WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons (both D – Del.) voted on Wednesday for the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes continued investments in the National Guard and defense manufacturing. The bill now heads to President Trump’s desk for his signature.

“The annual defense spending authorization bill is a crucial piece of legislation that funds our military and helps to enhance our national security,.” said Senator Carper. “By working together with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, we were able to pass a thoughtful piece of legislation that contains a number of Delaware priorities – including the largest military pay raise since 2010. As a 23-year veteran of the Navy, I know just how important this bill is for all the men and women who serve our country, and I’m pleased that we could come together in a bipartisan way to ensure its swift passage.”

“This bill is critical to showing our continued support to our thousands of Delaware service members and their families,” said Sen. Coons. “Modernization and upgrades will ensure the Delaware Guard’s C-130H fleet continues flying well into the future. The extension of benefits for National Guardsmen and Reservists and a pay raise for all members of the Armed Forces is well-deserved for their service to our country. The bill also addresses certain Chinese companies whose actions have raised national security concerns. While national security is of particular importance, I believe greater steps must be taken to ensure that such companies play by the rules in all respects, particularly given their track record of ignoring U.S. intellectual property rights.”

Continued C-130H Modernization and Upgrades
The bill continues modernization of and improvements to the National Guard’s C-130H aircraft. The bill authorizes $151 million for C-130H modernization and engine and propeller upgrades. Funding for modernization will keep Delaware’s 166th Airlift Wing on pace to continue flying after stricter airspace regulations take effect in 2020. Funding for engine and propeller upgrades will increase the performance, fuel efficiency, and reliability of the Delaware Guard’s C-130H fleet.

Troop Pay Raise
The bill authorizes a 2.6 percent across-the-board pay raise for members of the Armed Forces to help improve their quality of life, as we continue to ask them and their families to do more in response to rising security threats around the world.

National Guard Benefits
Currently, members of the National Guard and Reserves mobilized under so-called “12304b authority” perform the same duties as their active duty counterparts, but they are not provided the same benefits. The bill includes two provisions from the National Guard and Reserve Benefits Parity Act, which Senator Coons introduced with Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, to fix that discrepancy. First, it would provide Guardsmen and Reservists with a monthly allowance if they are deployed for long-term or multiple deployments within a single year. Second, the bill would protect federal civilian employees, who are members of the Guard and Reserve, from a reduction in pay when activated under “12304(b) authority.” These provisions will ensure that Guardsmen and Reservists are fairly compensated for their invaluable service to our country.

Support for Small Manufacturers
Many Department of Defense suppliers are small manufacturers who do not have the resources or expertise to comply with federal cybersecurity requirements aimed at protecting sensitive information. The bill includes the Enhance Cybersecurity for Small Manufacturers Act, which Senator Coons introduced with Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, to give the Department of Defense and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) additional tools to help small manufacturers in the defense supply chain assess and eliminate cybersecurity risks.  The bill also authorizes a Cybersecurity for Manufacturing Hub that uses the Manufacturing USA Network to increase the cybersecurity of small manufacturers through engagement, testing, and training.

Assistance for startup businesses
The bill includes Senator Coons’ Support Startup Businesses Act, which he introduced with Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado. The Support Startup Businesses Act allows Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology (STTR) grant awardees to allocate up to $50,000 of their awards for activities that are critical to building businesses, including services such as market validation, intellectual property protection, market research, and business model development. Currently, the SBIR program offers very limited financial support to awardees for commercialization activities.