Slotkin unveils 2020 Michigan Defense Agenda, focused on PFAS, manufacturing innovation

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U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin announced her Michigan Defense Agenda today, a suite of legislation focused on addressing contamination from PFAS “forever chemicals” 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. Slotkin’s 2020 Michigan Defense Agenda includes both stand-alone bills and amendments she will offer as part of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), either during this week’s House Armed Services Committee markup of the bill or as floor amendments during the full House’s consideration of the NDAA later this year.

The agenda Slotkin unveiled today in a video press call builds on her progress made in the last year, including passing into law six key Slotkin provisions to address PFAS contamination as part of last year’s NDAA, as well as a number of provisions to support Michigan defense capabilities and innovation.

Legislation included in Slotkin’s 2020 Michigan Defense Agenda would:

• 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. A stand-alone bill with these provisions will be introduced, along with an amendment offering similar provisions during markup in the House Armed Services Committee this week.

• 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 will introduce the bipartisan PFAS-Free Military Purchasing Act in the House, with companion legislation introduced in the Senate by Sens. Blumenthal and Shaheen. Rep. Slotkin will offer a bipartisan amendment during markup in the House Armed Services Committee this week, partnering with Rep. Turner.

• Set in motion the most rigorous federal PFAS research agenda to date, by requiring a comprehensive, multi-phase study to provide answers to questions about the degree of danger we face from PFAS and how to reduce our risk. This bipartisan measure requires the Defense Department to work with the EPA and the National Academies of Science on a major PFAS research agenda, to determine, first, our level of exposure to PFAS chemicals and, second, the toxicity and health hazards that exposure presents.

The bill would also require a comprehensive study on how to manage those risks, answering questions such as how best to cleanup or manage PFAS contamination and how we can build a toolbox of alternatives to cope with the wide variety of circumstances in which we might find PFAS contamination. Rep. Slotkin, Rep. Fletcher, and Rep. Posey introduced a bipartisan bill in the House and Rep. Slotkin will introduce an amendment with similar provisions during markup in the House Armed Services Committee this week.

• 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 have introduced 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. Reps. Slotkin and Turner will offer similar provisions as a bipartisan amendment during markup in the House Armed Services Committee this week.

• Codifying 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, Rep. Slotkin and Rep. Mitchell will offer similar legislation during markup in the House Armed Services Committee this week.

• Strengthen 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 and will offer them as an amendment during markup, partnering with Rep. Gallagher.

• Legislation to direct 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 will offer 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 during markup in the House Armed Services Committee this week.

• Legislation related to the 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. Rep. Slotkin will offer a provision during markup that 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 is advocating for several PFAS, innovation and other Michigan-related provisions, some of which she has worked with leadership to include in the HASC base text and others that she will support as amendments this week, including:

• Additional PFAS provisions approved by the Readiness Subcommittee 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; 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 included by Chairman Smith that would provide additional funding to two Defense Department research programs working to find PFAS alternatives.

• Language 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.

• 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.

• 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.

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