e-News 7/27/2018

House Passes Defense Policy Bill
Additional Support for Ukraine
“China’s Global Building Spree Hits Trouble in Pakistan”
Homeland Security Funding Bill Protects New Jersey
Towards a “State-of-the Art” Suicide Hotline

House Passes Defense Policy Bill

Under our Constitution, it is the first responsibility of Congress “to provide for the national defense.”  This year, this vital duty takes on more urgency in the face of growing threats from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and various terror organizations.  We must provide the members of our Armed Forces, all volunteers, the resources and tools they need to face today’s increasingly complex and dangerous world. It is our mission to strengthen our military’s readiness, provide our troops a pay raise and drive further innovation in emerging technologies to secure our military advantage.

To advance these goals, Congress each year must pass, and the President must sign into law, two separate bills:  

The Defense Appropriations bill, drafted by my House Appropriations Committee and our counterpart in the Senate, provides the actual funding for the Department of Defense (DOD) and the agencies of the Intelligence Community – the CIA, the NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency, etc.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), drafted by the Armed Services Committees of the two houses of Congress, establishes defense policy generally, including the organization and reform of DOD, counter-drug programs, acquisition and industrial base policy, technology transfer and Department of Energy nonproliferation programs, and detainee affairs and policy, etc.

This week, setting an historic pace, the House approved the $708 billion NDAA for Fiscal Year 2019, the first time in decades that this legislation has been finalized before the October 1 start of the fiscal year.  The bill supports a necessary increase in topline funding to support our troops and readiness recovery consistent with our commitment to rebuild the military. It includes:

Pay raise of 2.6% for our troops - Largest in 9 years.

Increases the size of Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Naval and Air Reserve, as well as Air Guard.

Makes major reforms in Pentagon bureaucracy and streamlines buying practices. 

Increases funding to rebuild our military and support readiness recovery:

Increases funding for training in each of the Services;

$17.7 billion to begin to rehabilitate and replace worn out Army equipment;

$40.8 billion to begin to overcome the crisis in military aviation by getting more aircraft in the air;

$36.3 billion to restore America’s strength at sea;

$23.5 billion to sustain, repair and rebuild crumbling military buildings and other infrastructure.

Makes critical investments in missile defense and our nuclear deterrent – a cornerstone of our national security.

Makes key investments in other critical military capabilities to confront aggression and address threats around the world, including threats from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.

Authorizes funding for co-development and co-production of missile defense and weapon systems with our key ally Israel.  

I would note that the legislation was formally named the “John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019” to honor the long and valuable service of the senior Senator from Arizona to our nation.

Earlier this summer, the House approved the all-important Defense Appropriations bill for FY 2019 – the legislation that provides the actual funding for DOD and the agencies of the Intelligence Community.  The Senate has yet to act on the bill.

Get more information on the final National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 here.

Read the text of the final “conference report” here.


Additional Support for Ukraine

Days after the President challenged whether the U.S. should defend a tiny nation such as NATO member Montenegro, the Pentagon reassured its European allies it would continue to be a deterrent presence against Russian aggression and committed an additional $200 million to the defense of Ukraine.  (Ukraine is not a member of NATO.)

The Department of Defense (DoD) reports that the funds will go toward “training, equipment and advisory efforts to build the defensive capacity of Ukraine’s forces,” and “enhance Ukraine’s command and control, situational awareness systems, secure communications, military mobility, night vision, and military medical treatment.”

The new funds bring the total amount of U.S. assistance to $1 billion since Russian-backed forces invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014.  Most of that funding has been provided through the Defense Appropriations bill over the last few years.

Learn more information here.


“China’s Global Building Spree Hits Trouble in Pakistan.”  This story in the Wall Street Journal about China’s ‘One Belt-One Road’ initiative is worth a read!


Homeland Security Funding Bill Protects New Jersey

The Fiscal Year 2019 Homeland Security Appropriations bill passed by the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday secures funding for New Jersey and protects other programs important to New Jersey communities.  The bill targets critical programs such as aviation security, border and immigration enforcement, customs activities, protection against cyberterrorism, natural disaster response, and efforts to stop the smuggling of drugs and people into the U.S. The legislation also includes $5 billion for physical barriers and associated technology along the U.S. southern border.

Our Committee takes its role in safeguarding our homeland and protecting our citizens seriously. Globalization, cybersecurity, and terrorism are changing our way of life and we need to change with it. This bill fully supports our men and women on the frontline who work tirelessly to keep us safe. The bill also provides the necessary funding for critical technology and physical barriers to secure our borders. It is a balanced approach that enhances our preparedness.

The bill contains $17.8 billion in discretionary appropriations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – an increase of $3.8 billion above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level. These resources ensure our borders are protected by putting boots on the ground, improving infrastructure and technology, and helping to stem the flow of illegal goods both into and out of the country.

