DETROIT – Provisions set forth by U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) – to support servicemembers, strengthen Michigan’s growing defense sector and address the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) crisis – were signed into law on Dec. 20 by President Donald Trump, as part of the national defense bill. The National Defense Authorization Act sets policy for the Department of Defense (DoD).
Peters, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, made the following statement on the provisions to support servicemembers and Michigan’s defense sector:
“Michigan’s role in safeguarding our national security has never been more critical, and this bill supports our state’s servicemembers and growing defense footprint. I’m proud that the national defense bill is now law and will give our servicemembers a much-deserved pay raise, help resolve an issue facing members of our National Guard and Reserve in accessing the benefits they’ve earned and make critical investments in Michigan’s defense sector that contribute to the safety of our servicemembers overseas and our safety here at home.”
Peters, also a Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, gave the following remarks on the provisions to address the PFAS crisis:
“Michigan communities, families and our military are being harmed by PFAS contamination. While I am pleased this includes provisions to phase out firefighting foam with PFAS and improve coordination between the Department of Defense and states on remediation efforts, there is no question we have more work to do. I will continue pushing the Trump Administration to help clean up contaminated sites and establish drinking water standards and look for opportunities to address this issue for Michigan in the Senate.”
According to Peters’ office, he led or supported provisions that were signed into law, which will help with the items listed below.
Address the PFAS Crisis
• Stopping the Use of PFAS Chemicals in Firefighting Foams: The bill prevents the DoD from buying firefighting foam that contains PFAS after Oct. 1, 2023, and from using these foams after Oct. 1, 2024. The Senate unanimously passed Peters’ resolution this past September, calling for the final defense bill to include a similar provision. This builds on his work in the previous annual defense bill, that is now law, which urged the DoD to develop fluorine-free firefighting foams.
• Preventing Use of PFAS-laden Firefighting Foams in Training Exercises: The bill directs the Secretary of Defense to prohibit the use of firefighting foams containing PFAS in military training exercises.
• Increasing Coordination on PFAS Remediation Efforts, Data Between the DoD and States: Peters secured a provision that will encourage the DoD to finalize cooperative agreements with states and partner with governors to address, test, monitor, remove or remediate PFAS contamination originating from DoD activities, including at decommissioned military installations and National Guard facilities. If a cooperative agreement is not reached within one year of the request from a state, the Secretary of Defense must report to Congress explaining why.
This measure is similar to bipartisan legislation that Peters introduced with Senator Debbie Stabenow and other colleagues. The bill additionally requires the DoD to share PFAS in water monitoring data with nearby municipalities.
• Funding to Better Understand PFAS Through Advanced Computing: The bill includes a provision to authorize funding for advance computer modeling to improve the understanding of PFAS. This is similar to bipartisan legislation Peters authored and introduced in 2019.
• Developing New Technologies to Detect PFAS, Adding PFAS to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, Helping Farms Impacted by PFAS from Military Sites: The bill includes a provision Peters supported that provides the US Geological Survey with more resources to develop new advanced technologies to detect PFAS and conduct nationwide sampling for PFAS in the environment – based on the bipartisan PFAS Detection Act that Peters reintroduced with Stabenow in 2019. It also adds PFAS to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory, affording better transparency on when and where PFAS chemicals are created, used and disposed of. The bill further authorizes the U.S. Air Force to compensate agricultural lands contaminated by PFAS near military installations.
Support Servicemembers and Their Families
• Pay Raise for Troops: This bill includes a 3.1 percent pay increase for all servicemembers, that Peters supported. This is the largest increase in a decade.
• Repealing the “Widow’s Tax”: The bill repeals the Military Widow’s Tax, ending a law that Peters says has penalized the nation’s Gold Star families and has prevented them from receiving the full survivor benefits they have earned and deserve. Military widows and widowers who qualify for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Dependency and Indemnity Compensation are currently forced to take a dollar-for-dollar offset from the Survivors Benefit Plan benefit.
• Ensuring Servicemembers and Their Families Receive the Benefits They Have Earned: The bill includes a provision based on Peters’ bipartisan legislation he introduced to provide members of the National Guard and Reserves a record of service after their retirement or completion of service. This will be similar to a DD-214.
The DD-214 form is often required by the VA and other private sector institutions to certify qualification for benefits. Currently, Reservists do not receive a separation document detailing their service and Guardsmen do not receive the same forms as Active Duty servicemembers after completion of service. This change will help ensure that members of the National Guard and Reserves have documentation to receive the benefits they have earned.
