Today, U.S. Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52) joined a bipartisan group of his colleagues to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019, a bill that authorizes defense-related spending and determines policy. The final bill, which authorizes $717 billion in defense spending, includes a 2.6 percent pay increase for service members (the largest raise in 9 years); funding three additional Littoral Combat Ships; $2.5 billion for military construction, including more than $516 million in San Diego County; nearly $420 million in family housing construction for the Navy and Marine Corps; and a new drug monitoring program specifically addressing opioid use and abuse in the military. It directs the Navy to assess the national security implications of the Tijuana sewage spill, which continues to flow into San Diego waters.
“Congress’s most important job is ensuring we have a smart, robust national defense that protects Americans. Today’s vote is a chance to recommit to our nation’s mission, and better support those who serve and their families. While this bill is not perfect, it offers a real chance to make sure that America is ready to face new and emerging threats with the 21st-century military we need. The 52nd district is home to seven military installations, and defense-related investments made in our community support job creation, innovation, and drive one-fifth of our region’s economy,” said Rep. Peters.
Rep. Peters continued, “This bill also takes steps to address a problem closer to home: the Tijuana sewage spill, which has threatened our coastline, our public health, and the readiness of our servicemembers. The potential threat to Navy SEAL training is a national security matter. We need to know how San Diego’s new Navy SEAL coastal campus would be affected by continued sewage spills.”
The authorization bill requires the Navy to host a briefing on the impacts of the Tijuana River sewage spill, and determine how the Navy can work with the Department of State, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, the International Boundary Water Commission, and the Department of the Interior to mitigate the consequences to troop readiness. Rep. Peters has called for action to address these spills since they were first reported, including raising the alarm when the President’s budget proposal eliminated a grant program that funds repairs to sewage infrastructure, announcing a $1.17 million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to address the spill, and joining Rep. Susan Davis (CA-53) to call on the Navy to study the spill’s effect on Navy SEAL training.
While the bill had significant victories for the San Diego region, it also included concerning provisions like a 25 percent cut to the Department of Defense’s “Fourth Estate,” which could have alarming impacts on military readiness, specifically in logistical support and cybersecurity. The nearly 30 agencies that support the Department of Defense, commonly referred to as the Fourth Estate, play an especially pivotal role in San Diego, providing critical support to the men and women in uniform who serve our country.