Skip to content

Heinrich Secures Key Advancements For New Mexico In Annual Defense Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the conference committee that negotiated the final bill, voted for the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Senator Heinrich secured key provisions in the legislation to benefit New Mexico's men and women in uniform, military installations, national laboratories, and job creation throughout the state. 

The NDAA sets spending levels and policies for fiscal year 2017. NDAA 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 WIPP.

“I am proud to have helped author this year’s annual defense bill that provides important funding and resources to help expand missions in New Mexico," said Senator Heinrich. "The defense bill provides funds to welcome the new F-16s and personnel coming to Holloman, prepares for the future fleet of Combat Rescue Helicopters coming to Kirtland, and bolsters research and development at New Mexico’s National Labs and private sector. I am also proud to have provided new authorities to make it easier for our defense labs and White Sands Missile Range to hire college graduates from New Mexico’s outstanding universities. These provisions, among many others, will benefit our economy and further New Mexico's strong position as a leader in national security.”

The following list includes many of the programs and provisions Senator Heinrich championed during the markup process and conference that were included in the NDAA:


Senator Heinrich helped secure $38.9 million which will help fund projects to vastly improve New Mexico’s military instillations and the well-being of our servicemembers:   

Holloman Air Force Base: Will receive $10.6 million to construct a new Hazardous Cargo Pad and Access Taxiway, which would create separate operating areas for aircraft munitions work and allow for multiple runway operations at Holloman, improving efficiency and safety at the base, as well as helping accommodate two additional F-16 squadrons and personnel. 

Kirtland Air Force Base: Will receive $7.3 million to provide a critically needed Combat Rescue Helicopter simulator to provide the most current, accurate, and realistic training required to fly future CRH aircraft coming to Kirtland.

Cannon Air Force Base: Will receive $21 million to replace the overworked and overpopulated fitness facilities at Cannon with a new, modern facility, improving our servicemembers’ morale and ensuring our airmen are “fit to fight.”

Pay Raise: Heinrich supported a 2.1 percent across-the-board pay raise for members of the uniformed services.

National Guard End Strength: Heinrich supported an increase of 7,000 Army National Guardsmen, raising the total end strength for the Army National Guard from 335,000 to 343,000 personnel.  The bill authorizes the total end strength of 105,700 personnel for the Air National Guard.   

Incentive Pay to Address Air Force Pilot Shortages: Heinrich supported language to provide additional payments up to $35,000 a year to help address pilot shortages in both the F-16 and Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) missions.  Holloman Air Force Base is taking the lead in generating pilots for the Air Force, and HAFB was recently selected to receive two additional F-16 squadrons. Currently, the Air Force is roughly 700 F-16 fighter pilots short of requirements, which makes the additional two squadrons at Holloman critically important to addressing the Air Force’s shortage of fighter pilots.  The Air Force has made improvements over the last year to generate RPA pilots but is currently 250 pilots short of requirements.

STARBASE at Kirtland Air Force Base: Heinrich successfully passed an amendment restoring $25 million for the continuation of the STARBASE program that didn't receive funding in the President's budget. In New Mexico, the Department of Defense STARBASE program is hosted by the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base and has served nearly 8,000 5th grade students. STARBASE is a highly effective program run by our dedicated servicemembers and strengthens the relationships between the military, communities, and local school districts.  The program allows students to participate in a 25-hour hands-on curriculum where they solve scientific challenges related to aerospace.  Since its inception in 1991, over 825,000 students have benefitted from the STARBASE program, including 45,000 last year.

Space Test Program at Kirtland Air Force Base: Heinrich supported $27 million for the Space Test Program at Kirtland Air Force Base.  Since 1965, the Space Test Program (STP) has conducted space test missions for the purpose of accelerating Department of Defense space technology transformation, while lowering developmental risk.  STP serves as the primary access to space for the Department of Defense space science and technology community. 

Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) at Kirtland Air Force Base: Heinrich provided an increase of $10 million to accelerate development of the Space Situational Awareness ORS-5 mission bringing the total budget in fiscal year 2017 to $18 million. 

