On Dec. 8, Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) voted to support the conference report on H.R. 6395, the William M. Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (NDAA). The bipartisan, bicameral compromise report authorizes funding for national defense for Fiscal Year 2021. The conference report passed the House 335 to 78.
“If you serve this country, Congress should have your back. This bipartisan legislation makes vital investments in service members and their families, including a number of measures that I championed,” said Rep. Kilmer. “In addition, in our region, we also have talented civilians doing critical work to keep our country safe, so I’m glad that we were able to include measures that benefit those workers and our region’s economy.”
Supports Servicemembers and Federal Workers
The conference agreement retained several key measures championed by Rep. Kilmer in the House passed bill to improve benefits for American service members and their families, including a 3% pay increase for all service members as well as provisions to improve the oversight and management of housing for military personnel and their families and to address the shortage in military child care.
The bipartisan agreement also includes numerous provisions to support federal workers. Of importance to Kitsap County, the bill includes a five-year extension of the rate of overtime pay authority for Department of Navy employees performing work aboard or dockside in support of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier forward deployed in Japan.
Kilmer said, “When our region’s shipyard workers work overtime, they should get paid overtime – including when they’re overseas. It shouldn’t take an act of Congress to make that the case – and for the next five years, it won’t.”
This year’s NDAA conference report also includes a measure championed by Rep. Kilmer to allows federal workers to carry over excess leave accrued during the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented employees from taking time off work. Based on the legislation introduced by Rep. Kilmer in early October, the provision in the NDAA conference report will allow federal employees to carry over an additional 25% of their annual leave into 2021.
“Federal workers at Naval Base Kitsap have been working tirelessly throughout this pandemic to maintain the Navy’s readiness to respond to national security threats and have avoided unnecessary travel to minimize health risks that could threaten this important work,” said Rep. Kilmer. “They shouldn’t have to sacrifice the paid leave benefits they’ve earned because they chose to prioritize national service. That’s why I’m proud that this provision was included to ensure that federal workers at the shipyard, and across federal agencies, can keep the unused paid time off that they have earned.”
The NDAA conference report also includes the Elijah Cummings Federal Employee Anti-Discrimination Act, passed by the House in January 2019, which strengthens equal employment opportunity protections for federal employees and strengthens prohibitions against discrimination and retaliation against whistleblowers.
In addition, this year’s NDAA ensures paid parental leave is extended to all federal employees.
The bipartisan conference report also authorizes increased funding to clean up of drinking water on military bases contaminated by PFAS chemicals, strengthen sexual assault prevention and response programs, and promote and enhance diversity and inclusion programs in our military. In addition, the NDAA conference report provides new benefits to Vietnam-era veterans exposed to Agent Orange.
Invests in Defense Communities
The legislation also included an amendment championed by Rep. Kilmer to expand eligibility for the Office of Economic Adjustment’s Defense Communities Infrastructure Program (DCIP), which helps communities near defense installations – like those around Naval Base Kitsap and Joint Base Lewis McChord – plan for and implement future infrastructure projects that improve the quality of life for people, including civilians and members of the armed services and their families, living in the surrounding areas.
Kilmer said, “With the challenges we’ve seen at Gorst and coming into the Shipyard, providing more funding for this program could yield some direct benefits to Kitsap County.”
Reducing Jet Noise
Over the past several years, Rep. Kilmer has pushed the Department of Defense to fund efforts to reduce the noise of the Navy’s EA-18G Growler through his work on the Appropriations Committee. Rep. Kilmer fought to ensure this agreement provides additional funds for the Secretary of the Navy to continue developing advanced noise reduction technology that can be retrofitted to existing Growler engines to further reduce noise impacts in the region. In addition, the conference agreement authorizes a 5-year pilot test program under which the commander of a military installation may provide funds for the purpose of installing noise insulation on covered property impacted by military aviation noise from aircraft utilizing the installation.
Ensures the Military is a Responsible Climate Partner
The conference agreement retains key measures Rep. Kilmer championed in the House-passed bill to ensure that the military makes progress toward being a responsible partner in fighting climate change. This includes the establishment of a new “Climate Security Roundtable” within the National Academy of Science to establish best practices for identifying and disseminating climate indicators and warnings across all Department of Defense agencies to ensure that environmental security is included in operational planning and intelligence analysis. The legislation also requires the Department of Homeland Security to report on the climate risks and vulnerabilities facing Coast Guard installations over the next 20 years, including rising sea tides, flooding, and wildfires. It is expected that such reports will provide a roadmap for Congress to address these national security threats through a comprehensive climate adaptation strategy.