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Heinrich Delivers Major Wins For N.M. Military Bases, Labs, And Defense Tech

Senator Heinrich’s provisions in the FY20 NDAA includes efforts to strengthen military housing codes, address PFAS contamination cleanup, establish paid family leave for federal employees, and more

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec. 17, 2019) – Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) voted for the final passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 that supports New Mexico's men and women in uniform, military installations, national laboratories, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), Artificial Intelligence, and job-creating initiatives throughout the state.

Heinrich, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Ranking Member of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, authored a number of provisions in the bill to strengthen New Mexico's military installations, national laboratories, economic development, and leadership in the future of technologies like Artificial Intelligence, directed energy, and space. The NDAA also included language Heinrich authored to designate White Sands National Park in southern New Mexico and complete a land exchange between the Army and the National Park Service.

“This bill makes major investments to ensure our Armed Forces are equipped with the most modern technology so we can stay ahead of our adversaries” said Heinrich. “New Mexico is the Center of Excellence for small satellites and for directed energy weapons, and this bill increases funding and streamlines authorities to bolster those missions. I am proud to have authorized funding for military construction projects that will modernize infrastructure at Holloman Air Force Base, White Sands Missile Range, and Kirtland Air Force Base. This bill also makes major reforms to fix the military housing crisis and takes meaningful action on contamination at dairies outside Cannon Air Force Base. These provisions, among many others, help New Mexico families, benefit our economy, and further New Mexico's strong position as a leader in national security for years to come.”

As the co-founder of the Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus, Heinrich added, "I am also proud to have incorporated language from the Armed Forces Digital Advantage Act to modernize defense workforces with digital engineers, specialized in computer science, and to have increased funding for the future of Artificial Intelligence.”

The NDAA sets the Department of Defense spending levels and policies for the upcoming fiscal year and authorizes funding for the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons programs at Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories, as well as the Department of Energy's environmental cleanup programs including the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). The Senate will soon vote on a number of appropriations bills that set the funding levels for agencies.

A list of many of the programs and provisions Senator Heinrich advocated for during the bill writing process that were included in the FY20 NDAA is available as a PDF HERE and below.

New Mexico Military Construction Projects

Kirtland Air Force Base

Senator Heinrich secured $15.5 million for the construction of a Combat Rescue Helicopter Simulator Facility at Kirtland Air Force Base. This facility will house new HH-60W simulators, training spaces, and equipment used by the 58th Special Operations Wing to train new students. This construction will allow for a seamless transition from the HH-60G legacy aircraft to the new HH-60W and provide continuous Programmed Flight Training for its operators.

Senator Heinrich secured $22.4 million for the construction of a UH-1 Replacement Facility at Kirtland Air Force Base. This facility will house new simulators used for training flight crew personnel in the UH-1 replacement aircraft set for delivery to the 58th Special Operations Wing starting at the end of FY 2022. This construction will allow for an on-time delivery of the simulators, and critical training in the new aircraft.

Holloman Air Force Base

Senator Heinrich secured $20 million for the construction of a climate-controlled, storage and shipment facility at Holloman Air Force Base. The facility will be used to store, inspect, and prepare the movement of military support equipment and provide maximum protection of our expeditionary, warfighting resources. This will enable assets to be maintained in a constant state of readiness and postured for worldwide deployment with greatly reduced maintenance costs. The use of this facility will save the government $800,000 annually for the maintenance and/or replacement of these assets by preserving the shelf-life of items otherwise stored in the open as well as save $120,000 a year in replacement costs of shipping containers damaged by exposure to weather.

White Sands Missile Range (WSMR)

Senator Heinrich secured $5.8 million to build a microgrid at White Sands. The microgrid will utilize a solar array, natural gas generator, and lithium ion battery system to power water wells to provide an uninterrupted water supply to WSMR. Currently, the wells are connected in such a way that leaves them susceptible to power outages that could leave WSMR without drinkable potable water. This microgrid system will ensure a reliable supply of water for the installation.

White Sands Missile Range Land Enhancements and White Sands National Park

White Sands Missile Range Land Enhancements and White Sands National Park

The Senate Armed Services Committee adopted an amendment by Senator Heinrich that incorporates legislation to finalize updated land exchanges between the Department of the Interior and the Department of the Army that have been pending since the 1970s. The exchange of parcels between White Sands National Monument and White Sands Missile Range will clean up boundary anomalies, transfer important missile range infrastructure to the jurisdiction of the Army, and provide increased opportunities for visitors at the National Monument. The bill was developed in close consultation with the Army, the Air Force, the National Park Service, local elected officials, neighboring tribes, and local residents.

New Mexico’s National Laboratories and WIPP

Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Plutonium Mission

Senator Heinrich again secured full funding authorization to maintain Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL) role as the nation’s Center of Excellence for Plutonium Research. The bill authorizes $551 million for LANL’s ongoing plutonium research and pit production programs. The funding supports personnel, equipment and other activities at LANL to meet pit production requirements by 2026; highlights include, $232 million for plutonium operations, $21 million to support pit production, $10.5 million for fire suppression upgrades in PF-4, $16 million for power and communications improvements and $168 million for construction related to replacing the outdated Chemistry and Metallurgy Research (CMR) building at LANL.

Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board

Senator Heinrich supported provisions in the bill that direct the Department of Energy (DOE) to allow the onsite safety inspectors from the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) full access to all defense nuclear facilities at LANL, Sandia National Laboratories and WIPP. The bill also ensures access to all required documents and reinforces the board’s role protecting both the general public as well as onsite employees and contractors. Senator Heinrich supported these provisions in response to an order DOE issued in May 2018 that attempted to limit the board’s access and role in protecting health and safety. Congress created the DNFSB in 1988 to provide oversight of public health and safety at the defense nuclear facilities managed by the Department of Energy.

National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD)

Senator Heinrich secured a provision extending for one year an exemption from an administrative overhead burden on NNSA labs for LDRD that would double-tax Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory. LDRD is a strategic research and development program that is critical to maintaining the scientific vitality of the national laboratories. The bill continues the suspension of the overhead burden through fiscal year 2021.

National Laboratory Funding

Senator Heinrich supported full funding authorization for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) nuclear weapons programs. Within NNSA’s funding, Senator Heinrich secured full funding of $2.1 billion to continue the Life Extension Programs supported by Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. This increase of $197 million over FY19 will maintain the existing weapons stockpile and assure safety and security.

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Environmental Cleanup

The bill authorizes the president’s request of $195.5 million for soil and water remediation and removal of radioactive waste. Funding is included again this year to address the hexavalent chromium and Royal Demolition eXplosive (RDX) plumes in groundwater in Los Alamos. Senator Heinrich will work now with the Appropriations Committee to increase the funding for fiscal year 2020 to $220 million, the same level as the last fiscal year.

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP)

The bill authorizes full funding of $398 million to operate the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), including $17.5 million to repair and replace degraded facility structures, systems, and components, $58 million to continue construction of additional ventilation for the mine and $34.5 million for a new utility shaft.

New Mexico’s Defense R&D Labs, Test Ranges, and Industry

U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Mentor-Protégé Program

The bill re-authorizes the DoD’s Mentor Protégé Program (MPP), which is the oldest continuously operating federal mentor-protégé program in existence, through 2026. Originally established in 1991, the MPP helps eligible small businesses expand their footprint in the defense industrial base. Under the MPP, small businesses are partnered with larger companies. In the past five years, DoD’s MPP has successfully helped more than 190 small businesses fill unique niches and become part of the military’s supply chain. Senator Heinrich ensured the survival of the MPP when it faced expiration, and salvaged this influential, small-business focused program.

3-D Printed Electronics Army Innovation Hub for Next Generation Additive Manufacturing

Senator Heinrich secured an additional $2 million for additive manufacturing (AM), which is already making innovative technological leaps that could yield major advances in more lethal and longer-ranged fires. New Mexico Tech and the University of Texas at El Paso are leading entities in 3-D printing. This technology can combine existing and new materials into 3-D printed circuit architectures, producing smarter, lighter, and denser constructs to enable projectiles to double current ranges while achieving higher precision.


Senator Heinrich helped secured an additional $30 million for the STARBASE program. This program is meant to improve the knowledge and skills of students in kindergarten through 12th grade in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects, to connect them to the military, and to motivate them to explore STEM and possible military careers as they continue their education. STARBASE is a highly effective program run by our dedicated servicemembers and strengthens the relationships between the military, communities, and local school districts. STARBASE currently operates at 76 locations in 40 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, primarily on military installations. New Mexico is one of those locations. Since its inception in 1991, over 825,000 students have benefitted from the STARBASE program, including 45,000 last year.

New Mexico Space Missions

Department of Defense Launch Support and Infrastructure Program for Small-Class and Medium-Class Payloads

The bill authorizes a provision championed by Senator Heinrich that enables the Secretary of Defense to carry out a program to enhance infrastructure and improve support activities for the processing and launch of Department of Defense (DoD) small-class and medium-class payloads.

Spaceport America in New Mexico is a licensed inland spaceport that provides surface-to-space open sky launches landing in restricted flight zones. The New Mexico Spaceport is located next to White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) where the DoD controls the only restricted air space in the entire country besides the White House.

Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor

In an effort to develop a reliable defense against cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons, Senator Heinrich and Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) added $108 million for a hypersonic and ballistic tracking space sensor that will help correlate data and track the incoming target for intercept. Senator Heinrich crafted language to help prioritize this capability gap and increased funding.

Space Rapid Capabilities Office (Sp-RCO)

The bill authorized nearly $24 million for the Space Rapid Capabilities Office (Sp-RCO) which is housed at Kirtland Air Force Base. As Ranking Member of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Senator Heinrich has fought to ensure New Mexico remains the small satellite center of excellence for the military. Senator Heinrich recently announced plans for the establishment of additional classified workspace, near Sp-RCO, that can be used by potential commercial partners to facilitate the rapid fielding of new space capabilities.