• Strengthening Coordination to Help Servicemembers Transitioning to Civilian Life: Peters sponsored a provision in the bill to improve coordination between the DoD, VA and veterans services organizations to help servicemembers transitioning out of the military. The provision will allow servicemembers to opt-in to give contact information to veterans service organizations that provide resources to help veterans transition to civilian employment or receive the benefits they have earned.
• Increasing Resources for STARBASE Military Educational Program: Peters supported a measure which will authorize an additional $30 million in funding for the Science and Technology Academies Reinforcing Basic Aviation and Space Exploration (STARBASE) program.
Peters says this highly successful program offers hands-on educational experiences in science, technology, engineering and mathematics for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Macomb County was the original STARBASE, and continues to operate one of the premiere programs in the country.
• Addressing Issues with Privatized Military Housing: Peters’ provision will allow servicemembers to receive a report with all information regarding maintenance at a military housing unit for the previous seven years before moving in. This will provide transparency, as servicemembers decide on military housing for them and their families, and aims to incentivize landlords to properly maintain housing units.
According to Peters, the Senate Armed Services Committee has received testimony about horrendous conditions in certain privatized military housing units, which have caused health issues.
Invest in Michigan’s Defense Sector and Advanced Technology
• Authorizing Significant Investment in Michigan Military Construction Project: Peters secured an authorization of $24 million for a military construction project at the Detroit Arsenal in Warren – marking the largest investment in a Michigan military construction project in nearly five years.
It will help allow the Arsenal to upgrade its electrical substation, which will support the research and development of ground vehicle systems and growth that has occurred at the installation.
• Funding Stryker Vehicle Upgrades: Peters supported provisions that will provide additional support to the U.S. Army Stryker vehicle program.
The Stryker is the Army’s most versatile and deployable combat vehicle. The bill authorizes more than $916 million to provide critically needed upgrades to this vehicle fleet. The Stryker “A1 configuration” includes safety and survivability modifications, including greater mine resistance and improved mobility.
General Dynamics Land Systems in Sterling Heights is the prime contractor for the Stryker armored vehicle, and many Michigan companies serve as suppliers.
• Support for Ground Vehicle Sustainment: Peters recognizes that many of the Army’s legacy vehicles rely on parts that are no longer in production or are difficult to procure. Therefore, he supported a provision in the bill authorizing $4 million for the Ground Vehicle Systems Center in Warren to invest in manufacturing research and manufacturing techniques – such as 3-D printing – which can be used to produce the spare parts at a significant cost savings.
Invest in Missile Defense and Support U.S. Security Interests
• Investing in Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Research: Peters led a provision that authorizes a program for joint research and development with Israel on counter-UAS technology.
A range of UAS – from small, commercially available platforms to larger, armed aircraft – pose a threat to both the United States and Israel, Peters notes. This cooperative research program will allow the United States military to benefit from Israel’s expertise and experience in countering UAS.
• Funding Cooperative Missile Defense Programs with the State of Israel: The bill authorizes $500 million for cooperative missile defense programs with Israel, including the Iron Dome, Arrow and David’s Sling, consistent with the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding signed with the Government of Israel.
• Identifying Potential Locations for a Missile Defense Site: Peters supported a provision that requires the DoD to publish a report on a potential future missile defense site.
Fort Custer Training Center in Battle Creek is one of three candidate sites that were evaluated. Designating Fort Custer as the preferred location for a missile defense site would serve to recognize the installation’s strategic significance, and the importance of Fort Custer for years to come.
• Combating Fentanyl Trafficking: Peters supported a provision based on a bipartisan bill he cosponsored to crack down on international manufacturers and traffickers of fentanyl, by helping curb the production and distribution of illicit synthetic opioids.
These provisions will also pressure China to pursue legitimate enforcement of those regulations by directing the Administration to impose sanctions on Chinese drug manufacturers, trafficking organizations and any financial institutions that assist these entities.
• Investing in Defense Community Infrastructure Programs: Peters supported a provision in the bill that authorizes $75 million for the Defense Community Infrastructure Program.
This program provides matching grants to state and local government projects which address critical infrastructure needs that impact military bases, but are located off-base. State and local governments may apply for matching grants for infrastructure, utility, public safety and services projects that will benefit a military base.
Peters co-chairs the Senate Defense Communities Caucus, a bipartisan organization of senators committed to advancing issues important to defense communities. Such communities in Michigan include those near Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Fort Custer Training Center, Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center, Battle Creek Air National Guard Base and Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center.
• Improving Resilience of Military Installations Vulnerable to Impacts of Severe Weather: The bill includes a provision Peters led that will authorize the DoD to strengthen the resilience of installations vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Peters says military bases were devastated by severe weather this past year, and that pre-disaster mitigation efforts would help prevent damage and save federal taxpayers.