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Conference Report on H.R. William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021

Floor Speech

Date: Dec. 8, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SABLAN. Mr. Speaker, the conference report to accompany H.R. 6395, the National Defense Authorization Act, includes my bills ensuring my district, the Northern Mariana Islands, and other insular areas are included in additional federal programs as well as improving career education for military spouses.

Businesses in the Marianas will have further access to federal Small Business Administration programs under the terms of my Northern Mariana Islands Small Business Development Act, included in the final version of the NDAA. My bill, H.R. 6021, makes the Marianas eligible for funding to establish a Small Business Development Center Lead Center. With additional funding, small businesses on Saipan, Tinian and Rota will have improved access to free or low-cost services such as incubator workspaces for entrepreneurs, business planning, operations, and other areas required for small business start-up, growth and success. It will, also, provide technical assistance from the Federal and State Technology program to Marianas small businesses interested in seed funding from the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs.

The NDAA also includes the two bills I authored to expand education opportunities in our islands. H.R. 6786 includes the Marianas in the Defense Department's STARBASE education program, which aims to improve students' skills in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). STARBASE partners military installations with schools having high proportions of economically and educationally disadvantaged students.

Additionally included in the NDAA is my bill, H.R. 4614, adding the Marianas and other insular areas to the national AMBER alert system for finding missing children. AMBER alerts mobilize the community via radio, TV, and text messages and have helped locate almost one thousand children, since the system was created in 1996. My AMBER Alerts Nationwide Act will give law enforcement in the Marianas the financial and technical resources from the U.S. Departments of Justice and Transportation to implement AMBER alerts in our community, hopefully saving lives. My bill also seeks to close gaps in coverage nationwide by specifying airports, seaports, and border crossing areas.

And H.R. 7112, the Military Spouse Career Education Act, will help the spouses of service members finish their college degrees more quickly and get the training needed to re-license in their professions, when they must move to a new location under military orders. The spouses will be able to have the costs reimbursed for national tests like CLEP providing college credit and for required continuing education courses to maintain their career credentials.

I urge the adoption of the conference report, so we can be sure that military spouses have more support in starting and maintaining careers, more small businesses in our country can fully benefit from the SBDC and FAST programs, more students can benefit from STEM education, and more lives can be saved with the help of AMBER Alerts.

I thank Chairman Smith, Chairwoman Velazquez, Chairman Nadler, Chairman DeFazio, Senator Hirono, Senator Schatz, and Representatives Gabbard, Houlahan, and Banks for all their support to include into the NDAA these important measures.

I ask my colleagues to support adoption of the conference report to accompany H.R. 6395.

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