Slotkin provisions on PFAS, COVID response, manufacturing, pass in House defense bill

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U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin

Provisions that U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, has championed as part of her Michigan Defense Agenda were passed with bipartisan support on the House floor today as part of the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual bill that funds the U.S. military. Slotkin announced her suite of legislation in June, focused on addressing contamination from PFAS “forever chemicals,” COVID-19 response, and on strengthening the Defense Department’s capabilities to innovate and tap into the enormous strengths of American manufacturing, particularly in Michigan.

Slotkin, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, served three tours in Iraq alongside the military as a CIA analyst, and served as a senior official at the Department of Defense.

“The Pentagon budget has an important history of bipartisanship and I’m glad we lived up to that tradition today,” Slotkin said. “This afternoon, we passed a bill that funds our military, provides for our national security, and delivers on important priorities that matter to us in Michigan, like leveraging our manufacturing power, spurring innovation among our businesses, and fighting PFAS contamination. Of particular importance to Michigan, this bill includes my amendment that requires the Defense Department to clean up PFAS based on the strictest standard available –– and our Governor is poised to finalize our own PFAS standard, tougher than the federal standard.

“This bill also includes my bipartisan provisions aimed at harnessing the power of American manufacturing to prepare the Pentagon for 21st century threats, and implementing lessons learned from COVID-19 by requiring the Pentagon to provide a full site picture on their stockpiles and supply chains that we rely on during crises like these, to make sure we’re not caught flat-footed again, particularly during a second wave of COVID-19.”

Slotkin’s legislation builds on her progress made last year, including passing into law six key provisions to address PFAS contamination as part of the FY2020 NDAA, as well as a number of provisions to support Michigan defense capabilities and innovation.
Details on provisions of Slotkin’s 2020 Michigan Defense Agenda that passed the House floor today in the FY2021 NDAA:

On PFAS:
• Require the Defense Department to use the most stringent applicable standard in cleaning up PFAS contamination from defense facilities, whether that standard is set at the state or federal level. This will ensure that the Defense Department is protecting communities near defense installations based on the most rigorous available standards, a necessity as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has continued to drag its feet on setting a stringent national standard for PFAS contamination. As states like Michigan develop their own PFAS standards in the absence of EPA action, this provision ensures the Pentagon will be required to meet that tougher standard. Rep. Slotkin offered an amendment with this legislation that passed the House Armed Services Committee in a roll call vote. A stand-alone bill with these provisions will be introduced.

• Prohibit the Defense Department from buying certain items containing PFAS. The prohibition would cover PFAS-containing items such as cookware; food packaging; carpets and furniture; floor and furniture waxes; and personal care items including sunscreen and dental floss. This provision will not only protect service members and their families now, but will help grow the market for non-PFAS commercial goods. Reps. Slotkin and Turner introduced the bipartisan PFAS-Free Military Purchasing Act in the House, with companion legislation introduced in the Senate by Sens. Blumenthal and Shaheen.

• Require the Defense Department to publicly disclose results of PFAS testing that it conducts itself or that is conducted as part of an agreement with any other entity, increasing transparency around PFAS testing and exposure. Rep. Slotkin, Rep. Garamendi, and Rep. Turner introduced an identical, stand-alone bill, the Military Testing and Disclosure Act in the House, which would require this disclosure and require the department to alert local water system officials when it is conducting PFAS testing.

• Strengthen PFAS research by requiring the Department of Defense to report back on how they are soliciting new research partners to answer critical questions on PFAS, including identifying safe and effective disposal mechanisms, and an alternative to PFAS-laden firefighting foam (AFFF) that DoD must phase out by 2024. This passed committee on a bipartisan basis.

On innovation:
• Codifies the National Security Innovation Network, to strengthen the Defense Department’s connections to academic and industrial centers of innovation in Michigan and elsewhere. The National Security Innovation Act, bipartisan legislation offered with Michigan’s Rep. Paul Mitchell, would establish in law the NSIN, part of the Defense Innovation Unit, which connects the Department of Defense to academic institutions, commercial accelerators and incubators, commercial innovation hubs, and nonprofit entities with missions and capabilities relating to national security innovation. For example, NSIN worked with the University of Michigan last fall to sponsor a hackathon that developed concepts for using artificial intelligence to improve maintenance of military equipment and is working with Michigan State University on a similar “Hacking for Defense” partnership. Four Michigan innovative startup companies have already received contract awards so far in Fiscal Year 2020 from NSIN, whose managing director, Morgan Plummer, is an MSU graduate. This measure will make sure that work continues and expands; this legislation will cement NSIN as part of the Pentagon’s innovation toolkit. In addition to the bipartisan bill, similar language was included in the base text of the bill, which passed out of committee on a bipartisan basis.

