Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today applauded Senate passage of the annual National Defense Authorization Act, a bill to fund the Department of Defense as well as authorize a number of other key programs for California.
“The annual defense bill the Senate passed today not only protects our nation and supports our uniformed men and women, it also includes a number of priorities for California, and I’m proud to support it,” Senator Feinstein said.
“This is a good bill for California. It supports 280,000 Defense Department personnel in California and ensures continuity for California’s dozens of military installations. The bill also includes a number of related provisions I advocated for, and I’m pleased they were included in the bill.”
West LA VA easements
Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) succeeded in securing language in the defense bill to allow funds generated from any future easements at the West LA VA campus to be used to support housing developments for homeless veterans there rather than be returned to the U.S. Treasury.
“Congressman Lieu and I enacted a law last year allowing the VA to use funds generated on the West LA VA campus for new veteran housing, but the portion of that bill giving easement revenue the same treatment was not included,” Senator Feinstein said.
“This bill will finish the job, allowing funds generated by any easements on campus to fund efforts to help homeless veterans there. This is yet another step in our long mission to repurpose the West LA VA campus to address the homelessness crisis and ensure these veterans receive the care they deserve.”
- The defense authorization bill extends the National Guard’s FireGuard Program through fiscal year 2029. Senator Feinstein has been a vocal proponents of this program, which is a critical tool for wildfire suppression. FireGuard uses the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s Firefly capability to improve and expand information sharing with wildland firefighting agencies to detect new wildfires faster and allow firefighters and firefighting agencies to better assess real-time situations so they can protect property and save lives.
- Senator Feinstein is a cosponsor of the Emergency Aircraft Act, introduced by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and included as a provision of the defense bill, which provides permanent authorization for the Defense Department to transfer excess or unnecessary aircraft to the Forest Service, Coast Guard or states for wildfire suppression and other emergency operations.
- Senator Feinstein is a cosponsor of the Fairness for Firefighters Act, a bill introduced by Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) and included as a provision of the defense bill, which makes it easier for federal firefighters to receive benefits for certain illnesses caused by their work and obtain expanded workers’ compensation for these illnesses.
Liability for maritime tragedies
The defense bill includes language based on Senator Feinstein’s Small Passenger Vessel Liability Fairness Act to reform maritime liability rules for small passenger vessel disasters. Senator Feinstein introduced the bill last year with Congressman Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.) in response to the 2019 Conception boat fire that killed 34 people. It updates an 1851 law that prevented maritime accident victims and their families from receiving compensation from those responsible for the accident.
“We originally drafted language to update maritime liability rules in the wake of the Conception boat fire because current law is fundamentally unfair to victims of maritime tragedies,” Senator Feinstein said. “Basing current maritime liability rules on a law written in 1851 is ridiculous. Owners of small passenger vessels who are found to be legally responsible for damages should be required to make those payments, and that’s what our bill does.”
The defense bill reauthorizes through 2028 the END Wildlife Trafficking Act, a 2016 law based on Senator Feinstein’s Wildlife Trafficking Enforcement Act that authorizes the federal government to pursue and prosecute wildlife trafficking offenses.