Rep. Bridenstine’s bills aim toward keeping USA safe

U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, wants to make sure that the American military is ready for whatever threats arise.

The Obama administration policies, especially extreme environmentalist actions, have hampered military readiness.

“Restoring military readiness means lifting burdens on our military installations where possible and reasonable” Bridenstine said.  “The U.S. military takes great pains to comply with the many regulations imposed by the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  ESA imposes costs on our military every day.  We need to balance those costs against the imperative of training and preparing the force.”

Bridenstine noted errors in the studies for the original listings of two species, the lesser prairie chicken and the American burying beetle.  The chicken has already been de-listed.  Both species are subjects of repopulation efforts and are thriving.  Neither species is endangered or threatened, but both hinder military readiness.

“The McAlester Army ammunition plant in Eastern Oklahoma sits squarely in the Beetle’s known range,” Bridenstine said. “The plant jumps through hoops every day to deal with the ESA requirements and future plans to expand and modify the plant are impacted, too.  We shouldn’t be burdening this Army ammunition plant or any other military installation for a species which is clearly thriving.

“There are seven military bases within the historic range of the chicken, including in New Mexico, Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma.  All of these installations would face significant impacts if the LPC is re-listed, particularly in terms of future expansion.  Before we jeopardize readiness, let’s give time for the state-based conservation program to work.”

The amendment was approved as part of the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  The bipartisan bill authorizes funding for America’s armed forces and sets Department of Defense policy.  Congress has passed the National Defense Authorization Act 53 years in a row.

Bridenstine voted to send HR 4909, the NDAA from the House Armed Services Committee to the full House.

Three major amendments sponsored by Congressman Bridenstine were adopted in the bill:

  • Liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports

This codifies in law a 30-day limit for DOE to issue final decisions on applications.  “Energy security is national security,” Bridenstine said. “Exporting LNG to our allies strengthens our national security by reducing dependence on hostile regimes, plus it grows the American economy.  America is the world’s largest producer of natural gas. Oklahoma is the fourth-largest producing state.  DOE bureaucrats are currently holding up 30 LNG export applications which have already completed full environmental and permitting reviews. ”

  • Prevent re-listing of lesser prairie chicken and de-list American burying beetle from Endangered Species Act (ESA)

“Training and operations on military bases is disrupted by compliance with ESA mandates,” Bridenstine said. “This is unnecessary when the species are not actually threatened.  Additionally, ESA requirements make base expansion and modification cumbersome and expensive.  These two species populations are present at Altus Air Force Base, Fort Sill, and McAlester Army Ammunition Plant.”

  • Prohibit housing unaccompanied alien children on U.S. military installations

“Housing children on bases with ongoing operations – including live artillery ranges – is inappropriate,” Bridenstine said. “The Obama Administration has commandeered military bases to temporarily house unaccompanied children, including Fort Sill in Oklahoma in 2014.  Housing them on bases damages military readiness by shifting limited defense resources to non-defense missions.  Rather than imposing on an overstretched military, the administration could use some of the 77,000 vacant or underutilized buildings owned by the Federal government.”

Other provisions that Bridenstine worked to support Oklahoma’s National Guard include:

  • Redirected funding to procure F-16 simulators

The 138th Fighter Wing at Tulsa Air National Guard Base flies F-16s.

  • Redirected funding to support critical requirements for National Guard State Partnership Program.

NDAA includes several provisions from Bridenstine’s American Space Renaissance Act (ASRA).  Earlier this month, Bridenstine introduced HR 4945, legislation to enact reforms across military, civil and commercial space sectors.  NDAA is the first step in Bridenstine’s strategy to enact ASRA piece-by-piece in different legislative vehicles. NDAA includes ten provisions, including:

  • Establishing a pilot program for the Air Force to buy, test, and evaluate commercial weather data. Utilizing data provided by innovative private sector weather companies can lower costs to taxpayers, produce better weather products for the warfighter, and complicate the targeting solutions of our enemies by distributing space architectures.
  • Redirecting funding to jump start a pilot program to test next-generation satellite communications (SATCOM) technologies. Private sector SATCOM companies are offering leap-ahead capacity for commercial customers. The Department of Defense should take advantage of this through a pilot program.
  • Modifies SATCOM analysis of alternatives to ensure accurate cost estimates and full consideration of commercial SATCOM technologies.