholesale transfer of intellectual property—would somehow improve China’s behavior. It just didn’t happen.”