WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), the first Delaware Senator in more than four decades to serve on the critical Appropriations Committee, applauded the passage of the annual Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Defense Appropriations bill. The bill passed both chambers of Congress and today was signed into law by President Trump. 

“There should never be any question of our commitment to honor our troops, particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and their families.  I am glad the Defense Appropriations bill includes a bipartisan provision, based on legislation that I introduced, to ensure that whether the government is open or not, we will meet our commitment to our fallen servicemembers and their loved ones,” said Senator Coons. “I’m also thrilled that this bill will support the National Guard’s C-130H aircraft and other programs that are vital to our state and broader U.S. national security, as well as support STEM education programs that benefit Delawareans.”

Families of U.S. servicemembers killed in action during the government shutdowns in 2013 and 2018 were initially denied military death benefits until the government reopened.  The longstanding purpose of the military death benefit payment is to assist families of deceased servicemembers in meeting their financial needs during the period immediately following a servicemember's death and before other survivor benefits become available. The provision in the FY19 Defense Appropriations bill is based on S.2430, the Families of Fallen Servicemembers First Act, which Senator Coons introduced in February 2018. The provision allows the military to immediately provide a death gratuity of $100,000 during a government shutdown. 

The legislation also added $30 million for C-130H aircraft modernization, $74 million for C-130H engine enhancements, and $55 million for C-130H propeller upgrades. This funding will ensure that New Castle’s C-130H aircraft are able to fly far into the future and also increase the performance, efficiency, and reliability of the National Guard’s C-130H fleet. Senator Coons also helped to secure an additional $15 million for STARBASE, a Pentagon program that allows students in Delaware and throughout the country to participate in a hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum.  Students learn the importance of STEM skills in real world situations and develop fundamental math and science skills that are applicable to future education and employment opportunities.