Golden Delivers Maine Priorities in Final Defense Funding Bill
WASHINGTON — Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02) delivered Maine priorities in the bipartisan, bicameral legislation that authorizes programs and funding at the U.S. Department of Defense for FY2020. Golden’s success is the product of nearly a year of work to ensure that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) supports America’s national security and Maine’s shipyard workers, National Guardsmen, manufacturers, and universities. Golden was named to the conference committee, composed of House and Senate leaders, responsible for reaching a compromise on the legislation.
“For the last ten months, I’ve worked with Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate to make sure the defense authorization bill keeps our country safe, looks out for our servicemembers and their families, and supports Maine jobs,” said Golden. “I’m proud that we’ve worked together to strike a bipartisan compromise that delivers on these priorities. This legislation will ensure our military is prepared to provide for our national security in a dangerous world and takes care of our servicemembers and their families ”
Included in the final version of the NDAA is FY2020 authorization to build three DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, perform maintenance and upgrades for DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyers, and to begin building the FFG(X) Navy Frigate. Bath Iron Works (BIW) will build at least one of the DDG-51s, perform continued work on the DDG-1000s, and is one of four shipyards competing to build the FFG(X) frigate. The NDAA also includes a provision authored by Golden which directs the Navy to develop a plan to grow and train the workforce necessary to achieve their 30-year shipbuilding plan.
The Congressman secured a provision requiring the Defense Department to ensure labels detailing prescription drug information be included with medications dispensed at DOD medical facilities. This provision will protect servicemembers and their families by ensuring DOD medical personnel have access to hard-copies of essential prescription drug information, such as directions for use, health, and safety warnings. Twin Rivers Paper in Madawaska is a leading manufacturer of these prescription labels.
Significantly, Golden helped ensure that the NDAA included a repeal of the “widow’s tax,” an issue that has been affecting the families of servicemembers for more than a decade. Repealing the tax would prevent the reduction of Survivor Benefit Plan payments by an average of $11,000 a year for family members of fallen servicemembers.The repeal provision originated in the House version of the bill and Golden was part of a group that pushed House and Senate conferees to maintain the provision in the final bill.
Golden also worked to include provisions in the FY2020 NDAA to:
Protect servicemembers and their families:
- The legislation, for the first time ever, makes all federal employees eligible for 12 weeks of paid parental leave in the case of birth, adoption, or fostering;
- The legislation makes federal funds accessible to the Bangor Air National Guard Base and other National Guard facilities for the cleanup of dangerous per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals. PFAS chemicals have been used on military installations for several decades as a firefighting material, but have recently been linked to increased risk of cancer, birth defects, developmental delays in children, and other serious health conditions. Making clean-up funding available to National Guard facilities like the one in Bangor is a priority for the Maine National Guard, as Golden heard from Maj. Gen. Douglas Farnham, the state’s National Guard adjutant general;
- The legislation includes a pay raise for members of the military, the largest pay raise for uniformed servicemembers in ten years;
- The legislation establishes a tenant bill of rights that protects families in privatized military housing.
Prepare our armed forces for the future:
- The legislation includes requirements for the Department of Defense to plan for potential threats posed by climate change;
- The legislation includes measures to protect the American military from cyber threats;
- The legislation authorizes important research performed at the University of Maine and other institutions, including research into cutting-edge composites, thermoplastics, lasers, and other materials.
Congressman Golden is a member of the House Armed Services Committee. He sits on the Seapower and Projection Forces and Tactical Air and Land Subcommittees.