Graham Passes Seven National Defense Initiatives

April 28, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a marathon House Armed Services Committee markup, lasting until 2:30 a.m., Thursday morning, Representative Gwen Graham successfully passed seven initiatives in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The biggest accomplishments include a re-employment program for veterans, a study of a Department of Defense agriculture equipment share program, and authorization to construct a new Army Reserve Center and Aviation Support Facility at MacDill Air Force Base.

“It’s an incredible honor to represent the state of Florida on the House Armed Services Committee. By forming friendships and working with members on both sides of the aisle, we’ve been able to make great progress on important initiatives that will help our veterans,  strengthen relationships with our allies and improve our national security,” Rep. Graham said. “I’m also proud of the amendments we passed which will grow North Florida’s economy by supporting businesses that assist our military.”

Helping veterans has been a priority for Rep. Graham since day one. Her first piece of legislation introduced was the VETS Act, her office has returned more than $400,000 to North Florida veterans, and she created a program to recognize businesses that hire veterans. The re-employment amendment for veterans Graham successfully added to the NDAA stemmed from a request by Bay County economic development organizations. CareerSource Gulf Coast is currently working with local bases to collect de-personalized data related to the skills and professional experience of transitioning service members as a way to attract businesses in need of certain skillsets in its workforce. Rep. Graham’s amendment will standardize the types of data that are shared and streamline the process so that the program can be expanded.

“Serving in the military, our veterans learn advanced skills they can put to use in the workforce,” Rep. Graham said. “I’m proud to support North Florida’s economic development groups as they step up to help our veterans find jobs. I’m excited by the potential to replicate this program across our state and country.”

Rep. Graham’s amendment supporting MacDill Air Force Base, home to the Department of Defense’s Central Command, paves the way for the base to relocate a grenade range in order to construct a new Army Reserve Center and Aviation Support Facility.

Other successful Graham initiatives passed in the legislation included allocating an additional $10 million to a US-Israel anti-tunneling cooperation program passed by Rep. Graham last year, and a program to maintain mine countermeasure capabilities, including those at Naval Support Activity Panama City.

“Our closest ally in the Middle East – Israel – lives under the constant threat of terrorist attacks from underground tunnels,” Rep. Graham said. “Our joint US-Israel Anti-tunnel defense cooperation program will help Israel’s military hunt down tunnels and protect their border from terrorists. To secure peace and bring stability to the region, Israel must be able to secure their state from attacks.”

Rep. Graham also introduced report language that will grow North Florida’s economy by supporting local businesses that assist our military. The report will urge research into lithium ion super-capacitors, which will support a program  in Tallahassee, and facilitate further research into efficient freezing and refrigeration technology, which has the potential to save millions of dollars and will support a program in Panama City.

The final initiative passed by Rep. Graham was a sense of Congress recognizing the importance of Panama City to the history and future of the United States Armed Forces. The amendment is a step forward in Rep. Graham’s mission to name a Navy littoral combat ship after Panama City. The amendment reads:

“Congress commends the longstanding dedication and contribution to the Armed Forces by the people of Panama City, both through the legacy of naval ship building and through their ongoing commitment to support the mission of Panama City’s military installations and the personnel assigned to them; honors the members of the Armed Forces who have trained and served at the several military installations in and around Panama City; recognizes the contribution of the industry and workforce of Panama City to naval shipbuilding; and encourages the recognition of the importance of Panama City to the history of the Armed Forces by Congress, the Air Force, the Navy, and the American people by honoring the contribution of the people of Panama City to the defense of the United States.”

The NDAA passed through the committee at around 2:30 this morning by a vote of 60-2. In addition to the initiatives passed by Rep. Graham, the legislation also provides a pay raise for our troops, increases funding for missile defense programs, and includes provisions to increase our military readiness around the world.