WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez today voted in favor of the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and applauded several inclusions that will benefit New Jersey’s military installations, including the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and Picatinny Arsenal. The bill now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

“I’m proud that this bipartisan and comprehensive bill supports our brave women and men in uniform and their families that make sacrifices for our freedom every single day,” said Sen. Menendez, the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “The dangers that threaten our nation are serious which is why it is absolutely critical to support the vital missions being carried out at New Jersey’s military installations, which are crucial to both our national security and state economy.”

This year’s NDAA authorizes $738 billion for the Pentagon and defense-related programs for procurement, operations and maintenance, research and development, and military pay and benefits.

It includes $2.2 billion for the production schedule of 12 KC-46A next generation mid-air refueling tankers. The new tankers are expected to be delivered to the Joint Base by 2021. Sen. Menendez led the effort to promote JBMDL was best positioned to house KC-46As based upon its strategic location, and existing assets and facilities. Last year, the Senator attended the groundbreaking ceremony to build new aircraft hangars and other infrastructure to house new KC-46As. The new tankers will ensure the long-term viability of the Joint Base and maintain the base’s critical role in national security missions.

The bill also authorizes $75 million for a federal matching grant program through the Defense Community Infrastructure Program to provide up to 70% of funding for infrastructure projects around military bases. State and local governments can apply for this grant that could be used for infrastructure projects such as the Route 539 overpass to connect the Ft. Dix and Lakehurst training ranges. This overpass will allow military vehicles to safely and quickly move between the two military installations. Because the overpass would create additional training space for service members, the bases would increase their ability to accept new missions. This would be another step towards ensuring the long-term future for JBMDL, the state’s second largest employer.

The Joint Base is home to the 87th Air Base Wing, which provides installation management support for 3,933 facilities with an approximate value of $9.3 billion in physical infrastructure. More than 44,000 service members, civilians and their family members live and work on and around the Joint Base, making it the second largest employer in New Jersey, with only state government employing more.

A provision in the NDAA is also included that will allow the Armament Graduate School at Picatinny Arsenal to grant degrees to its students. Currently, the school only issues certificates of completion. Providing the institution degree-granting authority will attract a greater applicant pool and give credit to the vigorous academic curriculum.

The NDAA provides service members with a 3.1% raise as part of a $188 billion package to fund military personnel pay, allowances and death and health benefits. The bill also provides 12 weeks of paid parental leave for all federal civilian employees.

The bill includes a major provision for our Veterans and their families that resolves a long standing issue with survivor benefits. The legislation includes a phase out of the offset between Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) payments over three years. SBP and DIC are two separate programs for military widows administered by two different departments. Currently, family members who qualify for both programs are subject to an offset, where for every dollar paid out in DIC benefits payments under SBP are reduced by one dollar. Sen. Menendez is a cosponsor of legislation to eliminate the offset, S. 622, the Military Widow's Tax Elimination Act of 2019.

This past October, Sen. Menendez announced a $41 million contract award for Picatinny Arsenal to build a new Munitions Disassembly Complex. The state-of-the-art Munitions Disassembly Complex modernizes Picatinny’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology (EODT) Directorate, which is responsible for developing, validating and verifying munitions disassembly procedures for all U.S. conventional munitions as well as first-seen foreign munitions—the only U.S. Army organization authorized to perform this complex function.