Van Hollen Secures Maryland Priorities in Annual Defense Bill, Votes to Pass Legislation in the Senate
U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) voted Thursday to pass the fiscal year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in the Senate, which includes critical investments in Maryland military installations and key legislative priorities that the Senator fought for, as well as a 5.2 percent pay raise for military and Department of Defense (DoD) civilian employees.
“This year’s defense bill will help keep America secure by investing in the resources necessary to deter and counter our adversaries, stay ahead of emerging threats, strengthen our international security partnerships, and support key defense projects and personnel across our state. I’m pleased that this bill provides over $1 billion for military assets based in Maryland, boosts pay and benefits for our service members, and includes measures to improve the quality of life of our foreign service professionals. Like any piece of legislation, this bill is not perfect – and I believe we must continue to look at how we prioritize defense spending – but overall I believe it positions us well to confront the security challenges our nation faces,” said Senator Van Hollen.
With the House having passed its version of the NDAA earlier this month, a group of members from the Senate and House will work to negotiate a compromise bill that can pass both chambers and reach the President’s desk.
Within the FY24 NDAA, Senator Van Hollen fought to include the following provisions:
- Public access protection for the Greenbury Point Conservation Area at Naval Support Activity Annapolis (NSA Annapolis). Senator Van Hollen, alongside Senator Ben Cardin and Congressman John Sarbanes (all D-Md.), included language to prevent the U.S. Navy from unilaterally curbing access to the Conservation Area without Congressional approval.
- Senator Van Hollen’s GRATEFUL Act. This legislation, co-led by Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) would ensure foreign U.S. government employees who have provided exceptional service to our nation abroad over a long career have a secure and efficient path to immigrate to the United States, along with their families.
- Ending China’s unfair international advantages in global trade and diplomacy. The FY24 NDAA includes the bipartisan Ending China’s Developing Nation Status Act, legislation led by Senators Van Hollen, Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and others, which establishes U.S. policy to oppose the granting of “developing nation” status to China in future treaties and international organizations. It also directs the Secretary of State to pursue changing the status of China to “developed nation” in treaties or organizations where a mechanism for change exists.
- Relocation of the Joint Spectrum Center to Fort Meade. This language requires the Department of Defense to relocate the Joint Spectrum Center from Annapolis to the Defense Information Systems Agency at Fort Meade, Maryland, or another location that will provide enhanced physical and cybersecurity protection of personnel and Center missions. The Joint Spectrum Center provides direct support to Combatant Commanders and Joint Task Force Support and enables effective global spectrum operation and information dominance.
Funding authorization for critical military construction projects in Maryland, including:
- $885 million for joint military construction on Fort Meade, including, among other projects:
- $380 million for expansion and renovation of the National Security Agency campus
- $105 million for mission operations and records center at the National Security Agency campus
- $60.5 million for a cybersecurity operations facility
- $101.8 million for the Bethesda Naval Hospital
- $62 million for aircraft development and maintenance facilities at Naval Air Station, Patuxent River
- $38 million for the hydrant fueling system at Joint Base Andrews
The FY24 NDAA also includes the Department of State Authorization Act, bipartisan legislation to support America’s diplomatic corps and advance U.S. diplomacy around the world. Senator Van Hollen fought to include the following provisions:
- Educational allowance for State Department employees in U.S. territories. This provision authorizes State Department employees to receive an educational allowance for their dependents to attend private schools while employed in U.S. territories in cases when there is no U.S. equivalent available.
- Authorization for a U.S.-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Center. This center will provide grants for research to support and elevate the importance of the U.S.-ASEAN partnership; trainings to both U.S. citizens and citizens of ASEAN states that improve people-to-people ties; and efforts to increase educational awareness for both the U.S. and ASEAN states on the importance of U.S.-ASEAN relations.
- Cyber Protection Support of Personal Accounts for Vulnerable Employees. There are currently no protections for the personal accounts of State Department employees, which are vulnerable to cyber-attacks and hostile information collection. This provision enables the State Department to provide cyber protection support for the personal technology devices and personal accounts of employees considered vulnerable, based on their geographic location or position in the State Department.
- Addressing long wait times for Office of Authentication requests. The Office of Authentications provides signed certificates of authenticity for a variety of documents to individuals, institutions, and government agencies to be used abroad. Senator Van Hollen’s office has received a significant number of complaints about wait times repeatedly ballooning for requested documents without warning, which interrupts international transactions for constituents and Maryland businesses. The language that Senator Van Hollen secured requires the State Department to issue a report that shows how wait times fluctuate and authorizes the Office to hire additional permanent staff to accommodate requests.
- Fair pay for locally-hired foreign service generalists and specialists. Currently, locally hired foreign service personnel (residing within 50 miles of the Washington Monument) receive base pay without the locality adjustment of 32.49 percent that non-local hires receive, and without any reimbursement for lodging or per diem expenses for the duration of onboarding and training, which can last up to 12 months. This language ensures local hires receive some per diem reimbursements.
- Internet access as a utility for hardship overseas posts. Many Foreign Service employees and their family members now routinely conduct work from their homes, often as part of evening and weekend work. This language requires the State Department to consider internet access as a utility for officers in posts involving significant hardship and danger – ensuring secure consistent service so they can remain connected with their families.
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