The U.S. Senate today, by a vote of 87 – 10, approved a $716 billion annual defense spending bill for the next fiscal year.
The legislation, which now heads to the president’s desk to be signed in law, includes several wins for Florida that U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, helped secure for the state.
Following is a list of the provisions Nelson sponsored that were included in the final bill that Congress approved today:
- Allow disabled veterans to travel on military aircraft. Nelson sponsored a provision that was included in the bill passed today to allow veterans with a permanent disability rating of 100% to travel on military aircraft when there are available seats.
- Prohibit the government from purchasing ZTE products. Nelson cosponsored a provision included in the final bill that will prohibit the federal government from purchasing or using telecommunications equipment made by Chinese companies ZTE or Huawei.
- Build new assisted care facility near Eglin Air Force Base. Nelson sponsored a provision that will authorize the Air Force to transfer land necessary to build a new assisted and independent-living care facility for veterans and wounded warriors near Eglin Air Force Base.
- Fund infrastructure programs around military installations. Nelson sponsored a provision that was included in the final bill that authorized the Department of Defense to provide grants to state and local governments to help make infrastructure improvements around military installations. Nelson’s provision will allow DOD to help pay for roads, schools, hospitals, utility infrastructure and other community support infrastructure around military installations.
- Streamline launch approval process at Cape Canaveral. Nelson sponsored a provision that was included in the final bill that will make it easier for commercial space companies to launch from Cape Canaveral. Nelson’s provision streamlines the launch approval process by eliminating overlapping Air Force and FAA approval processes for commercial space companies.
- Allow reusable rockets to compete for Air Force contracts. Nelson authored a provision that was included in the final bill to allow companies that use reusable commercial rockets to compete for Air Force launch contracts.
- Modernizing Gulf of Mexico testing and training range. At Nelson’s request, the bill approved today includes $106.8 million to improve and modernize the military’s testing and training ranges, including the testing and training range in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. Increasing the military’s investment in the range will help defend against future attempts to allow offshore drilling there.
- Improving cyber defenses. Nelson championed a provision that was included in the final bill that authorizes the Secretary of Defense to use our cyber forces to deter, defend against and disrupt Russian actors who interfere in U.S. elections.
- Funding B-21 Long Range Strike-Bomber, E2-D Hawkeye, and LCS. Nelson helped secure full funding for the B-21 Raider Long Range Strike-Bomber that’s being designed and engineered at Northrop Grumman facilities in Melbourne, Florida, as well as additional funding for the E2-D Hawkeye built in St. Augustine and additional Littoral Combat Ships, which are homeported at Mayport.
- National Naval Aviation Museum at NAS Pensacola. Nelson successfully included a provision that would require a report to better manage public access to Naval Air Station Pensacola, which will help in increasing tourism while protecting our servicemen and women at the same time.
In addition to the provisions above that were included in the final bill Congress passed today, Nelson also sponsored the following provisions that were included in the Senate’s final report language that will accompany the bill:
- Bring more ships to Mayport. Nelson sponsored a provision that calls on the Navy to follow through on plans to move a nuclear-power aircraft carrier, or Amphibious Readiness Group ship, to Mayport.
- Repair Indian River Bridge at Cape Canaveral. Nelson sponsored two provisions aimed at fixing the Indian River Bridge near Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The bridge, which the Air Force and NASA both use to transport key space launch assets to the launch pad, is in desperate need of repair and must be replaced to prevent any interruptions to future launch operations. Specifically, Nelson’s provision recognizes that the Indian River Bridge is critical to future space launch operations. It also directs DOD to report to Congress on what improvements are needed. A second provision Nelson sponsored authorizes the Defense Department to pay half the costs needed to repair the bridge, while the other half would be paid by NASA.