Norcross Commends House Passage of NDAA that Supports Our Servicemembers, Provides a Strong National Defense
U.S. Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-01), Chair of the Tactical Air and Land Forces (TAL) Subcommittee in the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), applauded the House passage of H.R. 6395 the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21). The act, which received bipartisan support, supports our servicemembers and their families, as well as our defense civilian workforce, while providing for a strong national defense and ensuring oversight to assure the Department of Defense's programs are fiscally responsible.
"Our servicemembers and their families deserve our full support, and today we honored their work by authorizing a 3% raise, in addition to making child care more affordable and accessible to military families on bases," said TAL Chair Norcross. "We live in an uncertain world with persistent, credible threats to our nation and our democracy, so it is more important than ever that we support our men and women in uniform and ensure the readiness and modernization of our nation's armed forces while spending our valuable resources wisely. Thanks to the leadership of HASC Chairman Adam Smith, this defense bill will provide just that -- the resources our military needs to keep America safe, as well as the oversight to ensure taxpayer money is being spent efficiently."
Norcross continued: "As we've seen through the current pandemic and the early severe lack of personal protective equipment, when we don't have the manufacturing capacity here in the US, our National Security and the lives of Americans are at risk. That's why I fought to enhance our "Buy American' purchasing standards for major defense acquisition programs, ensuring an incremental increase to 100% American parts by 2026 and providing a needed to boost to American workers and manufacturers at this critical time. I also successfully added an amendment to protect the rights of our civilian defense workers by blocking the Administration's unjustified attempt to strip away their collective bargaining rights."
Norcross added: "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 our national security. I worked alongside Reps. Andy Kim (NJ-03), Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) and Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05) to provide continued support for the vital missions and groundbreaking work being performed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and Picatinny Arsenal, industrial base sites like Ridley Park's Chinook helicopter facility, the ongoing defense research at Rowan University and NJIT, and shipbuilding efforts at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, which are all strategically critical to both our national security and New Jersey's economy. Notably, we included one of my top priorities for our national defense and regional economy, which is to ensure the KC-10 aircraft refueling tanker fleet is not retired prematurely, so the service men and women at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst can continue carrying out their critical missions as planned, while preparing for delivery of the new KC-46s."
Norcross worked on the below specific provisions in this year's NDAA:
Strengthening South Jersey's Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst
Norcross fought to strengthen Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst by leading the effort to prevent the premature retirement of KC-10s. The Air Force had planned to retire six KC-10's in FY21 in order to begin the transition and bring in the Joint Bases' 24 new KC-46 air refueling aircraft starting in FY22. The Air Force however, earlier this year changed their request and sought to retire 16 KC-10's this year -- 10 more than originally planned. Given our current capacity gap in air refueling and the importance the air refueling mission has to the Base, Congressman Norcross led the effort to require the Air Force stick to the original plan.
Further, Norcross worked to ensure funding for the construction of a National Guard Readiness Center and Air Force Munitions Storage Area at the Joint Base.
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. That is why Congressman Norcross worked to include a provision in the bill to ensure military families have access to affordable child care. This provision provides an on base housing preference for servicemembers whose spouse is a certified Family Care Coordinator and is willing to open their house to provide child care for at least six children.
Wait times for child care at an on base Child Development Center (CDC) can be over a year, forcing many military families who live on base to find child care options off base. This amendment will provide for more on base child care options, while helping to alleviate the strain on CDC wait times.
Norcross also included an amendment requiring a report from the Department on implementing Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) for servicemembers to be able to use pre-tax dollars to pay for out-of-pocket childcare expenses.
Supporting Our Defense Civilian Workforce
As the only union electrician in Congress and a lifelong labor leader, Norcross understands the importance of giving workers a voice. Norcross included an amendment to the bill restricting the Administration from striping the collective bargaining rights of our civilian workforce of the Department of Defense. Back in January, President Trump sent a Memo to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, providing him authority to exclude members of the defense civilian workforce from the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations statute; effectively giving the Secretary the right to end collective bargaining rights of more than 675,000 civilian employees.
Boosting Jobs, Manufacturing, Research and Development
Norcross is always focused on advancing our nation's workforce, including the skilled workers at Boeing, Lockheed, L3Harris and other industrial base facilities across the region, and boosting innovative research and development projects at area universities.
Norcross authored provisions in the act to enhance "Buy American' standards for major defense acquisition programs to bring manufacturing and high-quality jobs back home. Currently, for an item to be considered American made and compliant with the Buy American Act it only needs to be made of 50% American parts. This amendment increases that standard to 75% by October 1, 2021 and phases in a 5% per year increase until we reach 100% in 2026. This gives businesses time to adjust and will help bring high skilled jobs and manufacturing back to the U.S.
In addition, Norcross:
Included an additional $136 million in funding for the Chinook Block II program -- adding five additional helicopters back into the budget -- as well as an additional four CMV-22, which are both manufactured in Philadelphia.
Included $88 million in funding for the directed energy HELIOS program.
Worked to support research projects being led by top-notch New Jersey institutions:
Rowan University will continue to research military engineering and infrastructure for cold regions (like the arctic).
New Jersey Institute of Technology will continue work on green, lower-cost, lighter weight materials.
Supported Rep. Anthony Brown's (MD-4) amendment that requires the renaming process of military installations and other "covered defense property" including buildings and structures named after any person who served in the political or military leadership of any armed rebellion against the United States be completed no later than one year after the NDAA enactment.
Norcross added: "America is the home of Democracy and the "land of the free;' there is no room for any symbols of hate, bigotry or cruelty. Renaming our military structures is the right thing to do, and the President's recent choice to side with Confederates that fought against America to keep people in chains is disgusting and just plain wrong."