Slotkin provisions on PFAS, Michigan manufacturing, pass in bipartisan defense bill

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) said that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), while not perfect, is an important step forward for national security, military families and Michigan.

“It gives our troops a 3% pay raise, provides important new support to their families, and strengthens benefits for our National Guard troops,” Slotkin said in a statement. “It also takes the historic step of establishing a provess to rename military facilities and monuments that honor the Confederacy.”

Slotkin is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Committee conferee.

The act also bolsters the ability to address threats from Russia and China by fully funding deterrence initiatives in Europe and the Pacific, and it includes several provisions for which Slotkin fought: one that will bar bar the Department of Defense from purchasing cookware made with PFAS “forever chemicals”; one that creates a prize program so that institutions like Michigan State University can compete to develop PFAS alternatives; and another that draws on Michigan manufacturing by making it easier for the Pentagon to invest in centers of innovation in the state.

“As with every bill, the NDAA is not perfect: opposition from the Senate kept one of my important PFAS provisions out of the bill: my legislation that would have required the Pentagon to adhere to the toughest applicable PFAS cleanup standards, like those we have in Michigan,” Slotkin said. “Using the toughest standard is particularly important because the Environmental Protection Agency still has not established its own reasonable standards.

“I was disappointed that this PFAS provision didn’t survive, but this fight is not over. The incoming Biden administration must make the fight against PFAS contamination an early, top priority not only at the Pentagon, but across the entire government. In the next Congress, I will be introducing a comprehensive PFAS agenda that brings together the range of policies we need to alleviate this harmful contamination in Michigan; abiding by tougher standards in clean-up; and importantly, ensuring the EPA stops punting its responsibility to establish federal PFAS standards so that Michigan and other states aren’t left to fend for themselves.

“Unfortunately, the President has signaled that he will veto this bill over a handful of issues, including some unrelated to national defense. Mr. President, no one gets everything they want in legislation. I am disappointed that my strictest-standard PFAS provision didn’t make it in, but I am not going to oppose legislation that funds our national defense and supports our troops because of it. The President should not make one of his final acts in office a public stunt that hurts our troops and their families.”

When enacted, provisions Slotkin championed and maintained in the final, negotiated bill include:

On PFAS:

• Slotkin’s provision requiring the Department of Defense to halt its purchase of non-stick cookware and utensils, or upholstered furniture, carpets and rugs that have been treated with PFAS chemicals. When enacted, Slotkin’s provision will not only protect service members and their families now, but will help grow the commercial market for non-PFAS goods by requiring the Department of Defense to purchase PFAS-free materials.

On cybersecurity:

• A program to better prepare the country for cyber attacks that could affect our critical infrastructure, particularly if those attacks occur at the state or local level. By requiring national cyber exercises that bring together the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, state and local governments, and key private sector organizations, Slotkin’s provision will help build resilience against cyber attacks like the ones that have targeted Michigan’s hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On countering the threat from Russia:

• Slotkin’s provision requiring the Department of Defense to include a comprehensive assessment of the threat that the Russian Federation, its associates, and its proxies pose to U.S. forces in key arenas overseas in its annual reporting to Congress on Russian military capabilities. This provision will ensure Congress has a comprehensive accounting of the danger that Russian involvement poses to U.S. forces in areas where they are present overseas.

On defense innovation and Michigan manufacturing:

• Slotkin’s provision strengthening the National Security Innovation Capital (NSIC) program to increase the Pentagon’s ability to invest in innovative 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 mechanism 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.

• Slotkin’s provision strengthening the Defense Department’s connections to academic and industrial centers of innovation in Michigan and elsewhere. This provision formally establishes the National Security Innovation Network (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 military equipment maintenance 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.

Other key provisions passed in the NDAA:

• Takes historic steps to rename military facilities and monuments that honor the Confederacy: Establishes an independent commission to make binding recommendations to the Secretary of Defense for the removal of all names, symbols, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederate States of America from all assets of the Department of Defense.

• Gives a pay raise to service members: Authorizes a much-deserved 3% increase in basic pay for men and women in uniform. It also increases Hazardous Duty Pay from $250 to $275 per month, and authorizes the Secretary of Defense to standardize payment of hazardous duty incentive pay for members of the Guard and Reserve Components of the Armed Forces.

• Takes additional steps to address PFAS contamination: Creates the PFAS Innovation Prize Program to incentivize development of non-PFAS firefighting materials, allowing institutions like Michigan State University and other Michigan institutions to compete to develop PFAS alternatives; requires the military to notify farms of detected PFAS contamination originating from a military installation; establishes an interagency coordinating body for PFAS research; authorizes $90 million for research into PFAS remediation and disposal technologies, and firefighting agent replacement; authorizes $1.4 billion in funding for environmental remediation, including to address PFAS contamination in and around military bases.

• Takes important steps to address sexual assault in the military: Creates a task force to study and make recommendations on domestic violence within the military; better enables servicemembers to report sexual harassment confidentially, outside of the chain of command and without fear of punishment; helps standardize coordinated care for survivors within military and through the VA; requires a report on the status of investigations of alleged sex-related offenses.

• Makes permanent a suicide prevention and resilience program for military reservists that provides training and support to reservists, their families, and local communities.

• Funds the military’s premier publication “Stars and Stripes” through 2021. This funding ensures the paper will continue to serve U.S. troops, as it has since the Civil War. The Trump administration had previously threatened to revoke its funding.

• Strengthens response to Russia: Prevents the reduction of U.S. forces stationed in Germany; fully funds the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) and invests in additional capabilities that support deterrence; provides funding for support and assistance to the Ukrainian Armed Forces; includes Slotkin’s amendment to establish yearly reporting on any attempts by the Russian Federation, its agents, or proxies to encourage or support attacks against U.S. troops or personnel.

• Strengthens response to China: authorizes a Pacific Deterrence Initiative to reassure allies and partners of an enduring U.S. commitment to the region and to enhance congressional oversight of military activities in that region

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