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Senate Passes National Defense Authorization Act With Praise From Shaheen, Hassan

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is critical legislation outlining the nation’s defense priorities for the fiscal year. The bill includes the following provisions spearheaded by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee:

  • Shaheen’s bipartisan amendment that would direct the Department of Defense to fund a nationwide health study on implications of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), such as PFOA, in drinking water. In May, the Air Force announced it would not fund a health study of water contamination around Haven Well at the Pease International Tradeport – Shaheen’s amendment establishes the first-ever nationwide study on the human health effects of those exposed to PFCs in their drinking water;
  • Shaheen’s amendment to ban Kaspersky Lab software from being used by the federal government. The Moscow-based software company has ties to the Kremlin. Shaheen’s previous amendment to ban Kaspersky Lab software from being used by the Department of Defense was included in the committee-passed version of the bill in June. Last week, the Trump administration heeded Senator Shaheen’s call to ban the software company from all federal agencies;
  • Shaheen’s amendment encourages military exchanges (retail stores), including the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) on 3,100 U.S. Army and Air Force installations worldwide, to select more small business suppliers for its convenience and department stores;
  • Shaheen’s amendment to expand the ability of small businesses in rural areas to participate in the Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) program, which helps small businesses sell to the federal government;
  • Shaheen’s amendment to ensure that all non-active service members and their dependents have contraception coverage with no cost-share, bringing TRICARE in line with standard civilian birth control coverage;
  • Shaheen negotiated an additional 4,000 visas for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. The SIV program allows Afghan interpreters and support staff who have assisted in the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and face threats as a result of their service to apply for refuge in the United States. Shaheen’s efforts have been instrumental in keeping this program operating for the brave men and women who have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Americans in the field, putting themselves and their families at risk to support American troops and operations.

“This bill contains a number of measures to help our communities, including my bipartisan amendment to authorize the Department of Defense to fund a health study on PFOA contaminant, which has polluted water supplies across the nation, and among them, the Haven Well at Pease International Tradeport,” said Shaheen. “The affected communities in New Hampshire have been fighting tirelessly for answers about the risks from exposure to perfluorinated chemicals in their drinking water. They deserve answers, and this measure will help do just that. Going forward, I’ll work to ensure that this national study pays particular attention to the health impacts on Seacoast residents so we can give peace of mind to New Hampshire families who have been impacted by these contaminants.”

“The case against Kaspersky Lab is overwhelming. The strong ties between Kaspersky Lab and the Kremlin are alarming and well-documented. I’m very pleased that the Senate has acted in a bipartisan way on my amendment that removes a real vulnerability to our national security. I applaud the Trump administration for heeding my call to remove Kaspersky Lab software from all federal computers. It’s important that this prohibition also be a part of statute and be expanded to the entire federal government, as my amendment would do. Considering the strong bipartisan, bicameral support for this proposal, I’m optimistic this will soon be signed into law.”

“We are forever indebted to the courageous Afghan civilian interpreters who risk their lives to help American forces. Their efforts have not only supported the United States’ mission in Afghanistan, but they have protected and saved the lives of our service members in the field, helping to ensure that our soldiers make it home to their families. Though investments in this program have previously wavered, I’m encouraged by this bill’s authorization to bolster visa allocations for interpreters and support staff, and I have confidence that Congress will build on this progress as we move forward,” Shaheen concluded.

Senator Maggie Hassan voted to support the legislation and released the following statement.

“In the face of a vast number of national security threats we face as a country, it is essential that the brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day to defend our freedom have the support and resources necessary to keep all Granite Staters and Americans safe,” said Senator Hassan. “I am proud to support the bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, which supports critical priorities for our national security including providing important funding to upgrade facilities at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.”

“This bipartisan legislation will not only help strengthen security in New Hampshire, but will help boost our economy and create jobs by authorizing funding for the procurement of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, which several suppliers in the Granite State help develop,” Senator Hassan added. “I will continue working across the aisle to ensure that our state and our country remain the strongest military force, while also remaining the greatest force for good.”

The NDAA for 2018 also establishes a nationwide health study on perfluorinated chemicals and other emerging contaminants in drinking war, it includes a 2.1 percent pay increase for U.S. military personnel.

The NDAA passed the Senate by a vote of 89 to 8.

