WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), along with Senator David Vitter (R-LA), introduced S. 1669, the Military Equitable Reimbursement Act, a bipartisan bill that would allow the Department of Defense (DOD) to retain payments for costs incurred during support of non-governmental film productions. Currently, DOD units can accept reimbursement for expenses associated with the use of military assets for production. However, due to ambiguity in existing law, there is uncertainty about whether DOD components, including installations like White Sands Missile Range, are eligible to keep these payments.
"The Hollywood blockbuster Transformers, which was filmed at White Sands Missile Range, is a perfect example of the kind of partnership that is possible between the growing film industry in New Mexico and our military installations," said Sen. Heinrich. "Clarifying the reimbursement policy for the film industry allows movie productions to realistically portray the skill, heroism, capability, and challenges of our Armed Forces and their families while ensuring local installations are directly reimbursed for use of state-of-the-art facilities and equipment. This bill serves the best interests of our Armed Forces, the film industry, and the communities that benefit from the jobs associated with motion picture production."
"The film industry and our military installations are clearly important to Louisiana's economy, so supporting both at the same time is common sense," said Sen. Vitter. "Our legislation would be a win-win for both sides by providing better access for the film industry, while also eliminating unnecessary bureaucracy and making sure that our military installations receive timely reimbursement for their support and continue to focus on their primary missions."
New Mexico is home to five military installations. More than 700 productions have been filmed in New Mexico, including 205 major film and television projects since 2003 with budgets over $1 million each. An average of $235 million is now spent directly in the state economy each year by film and television companies. While New Mexico military installations have been used to film a number of popular motion pictures like Transformers, the reimbursement issue has also deterred some projects.
The Military Equitable Reimbursement Act is endorsed by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). "For decades, the motion picture and television industry has celebrated our military and captured the heroism of its brave men and women on the big screen," said Senator Chris Dodd, MPAA Chairman and CEO. "From the first Oscar-winning picture Wings in 1927 to the array of recent films depicting our armed forces, filmmakers and the military have a long history of working together to create realistic and entertaining stories. Senator Heinrich and Senator Vitter's proposal will strengthen this partnership and encourage future collaborations by streamlining the process by which our military is reimbursed its costs. I applaud the senators' leadership on this issue."
"New Mexico's extensive filmography dates to the late 1800's and is filled with stories highlighting our military," said Nick Maniatis, Director of the New Mexico Film Office. "We are lucky in that our five installations are unique in their topography and assets, and are highly sought after for filming locations. The New Mexico Film Office supports Senator Heinrich's and Senator Vitter's bill as it will benefit both the installations and the filmmakers while showcasing the great State of New Mexico."
Background: The Department of Defense (DOD) Public Affairs Office approves film productions for potential DOD support. Each individual unit, organization, or installation can then accept or decline a project. While film companies pay for direct costs incurred by the DOD, there is uncertainty whether the DOD may retain that payment and use it to reimburse the specific account(s) that expenses were drawn from or whether the payment must go to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. As a result, installations are often reluctant to proceed with production support. Due to this ambiguity, DOD either must be prepared to absorb the costs associated with helping film production, potentially detracting from the primary defense mission, or forgo the opportunity to demonstrate the bravery and ability of our service members that often helps morale, recruitment, and education about our Armed Forces. Meanwhile, the film industry may have difficulty finding venues and expertise to provide the most accurate portrayal of the military.
From documentaries about our nation's military history to Hollywood blockbusters and television programs, direct reimbursement will allow the DOD to support authentic military portrayals. Given cuts in military training budgets, it can also create meaningful training opportunities that may otherwise be unaffordable. With more than 2,490 traditional military outreach events withdrawn under sequestration - including aviation demonstration teams, open houses, air shows, Fleet weeks, military band performances, and ceremonial unit appearances - entertainment media productions play an important role in supporting military recruitment and retention programs at no cost to the DOD.