December 08, 2022

Van Hollen Secures Priorities for Maryland in Annual Defense Bill for Fiscal Year 2023

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) announced the inclusion of several Maryland priorities in the House and Senate leadership’s negotiated fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The legislation is expected to be considered in the House next week and the Senate shortly thereafter. The legislation incorporates provisions and investments in key Maryland military installations that the Senator fought for, as well as a 4.6 percent pay raise for military and Department of Defense (DoD) civilian employees.

“This year’s defense bill supports our service members, bolsters our security both at home and abroad, and advances important defense projects across our state,” said Senator Van Hollen. “For Maryland – which is the proud home of tens of thousands of military members and civilian employees as well as critical military installations – this legislation invests over $800 million in those assets and ensures they can be ready to address the challenges of today and tomorrow, while promoting important priorities like our Coast Guard Yard’s infrastructure and strengthening the research capabilities of our HBCUs. Additionally, it will improve the quality of life of the people who support our nation’s defense through a 4.6 percent pay raise and investments in their health and child care benefits. Like any bill, this package isn’t perfect, but overall I believe it will meaningfully advance our national security goals, support our defense workforce, and invest in crucial priorities for our state.”

Within the FY 2023 NDAA, Senator Van Hollen fought to secure:

Authorization of $636 million for a major infrastructure overhaul at the Coast Guard Yard in Curtis Bay, Maryland. Senators Van Hollen and Cardin fought to include language in the NDAA from their Service to the Fleet Act, which will authorize the funding necessary for the Coast Guard to carry out its infrastructure modernization plan for the Yard. This effort will better equip the Coast Guard to service new classes of larger and more technologically-advanced ships while improving conditions for the workforce.

Funding authorization for additional military construction projects in Maryland, including:

  • $17.5 million for road projects at Fort Meade
  • $2.64 million for planning and design of a ship systems integration and design facility and $2 million for a laboratory at Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Carderock
  • $28.2 million to complete relocation of hazmat and explosive ordnance disposal facilities at Joint Base Andrews
  • $75.5 million for the Bethesda Naval Medical Center Addition/Alteration Project
  • $37.6 million for a fabrication facility at Aberdeen Proving Ground
  • $6 million for a laboratory, $5.4 million for a contained burn facility, and $2 million for an explosive ordnance disposal testing range at NSWC Indian Head Division

A new program to support STEM activities and help Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) achieve R1 research status. The Department of Defense will set up a new, targeted effort to support STEM education at HBCUs and MSIs and help them achieve R1 “very high research activity” status. Senator Van Hollen is a leading advocate for increased federal funding to support research activity and promote STEM education at HBCUs and introduced the HBCU RISE Act to partner with HBCUs and support them in becoming leading research institutions.

Senator Van Hollen’s 1LT Hugh Conor McDowell Safety in Armed Forces Equipment Act. This legislation requires the services to carry out a pilot program to install data recorders in military tactical vehicles with the goal of determining the causes of accidents and eliminating training accidents like the one that took the life of First Lieutenant McDowell, whose family resides in Chestertown, Maryland on the Eastern Shore.

Elimination of the provision that would have ended the services’ authority to carry out minor military construction projects as part of the Lab Revitalization Program (LRP) in 2025. This is an important step in Senator Van Hollen’s broader efforts to increase the cap for minor military construction projects to allow projects up to $12 million to be built using expedited authority. The LRP is an innovative tool for installations to address the backlog in infrastructure needs at DoD laboratories across the enterprise. The program provides a threshold of $6 million for DoD and service secretaries to fund these projects. The threshold was last increased in 2016, but cost increases make it more difficult accommodate projects to fit under the threshold.

Language supporting the demolition of contaminated facilities at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Edgewood Area. These contaminated, unused chemical testing facilities endanger readiness and cost more to maintain in the long term than they will cost to demolish.

Historic reforms to the military justice system. The NDAA includes language from the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act, of which Senator Van Hollen is a co-sponsor, to strip commanders of all remaining judicial functions and prosecutorial duties for covered offenses, including sexual assault, and add two new covered offenses to the list of those created last year. This bipartisan reform is supported by a broad coalition of organizations, including the VFW, IAVA, American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, Protect Our Defenders, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, SWAN, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), Common Defense, and the Veterans Recovery Project.

Tracking information for returning identification documents to U.S. passport applicants. The State Department will be required to provide an option for passport applicants to have supporting documents returned to them by USPS Certified Mail. Lost documentation is a significant, time-consuming, and very expensive burden for constituents and this option would provide for more reliable delivery.

Improving security clearance processing. The State Department will be required to submit recommendations to Congress regarding streamlining the security clearance approval process. Maryland is home to a high number of citizens holding and seeking security clearances, which are required for certain federal government jobs. Unreasonably long processing times damage U.S. national security by leaving critical positions vacant. A more efficient review process would make us safer and improve staffing at federal agencies where clearances are necessary.