O'Halleran Votes for Bipartisan NDAA, Protections for Grand Canyon
WASHINGTON—Today, Congressman Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01) voted to pass the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA): bipartisan legislation that fully funds our military operations at home and abroad, continues to address the coronavirus pandemic, and addresses harmful uranium mining operations near the Grand Canyon.
“Today, I was proud to join my colleagues in voting to pass this bipartisan, bicameral package that supports our troops and their families and ensures that our national defense remains the strongest in the world,” said Rep. O’Halleran. “I am beyond pleased that within the bill is the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act, legislation I introduced with Congressman Grijalva last year to permanently ban uranium mining in and near the Grand Canyon, protecting our Canyon, the health of northern Arizonans, the water supply of the Southwest, and the growth of our state’s outdoor tourism economy.”
Rural and tribal communities throughout northern Arizona are still grappling with negative health effects left behind by toxic, abandoned uranium mines dating back to the Cold War; many continue to fight the cancers and disease caused by radiation exposure decades ago. Expanding uranium mining capabilities in the area would aggravate these serious public health risks, as well as make the Colorado River susceptible to uranium mining pollutions. Currently, the river and nearby aquifers are the main water source for over 40 million people across the Southwest.
“I was also pleased to see that other initiatives I have championed were included within the final NDAA,” continued O’Halleran. “These include a land conveyance for a portion of Camp Navajo in Flagstaff, protections for the A-10 Warthog and the KC-135 refueling aircraft, and compensation for downwinders exposed to uranium mining and nuclear testing from the Cold War at sites across northern Arizona.”
A tailored land transfer at Flagstaff’s Camp Navajo will allow for select commercial activities to take place on parts of the base while still allowing the Department of Defense to safely carry out its missions there, empowering Camp Navajo to utilize excess storage capacity to pursue economic development opportunities beneficial to both the base and the northern Arizona community.
Protections for downwinders within the FY21 NDAA include initiatives O’Halleran championed in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (H.R. 3783), legislation he introduced with Rep. Ben Ray Luján last year.
The legislation passed today includes
- a 3% pay raise for troops;
- a $1 billion Pandemic Preparedness and Resilience National Security Fund, proactively increasing our country’s ability to respond to future pandemics;
- improvements to sexual assault prevention and response programs within the military;
- updates to paid parental leave benefit policies available to servicemembers and their families;
- and a bipartisan initiative to initiate the renaming of military bases and infrastructure named after individuals who served in the Confederacy to more accurately reflect American heroes that exemplify who we aspire to be as a nation.
A summary of the legislation prepared by the House Armed Services Committee is available, HERE.