“I am pleased that H.R. 1815, the Fiscal Year 2006 Department of Defense (DoD) Authorization bill, passed the House of Representatives with broad bipartisan support,” said U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA).  “As a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, I was proud to help craft this legislation through the committee process and on the Floor of the House.  While not perfect, the Defense Authorization bill is a positive step forward in providing our Veterans and servicemen and women the resources they deserve. This bill includes a number of provisions to support the members of our Armed Forces and our Veterans and also includes much-needed improvements in troop strength and equipment.  Importantly, this legislation moves toward ending the injustice of the Disabled Veteran’s Tax and it improves bonuses for the men and women in our Guard and Reserve forces.”

IN THE PUGET SOUND REGION:

Specifically, the Authorization Bill included the following provisions that directly affect units in the Puget Sound region:

$60 million in school impact aid for schools nationwide (including schools in the Puget Sound area):

The Education Department’s Impact Aid program provides supplementary funds to school districts nationwide to support the education of nearly 600,000 children of servicemen and women. This bill authorizes $60 million in Defense Department funding for impact aid spending in FY 2006, a $10 million increase in FY 2005.

$25 million for “Up-Armored HMMWV and Tactical Truck Crew Trainers”

This top priority of the Washington Army National Guard will allow soldiers to train for convoy operations in humvees and other tactical trucks, a critical need for soldiers preparing for deployment to Iraq.

$1.5 million for construction of the Homeland Security Multi-Functional Education Center at Camp Murray, Washington

This project would consist of a 6,190 square foot, single story multi-functional Homeland Security education center. The new facility will support the 205th Training Regiment which has a Total Army School System (TASS) mission for units in the Pacific Northwest as well as agency supported activities. This project will improve the readiness of Army National Guard units as well as first responders in the Puget Sound area.

$2.0 million for Madigan Army Medical Center Trauma Assistance (Tacoma Trauma Trust)

Smith was pleased to help authorize funding for this critical military-civilian emergency health care partnership facilitated by the Tacoma Trauma Trust (TTT), a unique military-civilian partnership (MultiCare Health System, Franciscan Health System and Madigan Army Medical Center). TTT shares in the delivery of critical Level II trauma care to South King, Pierce, Kitsap and Thurston counties and southwest Washington as well as much needed trauma training for medical personnel.

$961.4 million to fully fund President Bush’s request for the Multi-Mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA)

This critical program would adapt and upgrade Boeing 737s, in Boeing’s Renton plant, in order to conduct defense and homeland security-related missions. The MMA will replace the aging fleet of Navy P-3C aircraft with a technologically superior mission system that will allow it to perform anti-submarine warfare missions, homeland security surveillance and other important functions.

$2 million for M-65 Bismaleimide Carbon Fiber Prepeg development for Automated Placement Machines

This funding would go towards qualifying an improved carbon fiber tape technology used to process large, high quality aircraft structures. This technology, developed by Hexcel Structures, a company with manufacturing facilities in Kent, WA, will be used to more efficiently manufacture the military’s F-35 and F-22 aircraft.

$3.7 million for “mounted Warrior Nomad Command: Control Head Up Display (C2HUD)

For use by the Stryker Brigades stationed at Fort Lewis, the C2HUD, an integral part of the Mounted Warrior system, will increase force protection and unit lethality by providing the combat crewman’s situational awareness link to the vehicle’s command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) systems remotely via secure, encrypted means.  The head up display will operate in all soldier mission areas, employing information management systems, operations planning, situational awareness, terrain navigation, long range sensors, target acquisition, and identification systems while mounted, dismounted and at platform crew stations. The system also has significant potential for commercial spin off for the technology and is designed by Microvision, a Puget Sound-based company.

TECHNOLOGY:

“Having worked for many years to improve our military and the Pentagon through the use of technology, I am pleased that this bill also included my provision for the National Defense University (NDU) Technology Pilot program,” said Smith. “I have long supported this important program and am proud to work with the experts at NDU who are continuing to leverage our technological innovations to maintain the most advanced military in the world."

$1 million for the NDU Technology Pilot Program

The purpose of this project is to conduct research and analysis to determine how the United States can maintain its competitive edge against other military adversaries at a time when commercial information technology (IT) is readily available on the global market. Through a series of workshops, conferences, research papers and publications, the NDU has developed new strategies to deal with this issue.

OVERALL PROVISIONS IN THE FY 06 DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION BILL

PAY INCREASES:

Overall, the bill provides a 3.1% pay raise for members of the Armed Forces and increases amounts paid for active duty enlistments, reserve enlistments and active-duty re-enlistments. It also permanently increases the death gratuity to $100,000 and it increases the maximum amount of hardship pay from $300 to $750 per month.

VETERANS DISABILITY/CONCURRENT RECEIPT

Until last year, military retired pay had to be reduced by the amount of any Veterans Administration (VA) disability compensation received. Under “concurrent receipt,” disabled Veterans can receive both their Social Security and Veteran’s Disability benefits concurrently. The FY 2004 Defense Authorization Act directed that the prohibition on concurrent receipt of disability compensation and military retirement pay be phased out over 10 years for disabled Veterans wounded in combat, Veterans with combat-related injuries, including all National Guard and reserve members, and every veteran whose disabilities are rated 50% or greater.

The bill moves up the date for full receipt for 100% disabled veterans – defined by being unemployable – to October 1, 2009, four years and three months earlier than currently scheduled.

TRICARE FOR GUARD/RESERVE

The bill expands the military health care system, TRICARE, for Guard and Reserve program to include dental benefits. This means that Guard and Reserve members, who are eligible for TRICARE health coverage beginning 90 days before their call-up and for 180 days after their deployment, are now also available for dental care coverage.