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December 2, 2016

A major defense bill would have far-reaching impact in Maine

File photo / Bath Iron Works A deckhouse is lifted into place at Bath Iron Works in this file photo of a Zumwalt-class destroyer under construction at the Bath shipyard. A defense authorization bill contains $271.8 million in funding for the Zumwalt program.

The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, hammered out this week by the House and Senate Armed Service committees and facing an upcoming vote, contains several provisions that are likely to benefit Maine-based companies. If passed, the bill would authorize $618.7 billion in spending.

Provisions identified by U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, a member of the Senate armed services committee, include funding for shipbuilding at Bath Iron Works, support for military construction projects at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and funding to fight the production and trafficking of illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl.

The House and Senate are expected to vote on the 2017 NDAA in the coming days. If passed by both chambers, it will then go to President Obama’s desk for his signature to become law.

How it would impact BIW: The bill authorizes $3.5 billion for Navy destroyer programs, including $271.8 million for the construction of DDG-1000 Zumwalt destroyers — all of which are being built at Bath Iron Works — and $3.3 billion for the procurement of two DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in fiscal year 2017, one of which will be built at Bath.

Of the $3.2 billion in procurement for the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, King said he was able to authorize an additional $50 million in funding for the DDG-51 that was authorized and partially funded last year due to the work of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and himself to secure that funding. That ship has since been identified by the Navy as one of its top unfunded priorities, and King said this secured authorization lays the groundwork to appropriate the remaining funding necessary to build it.

How bill impacts Portsmouth Naval Shipyard: The bill authorizes $17.8 million for unaccompanied housing at Portsmouth Navy Shipyard to provide housing for the crew of submarines; $30.1 million for utility improvements of nuclear platforms at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard; and $27.1 million to construct a replacement medical/dental clinic there. Sen.King stated he specifically requested these authorizations.

Full per diem for Portsmouth Naval Shipyard workers on long-term temporary duty: The bill would authorize the Navy to provide full per diem to public shipyard workers traveling on long-term temporary duty. The provision is based on legislationintroduced by U.S. Sens. King, Collins, Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., that would modify the existing, Department of Defense long-term temporary duty policy for shipyard workers conducting off-yard maintenance.

How bill impacts southern Maine employers:

King reported that the bill authorizes the procurement of 63 F-35 joint strike fighters of all three variants and noted that several Maine-based companies, including Pratt & Whitney in North Berwick and General Dynamics in Saco, are in the supply and production chain for this fifth generation fighter. The bill also authorizes $1 billion for procurement of a new long-range stealth bomber, B-21, for which Pratt & Whitney’s North Berwick plant is slated to produce components for the bomber’s engine.

No new BRAC round: King reported that the legislation rejects President Obama’s call in his Fiscal Year 2017 budget request for additional base closures under the Base Realignment and Closure process. The last BRAC process, he noted, occurred in 2005 when the Pentagon's recommendation to close the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was ultimately overturned by the BRAC Commission but its recommendation to realign Brunswick Naval Air Station was rejected in favor of closing the base.

Definition of cyberwar: The bill includes language similar to legislation authored by King and Mike Rounds, R-S.D., that would require the administration to develop options for deterring threats in cyberspace and determining what types of actions in cyberspace may warrant a military response.

Fighting the opioid and heroin epidemic: The bill includes a provision, offered by Sen. Kelly Ayotte and supported by Sen. King, that would ensurethat at least $191.5 million will be dedicated to counter the production and trafficking of illicit drugs, including heroin and fentanyl.

Additionally, Sen. King joined with Sen. Collins and Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, on Thursday to herald the inclusion of their American-made footwear provision that will require the Department of Defense to consider athletic footwear subject to the Berry Amendment by providing initial entry service members with American-made athletic shoes upon arrival at basic training. The inclusion of this provision represents the culmination of a long-fought battle by the Maine delegation and could affect New Balance, which has three factories in Maine.

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