November 10, 2015

Hirono Secures Hawaii Priorities In Defense Authorization, Military Construction & VA Funding Bill

Legislation Includes Over $400 Million In Hawaii Projects; Funding Is Part Of Bipartisan Budget Deal Senator Hirono Supported

Senator Mazie K. Hirono, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs Committees, today voted in support of both the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (VA) Appropriations Act. The Military Construction and VA Appropriations Act includes important provisions for Hawaii including funding for $444 million in Hawaii military construction projects, an increase in funding for veterans’ health care, and a provision authored by Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) and Senator Hirono to protect benefits for Filipino World War II veterans.

“Hawaii’s key role in the Asia-Pacific continues to be reflected in the NDAA and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act,” said Senator Hirono. “The bills passed by the Senate today are the product of bipartisan compromise. The Military Construction and VA bill includes over $444 million in Hawaii projects and supports critical facility improvements and earned benefits for military families and our veterans. The NDAA provides the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces the resources, equipment, and training necessary to complete their missions.”

Approval of the NDAA and Military Construction and VA Appropriations Act was made possible after Congress reached a bipartisan compromise that lifted harmful sequester caps on both military and domestic spending. Senator Hirono was a strong voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee for revising the NDAA after Republicans sought to use a budget gimmick to sidestep the budget caps for defense without corresponding efforts to raise funding levels for important non-defense priorities like law enforcement, education, medical research, transportation and community development, and others. 

Key provisions from both bills include:

More than $440 Million for Military Construction Projects in Hawaii:

Navy: Hawaii

  • Barking Sands/Pacific Missile Range Facility Power Grid Consolidation: $30 million
  • Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam UEM Interconnect Station C: $6.3 million
  • Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Welding School Shop: $8.5 million
  • Kaneohe Bay Airfield Lighting Modernization: $26 million
  • Kaneohe Bay Bachelor Enlisted Quarters: $68 million
  • Kaneohe Bay P-8A Detachment Support Facilities: $12.4 million

Air Force: Hawaii

  • Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam F-22 Fighter Alert Facility: $46 million

Defense-Wide: Hawaii

  • Kaneohe Bay Medical/Dental Clinic Replacement: $122 million
  • Schofield Barracks Behavioral Health/Dental Clinic Addition: $124 million

Support for Military Connected Students:

The NDAA includes Senator Hirono’s request for $30 million in Impact Aid funding, which ensures that states including Hawaii have the resources to support military connected students. $5 million of this funding will support special needs students.

Protecting Benefits for Filipino World War II Veterans:

The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act includes an amendment offered by Senator Hirono and Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) to prohibit the VA from accessing the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) Fund for other purposes. Congress established the FVEC Fund to recognize Filipinos who served alongside U.S. troops during World War II.  Senator Hirono was a vocal opponent of VA attempts to transfer these funds earlier this year to cover other VA budget shortfalls.

Improvements to Processing Veterans’ Benefits:

The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act includes funding for the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) at $2.69 billion, $163.5 million more than fiscal year 2015 funding.  This level of funding will enable the VA to continue to transform VBA from a paper-based claims process to a digital environment.  It will also allow VA to hire an additional 770 new claims processors, including 200 new appeals adjudicators, which is key to positioning the VA to meet the growing appeals workload while continuing the VA’s efforts to streamline claims processing and eliminate the remaining claims backlog.

Continuing Improvements to Accessing VA Health Care:

The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act acknowledges the challenges that Hawaii’s veterans face in seeking care though the VA medical system and directs VA to continue to support the “Care Closer to Home Program.”

Vital Research on Treating Hepatitis B:

The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act includes Senator Hirono’s provision to direct the VA to create an “aggressive and targeted outreach program, consistent with CDC’s viral hepatitis testing and treatment recommendations, to identify veterans with Hepatitis B and to facilitate and encourage treatment for those identified with the disease.”

Continued Support for Military Energy Security Efforts:

The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act includes language highlighting the work being done on Hawaii’s military bases to become more resilient and enhance energy and water efficiency. The bill encourages the military to continue these efforts.

Planning to Mitigate Threats Against Hawaii

The NDAA includes provisions that call on the Department of Defense to report on options to provide enhanced defense capabilities for Hawaii should a rogue nation decide to launch a missile toward Hawaii.