The Senate and House of Representatives will now go to conference on the legislation where it will be finalized and sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

House Passes National Defense Authorization Act Include Amendments From Kuster And Shea-Porter

Amendments address opioid misuse, military sexual assault, outdated electronic medical records at the VA and address perfluorinated chemical (PFC) contamination around military bases

(Washington, DC) – Today the House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), legislation to fund the United States’ national defense and security operations. The 2018 NDAA includes amendments introduced by Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porte to improve the Department of Defense (DoD) response to opioid misuse, assist transitioning service members in receiving adequate care for addiction and chronic pain, address military sexual assault, and improve the Department of Veteran Affairs’ (VA) outdated electronic record system, address perfluorinated chemical (PFC) contamination around military bases.

“I’m pleased that today the House came together to fund important operations central to the security of our nation,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “This year’s NDAA includes several provisions I authored that will improve our response to the opioid epidemic within DoD, continue our effort to end military sexual assault, help care for our nation’s brave men and women once their service is over, and support the necessary work of improving the VA’s outdated medical record system.”

“We know that the opioid epidemic, in addition to impacting communities across the country, is posing a particular challenge to our service members and veterans,” Kuster continued. “Two of my amendments would direct the Defense Department to study the effectiveness of their opioid prescriber education policies and require Department providers to counsel or give referrals to the VA for transitioning veterans who suffer from addiction or chronic pain. We’ve seen the VA and DoD take important steps to support those suffering from substance misuse and these provisions will help bolster those efforts.”

On her amendment to address military sexual assault, Kuster said, “I’m encouraged that my Amendment to direct the Department to analyze sexual coercion in the military is part of its annual report on sexual assault. While I commend the Department for their progress in reducing the occurrence of sexual assault in the military, more work needs to be done. Understanding sexual coercion is important for the safety of our brave men and women and important for national security.”

“It’s long past time the Department of Veterans Affairs update its electronic medical records system,” Kuster said of her final amendment. “The men and women who serve our nation in uniform should not be relying on decades old computer systems that are woefully out of date and incapable of performing to the standards our veterans deserve. The American taxpayer should not continue to fund poorly implemented VA efforts to improve its health record. I’m hopeful this Amendment will lead to greater accountability of the VA’s latest endeavor to implement an improved and integrated system that will allow the VA and DoD to operate together seamlessly.”

The text of Kuster’s Amendments are available below:

Beginning in the 1970s, more than 600 U.S. military fire training sites used Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), a firefighting foam that contained perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). Testing conducted by the Department of Defense at many of these sites has found PFC groundwater levels that exceed EPA guidelines many times over. At Pease, it is 12.5 times higher than the health advisory. In fact, a 2016 study by researchers at Harvard University’s Chan School of Public Health and Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences found that public drinking water for six million Americans exceeds the EPA’s lifetime advisory limits for perfluorinated chemicals.

Because of the broad scope of PFOA and PFOS use by entities including the U.S military, contaminated drinking water now poses a nationwide public health threat. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), PFOA is especially problematic “because it can stay in the environment and in the human body for long periods of time.” Numerous peer-reviewed studies indicate health dangers of perfluorinated chemicals, including links to testicular, kidney, and thyroid cancer and impaired immune system performance, decreased fertility, and harm to a developing fetus or child. However, ACS says “more research is needed to clarify these findings,” because a comprehensive, long-term study of the health impacts of PFOA and PFOS has not yet been conducted.

“Community members who live near contaminated sites like Pease deserve answers about how they and their children may be affected by perfluorinated chemicals, and guidance on what steps they can and should take to protect their health,” said Shea-Porter. “Bipartisan support for the provisions secured today reflects the national scope of PFC contamination around military bases across the country.”

The annual defense authorization bill, which Shea-Porter helped to write as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, includes:

  • An Shea-Porter cosponsored amendment directing the Department of Defense to conduct a health impact study on the effects of exposure to PFCs at affected military installations, including Pease.
  • Shea-Porter’s provision directing the Secretary of Defense to brief the House Armed Services Committee on:
    • The locations near current and former military installations where the Department has tested drinking water system PFC levels and a summary of the results of those tests, including whether they exceeded lifetime health advisory levels;
    • The Department’s short-term mitigation actions in locations where elevated PFC levels have been identified, such as Pease; and
    • The process and timeline for long-term remediation actions in locations with elevated PFC levels.
  • A Shea-Porter cosponsored amendment requiring a report on the Department of Defense’s progress developing and implementing alternatives to firefighting foam containing PFCs that was used at more than 600 U.S. military fire training sites, including Pease.
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