Udall fought for measures in NDAA to keep B61 project on track; bolster funding for cleanup; boost construction at Kirtland, Holloman, Cannon; strengthen WSMR
U.S. Senator Tom Udall last week joined the Senate in overwhelmingly approving a major defense bill by a vote of 84-15. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes provisions that will support jobs and strengthen New Mexico’s military bases, small businesses and federal defense installations, including Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).
The NDAA is critical legislation, which sets the fiscal year 2014 defense policy and directs funding levels for the Department of Defense and the national security programs under the Department of Energy.
“The funding outlined in this bill will ensure the strength and preparedness of New Mexico’s military bases and defense installations, supporting thousands of good jobs in New Mexico and keeping our nation safe,” Udall said. “This bill upholds the quality of life of our service members and their families, and ensures that our military has the resources, training, technology and equipment to maintain its military readiness and remain at the forefront of developing new sources of energy.”
Udall fought for several policy provisions that were included in the final legislation. Among them:
- The Los Alamos National Labs Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project (CMRR). This amended provision would provide LANL with the flexibility to continue to provide essential national security support and ensure that scientists and engineers have the necessary infrastructure to carry out their work safely, while addressing some of the concerns raised in response to the original CMRR proposal.
- Full funding for our national labs and a provision emphasizing that the B61 Life Extension Program (LEP) remains an important part of our nation’s stockpile stewardship program and must remain fully funded and on schedule to maintain the safety, security and credibility of the nation’s nuclear deterrent. The provision will help emphasize the importance of the B61 LEP to national defense in the face of efforts by some in Congress to cut funding.
- A provision to protect the White Sands Missile Range from encroachment by transferring 5,100 acres of land from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to the Army. The transfer would provide a critical safety and security buffer to NASA’s White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) and the Department of Defense’s Aerospace Data Facility – Southwest, which are both key tenants of White Sands Missile Range.
- A measure easing some restrictions on the overseas transfer of Guantanamo detainees.
- Improvements to military justice procedures to crack down on sexual assault in the military.
The NDAA authorized funding for the Department of Energy’s national security programs, including full funding for the national labs to carry out their stockpile stewardship programs. Funding Senator Udall helped to secure included:
- National labs weapons activities: $7.9 billion, which was over $40 million above the president’s request.
- B61 LEP: $537 million for both Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories.
- LANL TRU waste facilities: $26.7 million to help prepare LANL transuranic (TRU) waste for disposal at WIPP.
- LANL TA-55 reinvestment project second phase: $30.6 million to enhance safety and increase the life expectancy of the PF-4 facility, which is responsible for plutonium operations and other aspects of the stockpile stewardship program.
- LANL Radioactive Liquid Waste treatment facility upgrade: $55.7 million.
Senator Udall also worked to secure funding above the president’s request for critical environmental cleanup programs in New Mexico:
- LANL cleanup: $234.7 million.
- – Waste Isolation Pilot Plant: $219 million for cleanup. Because of Udall’s efforts, the funding amount for both LANL cleanup and WIPP are increases over the numbers originally proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The NDAA also authorizes the construction of facilities critical to our nation’s military and quality of life for U.S. military personnel and their families. Military construction for New Mexico’s bases included approximately $148.2 million for vital projects at Kirtland, Cannon and Holloman Air Force Bases, including:
- Cannon AFB: $34.1 million for an airmen and family readiness center, dormitory and satellite dining facility.
- Kirtland AFB: $30.5 million for a nuclear systems wing and sustainment center.
- Holloman AFB: $2.25 million for F-16 aircraft covered washrack and pad; $21.4 million to the Defense Logistics Agency to replace the hydrant fuel system; and $60 million for the Tri-Care Management Activity to replace the medical clinic.
Procedural gridlock prevented additional amendments Udall supported including a provision to establish a national historical park to commemorate the World War II Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb.
Udall will continue fighting for the Manhattan Project park as well as other provisions that were dropped from the final bill, including additional transfers of land to protect Fort Bliss from encroachment, and a measure that would prohibit the BLM from selling or exchanging 35,550 acres of land to prevent incompatible development near the Fort Bliss Dona Ana Range Complex and Training Areas. The training areas include some of the Army’s premier large weapons system firing ranges and artillery firing boxes.
“As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I will continue to fight to ensure that Congress makes good on funding for these priorities,” Udall said. “I am pleased that the Senate was able to come to an agreement on this bill, though I’m disappointed that some measures that are important to New Mexico were not included. This is a strong bipartisan bill that provides critical funding for our armed forces and strengthens New Mexico’s military bases and defense installations, allowing them to continue contribute their essential national security work.”