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Hirono Votes to Pass Annual Defense Bill in Senate, Securing Key Priorities For Hawaii And Pacific Region

~ As Chair of the Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, Senator Hirono has made modernizing DOD infrastructure in Hawaii and across the country a top priority ~

WASHINGTON, D.C. Today, U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Chair of the Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, voted to pass the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in the U.S. Senate, securing several key priorities for Hawaii and the U.S. military. As Chair of the Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, Senator Hirono has made modernizing Department of Defense (DOD) infrastructure in Hawaii and across the country a top priority.

“As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I was proud to vote to pass the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act today in the Senate,” said Senator Hirono. “This bill contains important investments in servicemembers, military readiness, and DOD infrastructure in Hawaii and across the country—all key priorities of mine as Chair of the Subcommittee on Readiness. As we move to conference this bill with the House-passed bill, I’ll continue working to preserve these investments and prevent radical right-wing policies from being injected into this critical, must-pass legislation.”

The 2024 NDAA includes several of Senator Hirono’s infrastructure priorities, including provisions that:

  • Directs the Defense Department to develop a master plan to modernize critical infrastructure at military installations in the State of Hawaii.
  • Requires the DOD to develop and implement a standardized system to measure and report on the condition and performance of non-privatized critical infrastructure systems on military installations to better assess and invest in military facilities in Hawaii.
  • Directs the assessment of the capacity of existing infrastructure, resources, and personnel in Guam to meet U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) strategic objectives to inform future projects.
  • Creates a pilot program to replace substandard enlisted barracks, a uniform condition index for all unaccompanied housing, and a certification of habitability for unaccompanied military housing.
  • Directs the Army to conduct a study of costs to repair and modernize decaying infrastructure across their facilities, to include a review of technologies that can be used to prevent corrosion damage and costly remediation.
  • Directs a study assessing the maintenance and modernization requirements at the Reagan Missile Defense Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll. The study will review the use of technologies to prevent corrosion damage and costly remediation and reduce dependence on imported bulk fuel by using renewable energy sources.
  • Authorizes funds for a military construction pilot in the INDOPACOM area of operations which, along with expanded authority to conduct minor military construction, will help improve infrastructure and posture throughout INDOPACOM.
  • Calls for the development of a plan to bring 5G telecommunication infrastructure to INDOPACOM installations.

In addition to her infrastructure-related priorities, Senator Hirono also secured numerous provisions focused on delivering for communities in Hawaii, supporting servicemembers and their families, strengthening DOD’s capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region, and prioritizing sustainability within the DOD. Specifically, Senator Hirono secured provisions that:

Deliver for Hawaii:

  • Continuing last year’s work, authorizes funds for the Navy to pay for the cost to transfer customers off the Navy’s electrical system at Kalaeloa to a new system operated by Hawaiian Electric.
  • Invests in DOD facilities in Hawaii to include funding for:
    • Replacement of Dry Dock 3 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
    • Planning and design (P&D) funds for the waterfront production facility at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
    • A water storage tank at Schofield Barracks
    • Water reclamation facility compliance upgrades at Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay
    • Maintenance & Operations Complex for 10th Marines at Kaneohe Bay
    • New water well and booster pump at Fort Shafter
    • Water well and storage tank at Helemano Military Reservation,
    • Water storage tank at Aliamanu Military Reservation,
    • Planning and design funds for an air traffic control tower at Wheeler Army Airfield
    • Completion of a 500-kilowatt solar covered parking lot and electric vehicle charging station at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam,
    • Planning and Design funds for an air traffic control tower at Wheeler Army Airfield
    • An elevated water tank and distribution line at Schofield Barracks,
    • Completion of primary electrical distribution at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
    • Military housing restructuring at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam.
  • Authorizes the procurement of a dual-use aviation safety and missile defense radar in support of the defense of Hawaii.
  • Increases the budget for the High-Performance Computing Modernization Program which will support the Maui High Performance Computing Center.
  • Eliminates the burdensome bona fide place of business requirement that would have made it more difficult for Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native businesses to perform construction contracts in rural and underserved areas.
  • Requires DOD to provide a report on their institutional food purchasing practices.

Support People:

  • Ensures community members affected by the Red Hill fuel leak have the opportunity to join an exposure registry and access epidemiological studies.
  • Requires DOD installations to have a liaison to Native Hawaiian Organizations for facilities in proximity with their interests when the DOD authorizes appropriations.
  • Authorizes impact aid for schools with military dependent students and children with severe disabilities.
  • Limits the DOD from making substantial cuts to the Overseas Cost-of-Living Allowances (OCOLA) and directs the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on the fairness and equity of the processes used by the Department of Defense to determine (OCOLA) for service members.
  • Directs the DOD to establish a comprehensive program to combat sex trafficking to include on-base signage, and standardized Combating Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) training that will be reported to the CTIP Program Management Office.
  • Improves on Senator Hirono’s work on the Stayskal Act by adjusting the DOD medical malpractice claims process to allow only board-certified physicians to provide expert medical opinions, enhance transparency, and allow service-members to appeal.
  • Increases funding of the Shipyard and Ship Repair Workforce Training program beyond the President's Budget.
  • Directs the Defense Department to study whether offering no-cost cryopreservation services to military members would assist family planning and boost retention.
  • Calls on the Defense Department to examine skilled-trade and training programs, particularly those that support DOD workforce needs, to assist and support servicemembers to secure gainful employment upon separation from active duty.
  • Affirms that military members and beneficiaries affected by the Red Hill fuel spill will be eligible to receive medical care from a provider that has received training on and has access to best practices for fuel exposure and will always have access to their documented exposure through their medical record.
  • Supports the Defense Civilian Training Corp pilot, which modernizes and strengthens the DOD civilian pipeline, and recommends DOD include the Corp in the FY25 budget request.
  • Directs a study of service members and dependents’ perinatal mental health (the time during pregnancy and up to one year after childbirth, still birth, or miscarriage) to assess the prevalence of mental health conditions, substance use or overdose, election to leave the military and suicide to in order to better serve our military families.
  • Encourages the Defense Department to work in conjunction the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide transition assistance, specifically as it relates to support and resources for veteran-specific mental health issues.
  • Directs the Secretary of Defense to brief Congress on transition programs aimed at providing mental health support and assistance to transitioning service members and the feasibility of a study that would educate members on specific mental health risks such as loss of community, isolation, self-medication, and risk factors that contribute to suicide. The program would educate service members on resources available through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Initiates a study on the creation of a National Guard component of the Space Force that will pause the Space Force’s current transition until a federally funded research and development center can thoroughly analyze the plan to determine the most reasonable courses of action.  
  • Extends the H-2B Visa program for admission to Guam or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands for certain non-immigrant workers through 2029.  

Strengthen Our Ability to Protect the Pacific Region:

  • Encourages Congress and the Administration to finalize new Compacts of Free Association with Palau, Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands in a timely fashion.
  • Directs the Defense Department to develop a plan for the missile defense of Hawaii as well as planning for military construction projects that will enable the timely deployment of air and missile defense capabilities across all locations in INDOPACOM.
  • Recognizes the importance of land forces in the Pacific with an emphasis on the Army’s Multi-Domain Task Forces and Security Assistance Brigades along with the Marine Corps Marine Littoral Regiments. 
  • Authorizes full funding of LPD-33 in order to support the Marine Corps’ future ability to deter aggression in the Pacific, respond to contingencies, and support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.
  • Authorizes a military construction pilot in INDOPACOM which, along with expanded authority to conduct minor military construction, will help improve infrastructure and posture throughout the Indo-Pacific. 
  • Grants authority to the Commander of U.S. INDOPACOM to authorize certain military construction projects without requiring higher approval.
  • Authorizes the Commander of INDOPACOM to carry out “Campaigning” exercises that will strengthen alliances and partnerships, deter aggression by adversaries, and allow the U.S. Armed Forces to coordinate and operate with foreign military partners in the INDOPACOM region.
  • Secures sustained funding for the Cyber Operations for Base Resilience Architecture (COBRA), which is a pilot program to address cybersecurity and mission assurance gaps in critical infrastructure that supports military bases.
  • Modifies the support of special operations for irregular warfare provision and allows special operations forces to provide support to foreign forces that are conducting authorized U.S. irregular warfare activities.
  • Secures funding for military construction projects on Guam for satellite and joint communications upgrades, a missile integration test facility, an artillery battery facility a child development center at Andersen AFB.
  • Calls for the establishment of an Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness initiative with Australia, Japan, and India.
  • Requires a plan from the Department of Defense to enhance security cooperation with Japan.
  • Authorizes funds to complete pier construction on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
  • Requires a briefing summarizing ongoing State Partnership Program activities in the Indo-Pacific, including an identification of any additional resources required to support those activities.
  • Encourages the Air Force to consider the training potential for F-22 Block 20 aircraft.
  • Grants special authorities for combatant commanders, including INDOPACOM, to request emergency, rapid contracting response.
  • Authorizes additional money for the Defense Established program to stimulate competitive research (DEPSCoR), which provides funding for university research activities in science and engineering to meet the needs of national defense in select states.

Prioritize Sustainability and the Environment:

  • Requires DOD to establish policies and procedures to identify, recycle, and reuse end-of-life equipment that contains rare earth elements and other strategic and critical materials.
  • Directs the Army to provide a briefing on a strategy that focuses on the timely removal of unexploded ordnance at Waikoloa Maneuver Area near the Army’s Pohakuloa Training Area.
  • Adds additional funds to the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration program (REPI).
  • Facilitates a strategy for the rapid acquisition of the Army’s Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Program that includes vehicle electrification and technological advances that will increase efficiency and reduce demand.
  • Initiates a pilot program on the increased use of sustainable building materials in military construction.
  • Secured an increase in funding beyond the President’s budget for Bien Hoa dioxin cleanup in Vietnam. 
  • Includes additional funding to research, develop, test and evaluate fuel cells for next-generation combat vehicles.

Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed their version of the NDAA. With today’s passage of the Senate version, both bills will now be reconciled by a bicameral conference committee and then approved by each chamber before a final version is sent to the President to be signed into law.