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Higgins announces approval of National Defense Authorization Act

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Wed, Jul 22nd 2020 12:05 pm

Legislation funds Niagara Falls Air Reserve Base, prioritizes pandemic preparedness & includes Higgins’ amendment funding maritime heritage grant program

Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, announced the House of Representatives approved H.R. 6395, the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a bill providing funding for the nation’s military bases, research and operations. The legislation includes a maritime heritage amendment submitted by Higgins, as well as measures related to COVID-19 response suggested in Higgins’ pandemic preparedness bill.

“This bipartisan bill supports national security measures and the men and women who serve, including those based out of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station,” Higgins said. “Pandemic preparedness is an essential component of keeping Americans safe and protected. The federal government is long-overdue in investing in protections addressing coronavirus. The Pandemic Preparedness and Resilience National Security Fund included in this legislation acknowledges the health and economic security ramifications a pandemic brings and answers the need to better plan for and prevent future events.”

The NDAA includes $1 billion toward efforts to proactively increase the nation’s ability to prepare for and respond to future pandemics. Higgins, who introduced the Infectious Disease Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Act, has argued the U.S. should have been better prepared for COVID-19 and should be making investments now to prepare for the next health emergency.

The legislation passed with an amendment offered by Higgins authorizing $5 million for FY 2021 through the Defense Department to support the national maritime heritage grant program. That makes grants available for education and preservation projects focused on historic maritime resources – funding for which the Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park would be eligible. Currently, the program is funded by proceeds from the sale of obsolete vessels but, despite a great need to maintain these aging maritime museums, the program has not offered any grants recently, due to lack of available funds.

A press release said, “The NDAA contains funding for operations at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station. The bill remains silent on any new Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) effort, which is good news for Western New York. The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station was among the sites listed on the closure list during a round of Base Realignment and Closures in 2005. Following staunch opposition from the community, Congressman Higgins and the entire Western New York delegation, the BRAC commission voted to save the Niagara Falls base.”

Other highlights of the NDAA include:

√ Authorizes a 3% pay raise for U.S. troops;

√ Makes improvements to sexual assault prevention and response in the military;

√ Authorizes funding to clean up perfluorinated (PFAS) chemicals in drinking water on or near military bases, which have been linked to adverse health conditions; and

√ Bans Confederate flags on military bases and begins the process of removing the names of bases named for Confederates.

The Senate is expected to pass similar legislation with plans to reconcile the two bills.

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