The U.S. Senate today passed its annual defense budget for the next fiscal year.
In addition to authorizing $692.2 billion for the Department of Defense and other national security programs, the bill includes a number of projects important to Florida that U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), a senior member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, pushed for, including a provision that will make it easier for commercial space companies to launch more frequently from the Cape, possibly up to twice a day.
The bill, which was approved by the House yesterday, now heads to the president to be signed into law.
Here’s a list of provisions included in the bill that Nelson pushed for:
- Improving Cyber Defenses. As the top Democrat on the Armed Services’ cyber subcommittee, Nelson was instrumental in requiring the Department of Defense to establish new procedures to better detect, counter, and conduct cyber-enabled information operations, like the Russian attempt to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
- Combating Opioid Crisis. Nelson authored an amendment included in the final bill that directs DoD to study the effectiveness of training provided to DoD healthcare providers regarding opioid prescribing practices, initiatives in opioid safety and the use of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for Management of Opioid Therapy for Chronic Pain.
- Upgrading launch infrastructure at Cape Canaveral. Nelson authored a provision that requires DoD to modernize the Air Force’s launch infrastructure and improve launch operations to make it easier for commercial space companies to launch more frequently from Cape Canaveral, possibly up to twice a day. Also included are provisions that provide funding to support automated launch safety systems and reusable launch vehicles that would allow the Air Force to support more commercial launches from the Cape, while reducing costs to the government.
- $300 million to upgrade Florida military bases. The bill authorizes $299.1 million for construction at Florida’s military bases, including a special operations simulator facility at Eglin Air Force Base, near Pensacola; a special operations simulator and fuselage training facility at Hurlburt Field, also near Pensacola; a fire station at Tyndall Air Force Base, near Panama City; a “Guardian Angel” facility at Patrick Air Force Base, at Cape Canaveral; and a wastewater treatment plant at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville.
- Upgrading testing and training ranges. Nelson secured an additional $35 million in funding to improve infrastructure at the military’s testing and training ranges, including the Eastern Gulf Test and Training Range off Eglin Air Force Base. The additional funding underscores how important these ranges are to our national security and the need to protect them from offshore oil drilling.
- Future ships to Mayport. Nelson authored a provision that would require the Navy to consider a port’s ability to mitigate risks associated with natural disasters and improve fleet response times when deciding where to homeport future ships. Those considerations, if taken into account, would help make Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville a natural choice for future homeporting of a nuclear aircraft carrier and additional amphibious ships.
- Apollo 1 Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Nelson authored language to authorize the construction and placement of a memorial marker at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the crewmembers of Apollo I who died during a launch rehearsal on January 27, 1967.
- Providing military dependents with the benefits they deserve. Nelson led efforts to include a provision that permanently extends Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) payments, which were set to expire in June 2018. Congress created SSIA to offset the mandatory reductions in payments to some surviving military spouses.