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Senate Committee Advances Defense Appropriations Bill with Hawai‘i Priorities

Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Bill Also Advances

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the Defense Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2016.  U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, worked to include funding for defense programs important to Hawai‘i.

“The funding for defense programs that the Appropriations Committee passed today is a key investment in our national security and is further indication of the important role Hawai‘i plays in our defense strategy,” said Senator Schatz.  “Within the constraints of the sequester, a number of Hawai‘i’s defense priorities were funded.  These are critical if we are going to have a successful strategy to rebalance to the Asia Pacific.  But ultimately Congress will need to abandon the sequester in order to make all of the investments necessary.  I hope my colleagues will join me in a bipartisan effort to end the sequester in the weeks ahead as opposed to waiting until late this year.” 

The legislation funds a number of programs, including:

  • $75 million in clean energy research for the military to help Hawai‘i to continue to lead in clean energy technology and implementation, which will pay dividends to our state, our economy, and our national security.  Senator Schatz worked to secure the $75 million in funding which was not part of the President’s budget.
  • $222 million for the Army’s High Performance Computing Modernization Program, which funds the Department of Defense’s regional supercomputing centers, including the Maui High Performance Computing Center.  Working with Committee leaders, Senator Schatz was able to increase funding for the program by $45 million above the President’s budget.
  • $233 million for the environmental restoration on Formerly Used Defense Sites, a critical program that ensures that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can continue its efforts to identify and remove unexploded ordnance at former military sites across the neighbor islands and that military training and activities remain in balance with Hawai‘i’s local needs.  Senator Schatz worked to secure an additional $30 million above the President’s budget.
  • $75 million for DoD’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative program, which helps to promote conservation near military installations in Hawai‘i.  The $75 million includes a $14.75 million increase Senator Schatz was able to secure.
  • $12.9 million for the Maui Space Surveillance System to continue efforts that track, identify, and characterize space objects of interest including the Dynamic Optical Telescope System.

Senator Schatz also secured language in the bill including:

  • A provision protecting Pacific Fleet’s (PACFLT) operational and administrative control over U.S. Navy forces in Hawai‘i and would protect PACFLT from having its ships reassigned without proper review from PACFLT and U.S. Pacific Command, protecting important Navy force structure in the State of Hawai‘i and DoD’s commitment to rebalance to the Asia Pacific.
  • A provision in the report that guides the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with other U.S. agencies, to develop and implement a strategy to degrade and defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) online presence.  ISIL has expertly exploited social media to spread its propaganda, intimidate its opposition, raise money, and draw new recruits into its ranks.  Its online presence has direct, negative impacts on the ground in Iraq and Syria, hindering U.S. efforts to destroy ISIL and stem the flow of extremists to the region.  However, the United States currently lacks a coordinated strategy to combat ISIL’s online effort.  The report language directs a government-wide effort to begin addressing this hole in the U.S. effort to combat ISIL.

Today, the Committee also passed the Commerce-Justice-Science bill, which funds critical programs including those that support oceans policy and weather monitoring, a number of law enforcement agencies and grant programs that Hawai‘i uses every year to ensure public safety, and critical research funding for universities across the country including the University of Hawai‘i.  Specifically, this bill

  • Maintains funding for important ocean initiatives in Hawai‘i, such as tsunami preparedness, Hawaiian sea turtle conservation, and the newly-established Heeia National Estuarine Research Reserve.
  • Funds a pilot program at the Department of Justice to deploy and study use of police cameras in community policing environments which tracks very close to a bill Senator Schatz has been working on.
  • Funds the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) through both the National Science Foundation and NASA which the University of Hawai‘i uses to build capacity for environmental science and technology research and support STEM education in Hawai‘i.