© 2023 KRWG
News that Matters.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Udall Votes For Major National Defense Bill To Secure NM Priorities

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM)

Commentary: Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall joined the Senate in voting 92-7 for a major national defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), to support our troops and national defense programs in New Mexico and across the country. The bill, which has already passed the House and will now be sent to the president, contains provisions that Udall has championed to strengthen New Mexico’s national laboratories, military bases, and other defense initiatives important to the state's economy and our national security.

"New Mexico makes unmatched contributions to the national defense. Our state’s brave service members, our top-notch military bases, and our groundbreaking national laboratories keep America safe — sustaining thousands of New Mexico jobs along the way," Udall said. "I voted for this defense bill because it will strengthen New Mexico’s defense priorities and cutting-edge industries, and it gives our troops a well-deserved raise. My focus in Congress is fighting for legislation that grows New Mexico’s economy and supports our national security. I am pleased to have joined in passing an NDAA that meets those important standards."

The annual NDAA sets policies and funding levels for the nation’s military and defense operations. This year’s bill, which authorizes $619 billion for national defense, includes crucial provisions to bolster defense programs operated at New Mexico’s federal installations and national laboratories – including support for nuclear weapons programs and cleanup at Los Alamos and Sandia national labs, and for Department of Energy environmental cleanup programs like the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). The NDAA also authorizes resources for critical construction projects at Kirtland, Holloman, and Cannon Air Force bases, clearing the way for significant improvements that will benefit the bases’ national security mission and support New Mexico jobs. The bill extends for five years the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, which provide important resources for New Mexico’s premier labs, universities, and National Science Foundation facilities and help facilitate New Mexico’s role as a leader in high-tech business and innovation.

This year’s NDAA gives service members a 2.1 percent pay raise, and includes a measure that halts attempts to claw back enlistment bonuses paid to National Guard soldiers years ago. In November, Udall joined in sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter urging the Department of Defense to restore the National Guard bonuses.

Udall sits on the powerful Appropriations Committee and is a member of its subcommittees on Defense and Energy and Water. In that capacity, Udall and other committee members write and pass annual spending bills to fund the programs authorized by the NDAA.

“As a member of Appropriations Committee, I will continue to devote my energy to providing Congress’ full support to our labs, bases, and other defense programs that are essential to New Mexico’s economy and our national security,” Udall continued.

In offering his support for the NDAA, Udall highlighted the following provisions as particularly important for New Mexico and the nation:

A pay raise for service members: The NDAA includes a 2.1% pay raise for service members.

Funding for New Mexico’s Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories: The NDAA authorizes $12.9 billion in funding for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, supporting nuclear weapons programs and environmental cleanup at Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, as well as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

Construction projects at New Mexico Air Force bases: The NDAA includes authorizations for projects at New Mexico Air Force bases, including $21,000,000 for projects at Cannon Air Force Base, $10,600,000 for Holloman Air Force Base, and $7,300,000 for Kirtland Air Force Base.

National Guard bonuses: The NDAA puts a stop to attempts to claw back bonuses paid to National Guard soldiers years ago, and provides financial support to soldiers who have already repaid their bonuses. Udall wrote to DoD Secretary Carter urging the DoD to restore the bonuses.

Extension of tech transfer programs: The NDAA extends for five years the government-wide Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, which have been useful resources for New Mexico’s labs, universities, and NSF facilities.

Fort Wingate: The NDAA includes language that would transfer lands with cultural historical significance from the Ft. Wingate Army Depot back to the Navajo Nation and the Pueblo of Zuni.  The land transfer would end over a decade of negotiations between the tribes and the Army.