Direct-hire authority for the Department of Defense for postsecondary students and recent graduates: Heinrich supported a provision that would establish a Department of Defense civilian on-campus recruiting authority.  This proposal would facilitate DoD recruiters’ efforts to recruit students directly to civilian positions using a new hiring authority expressly designed for this purpose. Hiring managers and recruiters, who already travel to specific schools with programs they want to target, would be able to involve candidates in a rigorous interview process, and make conditional offers on the spot. This would allow DoD to compete for highly qualified students and recent graduates. This language would enable White Sands Missile Range, Air Force Research Laboratory and other installations specializing in research, development, testing, and evaluation to hire from New Mexico’s academic institutions. 


Next Generation Weapon Systems- High Energy Lasers and High Power Microwaves: The bill provides a total of $183M to the Air Force for research and development of directed energy weapon systems.  Heinrich successfully included elements of his bipartisan bill, S. 2778, the Directed Energy Weapon Systems Acquisition Act of 2016, in the NDAA to accelerate the transition of high technology weapon systems from research and development into full scale acquisition programs. This would require that the Secretary of Defense designate a senior official at the Department of Defense with principal responsibility for the development and transition of directed energy weapons.  Currently, there is no single advocate at the DOD with a strategic plan who can advocate for increases in the budget and resources for directed energy technologies and transition those technologies to the military.  New Mexico’s Joint Directed Energy Transition Office has served as the coordinating entity for years but has lacked an ally at the pentagon headquarters in which it can coordinate efforts. The language also urges the Department of Defense to use rapid acquisition authorities authorized to the department in Section 806 of the Bob Stump National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003 (Public Law 107-314; 10 U.S.C. 2302 note) to speed the development and deployment of operational directed energy capabilities. 

Joint Directed Energy Transition Office: Heinrich expanded the mission of the High-Energy Laser Joint Technology Office (HEL-JTO) in New Mexico to focus more on the demonstration and transition of directed energy systems rather than its original mission of coordinating basic research and development.  Heinrich also re-designated the current HEL-JTO as the “Joint Directed Energy Transition Office”in order to recognize the breadth of directed energy technology including high power microwaves and to also place greater emphasis on the purpose of the office to “transition” technology beyond the “valley of death.”   

R&D at Air Force Research Laboratory: Heinrich included a provision to increase the maximum allowable percentage to be used by laboratory employees for high-risk high-reward basic and applied research at DoD laboratories from 3% to 4% and makes the authorities permanent.  The increase in percentage will allow lab directors to better fund internal R&D, workforce development, and minor MILCON activities at the labs.

Increased micro-purchase threshold for research programs and entities: Heinrich advocated for language to increase the micro-purchase threshold in Department of Defense research and laboratories activities from $3,000 to $10,000. In raising the limit, this provision allows appropriate organizations, such as universities, defense labs, and other performers, to facilitate easy and administratively efficient purchasing of small dollar items.

Small Business Programs including the Rapid Innovation Program, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, and the Small Business Technology Transfer program: Heinrich supported language that makes the Rapid Innovation Program permanent. The Rapid Innovation Program  awards grants to small businesses to provide the department with innovative technologies that can be rapidly inserted into acquisition programs that meet specific defense needs.  Senator Heinrich also supported language to extend SBIR and STTR by five years.

Cyber Security at Department of Defense Critical Infrastructure: Heinrich successfully included an amendment requiring the Secretary of Defense to identify and evaluate cyber vulnerabilities at critical Department of Defense infrastructure and develop a plan for risk mitigation.  Military installations across the United States are vulnerable to cyber-attacks.  High-tech industry partners like Intel have developed hardware and software to enhance cyber security at installations worldwide. 


NNSA Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD): Heinrich authored a provision that removes the overhead burden on NNSA labs for LDRD that currently double-taxes 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 final bill eliminates the overhead burden on LDRD for 3 years and requires a report to Congress on the effect of the change.

NNSA Albuquerque Complex Project: Heinrich supported $15 million to build a new Albuquerque NNSA Complex that will replace the existing outdated and inadequate 50-year old facility.

Life Extension Programs: Heinrich supported full funding of $1.3 billion for the Life Extension Programs for the nuclear weapons stockpile, including work at Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. 

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Environmental Cleanup: Heinrich provided an increase of $10 million for cleanup. 

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP): The bill requires new assurances by DOE of the safety of all shipments of transuranic waste for disposal in WIPP and authorizes increased funding for WIPP operations by $10 million; however, Heinrich is pressing the Senate Appropriations Committee to provide the full $325.5 million WIPP now estimates will be needed in FY17 to restore safe operations.