Bilirakis Scores Legislative Wins on Behalf of our Nation’s Heroes
Washington, DC: Congressman Gus Bilirakis is pleased to announce that several initiatives he authored and propelled through the legislative process have been included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report which was released earlier today. Specifically, the Special Priority on Aircrafts and Coverage Equity Act (SPACE-A) will allow Veterans, who have a 100% service connected disability, to utilize a travel benefit currently extended to active duty and retired military members and their families to travel on military aircraft when there is extra space onboard.
“The Space Available Travel program is a benefit rightfully extended to all military retirees, yet it excludes those who are 100% disabled. The brave men and women who served our country, and returned home injured, have already paid a big price on our behalf. If there is space available for travel on a military aircraft, there is no reason our Veterans who are 100% disabled shouldn’t be on that flight. As most good ideas are, this legislation originated from a local constituent. It has been my privilege to fight for this common sense provision that will assist our disabled Veterans,” said Bilirakis.
Also, an amendment Congressman Bilirakis co-sponsored to block the sale of F-35s to Turkey was represented in the final bill with language which requires a report on the status of the US-Turkish relationship within 90 days of enactment and prohibits the sale of F-35s to Turkey until the report has been presented to Congress. “In light of the recent reckless behavior on the part of Turkey under the current leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has unfortunately proven that it can no longer be trusted as a reliable, close ally of the United States. It is important that we examine status of our relationship with this supposed ally prior to continuing to sell them additional weaponry and military equipment,” Bilirakis stated.
Additionally, Bilirakis has tirelessly fought against a provision in the Senate NDAA bill which would have resulted in significant increases in out of pocket costs for military retirees enrolled in Tricare. This provision, section 701, would have removed the clause that protected any enrollee prior to January 1, 2018 from these increases. Just as recently as yesterday, Bilirakis advocated to prevent the Senate provision from becoming law. “Our military personnel and Veterans have sacrificed enough in service to our country. It is unfair to subject them to further financial hardship,” added Bilirakis.
Finally, Bilirakis has been a staunch supporter for a sustained U.S. presence at Souda Bay, a strategically positioned naval base located in the Mediterranean, for many years. This year’s Conference Report includes a $47.8 million investment at this base. This military asset represents the largest deep water port in the Mediterranean Sea, the only one between Norfolk and the Indian Ocean that can accommodate a nuclear carrier pier-side to an airfield facility, allowing the Navy fleet to dock and carry out repairs, maintenance and resupply functions. The base enhances U.S. security response capability by providing, operating and sustaining superior facilities and services dedicated to combat readiness. “In these turbulent times, it is more important than ever to ensure that our military has all of the resources it needs to respond to an international crisis and optimize its ability to defend our country. The base at Souda Bay is an important component of that readiness. As Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues and the Congressional Hellenic-Israel Alliance, the strategic alliance between the United States and Greece is of the utmost importance because it enhances our national security,” said Bilirakis.
In addition to these legislative victories, the NDAA Conference report reflects a real win for active duty military, Veterans and the American people. This legislation will make our nation safer. The report supports necessary increase in topline funding to support our troops and readiness recovery. As part of the rebuilding of the military, it increases the size of Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Naval and Air Reserve, as well as Air Guard. It allocates funding to provide the largest pay raise for our troops in 9 years, begins to rehabilitate and replace worn out equipment, starts overcoming the crisis in military aviation by putting more aircraft in the air, restores America’s strength at sea, makes critical investment in missile defense and nuclear deterrents, and allows key investments in other critical military capabilities to confront aggression and address threats around the world, including those from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran. It also protects the United States from malicious technology from Chinese companies like ZTE and Huawei by banning those companies from doing business with the United States Government or any entity that does business with the United States Government. Additionally, it advances innovative technologies that will reform the way our nation will fight and win wars.