• Strengthens the National Security Investment Capital program, to increase the Pentagon’s ability to invest in innovative domestic manufacturing, including in Michigan. Authorized two years ago, NSIC is designed to address a gap in defense innovation: while software developers are able to attract significant capital investments, hardware and manufacturing attract far less capital investment. NSIC allows the Pentagon to invest in dual-use hardware technologies critical to national security –– like batteries, electronics, semiconductors, and sensors. But it has been shortchanged on funding. Establishing an advisory board to guide NSIC’s investment efforts and ensure they are aligned with broader defense strategy will strengthen NSIC and encourage appropriators to support its work. The measure also extends a pilot program set to expire that allows the Pentagon to explore loans and loan guarantees, direct investments and other tools to incentivize advanced manufacturing in defense-related areas. Rep. Slotkin has introduced a bipartisan bill with these provisions, which she also offered as an amendment during mark-up, with Rep. Gallagher’s support. The amendment passed committee on a bipartisan basis.

On COVID response: 
• Directs additional funds from a new Pandemic Response and Resilience National Security Fund to the Defense-Wide Manufacturing, Science and Technology Program. This program supports centers of manufacturing innovation in areas critical to national security, including LIFT, a Detroit-based public-private partnership that works with innovative manufacturers of all sizes to develop technologies in advanced manufacturing sectors such as advanced alloys, and works to build worker skills for advanced manufacturing careers. Rep. Slotkin offered an amendment to direct $35 million in funding to the development of advanced manufacturing techniques and technologies within the United States that will make the U.S. better prepared for the next pandemic or global health crisis. This amendment passed on a bipartisan basis.

• Includes legislation related to Slotkin’s Made in America Medical Supply Chain Initiative, which is aimed at reducing American dependence on China and other foreign sources of critical medical supply items. This provision offered during markup would require the Pentagon to report on what stockpiles we need to cope with future public health crises like COVID-19; the surge manufacturing capacity currently available; how much of our supply chain is sourced overseas rather than domestically, whether domestic manufacturing is sufficient to meet needs in a crisis and whether we should consider maintaining “warm” manufacturing facilities that could surge into action during an emergency.

Slotkin also advocated for several PFAS, innovation, and other Michigan-related provisions that passed the House today:

• Additional PFAS provisions that would require the Pentagon to notify Congress of all releases of PFAS-containing firefighting foam; create a prize program to incentivize development of non-PFAS firefighting materials; allow servicemember who want to be tested for PFAS as part of their annual exam to do so; and require a survey of non-PFAS firefighting materials to facilitate the required phase-out of PFAS use in military firefighting materials by 2024, which was included in last year’s defense bill.

• Provisions that would provide additional funding to two Defense Department research programs working to find PFAS alternatives.

• Language and funding supporting some of Michigan’s most important, existing defense installations and contributions, like the Ground Vehicle Systems Center in Warren, and Northern Strike, a joint, multinational military exercise sponsored by the Michigan National Guard and a bipartisan priority of the Michigan congressional delegation. Northern Strike, which saw more than 6,000 personnel participating from 10 nations and 22 states in 2019, is the Defense Department’s largest joint, reserve component-led exercise.

• A bipartisan amendment offered by Rep. Mitchell to strengthen criteria the Department of Defense uses for basing Air Force aircraft by including factors such as community support. This amendment would strengthen the case for Selfridge Air National Guard Base to compete for cutting edge aircraft, such as the F-35, in future basing decisions. This amendment passed on a bipartisan basis.

• Language codifying the Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment, which helps local communities deal with the economic impact of base closings and other changes to Pentagon programs. The office provides funding for activities such assistance to communities that have lost bases and technology transfer efforts important to Michigan universities and small businesses.

• A bipartisan amendment offered by Rep. Wilson and co-led by Slotkin to provide assistance to small manufacturers through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) in the defense industrial supply chain, to improve their cybersecurity services. These funds may be used to promote awareness, assessment, evaluation, preparation, and implementation of cybersecurity services; achieve compliance with Department of Defense cybersecurity requirements; and hire trained personnel.

• Strengthen protections against foreign propaganda by adding media literacy to a pilot program between the Defense Department and the Education Department established in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act. This amendment passed out of committee on a bipartisan basis.

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