May 13, 2016

Hirono Secures Wide-Ranging Measures For Hawaii In Defense Authorization

Talia’s Law, Impact Aid Among Hirono-Authored Provisions

Senator Mazie K. Hirono, a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services and Ranking Member of the Seapower Subcommittee, voted to approve the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17), sending the bill to the full Senate for consideration. The NDAA is a comprehensive bill passed annually that sets policy and funding levels for the Department of Defense (DoD) and the national security programs of the Department of Energy. The Armed Services Committee approved the NDAA 23-3. 

“The Defense Authorization recognizes the key role that Hawaii plays in our national defense and supports a number of important Hawaii programs and priorities such as promoting the Asia-Pacific Rebalance, funding education initiatives, improving energy security and health care, and supporting our defense workforce,” said Senator Hirono. “While I am concerned about changes the bill makes to the way that the Pentagon operates, on balance, this comprehensive legislation strengthens our national security, and benefits our service members and their families. I am particularly proud to have successfully included Talia’s Law, in honor of Talia Williams, which improves child abuse reporting requirements.”

This year’s NDAA includes additional Hirono provisions to provide nearly $200 million to improve military installations in Hawaii, prevents devastating cuts to Hawaii’s Impact Aid program, and directs the DoD to examine how to bolster Hawaii’s missile defense systems. Senator Hirono also fought to include Talia’s Law, a measure named after five-year-old Talia Williams, who died after months of abuse by her father and stepmother, that would require Department of Defense employees who interact with children to report suspected abuse to civilian authorities like the Hawaii Child Welfare Services.

A summary of the provisions included by Senator Hirono follows:

Talia’s Law

Senator Hirono included a provision that ensures a child in the family or home of a service member who has suffered child abuse does not slip through the cracks in our child abuse safety program. Talia’s Law, named in remembrance of Talia Williams, a five-year-old girl who died after months of abuse at the hands of her father and stepmother, requires immediate reporting of credible information to the family advocacy program office at a military installation. Department of Defense employees who interact with children will also be required to report suspected abuse to civilian State Child Protective Services. Senator Hirono previously filed Talia’s Law as amendment to last year’s NDAA.

ASIA-PACIFIC REBALANCE:

Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative Extension

Senator Hirono included a provision authorizing the Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative through 2020. The Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative is a joint effort with our allies and partners in Southeast Asia that helps countries share information, identifies potential threats, and works toward addressing challenges. This vital program helps strengthen our relationships in the Asia-Pacific region.

Recognizing the Importance of Eagle Vision

Senator Hirono and Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) included language recognizing the importance of the Air Force’s Eagle Vision program and directing the Secretary of the Air Force to provide a report on the program’s funding status and effects of decreased funding levels, as well as a long-term plan for the Eagle Vision system. The Hawaii Air National Guard operates an Eagle Vision unit.

Bolstering Missile Defense in Hawaii

The bill encourages the Department of Defense to examine ways to enhance the U.S.’s Ballistic Missile Defense System against potential missile defense threats and urges the Department of Defense to consider the most effective sensor capabilities for the defense of Hawaii, including those that maximize improved performance of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense element.

Enhanced Status for the Philippines Under U.S. law

Senator Hirono successfully included a provision to include the Philippines under a law that authorizes the Department of Defense to sign cooperative military airlift agreements with allied countries. Military airlift agreements are important in ensuring continued U.S. leadership in supporting humanitarian assistance, disaster response, and other joint operations with other countries, especially in the Asia-Pacific. Other U.S. treaty allies such as Japan, the Republic of Korea and Australia are listed under the law explicitly.

BASE MAINTENANCE & CONSTRUCTION:

Investing in Hawaii’s Military Installations

$73 million for Navy Regimental Consolidated Communications and Electrical facility at Marine Corps Base Hawaii (Oahu)

$43 million for the Navy Power Plant & Electrical Distribution Systems at Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands (Kauai)

$40 million for the U.S. Army Pacific Headquarters Command and Control Facility at Fort Shafter (Oahu)

$31 million for the Army National Guard Hilo Combined Support Maintenance Shop to support Pohakuloa Training Area (Hawaii Island)

$11 million for the Air National Guard’s F-22 Composite Repair Facility at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (Oahu)

Funding Dry Dock Repair

Senator Hirono supported a provision that authorizes funding to be made available for the repair, recapitalization, and certification of dry docks at Naval shipyards. This provision is intended to support the upkeep and maintenance of our nation’s shipyards, including Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.

Improving Cybersecurity at Military Installations

As a member of the Subcommittee on Readiness and Management, Senator Hirono included a provision directing the Department of Defense to establish cybersecurity guidelines for energy and water systems at military installations. The guidelines will build on what the Department of Defense learned from its recent Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security (SPIDERS) program, which included projects to boost energy security at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Camp Smith in Hawaii.

