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Pingree Votes For BIW Funding, Paid Parental Leave, Climate Readiness Provisions in FY2020 NDAA Compromise

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) today voted for House passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The final NDAA conference report included provisions to authorize shipbuilding at Bath Iron Works (BIW), repeal the so-called “widow’s tax” on military death benefits, and promote climate change resiliency at the nation’s military installations. Text of the final FY2020 NDAA can be found here.

“This NDAA is a true compromise. Although this spending package isn’t perfect, I’m grateful that it fully funds shipbuilding work at BIW, will help prepare our military to address the climate crisis, repeal the onerous tax burden on military families, and establish paid parental leave for federal workers,” said Pingree. “I believe provisions to more strongly regulate PFAS and require cleanup ofthese chemicals should have remained in the conference report, but I will keep working to support these efforts through the House Appropriations Committee.”

The NDAA is the annual bill which authorizes expenditures for the U.S. Department of Defense. The bill has several progressive achievements, including 12 weeks of paid parental leave for two million federal employees across the country and a repeal of the “widow’s tax,” an unfair deduction of benefits which is placed on surviving spouses of service members when their spouse passes away during active duty.

Pingree expressed her disappointment that critical provisions in the House-passed bill were lost in negotiations with the Senate.  In particular, Senate Republicans refused to accept the House provisions to regulate PFAS in drinking water and require cleanup of the chemicals under the Superfund law.  In addition, the conference report failed to include important checks against endless and unauthorized wars, such as the repeal of the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, a block against deportation for DACA and TPS servicemembers, and a repeal of the transgender military ban.

The FY2020 NDAA includes several priorities for Mainers, including full authorization for DDG-51, DDG-1000, and FFG(X); a shipbuilding workforce study; and a pilot program to develop skilled technicians in the shipbuilding industry. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Congresswoman Pingree works annually to secure funding for surface ship construction in House Defense Appropriations bills. 

In June, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) climate resilience report found more than 30 percent of military installations did not have a plan to deal with extreme weather or climate change. The Department of Defense’s domestic real estate is worth $1.2 trillion, which, the GAO report states, poses a major economic imperative for climate readiness. Pingree offered an amendment to the House NDAA which would require the military to work with agencies like NOAA and NASA that track our changing climate, to incorporate flooding and sea level rise projections into their plans for building new military installations and fortifying current ones.

Pingree advocated for the House version of the FY2020 NDAA to include provisions to protect survivors of military sexual trauma (MST). She successfully secured anamendment to the House NDAA to require the Department of Defense’s Sexual Assault Response coordinators and advocates to advise servicemembers who report sexual trauma of their eligibility for VA services and benefits. 

Pingree is a vocal advocate for the cleanup and regulation of PFAS chemicals, commonly known as “forever chemicals.” Pingree serves as the Vice Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. On this committee, she helped to secure funding for scientific and regulatory work on PFAS in the FY2020 Interior Appropriations bill. Pingree has co-sponsored the PFAS Action Act, to consider PFAS as hazardous substances. She led a letter to the NDAA conference committee in October to include strong PFAS provisions in the final bill. 


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