NJ lawmakers say defense bill is a big win for Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst
By GEORGE WOOLSTON | Burlington County Times, Willingboro, N.J. | Published: December 5, 2020
(Tribune News Service) — A bill that will provide funding for two construction projects on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, ensure the arrival of new KC-46A tanker jets and give all military service members a 3% raise in military pay will soon head for a final vote.
Both U.S. House and Senate lawmakers have agreed on final language in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets spending and policy for the U.S. military for the 2021 fiscal year.
The bill is expected to head to both the House and Senate early next week for a final vote.
South Jersey lawmakers consider several provisions in the NDAA big wins for Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
Among those provisions include slowing down of the retirement of KC-10 tankers jets over the next three years to ensure their replacement, the KC-46 tanker jets, arrive 100% ready to go.
It also prohibits the use of funds from 2021 to 2023 for the retirement of any KC–135 aircraft, used by the active-duty Air National Guard, or reducing the number of primary mission KC–135 aircraft.
The NDAA ensures 24 KC-46s will arrive at the base in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021. In November, construction officials on the base celebrated the steel-topping of a brand new $53 million hangar for the incoming aircraft.
It also authorizes $37 million total for construction projects on the base –$22 million for a Munitions Storage Area and $15 million for a National Guard Readiness Center.
U.S. Rep. Andy Kim, D-3 of Moorestown, was on the panel of legislators responsible for negotiating the final language of the NDAA.
"This bill, once signed into law, will deliver big for our Joint Base and New Jersey," said Kim in a statement. "Our troops will get a pay raise, our Joint Base will have a critical mission protected, and we'll see real investments that will make a direct impact in Burlington and Ocean Counties. I'm proud to have been a part of this incredible bipartisan effort and look forward to voting with my colleagues to pass it into law."
Kim was also able to author provisions in the bill that expedite the phasing out of PFAS chemicals, increased funding for the GenCyber program from $5 million to $23 million and provide pay equity for the U.S. National Guard and Reserve, increasing service members pay by as much as $1,200.
Sixty percent of service members at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst are in the National Guard or Reserve.
Another South Jersey legislator, U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1 of Camden, fought for the inclusion of provisions that give a housing preference to service members whose spouse is a certified family child care worker and willing to use their home to provide childcare for other military children, and allows for service members to create special flexible spending accounts that can be used to pay for childcare expenses.
Other provisions in the bill include expanded access to care for Vietnam Veterans dealing with the impact of toxic exposure during their service to include 'Parkinsonism, Bladder cancer, Hypothyroidism, as well as extending paid parental leave to approximately 100,000 federal civilians inadvertently excluded from last year's legislation, including employees at the VA, TSA, FAA and others.
The NDAA is one of the few bills that has been passed for the past 60 years straight.
Once it passes the House and Senate, and will head to President Donald Trump's desk to sign into law.
Trump threatened on Twitter to veto the bill, unless it ends protections for internet companies that shield them from being held liable for material posted by their users.
Trump in a tweet Tuesday called Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act,"a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity," adding, "Therefore, if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill."
Section 230 protects internet companies like Twitter and Facebook from being sued by anyone who feels wronged by something someone else has posted.
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