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Press Releases

House Approves Three Case Amendments in Passage of Annual Defense Bill

They include addressing tour helicopter overflights of military installations such as Pearl Harbor

(Honolulu, HI) – The full U.S. House has approved three floor amendments by U.S. Congressman Ed Case (Hawai‘i – District 1) in its passage today of H.R. 2500, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020.

The NDAA is the federal government’s annual approval of overall defense spending. This year’s NDAA as approved by the House authorizes a total of $733 billion for the upcoming fiscal year and reflects priorities in defending our country, protecting our interests abroad and supporting our troops and their families.

Case’s first amendment calls on the U.S. Defense Department to review civilian aircraft flights over military installations and report on any regulatory changes required to ensure optimal operations and security.

“Like many others, I have personally witnessed various aircraft, especially tour helicopters, overfly our military installations regularly. Most acute has been Pearl Harbor, which tour helicopters regularly cross, around fifty-plus times a day, at low altitude over or near very sensitive areas such as the SEALS and submarine bases, compromising operations and security and risking lives on the ground.

“This is in addition to the USS Arizona Memorial and USS Missouri where they particularly hover. When visitors previously disembarked from the tour boats onto the Arizona Memorial site itself, they were advised to speak in hushed tones – for this is the final resting place of more than 1,100 servicemen who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor. For tour helicopters to disturb the peace and sanctity of these special places and their appreciation by millions of visitors every year is just unacceptable.

“You would think that our military could control their own airspace against such risks and consequences, but my review reflects that that is largely not the case in a largely unregulated environment. I have discussed this situation with our military leaders who share these concerns, and this study is to get to the bottom of just how widespread this issue is across our country and specifically what needs to be done to address unneeded interference in our military operations and disruption of our memorials,” said Case.

Case’s specific amendment requires the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment to submit a report to the Congress describing:

  • The encroachment challenges and security risks posed by non-military aircraft overflying military installations inside the United States, to include operational impacts, installation and personnel security and intelligence concerns, and
  • Practicable strategies and recommendations for mitigation of any such challenges and risks to include increased military regulatory authority and distinctions, if any, among government/first responder, commercial, civil and recreational aviation.

"We welcome a study called for by Congressman Case," said Aileen Utterdyke, President and CEO of Pacific Historic Parks. "As the state's top visitor attraction, the USS Arizona Memorial gets its share of tour helicopter traffic.  Besides safety factors, we believe the study should examine the impacts aerial tours have on the solemnity of a memorial honoring those killed on Dec. 7, 1941."    

The NDAA includes two additional amendments authored by Case.

  • A report from the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State to Congress on the status of security cooperation and assistance with Pacific Island countries and the feasibility of expanding such cooperation and assistance to help combat transnational crime, fight illegal fishing, and counter Chinese military actions in the Indo-Pacific.
  • A classified report from the Defense Intelligence Agency on foreign militaries operating or expressing military interest in Pacific Island countries. The Pacific Island countries, most of which have long histories with the United States dating back to World War II and earlier, are under increasing pressures from China.

“When we look at our national defense strategy over the next generation and focus our priorities in this and future NDAAs and other measures, we cannot help but look to Hawaii’s corner of the world, the Indo-Pacific,” said Case. “And there we must focus increasingly on our neighbors in the Pacific, those twenty-odd Pacific island nations and parts of our country and others which together with their ocean areas include, and are larger than, Russia and China combined. These islands are our natural partners yet are under increasing pressure from a variety of sources including China. My amendments add to our increased focus in this critical region.”

The bill also contains various provisions specifically authorizing Hawai’i projects already funded the House Appropriations Committee, on which Case serves. These include:

  • $60 million for the Phase 5 of the Fort Shafter Command and Control Facility,
  • $134 million for a new Bachelor Enlisted Quarters for Marine Corps Base Hawai‘i in Kāne‘ohe Bay,
  • $54 million for Phase 1 of the West Loch Magazine Consolidation Project in Pearl Harbor,
  • $68 million for a new Special Operations Force Undersea Operational Training Facility in Pearl Harbor,
  • $275 million to support the Homeland Defense Radar-Hawai‘i (HDR-H), which is designed to identify and track long-range ballistic missile threats.
  • $1.7 million to support the Pacific Disaster Center (PDC). The PDC is a public/private partnership managed by the University of Hawai‘i under a cooperative agreement with the Department of Defense (DOD).

Overall, the NDAA authorizes funding for critical manpower and material needs vital to the defense strategy within our country and overseas. Key provisions include:

  • Giving our servicemembers a pay raise of 3.1 percent;
  • Taking care of military families, including effort to improve military housing and clean up contaminated drinking water at military bases;
  • Prohibiting any funding in the bill to be used for the construction of a wall, barrier or fence along the southern land border unless separately authorized by Congress;
  • Protecting children at the border by prohibiting DOD funds to house unaccompanied children forcibly separated from their parent or legal guardian by U.S. Customs and Border Protection within 100 miles of the border;
  • Requiring DOD briefings to Congress on Russian election interference and directing DOD to issue a strategy on countering Russian election interference in the 2020 elections;
  • Requiring DOD to take a number of steps to both address climate change and fund mitigation activities;
  • Taking steps to accelerate the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility; and
  • Prohibiting funding for the deployment of new, low-yield nuclear missile warheads pending further demonstration of necessity.