Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) released the following statement on the Senate passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021, which includes legislation she drafted to provide for the continued training activities of the Air Force at the Nevada Test and Training Range and the Navy at Naval Air Station Fallon, while also protecting the Interior Department’s administration of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge (DNWR). The Senator hopes this will continue conversations between Nevada stakeholders and the military over how to modernize military training while protecting Nevada’s natural and cultural resources. In addition, the NDAA includes the Senator’s legislation to improve mental health services for members of the National Guard and Reserves and increase the transparency and efficiency of the Department of Defense’s TRICARE medical billing practices.
“I’m proud to have fought for Nevada in the FY’21 National Defense Authorization Act including ensuring that no further funding goes to Yucca Mountain,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “This bipartisan legislation also includes provisions I drafted to establish intergovernmental committees to encourage consensus based decision-making for the management of our military installations on federal lands in partnership with local, state and tribal stakeholders. These collaborations will help ensure we are modernizing our military assets in Nevada while respecting the needs of our local tribes and other public land users.
“As part of this legislation, I also secured key provisions to improve mental health access for members of our National Guard and Reservists, provide a pay raise for our troops, support veterans harmed by Agent Orange during their service, and address transparency and efficiency in TRICARE billing. Nevada’s brave servicemen and women deserve nothing more than every support they need to thrive. I look forward to continuing to fight on these issues on behalf of Nevadans.”
Senator Cortez Masto ensured that no funding to restart the failed Yucca Mountain project was included in the bill.
The following are Senator Cortez Masto’s legislative initiatives that were included in the Senate passage of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021:
- Status-quo extensions of the Nevada Test and Training Range and the Naval Air Station Fallon, providing for continued military operations and training exercises in Southern and Northern Nevada.
- Creation of Intergovernmental Executive Committees (IEC) at both the Nevada Test and Training Range and the Naval Air Station Fallon. These committees will allow local, state and tribal governments a public forum to collaborate with the military in providing advice and exchanging information on the management of natural and cultural resources within local lands used for military purposes.
- Creation of an Interagency Committee between the Air Force and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR). This committee will help improve the administration and resolve conflict on the NTTR’s jointly-managed lands that overlap with the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.
- Legislation to prioritize the mental health of National Guard and Reserve members: The Examining Mental Health Services for the National Guard and Reserves Act directs the Comptroller General to identify current mental health programs that serve National Guard and Reserve members and provide recommendations for improved and expanded services. This bill will help Congress identify and fix any gaps or loopholes that are keeping our National Guard and Reserve members from receiving the mental health services they need.
- Legislation to improve transparency and efficiency of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) TRICARE billing practices: The Department of Defense Healthcare Billing Report Act directs the Comptroller General to assess billing practices of DoD to ensure members of the Armed Forces, veterans, and their families receive high-quality health care that prioritizes fairness and accessibility.
Senator Cortez Masto supported funding for Nevada’s servicemembers and important projects at Nevada’s military installations, including:
- A 3% pay raise for servicemembers.
- $16 million for improvements at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) to help support the continued modernization and safety efforts at the site.
- $29 million for military construction projects for Naval Air Station Fallon.
In addition, Senator Cortez Masto cosponsored several pieces of legislation contained within the Senate version of the NDAA, including:
- Legislation to expand the VA’s list of service-connected medical conditions associated with exposure to Agent Orange to include Bladder Cancer, Hypothyroidism, Parkinsonism, and Hypertension. Senator Cortez Masto urged the Administration to make this rule change in February.
- Legislation to ensure that the Department of Energy maintains authority over the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) budget. Previous proposals had suggested removing oversight power from the Department of Energy and shifting it to the Nuclear Weapons Council, which primarily includes personnel from the Department of Defense.
- Legislation to require the U.S. to partner with allies in the Indo-Pacific region and Europe to develop a unified approach to address the diplomatic, economic and military challenges posed by China’s rising power.
- Legislation directing the DoD to conduct a study comparing cancer prevalence among military aviators and aviation support personnel to that of the general population. Recent reports have shown that military aviators may be at a higher risk for developing certain cancers.
The Senate version of the FY21 NDAA also includes reforms to prohibit the Department of Defense’s transfer of certain war-grade weapons to local law enforcement agencies.