Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM)
December 08, 2020
Washington, D.C. – U.S. House Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) secured key victories for the Armed Forces, National Laboratories, and environmental priorities in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, which passed the House with broad bipartisan support on Tuesday. The Senate is expected to pass the legislation in the coming days.
“For nearly 60 years, Congress has come together to advance the National Defense Authorization Act to strengthen our national security and support the men and women of our Armed Forces. This bipartisan legislation reasserts America’s leadership in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, provides a much-needed pay rise for our servicemembers, invests in our National Laboratories, and recognizes those affected by radiation exposure,” said Assistant Speaker Luján. “It’s absolutely crucial that President Trump heed bipartisan calls to immediately sign this legislation into law rather than undermine our Armed Forces and harm our national security over personal grievances with social media companies.”
The NDAA includes a critical 3 percent pay raise for active duty servicemembers and requires additional improvements for military housing to take care of our nation’s military families.
The FY21 NDAA includes the following priorities for New Mexico:
A historic increase in funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which will support the national security missions of Los Alamos National Lab and Sandia National Lab.
This year’s NDAA also makes strong investments in environmental cleanup across the nation, including $220 million to continue cleanup at sites around Los Alamos National Lab.
Protects basic research programs at Sandia and Los Alamos National Labs
- Includes language protecting the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program by exempting this program from paying internal lab overhead tax. This provision increases basic research at Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs by a combined $25 million each year.
Makes strong investments in Kirtland Air Force Base
- Includes $46 million for construction of the new Defense Threat Reduction Agency building.
Recognizes the Need to Protect the Health and Safety of Radiation Exposure Survivors
The National Defense Authorization Act includes a Sense of Congress stressing the importance of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), which compensates and recognizes miners, workers, downwinders, and others suffering from the effects of uranium mining and nuclear testing carried out during the Cold War. RECA is set to expire in 2022 and the Sense of Congress notes that without Congressional action, many may be unable to claim the compensation they deserve. Assistant Speaker Luján has been a strong and vocal advocate for all those impacted by nuclear testing. He continues to urge for the strengthening of RECA by passing the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments, which he has introduced in the House.
To help former nuclear weapons workers navigate the complex medical claims process, the Office of the Ombudsman is made permanent in the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICPA).
Supports Vietnam Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange
The NDAA includes the Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act, which Luján co-sponsored, to add three new illnesses to the list of conditions that are presumed to be service-connected. This would automatically qualify veterans with these conditions for benefits.