Senator Heinrich Includes Key Provisions In National Defense Bill, Calls for a Bipartisan Solution to Replace Harmful Sequester Cuts

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, voted last week for the fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed by a vote of 71 to 25. The bill includes key provisions Senator Heinrich worked to include that benefit New Mexico’s men and women in uniform, military installations, private industry, national laboratories, and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

The bill, which sets the Department of Defense spending levels and policies for the upcoming fiscal year, also authorizes funding for the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons programs at Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories, as well as the Department of Energy’s environmental cleanup programs including WIPP.

“New Mexico makes enormous contributions to our security and defense, and is at the forefront of national research and development,” said Senator Heinrich. “This bipartisan bill supports our servicemembers and military families, and I’m proud to successfully include provisions for important programs across our state and the nation.”

Senator Heinrich successfully included several provisions important to New Mexico, such as addressing personnel shortfalls in the Remotely Piloted Aircraft missions and directing the Department of Defense to propose investments over the next five years at Melrose Range. Also included in the NDAA are key elements of a bill Senator Heinrich introduced to accelerate technology transfer by establishing off-campus microlabs that would serve as the “front-door” to national laboratories; provisions from a bill he introduced to improve the way the military identifies and assesses mental health issues; and an amendment he cosponsored to help ensure torture is not part of U.S. national security policy. A list of the programs and provisions Senator Heinrich advocated for during the markup process that were included in the NDAA is available here.

NDAA is an authorization bill, but the measures will need to be funded through separate legislation in the appropriations process. Following passage of NDAA, Senator Heinrich voted against a motion to begin debate on the Fiscal Year 2016 Defense Appropriations Bill in hopes of reaching a larger budget deal that provides sequestration relief for both defense and non-defense priorities.

“Two years ago, Congress reached a deal that provided sequester relief across the entire federal budget so that defense and non-defense programs were treated equally.  Unfortunately, the clock on that deal is running out and we are now facing large sequester cuts that are especially harmful to New Mexico’s economy,” said Senator Heinrich. “It’s deeply disappointing that instead of addressing this crisis, Republicans are using budget gimmicks to provide $38 billion in deficit financed sequester relief to defense programs but not to veterans benefits, education, health care, and other domestic programs. Our economy desperately needs long-term stability and a level playing field for hard-working families. We must reach a fair and balanced budget deal that replaces the draconian sequestration cuts that threaten our economic recovery.”