WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced Tuesday that President Trump signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report, which includes several bipartisan amendments the Senators offered that will support jobs and the important research mission at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s Air Force Research Lab.
“The men and women at Wright-Patt’s Air Force Research Lab provide needed research to our military and the Department of Defense,” said Brown. “This law will make sure these highly-skilled workers can continue to do their jobs and help meet our national security needs.”
“I have seen firsthand the innovative research and development conducted at the Air Force Research Lab at Wright-Patt that is critical to our national security and to maintaining our military’s technological edge,” said Portman. “I am pleased the president signed this legislation into law that will further support Wright-Patt’s mission, and I will continue to work with Senator Brown to support Wright-Patt and ensure that its highly-skilled workforce has the tools and resources it needs to carry out its missions.”
The Senators’ amendments will:
• Increase payments to researchers who develop innovations and technology to support our nation’s military. Federal researchers – including those at Wright-Patterson’s Air Force Research Lab – are responsible for major innovations that have helped our military and servicemembers. The Brown- Portman amendment would encourage the best in this field to remain in government service by increasing royalties for patented or licensed innovations.
• Provide flexibility for minor military construction. The amendment would make permanent programs to fund repairs or minor military construction to a laboratory’s infrastructure ensuring that facilities are updated and have the capacity for new innovation. The amendment would require labs to report unfunded minor construction projects so that Congress can take action to close capacity gaps, which could hamper research. The amendment also makes permanent additional flexibility to fund research and train and retain personnel.
• Support U.S. manufacturing jobs that help meet national defense needs. The Manufacturing Technology Division of Wright-Patterson’s Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) manages a key national defense industrial base and manufacturing program that enables the federal government to support defense-related manufacturing when domestic capabilities aren’t able to meet national security needs. The Brown-Portman amendment would prohibit the Pentagon from abruptly shifting project management responsibility away from the experts at AFRL to others in the Pentagon until a formal assessment of the program’s management is conducted, and Congress is briefed on the results. Prohibiting this sudden shift in management would ensure that any major changes that could impact ongoing or future projects or personnel would first be reviewed by the Senate Banking Committee, on which Brown is the lead Democrat, and which oversees the program. It would also ensure that in the interim skilled managers and specialized personnel with years of experience will continue to oversee this critical program, saving taxpayers money by controlling costs, eliminating wasteful administrative duplication, and maintaining efficient project oversight.
• Support Wright-Patterson’s role in developing unmanned aerial systems. The amendment will boost collaboration between the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration so the two can work together to integrate UAS into the national airspace and develop best practices for use of this new technology. Wright-Patterson’s Air Force Lab is a center for developing UAS.