Senator King Secures HUBZones, Shipbuilding Victories for Maine in Defense Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced today that the Committee has approved the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with a provision authored by him to improve the eligibility criteria of HUBZones located at former U.S. military installations closed through the so-called “Base Closure and Realignment,” or BRAC process. The bill also contains provisions pushed by King to fully fund shipbuilding priorities.
“Military bases are often the economic heart of their towns and cities, and communities can struggle for years to overcome base closures. We’ve met those challenges firsthand at Loring Air Force Base and Brunswick Naval Air Station, and we’ve learned that base closures don’t always have to mean town closures,” Senator King said. “With the right investments and federal funding, we can redevelop bases and spur economic growth. My provision tailors the HUBZone program to cities and towns that have been hit hard by base closures, improving the program to jumpstart economic development, attract businesses, and create new jobs.”
Current law assists communities affected by military installation closures by giving businesses that are established on the closed bases preferential access to federal procurement opportunities via the Small Business Administration’s HUBZone program. To qualify for these preferences, at least 35 percent of the business’s employees must reside on the closed base or in other economically challenged areas. Moreover, businesses that locate on former bases are only granted this special status for five years after the base closes.
However, very few people live on former bases, which makes it difficult – if not impossible – for businesses that are interested in helping redevelop bases get the workers they need to meet the requirements of the HUBZone program. The amendment introduced by Senator King and included in the bill, which is similar to legislation he introduced last year with Senator Susan Collins, would allow businesses that locate on a closed base to draw employees from the local community to meet the 35 percent requirement. Employees that reside in intersecting census tracts – those touching the boundaries of the BRAC – and contiguous census tracts – those touching the boundaries of intersecting census tracts – would also count toward the 35 percent requirement.
Additionally, local redevelopment authorities are often tasked with attracting new businesses to former bases, but their work cannot begin until they assume control of the base property, which can take several years – and because HUBZone preferences only apply for five years from closure, businesses can lose years of program eligibility. Senator King’s amendment would also extend the period of time for which a closed base is eligible for HUBZone status from five years after closure to eight years.
The bill, which passed the Armed Services Committee by a vote of 25-1 with Senator King’s support, also contains several additional important provisions for Maine:
- FUNDING FOR SHIPBUILDING PRIORITIES: The bill authorizes more than $3 billion for Navy destroyer programs, including $419 million for the construction of DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyers, $2.67 billion for the procurement of two DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, one of which will be built at Bath as a part of the 5-ship multiyear procurement announced last year, and $134 million for DDG-51 advanced procurement.
- PORTSMOUTH NAVAL SHIPYARD ENERGY CONSERVATION PROJECTS: The bill authorizes $2.7 million for Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY) to be used for energy conservation projects. PNSY is a nationally recognized leader in energy efficiency and sustainability efforts. Earlier this month, Senator King toured several of the renewable energy projects currently underway at the shipyard.
- MILITARY CONSTRUCTION: The bill authorizes $32 million to construct a National Guard/Reserve Center Joint Force Headquarters in Augusta.
“By fully authorizing these funding allocations, the Senate Armed Services Committee is recognizing the critical role that Maine plays in supporting our national security,” Senator King said. “These provisions will not only strengthen our armed forces, but they’ll also benefit Maine’s economy and contribute to stable jobs for people in defense-related industries across the state.”
Senator King introduced the following amendments which were accepted by the Committee and included in the final report that was voted out:
- REPORT ON NAVY’S SHIPBUILDING BASE: In response to testimony from several high ranking Navy officials, Senator King introduced an amendment requesting a report on the state of the Navy’s shipbuilding industrial base. The report, to be completed by February 2015, would provide important insight into the state of naval shipbuilding operations and give shipyards, such as Bath Iron Works, a better understanding of the future investments they will need to make.
- MILITARY VOTER ASSISTANCE: Senator King introduced an amendment with Senator Blunt (R-Missouri) to improve the ability of members of the armed forces to register to vote, manage their voter registration information, and request absentee ballots. It also requires the Department of Defense to implement an online system to provide an electronic means for carrying out those military voter support functions.
- INCREASED EMPHASIS ON ARCTIC: Senator King inserted language that recognizes the Arctic as an area of increasing strategic and economic importance for the United States. The opening of new maritime shipping lanes and increased access to natural resources such as oil and natural gas will provide both opportunities and challenges to U.S. national interests and has important economic implications. King’s amendment encourages the Department of Defense to continue to plan for operating in what will likely become a more contested region and to collaborate with the Department of Homeland security as part of this effort.
The FY15 NDAA authorizes funding for the Department of Defense as well as the national security programs of the Department of Energy. It is expected to move to the Senate floor in the coming months.