A number of provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act passed Thursday by the House of Representatives will directly and indirectly benefit the 24th Congressional District.
Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, announced the provisions to benefit the Central Coast after HR 4350 was approved on a bipartisan vote of 316-113.
The bill only authorizes spending $768 billion for national defense and additional money for related projects and does not allocate funds for any specific projects.
It now must go to the Senate for approval, and if the provisions survive in the final bill agreed to by both chambers and signed by the president, they will become law.
Carbajal said the measure includes his Central Coast Heritage Protection Act to designate public lands as wilderness areas.
“The bill includes my legislation to protect over 250,000 acres of public lands on the Central Coast, extends the lifesaving FireGuard program to help us detect and monitor wildfires, gives our service members a pay raise, and much more,” Carbajal said. “This bill is a major win for our troops, our communities and our country.”
Carbajal said other provisions with local significance address climate change, military personnel and families, military-university partnerships and Vandenberg Space Force Base capabilities.
The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act will designate over 250,000 acres of Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument as wilderness, providing them the highest level of federal protection.
The bill will help sustain 468 species of wildlife and more than 1,200 species of plants and address the climate crisis recognized by the Department of Defense as a threat to national security, Carbajal said.
He said his FireGuard Extension amendment will authorize five years of the program that allows local jurisdictions to use Department of Defense resources to detect and monitor wildfires.
The program previously had to be reauthorized on a yearly basis, he said.
Several bipartisan amendments Carbajal said he led will require the Department of Defense to show progress on making surveillance radar sites, military training routes and airspace more compatible with wind energy technology.
The move could help efforts to develop a wind energy project off the coast of Morro Bay that would provide economic benefits to both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.
Carbajal said he helped secure $10 million for air platform technology and aerospace vehicle technology research conducted at Cal Poly in partnership with the Air Force Research Lab.
He said he also helped authorize $4 million to advance research at the Army-sponsored Institute for Collaborative Biotechnology led by UC Santa Barbara.
Three provisions would benefit Vandenberg Space Force Base as well as other space launch ranges.
One will provide a $5 million increase for the Spacelift Range System to improve launch infrastructure, including at Vandenberg.
A related provision will require the chief of Space Operations to devise a plan for addressing long-term infrastructure at Vandenberg and other U.S. Space Force launch ranges.
Another amendment, co-sponsored by Carbajal, would prevent construction of U.S. Space Command, or SPACECOM, headquarters in Alabama until the General Accounting Office and Department of Defense Inspector General’s Office reviews of the site selection are completed.
Vandenberg was one of the sites passed over for the headquarters’ preferred location in favor of the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal at Huntsville, Alabama, home of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.
Carbajal said he also co-sponsored an amendment to include the Sgt. 1st Class Javier J. Gutierrez Purple Heart Survivor Naturalization Fee Relief Act that would waive certain fees for immediate relatives of Purple Heart recipients who are pursuing naturalization.
HR 4350 also includes a measure, based on HR 2339, the Military Hunger Prevention Act that Carbajal co-sponsored, allowing the secretary of defense to provide a basic needs allowance to qualified service members.
Carbajal said he led a bipartisan amendment to prevent individuals convicted of a felony hate crime from receiving a waiver to enlist in the military.
The bill also includes the SAFE Act that would allow state-legal cannabis businesses to access the banking system, which would help the county’s cannabis industry.
It also increases funding for continued use of the Small Business Innovation Research program. A total of 69 Central Coast companies received SBIR contracts in fiscal years 2019-20 and 2020-21.