WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives has voted 351-66 to move foward its $717 billion defense policy bill for fiscal 2019 to conference for reconciliation with a version in the Senate.
The House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) received the approval of 131 Democrats. U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, the 6th District Democrat, voted for the measure. Seven Republicans voted against its approval.
Of the $717 billion in the authorization bill, $617 billion is dedicated to base spending, $69 billion is for the Overseas Contingency Operations war fund and $22 billion is for nuclear weapons programs under the auspices of the Energy Department.
The legislation includes measures that Kilmer worked to insert in the bill — extending the authorization for overtime payments to shipyard workers in Japan through 2019 and eliminating a policy enacted by the Defense Department that passed the burden of covering travel costs while on assignment to individual employees rather than the department or service.
“If you serve the country, Congress should have your back,” Kilmer said after the bill’s House passage in a May 24 news release.
“In an unpredictable world, a strong, well-maintained Navy and a fairly paid fighting force helps keep the peace. This bill makes progress in that regard. Over the long haul, though, Congress needs to fix the budget process to provide more stability and predictability.”
The final bill passed by the House raises troop pay by 2.6 percent, which is the largest increase in nine years.
Also in the bill is almost $90 million in construction funding for the Pier and Maintenance Facility at Naval Base Kitsap. Kilmer’s news release said the investment will help the Navy to most effectively continue its national security mission while meeting environmental and safety standards.
Kilmer also pushed for shipyard workers performing maintenance on the U.S. aircraft carrier stationed in Japan to be given authorization for overtime payments. The bill includes a measure to extend overtime payments to civilian shipyard workers through Sept. 30, 2021.
Kilmer stated that workers sent overseas put in long hours away from their families so that the Navy is able to complete its mission in the Pacific. “They’re not on vacation, and they ought to be paid for their overtime,” Kilmer said.
In 2014, the Defense Department cut per diem rates for federal employees and members of the military who travel longer than 30 days for work. According to Kilmer’s office, the cuts meant workers on extended travel would be paid between 25 and 45 percent less than under the old policy, depending on how long they are working away from home.
In March 2015, Kilmer introduced a bipartisan bill to reverse the cuts. Since then, the 6th District congressman said he has been working with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to fight to include the provision in the House bill for each fiscal year, including 2019.
The House’s defense authorization bill also includes a study on the viability of establishing cyber civil support teams within the National Guard to help each state protect the nation’s voting machines and other critical state and locally controlled infrastructure, such as the power grid.
Kilmer’s bill was introduced in the Senate this week by Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, and Manchin, D-West Virginia. Kilmer’s office said the congressman has pushed the Defense Department during the past several years to fund efforts at reducing the noise from the Navy’s EA-18G Growler as part of his work on the House Appropriations Committee.
Kilmer worked with Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Washington, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, to build on his efforts by authorizing the Navy to develop new technologies to reduce Growler noise.