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WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, authored several provisions and amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets policy for the Department of Defense (DoD) for Fiscal Year 2018. The legislation was approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee this week.
“The National Defense Authorization Act will bolster American leadership around the world and provide our brave men and women in uniform with the support needed to complete their missions safely and effectively,” said Senator Peters, a former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve.“I am pleased that this legislation includes a number of my provisions to strengthen American presence among our NATO allies in Eastern Europe, help small businesses as they apply for federal contracts, make critical improvements and upgrades to our military assets, and better address mental health concerns for servicemembers.”
Peters’ provisions included in the NDAA FY 2018 include:
· An amendment directing DoD to provide personnel to the NATO Strategic Communication Center of Excellence (StratCom) in Riga, Latvia. StratCom is a multi-national and NATO-accredited international military organization that works to enhance strategic communication capabilities and help counter Russian propaganda efforts in Eastern Europe. Currently, the United States is not a participating nation. Earlier this month, Peters visited StratCom as part of his visit to Latvia to learn more about NATO activity in the Baltic region and Russian practices aimed at undermining and destabilizing democracies like Latvia. This amendment came about as a result of Peters’ visit. For over 20 years, Michigan’s National Guard has worked jointly with Latvia’s military through the State Partnership Program, participating in joint training and exercises in both Europe and Michigan.
· A provision based on bipartisan legislation Peters introduced earlier this year to help protect small businesses from falling victim to fraud when they register to procure federal contracts. The provision would require small businesses to be notified that free assistance is available for help in procuring government contracts through federal programs, including Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs). Many business owners are unaware these resources exist and fall victim to scams that mislead them into paying high sums of money for contract procurement assistance that otherwise would be available at no-cost.
· Funding to modernize Stryker vehicles with upgraded weapons systems, survivability improvements to the vehicle hull, and other mobility and communication improvements. The Stryker is the U.S. Army’s most versatile and deployable combat vehicle, and earlier this month, Peters helped lead a bipartisan letter with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), calling for funding to complete much-needed upgrades. Peters and Portman previously included an amendment in the FY 2016 NDAA that authorized $371 million in funding to install medium caliber cannons on 81 Stryker vehicles forward deployed in Europe, to support U.S. interests in Eastern Europe and our NATO allies. General Dynamics Land Systems of Sterling Heights is the prime contractor for the Stryker armored vehicle and many Michigan companies serve as suppliers.
· A provision requiring the U.S. Air Force to provide a report on steps taken to address the mental health of pilots that operate Remote Piloted Aircrafts (RPAs) and Airmen supporting RPA operations, particularly those stationed in the U.S. and flying missions with aircraft abroad. The 110th Attack Wing in Battle Creek, Michigan hosts an RPA mission and Airmen there fly RPAs that are located all over the world. This provision builds on Senator Peters’ Fairness for Veterans amendment, signed into law as last year as part of the NDAA FY 2017, which helps veterans with a bad paper discharge resulting from behavior caused by PTSD to petition for an upgrade in their discharge status to access mental health treatment and other VA services.
· An additional $70 million in funding for fuel cell prototyping at the Army’s Tank and Automotive Research Development Center (TARDEC), building on TARDEC’s successful collaboration with General Motors on the ZH2. The bill recognizes TARDEC’s capability for prototyping and experimentation and collaboration with technology developers, users, testers, and the private sector. The bill also includes arequirement for the Army to build a prototype for a new ground combat vehicle, building upon existing efforts between TARDEC and the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia.
· A provision to require DoD to identify potential sites in the United States for a missile defense site, whether existing or new on the East Coast or in the Midwest, that would allow for the deployment of up to 100 additional ground-based interceptors. Fort Custer in Augusta, Michigan is under consideration to host a ground based midcourse missile defense site. Senator Peters is a cosponsor of the Advancing America’s Missile Defense Act, legislation to improve missile defense capabilities to counter threats posed by Iran and North Korea.
· A provision encouraging the U.S. Army to mitigate the risk of Humvee rollover accidents and requesting a briefing on plans to mitigate rollovers. Earlier this month, the National Guard issued a safety alert related to rollover mishaps and loss-of-control, and Peters has previously written to the Acting Secretary of the Army about his concerns related to Humvee safety. Additionally, the Michigan National Guard has undertaken a pilot program for commercial off-the-shelf technology aimed at mitigating Humvee rollovers using technology manufactured in Michigan.
· A provision to require a plan for military training to operate in densely populated environments. Senator Peters has asked military leaders about the impact on potential future military operations, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in “megacities”, or cities with a population above 10 million. Camp Grayling in Crawford County already hosts military training for urban operations and could play an important role as the military better prepares for these operations.
· A provision to require oversight of the impact caused by outsourcing of manufacturing to China on the defense industry. This includes the extent to which Chinese investments in manufacturing capabilities and emerging technologies are hollowing out the U.S. defense industrial base.
· Provisions requiring DoD to provide briefings to the Senate Armed Services Committee related to robotics, autonomy, and artificial intelligence, and also including autonomous systems on the list of eligible technologies for simplified contracting opportunities between DoD and universities.
Senator Peters also cosponsored several provisions that were approved by the Committee, including a provision to require the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to conduct a study on the health implications of PFAS in drinking water, as well as an amendment authorizing funding to support the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program, encourage partnership between MEP affiliates and the Manufacturing USA Institutes established by DoD, and improving manufacturing engineering education. MEP is a public-private partnership dedicated to providing technical support and services to small and medium-sized manufacturers.