Higgins Announces Approval of National Defense Authorization Act
Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced the House of Representatives approved H.R. 6395, the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) a bill providing funding for the nation’s military bases, research and operations. The legislation includes a Maritime Heritage amendment submitted by Higgins as well as measures related to COVID response suggested in Higgins’ Pandemic Preparedness bill.
“This bipartisan bill supports national security measures and the men and women who serve, including those based out of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station,” said Higgins. “Pandemic preparedness is an essential component of keeping Americans safe and protected. The federal government is long overdue in investing in protections addressing coronavirus. The Pandemic Preparedness and Resilience National Security Fund included in this legislation acknowledges the health and economic security ramifications a pandemic brings and answers the need to better plan for and prevent future events.”
The NDAA includes $1 billion toward efforts to proactively increase the nation’s ability to prepare for and respond to future pandemics. Higgins, who introduced the Infectious Disease Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Act, has argued that the U.S. should have been better prepared for COVID and should be making investments now to prepare for the next health emergency.
The legislation passed with an amendment offered by Congressman Higgins authorizing $5 million for FY 2021 through the Defense Department to support the National Maritime Heritage Grant Program. The program makes grants for education and preservation projects focused on historic maritime resources, funding for which the Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park would be eligible. Currently, the program is funded by proceeds from the sale of obsolete vessels, but despite a great need to maintain these aging maritime museums, the program has not offered any grants recently, due to lack of available funds.
The NDAA contains funding for operations at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station. The bill remains silent on any new Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) effort, which is good news for Western New York. The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station was among the sites listed on the closure list during a round of Base Realignment and Closures in 2005. Following staunch opposition from the community, Congressman Higgins and the entire Western New York delegation, the BRAC commission voted to save the Niagara Falls base.
Other highlights of the NDAA include:
- Authorizes a 3% pay raise for our troops
- Makes improvements to sexual assault prevention and response in the military
- Authorizes funding to clean up perfluorinated (PFAS) chemicals in drinking water on or near military bases, which have been linked to adverse health conditions
- Bans Confederate flags on military bases and begins the process of removing the names of bases named for Confederates
The Senate is expected to pass similar legislation with plans to reconcile the two bills.