23 May 2016
(e-Newsletter of Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, CNMI delegate to the U.S. Congress) — The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4909, the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (277-147) this week, retaining the Northern Mariana Islands-related provisions approved earlier by the House Armed Services Committee.
National Guard language, included at my request, directs the secretary of Defense to lay out all the steps necessary for establishing a Northern Marianas Guard unit.
Concerns about the environmental and social impact of live-fire ranges on Tinian and Pagan will be addressed. The bill requires the military to provide Congress a full briefing on what will be done to address the serious public concerns that have been raised about live-fire training on Tinian and Pagan within 30 days of the Final Revised Environmental Impact Statement being issued.
Analysis of divert-field alternatives is to be required. The military will have to demonstrate that it has considered alternative divert-field locations, such as the Freely Associated States, before any of the $9 million set aside for land acquisition in the Marianas for this purpose can be used.
The existing $29.3 million for divert field project is not reauthorized. The Defense bill does not include extension of availability of $29.3 million previously okayed for divert-field expenditure in the Northern Marianas, because the Air Force is unable to answer questions about the cost, scope, and specific location of the three projects the money would have been used for.
The 2017 defense policy bill authorizes $602 billion for military activities and construction by the Department of Defense and defense-related activities of the Department of Energy. It includes a 2.1 percent pay raise for military personnel next year and updates the Uniform Code of Military Justice to include new protections for victims of military sexual assaults. The bill also benefits the Asian American and Pacific Islander community by requiring both a report on the demographic composition of our military service academies and a review of the service records of AAPI war veterans to determine if discriminatory practices prevented them from being awarded the Medal of Honor.
H.R. 4909 now heads to the Senate.