Major Achievements Include 5.2% Pay Raise for Troops, $676 Million For World Trade Center Health Program
Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Chair of the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, announced that several of her provisions were included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2024.
“This year’s NDAA is a win for service members and their families,” said Senator Gillibrand. “It includes many of the provisions I worked hard to pass, including a significant pay raise for our troops, $676 million to help close the funding shortfall in the WTCHP and guarantee health care for previously excluded 9/11 first responders, and measures to help to clean up potentially deadly PFAS contamination on military bases. It will also provide millions in funding for advanced technical research at New York institutions and expand my Cyber Service Academy scholarship program, which provides students with free college in exchange for public service after school.”
A full list of Senator Gillibrand’s priorities included in the FY2024 NDAA is below:
World Trade Center Health Program:
Congress established the WTCHP on a bipartisan basis in 2011 with a five-year authorization to provide medical treatment and monitoring for 9/11 responders and survivors suffering from the effects of the toxins at Ground Zero. The program was reauthorized in 2015 and extended through 2090 with bipartisan support. However, the funding formula for the WTCHP is not keeping pace with the costs of health care inflation and increased participation in the program, putting benefits for 9/11 first responders and survivors at risk. In 2022, Gillibrand successfully led the effort to secure an additional $1 billion for the program in the end-of-year spending bill.
Gillibrand fought to include a provision in the NDAA that will provide $444 million to further remedy this funding shortfall. The provision also includes $232 million for a Pentagon/Shanksville fund, which will allow unintentionally excluded active duty and civilian DoD first responders at the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania sites to join the WTCHP.
- 5.2% Pay Increase for Service Members: Gillibrand advocated for this pay increase, which will be the largest for service members in more than two decades.
- Expansion of Doula Training: This provision directs DoD to use military spouse training and education programs to provide opportunities for military spouses to obtain doula certifications and licenses.
- Anomalous Health Incidents (AHI) Cross-Functional Team (CFT): This provision will ensure that DoD’s AHI CFT is empowered to continue its important work to identify the causes and sources of AHI incidents and uphold our obligation to those personnel injured in service to the country.
In last year’s NDAA, Gillibrand created the Cyber Service Academy scholarship program to address a widespread shortage in government cyber personnel. The program grants students free college in return for public service in a cyber-related discipline in the Department of Defense (DoD). Successful applicants are provided a scholarship covering the full cost of tuition, select books and fees, a stipend, purchase of a laptop, and more. The following Cyber Service Academy provisions were included in the NDAA this year:
- Cyber Service Academy – Intelligence Community Provision: This provision will allow 10% of Cyber Service Academy graduates to work in the intelligence community, including agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
- Cyber Service Academy – Minimum Scholarships: This provision will require the Department of Defense to award no fewer than 1,000 scholarships per year under the Cyber Service Academy scholarship program by FY2026, unless waived by the Secretary of Defense.
Other cyber priorities:
- Cybersecurity Collaboration Center Pilot for Semiconductors: This provision will establish a pilot program that would enable the NSA’s Cybersecurity Collaboration Center to work with semiconductor manufacturers in the United States, with the goal of reducing cyber vulnerabilities to the semiconductor supply chain.
- Assuring Critical Infrastructure Support for Military Contingencies: This provision directs the Secretary of Defense to establish a program to require certain military bases to assess how they would prioritize restoring essential functions following a cyber-attack against regional critical infrastructure. This will ensure that the military is able to identify and address any critical issues that could arise in the event of a cyber-attack against the United States.
- Guam Resiliency: Adds a cybersecurity requirement to a provision mandating an assessment of the adequacy of civilian infrastructure in Guam for supporting INDOPACOM mission requirements.
PFAS chemicals have emerged as widespread contaminants to the drinking water sources of military bases and their surrounding communities across the country. Exposure to PFAS has been linked to an array of health problems, including developmental effects, changes in liver, immune system, and thyroid function, and increased risk of some cancers. The NDAA includes several provisions to address PFAS contamination that Gillibrand worked to ensure were included in the final bill. These provisions authorize funding for additional research and investigation into PFAS testing and remediation efforts, help communities better participate in the PFAS cleanup process, and require DoD to regularly report on the cleanup status of all current and former PFAS contaminated bases.
New York Priorities:
Kirsten secured millions in funding for New York organizations in the NDAA, including:
- Lexington Avenue Armory Funding: The NDAA provides $90 million for construction, repair, and modernization for Lexington Armory located at Ft. Hamilton in Brooklyn. The Lexington Armory is the center of the New York Army National Guard’s (NYARNG) recruiting and diversity efforts: the NYARNG achieved 103% of its recruiting mission and 108% of its retention mission in FY22.
Funding for advanced technical research at Rome Lab and other institutions across the state:
- Distributed quantum information sciences networking testbed: The conferenced NDAA authorizes $5 million for the distributed quantum information sciences networking testbed. This project enables cutting-edge work related to quantum networks in the Department of Defense.
- Future Flag experimentation testbed: The conferenced NDAA authorizes $25 million for the Future Flag experimentation testbed, which aims to create an environment for experimenting different Joint All-Domain Command and Control (“JADC2”) concepts and capabilities.
- Multi-domain radio frequency spectrum testing environment: The conferenced NDAA authorizes $5 million for the multi-domain radio frequency (RF) spectrum testing environment.
- Inertial confinement fusion: The conferenced NDAA includes $641 million for inertial confinement fusion activities, an increase of $40 million from last year. This request will aid in the crucial research being conducted at the University of Rochester.
Emerging Threats and Capabilities:
- Ensuring Peace Through Strength with Israel: This provision extends the authority of the president to transfer precision-guided munitions and other munitions to Israel. It would also require SECDEF to assess Israel’s munitions needs in the case of conflict.
- US – Japan Defense Cooperation: This provision requires the Department of Defense to submit a plan on how to enhance security cooperation with Japan on certain national security activities, including in intelligence sharing, cybersecurity, and space operations.
- Rapid Response to Emergency Technology Advancements or Threats: This provision modifies certain authorities in order to allow the military departments to be more responsive to acquiring or using emerging technology, or to carry out acquisitions activities in response to emerging technologies.
Unidentified Aerial Phenomena:
- UAP SAP Spending Restrictions: This provision prohibits the use of funds for any classified programs — including Special Access Programs (SAPs) — involving UAP that have not been briefed to the relevant congressional committees and congressional leadership. The conferees agreed that this spending prohibition could apply to hiring, training, and use of government or contractor personnel, the analysis of UAP, providing security related to UAP programs, reverse engineering or replication efforts, and the development of certain kinds of propulsion technology.
- UAP Disclosure Act: This legislation’s intent is to increase transparency related to UAP records held by the U.S. government. It creates a UAP records collection within the National Archives and provides a legal mandate for the National Archives to declassify UAP records 25 years after their creation, with certain exceptions for national security purposes. While Gillibrand was disappointed the final bill omitted a UAP Records Review Board included in the original amendment, this is an important first step and Gillibrand will continue working to support government transparency on this topic.