Space Test Program (STP)

The conferenced bill authorized $26.09 million for the Space Test Program (STP) which is housed at Kirtland Air Force Base. As Ranking Member of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Senator Heinrich has strongly supported STP’s mission to secure launches for experimental spacecraft from emerging entrants including Rocket Lab or Vox Space that are smaller and far less expensive than traditional military satellites that are launched aboard larger rockets under the National Security Space Launch program. Senator Heinrich included provisions elsewhere in the bill to establish a program to improve infrastructure and launch support at FAA licensed spaceports. Since 1965, the STP has conducted space test missions for the purpose of accelerating Department of Defense space technology transformation while lowering developmental risk.

Rocket Systems Launch Program

The bill authorized $13.19 million for the Rocket Systems Launch Program (RSLP) which is housed at Kirtland Air Force Base. Senator Heinrich supports the Rapid Agile Launch Initiative which seeks to award launch service agreements with non-traditional, venture-class companies.

Artificial Intelligence

Armed Forces Digital Advantage Act

The NDAA incorporates important provisions taken from Senator Heinrich’s Armed Forces Digital Advantage Act. These provisions recognize the importance of individuals with aptitude and experience in digital expertise and software development to the armed services and requires Secretary of Defense to devise an implementation plan to recruit and develop digital engineering specialists. The bill also requires the Defense Secretary to create a digital engineering capability for the development and deployment of acquisition programs and software support. The bill also requires a demonstration of digital engineering capabilities and policy guidance to promote the use of said capabilities.

National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence – Extension of Authority

The bill includes a provision supported by Senator Heinrich that extends the duration of the current Artificial Intelligence (AI) Commission in order to account for time lost due to the government shutdown earlier this year. The Commission is tasked with researching ways to advance the development of AI for national security and defense purposes.

New Mexico Military Housing Reform and Contamination Cleanup

Military Housing Reform

The bill includes a provision championed by Senator Heinrich that establishes a uniform code of basic housing standards and requires inspections to ensure compliance. This uniform code provides for safety, comfort, and habitability for military housing units and ensures the inspection of such units adhere to this standard. This is a critical step in addressing the problems associated with military housing around the world and ensuring our service members and their families live in the healthy dwellings they deserve.

Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) Contamination Cleanup

Senator Heinrich included provisions from H.R. 1567 or the PFAS Damages Act, to provide relief to communities and businesses impacted by PFAS contamination in groundwater around Air Force bases in New Mexico and across the country, including dairy farms in New Mexico that have been upended by PFAS contamination from nearby Cannon Air Force Base.

This measure will ensure that the Department of Defense (DOD) takes precautionary action to prevent human exposure, including through agricultural products, provide alternative water or water treatment for contaminated agricultural water, and acquire contiguous property that is contaminated. The measure will also mandate that the Department of Defense (DOD) create a plan of action to clean up contaminated sites nationwide and take all necessary steps to prevent further risks to public health.

New Mexico Military Energy Resilience

Military Environmental Research Programs

The bill includes a requirement supported by Senator Heinrich and Senator Angus King (I-Maine) that would direct no less than $10 million be directed toward the development and demonstration of long-duration, on-site battery storage for distributed energy applications, $10 million for development, demonstration and validation of secure microgrids for both installations and forward operating bases, $10 million for development, demonstration, and validation of non-fluorine based firefighting foam and $1 million for development, demonstration, and validation of technologies that can harvest potable water from air.

Additional Priority Provisions

Federal Employee Paid Leave

The FY20 NDAA for the first time provides all federal employees with 12 weeks of paid leave including for the birth, adoption, or fostering of a new child. The bill also allows 12 weeks of paid leave for the care of close family members, serious employee health conditions, and for circumstances that arise when the employee or a family member is detailed for covered duty in the armed forces. Paid family leave supports federal employees and their family commitments and provides benefits necessary to recruit and retain the talent that is essential for federal agencies to carry out their mission to serve the nation. The federal government is the nation's largest employer, with more than 2 million employees. This provision ensures that our federal workforce will no longer face the impossible choice of caring for their health and family, or receiving pay.

Eliminating the “Widow’s Tax”

The FY20 NDAA mandates a 3-year phase out of the so-called “widow’s tax,” which required that surviving spouses of deceased military members forfeit part or all of their Department of Defense Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity when they receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from the Department of Veterans Affairs. More than 60,000 surviving families are negatively impacted by the Widow’s Tax, which reduces surviving spouses' benefits by an average of $924 per month, or $11,000 annually. This action by Congress will ensure that widows and widowers of a deceased active-duty service member or retiree who died of a service-related cause receive full annuity payments.

Addressing and Stopping the Flow of Synthetic Opioids to the United States

The bill includes provisions that will hold foreign countries accountable for their pledges to go after those who produce and traffic fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. Specifically, the NDAA will give the U.S. federal government the ability to apply economic and other financial sanctions to illicit traffickers from China, Mexico, and other countries of concern. The FY20 NDAA also establishes a Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking to create a strategic approach to combating the flow of synthetic opioids into the United States.

The opioid crisis in New Mexico has had devastating effects on families across the state. Senator Heinrich has advocated for more resources to fight this epidemic - including measures like those in this year’s NDAA that penalize other countries for their involvement in the flow of illicit substances to the United States.