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Luján Amendments to Support New Mexico, National Labs Included in FY19 National Defense Authorization Act

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) voted in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019, which included several initiatives he wrote or cosponsored.

“From Los Alamos National Labs to Cannon Air Force Base, I’m proud of the important role Northern New Mexico plays in our nation’s defense,” said Luján. “Although it is not a perfect bill, this year’s defense authorization advances many important priorities for communities across New Mexico.”

Establishment of Trades Education Grant Program

This amendment, which is based on his DOE National Labs Jobs ACCESS Act, creates a manufacturing engineering skilled trades education program to provide advanced manufacturing training to support the missions for the Department of Energy (DOE) National Security Laboratories and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) sites.

“This program will provide new opportunities and more jobs for New Mexicans by creating a job pipeline through apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs,” said Luján. “Skilled technicians are vital to the missions at all of New Mexico’s national labs and, by expanding these opportunities, we can realize the full potential of the labs and our workforce.”

Supporting Small Businesses

This amendment, based on Luján’s Support Startup Businesses Act, would help small startup businesses secure funding for early-stage innovation and development.

“I’m proud to have worked with Congressmen Brad Schneider and Daniel Lipinski to make it easier for the innovative small businesses that are vital to our economy to get the funding they need to establish and expand their operations,” said Luján.

Sense of Congress for Expanding Compensation for those Exposed to Radiation

This amendment expresses the sense of Congress that the U.S. government should compensate all the miners, workers, downwinders, and others suffering from the effects of uranium mining and nuclear testing carried out during the Cold War. This is the second consecutive year that this amendment was unanimously approved by the House of the Representatives. Luján also submitted his full Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments as an amendment to the NDAA, but the Republican Rules Committee blocked consideration of this important legislation.

Luján also cosponsored three amendments with Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-03) that were also included in this year’s NDAA. The amendments include:

  • Open Campus Amendment: The Army Research Lab’s Open Campus program allows collaboration between the defense laboratory, industry, and academia. This amendment authorizes the Air Force Research Lab to create a similar open campus initiative to foster innovation and provides for rapid transition of technologies into products by entrepreneurs. 
  • Entrepreneurial Sabbatical Amendment: The amendment allows defense laboratory personnel to take unpaid sabbaticals to work for private sector firms in order to build their research for commercial proposes.
  • Entrepreneurial Education Amendment: Often, government researchers are technical experts in their field, but do not have the skills to transition those technologies to a successful business model.  This amendment authorizes the Secretary of Defense to support entrepreneurial education programs for defense laboratory personnel.

This year’s NDAA provides critical funding for cleanup at LANL, which will continue the important work of environmental remediation projects in communities near our labs. It also strongly supports our troops by providing a 2.6 percent increase in pay for our men and women in uniform, combats the opioid abuse crisis by establishing a drug monitoring program to help prevent opioid abuse within the military, and includes provisions to address sexual assault and domestic violence.

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