Bill has $25M for Rome Lab projects

Congressman says approved House defense spending plan has language to protect DFAS and AIS

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The defense spending bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives this week includes $25 million for research projects at Rome Lab, and language to prevent workforce reductions at two other installations in Rome, according to Rep. Anthony J. Brindisi, D-22, Utica.

The bill was set for Senate consideration Wednesday and then would require the signature of President Donald Trump.

The $25 million for Rome Lab funds three projects on quantum computing and unmanned aerial (drone) systems, according to Brindisi. Rome Lab is known more formally as the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate/Rome Research Site and has about 800 employees.

The bill also includes a provision directing the Defense Department to collaborate with Congress about any decisions that would affect workforce levels at the Defense Finance and Accounting Services operation, which like Rome Lab, is based at the Griffiss Business and Technology Park, the former Air Force base in Rome and has about 1,100 employees.

It also includes support for projects at Rome’s Assured Information Security, which works in information security for government and commercial customers, and language guarding against moving or shrinking the Air National Guard 222nd Command and Control Squadron from Rome. Specifically, an amendment Brindisi co-sponsored with Rep. Trent Kelly, R-Mississippi, directs the Air Force to not transfer Air National Guard personnel or assets without a plan for establishing a reserve component of the new Space Force.

Other language in the legislation requires the Defense Department to report on the state of the domestic supply chain for critical and rare earth metals, which benefits Clinton-based Indium Corp.

The spending authorization also carried with it five bills Brindisi developed:

Care and Readiness Enhancement for Reservists Act, co-lead with Reps. John Katko, R-24th Dist. of Syracuse; Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pennsylvania; and former Congressman Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina. Itllows members of the Guard and Reserve to access Veterans Affairs centers for mental health screening and counseling, employment assessments, education training, and other services to help them return to civilian life. Brindisi is on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Seeding Rural Resilience Act, co-lead with Katko, to addresses the suicide epidemic in rural farming communities by training U.S. Department of Agriculture employees to recognize farmer mental health crises, establishing a national publicity campaign on rural mental health, and developing best practices to address farmer mental health.

Brindisi said federal estimates are there are 40% more suicides in rural areas than in urban areas.

Military Mental Health Stigma Reduction Act, co-lead with Katko, which requires the Defense Department to submit report on its efforts to reduce the stigma of seeking mental health treatment for post-traumatic disorder, suicidal thoughts, or other mental health conditions for members of the armed services.

“These three bills address communities that are in desperate need of mental health care,” Brindisi said in a teleconference Wednesday.

Strengthening American Manufacturing Act, co-lead by Rep. David McKinley, R-West Virginia, which the Defense Department to report annually on its use of Domestic Non-Availability Determinations, which it uses to circumvent Buy American/Berry Amendment Requirements.

South China Sea Freedom of Navigation Act, co-lead by Reps. Troy Balderson, R-Ohio;Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama; Michael Waltz, R-Florida, to update the Freedom of Navigation Operations report to include U.S. overflight operations, and a description of each excessive Chinese territorial claim in order to highlight successes of the U.S. military contesting excessive Chinese claims and create an ongoing public record of China’s malign actions in the South China Sea.

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