The legislation also recognizes recent controversies affecting children on the southern U.S. border. 

The bill directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to ensure separated families units are reunited and are maintained together while in DHS custody.

The bill provides $3.7 million to support a new initiative by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to provide mental health screening, triage and support to unaccompanied children at southwest border locations.

The bill requires robust reports from DHS on policies surrounding children and families and the process for reuniting families safely and effectively.

To respond to both natural and man-made disasters, the bill funds the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster relief account (DRF) at $7.2 billion.  This is the fund that was tapped for New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy.

The legislation also includes $3 billion for several FEMA grant programs:

The Urban Area Security Initiative, which assists high-threat, high-density Urban Areas like the New Jersey-New York Metropolitan Region in efforts to build and sustain the capabilities to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism, is funded at $661 million in the bill, a $31 million increase from FY 2018. 

In total, the bill includes $60 million for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NPSG).  Nonprofit Security Grants provide funding support for target hardening and other physical security enhancements to nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of a terrorist attack.   Synagogues, Jewish Community Centers and schools, including several in New Jersey, continue to be targeted.

$538 million is provided to the State Homeland Security Grant Program, a $31 million increase over FY 2018 which will assist states like New Jersey support terrorism preparedness.

The bill also includes $700 million for Firefighter Assistance Grants and $350 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants in our communities.

Urban Search and Rescue – The bill provides $45.33 million for Urban Search and Rescue, which funds 28 USR Teams including New Jersey Task Force 1 (NJ-TF 1).  This is a $10 million increase in FY 2018 funding directed to recapitalize critical equipment necessary to conduct life-saving search and rescue operations.

$7 million is included for Over-the-Road Bus Security Assistance Program, a significant increase in funding from FY 2018 levels. This program assists the bus industry, which conducts 630 million passenger trips per year, with security preparedness.  Transportation Security Administration (TSA) continues to cite vehicle ramming attacks as a significant point of concern for the industry.

Within the FEMA accounts, the legislation maintains robust funding for a number of programs that seek to reduce the risks of flooding, including Flood Mitigation Assistance Grants, Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grants and the Flood Hazard Mapping and Risk Analysis Program.

Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) University Programs – The legislation includes $40.5 million in funding for University Programs. This funding will be provided to all 10 DHS Centers of Excellence, including the Maritime Security Center (MSC) at Stevens Institute of Technology (SIT).  The MSC conducts innovative research, develops new tools and technologies and provides relevant maritime security-focused educational programs to enhance our nation's maritime domain awareness, the resiliency of our Marine Transportation System (MTS) and the technical skills of our current and prospective maritime security workforce.

Cybersecurity and Protection of Communications –To combat increasingly dangerous and frequent cyber-attacks, the bill includes a total of $1.9 billion for the National Protection and Programs Directorate to enhance critical infrastructure and prevent hacking.  Within this amount, $1.1 billion is provided to help secure civilian (.gov) networks, detect and prevent cyber-attacks and foreign espionage, and enhance and modernize emergency communications.

U.S. Coast Guard – The United States Coast Guard (USCG) patrols New Jersey waterways and shoreline, interdicts drug shipments and responds to accidents. The bill contains $9.3 billion for the USCG. The bill provides for a 2.6 percent military pay increase, and targets resources to improve readiness.

U.S. Secret Service - The bill provides $2.2 billion for the U.S. Secret Service an increase of $160 million from FY 2018 funding levels.  Included in this funding is $6 million to continue support for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Additionally, the bill supports and enhances the work of the Newark Office of the Secret Service, which is actually located in Morristown.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) – While rejecting higher TSA aviation and passenger security fees, the bill includes $7.3 billion for TSA, which fully funds Transportation Security Officers ($3.3 billion) and privatized screening operations at airports. The bill includes $20 million above the budget request for the purchase and installation of approximately 240 new carry-on baggage screening systems to improve detection capabilities at airport checkpoints. The bill also includes funding above the request to hire, train, and deploy 50 new canine teams to further enhance security and expedite processing time.

In total, the legislation directs $51.4 billion in discretionary funding for DHS, an increase of $3.7 billion above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level.

With passage of this bill, the House Appropriations Committee has now completed its work on all 12 of the government funding bills for the Fiscal year that begins October 1. 

For more information, please visit.


Towards a State-of-the Art Suicide Hotline

As its first order of business this week, the U.S. House joined the U.S. Senate in passing the National Suicide Prevention Hotline Improvement Act.  This bill aims to designate a new national 3-digit dialing code – similar to 911 – to be used for a mental health crisis and suicide prevention hotline.  I cosponsored this legislation over a year ago!

After the recent high profile passing of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline jumped significantly.  While the hotline number has increased access, we can do better. The current dialing code is cumbersome and hard to recall. We need to create a hotline dialing code that is short and easy to remember.

The full text of the bill and other pertinent information can be found here.