Norcross Commends House Passage of NDAA that Expands Paid Parental Leave for All Federal Workers, Raises Wages for Service Members, Provides for a Strong National Defense
U.S. Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-01) -- a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), Chair of the Tactical Air and Land Forces (TAL) Subcommittee and member of the NDAA joint conference committee -- applauded the House passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20). The bill is expected to pass the Senate and be signed into law by the President.
"We live in an uncertain world where there are serious threats to our country and our democracy, and we must ensure our military has the tools and manpower needed to defend our nation," said TAL Chair Norcross. "Our service men and women deserve our full support, and today we honored their work by authorizing a 3.1% pay raise and expanding efforts to improve military family housing. While the bill is not perfect, as a member of the conference committee, I worked hard to ensure ALL federal employees receive 12 weeks paid parental leave and we continue to honor our fallen service members by repealing the co-called "Widow's Tax.'"
As Chair of the TAL Subcommittee, Norcross led the House authorization of approximately $100 billion of Department of Defense spending for FY20. That included overseeing efforts to fund an additional 12 F-35A aircraft and fully support the budget request for the F-15EX program to begin replacing our aging F-15C fleet. In these efforts and others, Norcross focused on accountable modernization and enhancing the tactical capabilities of our services.
Norcross continued: "New Jersey and the Delaware Valley are home to a number of defense facilities and industries that provide high-tech jobs and play an important role in the security of the United States. This year, we prevented Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), safeguarded the Boeing helicopter production facility in Philadelphia, protected Picatinny Arsenal and ensured the KC-46s are delivered to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst on schedule."
The FY20 NDAA provides approximately $738 billion in discretionary authorizations for our nation's defense. Like previous years, the NDAA supports Israel, our democratic ally in the volatile Middle East, with $500 million for development and procurement of weapons systems, including the Iron Dome. Additionally, the NDAA requires the Department of Defense to plan for potential threats to our military installations posed by climate change.
Norcross added: "The pace and severity of climate change generates a serious national security threat that we must address. This year, we provided additional funding for climate-based conservation projects and to ensure military installations have master plans to address climate and energy resiliency initiatives. In addition, I worked to provide environmental and health protections for military families and firefighters from exposure to potentially cancer-causing contaminants -- PFAS."
Below are some specific provisions Congressman Norcross advocated for:
Strengthening New Jersey's Military Installations
Norcross fought to strengthen New Jersey's military installations, including Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, the Air National Guard's 177th Fighter Wing and Picatinny Arsenal.
-Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst
-Norcross worked to ensure that Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst won't be targeted by BRAC and the act did not authorize a new base closure round.
-Norcross led the effort to ensure the U.S. Air Force sticks to the planned schedule of delivery for the new KC-46 fleet.
-Air National Guard's 177th Fighter Wing
-Norcross worked to ensure there's continued radar upgrades for the F-16 Fighting Falcon -- the mission craft for the 177th Fighter Wing located in Atlantic City.
-Norcross worked with Rep. Mikie Sherrill to secure research and development funding for Howitzer modernization and long-range precision fires -- a top Army modernization priority.
Expanding Paid Parental Leave for All Federal Employees
Norcross supported providing 12 weeks of paid parental leave for 2.1 million civilian federal employees to care for a new baby after birth, adoption or the initiation of foster care.
Supporting Service Members and Their Families
As the father and father-in-law of veterans, Norcross knows the NDAA must always support our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines and meet the needs of military families who sacrifice so much for our country.
-Norcross supported increasing military pay by 3.1% and extending special pay and bonuses for service members, as well as benefits for Gold Star Families.
-Norcross supported the new "tenant bill of rights' that protects families in privatized military housing.
-Norcross worked to increase protection of immigrant service members from deportation.
-Following reports of potential cancer incidence from exposure to perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances -- commonly referred to as PFAS -- Norcross and his colleagues pushed for health protections for military families and retirees.
-Norcross specifically ensured blood tests are conducted for military firefighters who may have been exposed to the potentially cancer-related contaminants.
-This is based on Norcross' Protect Military Firefighters from PFAS Act.
-Norcross and Rep. Andy Kim required the Department to ban the use of PFAS in training immediately, advance testing and production of a fluorine-free firefighting agent and, thereafter, ban the use of fluorinated foams after October 1, 2024.
-Norcross worked to expand the allowance for the military to pay for next-of-kin to travel to Dover Air Force Base in the event a servicemember dies overseas.
-This follows Norcross learning that family members of Electronics Technician 2nd Class Kenneth Smith of Cherry Hill, who was one of the sailors killed aboard the USS John S. McCain when it collided with an oil tanker in 2017, were burdened by the cost of travel to Dover Air Force Base. Currently, the military will only provide travel to family members when a loved one dies in combat.
-Norcross worked with Rep. Andy Kim to lower military spouse unemployment by making a key job training program more accessible and to double the maximum reimbursement amount to $1,000 for State licensure and certifications of a military spouse.
-Norcross supported phasing out and eliminating the "Widow's Tax" a tax that unfairly targeted military widows.
Boosting Jobs, Manufacturing and Development
Norcross, the only electrician in Congress, is always focused on advancing our nation's workforce, including the skilled workers at Boeing, Lockheed, L3, Leonardo and other industrial base facilities across the region.
-Norcross included $28 million in funding to keep the CH-47F Chinook Block II program on track.
-Norcross along with Rep. Chris Smith included report language calling on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the U.S. Army Corps oversight of construction contractors to ensure independent contractors are classifying workers correctly, abiding by prevailing wage law and fairly compensating their employees.
Planning for Climate Change Threats
Norcross has long supported recommitting America to the Paris Climate Agreement and investing in climate research to build a 21st century clean-energy economy. The pace and severity of climate change generates a serious national security threat, and the U.S. must take that threat seriously.
-Norcross supported the establishment of a Climate Security Advisory Council.
-Norcross supported authorizing an additional $133 million for military construction projects under the Department's Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program.
-Norcross supported including an additional $5.3 billion in emergency funding for disaster recovery to help bases impacted by recent hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes, etc.