EDUCATION:

Improving Public Schools on Military Installations

The Department of Defense provides federal funding for renovation and repair to reduce overcrowding and address facility maintenance at local public schools on military installations. Since 2011, Hawaii’s Daniel K. Inouye Elementary School (formerly named Hale Kula Elementary School), Solomon Elementary, and Mokapu Elementary have been approved for federal funding. Shafter Elementary, Wheeler Elementary, Wheeler Middle, Hickam Elementary, and Mokulele Elementary are listed on the DOD’s outdated July 2011 national priority list, but have not yet been approved for funding. Senator Hirono’s amendment directs the Government Accountability Office to conduct an updated analysis of the overcrowding and facility problems at the remaining public schools on military installations nationwide, and determine an updated priority list for renovation and repair.

Saves Hawaii’s Impact Aid Funding

Since military installations do not pay local property taxes, the Impact Aid program provides Hawaii funding to help finance the education of military-connected children. As a Co-Chair of the Senate Impact Aid Coalition, Sen. Hirono fought to authorize $25 million for DoD Impact Aid and $5 million for DOD Impact Aid for students with severe disabilities. In addition, Sen. Hirono worked on a bipartisan basis with Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and others to prevent a $630,000 cut to Hawaii’s Impact Aid payments in 2016 by making corrections to a 2015 law renewing federal elementary and secondary education programs.

Connecting Students to STEM Careers

Senator Hirono partnered with Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) to protect the STARBASE program, which provides elementary students with opportunities to explore Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). The students served under the program are historically underrepresented in STEM fields.

ENERGY:

Emergency Preparedness

Recognizing the importance of National Guard and Reserve facilities in recovering from any future natural disasters or attacks, the bill includes Senator Hirono’s provision directing the Department of Defense to examine the costs and benefits of equipping a portion of National Guard and Reserve facilities with a 21-day power storage capacity to help continue critical operations and support civil authorities in recovery efforts.

Moving Toward a Renewable Energy Future

The bill includes Senator Hirono’s provision directing the Department of Defense to establish a consistent method for assessing the potential impact of power outages and other energy supply disruptions on military installations’ ability to carry out their missions. Senator Hirono worked with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to include a provision directing the Secretary of Defense to develop a comprehensive plan to improve emergency power generation readiness while expanding fuel flexibility and reducing maintenance costs. Senator Hirono also worked with Senator Shaheen to direct the Government Accountability Office to document the savings achieved by the Department of Defense’s use of energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs). ESPCs allow federal agencies to partner with energy service companies to reduce agency energy bills with improvements guaranteed by the companies, saving taxpayers’ money. 

HEALTH CARE:

Creation of Online Patient Portal

Senator Hirono included a provision to create an online patient portal that would help patients with managing appointments, test results, and communications with providers.

Telehealth Services

Senator Hirono supported provisions that would enhance the use of telehealth services in the military health system. She has been a longtime proponent of increasing telehealth services through her work on the Senate Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs Committees.

Maternity Care

Senator Hirono inserted a provision to allow local hospitals in Hawaii contract with the military to provide maternity care. For some service members and their families, local hospitals provide a more convenient option than local military treatment facilities due to proximity to base or home. However, concerns about the reimbursement rate in noncontiguous states, such as Hawaii, have been raised. Senator Hirono’s provision requires a review of reimbursement rates in noncontiguous states and territories to ensure network adequacy is met.

Medically Necessary Foods

This provision would allow special foods and nutrients necessary due to metabolic disorders and other conditions to be covered under TRICARE. Covering these medically necessary foods should improve beneficiary health and reduce hospitalization.

Rural and Remote Considerations for Health Care Services

Senator Hirono partnered with Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) to ensure that DoD takes into consideration the unique challenges of providing health care services in rural and remote locations when entering into medical support contracts with local providers.

Specialty Care in the Military Health System

The NDAA FY17 creates centers of excellence for specialty care in the military health system. Senator Hirono attached a provision to include infectious diseases in the list of conditions that should be established. This provision would allow regional medical centers including Tripler Hospital to become designated a center of excellence for infectious diseases like Zika and Dengue.

Cancer Research Programs

Senator Hirono’s provision directs the DoD to prioritize awarding cancer research grants to those designated a Cancer Center of Excellence, which includes the University of Hawaii’s Cancer Research Center.

WORKFORCE:

Preserving Per-Diem for Long-Term Tour of Duty

The bill addresses the Senator’s concern that shipyard employees, including those at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, are not treated fairly under a recent Department of Defense policy change when they travel for long-term work assignments. The legislation authorizes waiver authority to ensure that naval shipyard employees traveling on extended work assignments are not subject to reduced per diem rates.