Congress Passes Sinema-Shaped Annual Defense Bill with Key Arizona Priorities

Dec 19, 2023

Sinema-shaped bill passes Congress with a raise for servicemembers and support for Arizona’s military installations, among other key priorities

WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema secured multiple Arizona military priorities in this year’s annual defense bill, which passed the U.S. Congress with broad bipartisan support. In the legislation, Sinema secured critical funding for projects and support at Arizona’s military installations, like Luke Air Force Base, Yuma Proving Ground, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Fort Huachuca, Arizona Air National Guard, and Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma.

Sinema’s bipartisan COMFORT Act strengthens access to counseling services on military installations by allowing Military and Family Life counselors to work outside of the state in which they are licensed. Sinema’s bipartisan legislation addresses the nation-wide shortage of behavioral health professionals serving the military and veteran community.

Additionally, Sinema secured key investments providing a pay raise for servicemembers and bringing new missions to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

“Arizona leads the way in national security and military readiness. At a time when terrorists and fascists seek to do harm and destabilize democracies across the globe, we secured military investments in our bipartisan annual defense legislation so Arizona – and America – remain safe, strong, and ready,” said Sinema.

See below for a breakdown of specific Arizona provisions in the Senate-passed annual defense legislation:  

Luke Air Force Base

Includes $2.6 million towards upgrading the Control Tower, Fire Station, and Base Operations Complex at a consolidated building at the Gila Bend Auxiliary Airfield, which is used by Luke Air Force Base (AFB) pilots for training.

Pushes DOD to provide installations with necessary funds to deliver maintenance solutions at facilities like Luke AFB’s Munitions Storage Area. 

Includes $2.7 million for the planning and design of the Child Development Center at Luke AFB, a key site for increased construction funds in the next Air Force budget.   

Procures 48 F-35As for the Air Force, to continue growing the F-35A fighter fleet whose pilots are trained at Luke AFB. 

Yuma Proving Ground

Adds $10 million in funding for the Radar Range Replacement Program to continue modernizing advanced test sites like Yuma Test Center at YPG. 

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base

Over $194 million to procure state of the art Compass Call electronic attack aircraft stationed at Davis-Monthan.

Over $66 million to conduct research, development, test, and evaluation work on the Compass Call aircraft, further enhancing the fleet’s effectiveness. This asset continues to keep Davis-Monthan at the forefront of Air Force missions now and long into the future. 

Since 2020, Sinema, Kelly, and the Arizona Delegation have consistently engaged Air Force leadership to bring new, durable flying missions to Davis-Monthan and secure the long-term future of the base. Last year’s NDAA included language to prioritize DM as the Air Force determines locations of future flying missions. In April, Sinema and Kelly led a letter to the Secretary of the Air Force urging collaboration with the Tucson community and the congressional delegation after they were briefed on the Air Force’s plan for the future of the base, which includes advanced electronic warfare, rescue, and special operations components. Key NDAA provisions include:   

·         $5 million to carry out the ongoing site review and planning to establish the new Special Operations Power Projection wing at DM.

·         Directs Department of Defense (DOD) to provide the committee a full accounting of anticipated steps, timeline, and budget plans for actions necessary to complete the restructure plan.

·         Adds $8.5 million for the Air Force Reserve’s Guardian Angel Preservation of the Force and Family Facility which will support troop readiness by providing space for exercise, physical therapy, rehabilitation, mental health, and family counseling.

·         Encourages the Air Force to make progress on funding for training simulators to support the Compass Call fleet based entirely at DM, for which Sinema and Kelly secured funding for four additional aircraft in last year’s NDAA.

·         Supports the HH-60W combat rescue helicopter procurement and restructure activities that will bring additional rescue assets to DM over the next three year.

·         Requires a report on the feasibility of locating all of the 214th Attack Group’s MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft elements at DM to improve mission efficiency, allow for 24/7 launch ability, save thousands of hours of commute time, and free up space for new mission opportunities at Fort Huachuca.

Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma

$8.9 million for the planning and design of the upgraded water treatment plant at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma. There was an expedited $5 million for planning and design in last year’s NDAA.

Procures 16 F-35Bs for the Marine Corps. MCAS Yuma is home to four F-35B squadrons that are critical for supporting U.S. military operations all around the world.

 Ft. Huachuca

Authorizes a demonstration of a new Western Range Complex that would connect multiple non-kinetic ranges for exercises in the region, including Fort Huachuca.

Directs the Department of Defense (DoD) to renew focus on Electronic Warfare and Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations, which Fort Huachuca will play a central role in executing.

Requires a report from the Secretary of Defense on increasing the use of the Electronic Proving Ground (EPG) at Ft. Huachuca. This report will explore the possibilities for expanding the Army’s use of Ft. Huachuca and potentially initiating realistic electronic warfare training.

Directs the Joint Chiefs of Staff and DoD Research & Engineering to examine capability gaps at electronic warfare ranges like Fort Huachuca.

Directs the Army to provide an update on plans to complete the land conveyance between Fort Huachuca and the City of Sierra Vista which supports both municipal use and the Fort’s master plan. 

Supports partnerships between military health facilities and local hospitals and directs an independent study on opportunities to strengthen these partnerships in rural communities near military installations.

Requires a review of the Army’s approach to planning for future aerial intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions, including training, with acknowledgment of Fort Huachuca’s proximity to Air Force electronic warfare and fighter assets and experience providing instruction in this mission area.      

Increases Impact Aid program funding, which benefits Arizona schools including the Fort Huachuca School District and Sierra Vista Public Schools. 

Barry M. Goldwater Range

Extends the existing military land withdrawal for the Barry M. Goldwater Range, for an additional 25 years, to ensure continuous support for training in Arizona.

Camp Navajo

Directs an assessment of the readiness benefits of improving bridge infrastructure at the base entrance.

Requires DOD to review their Strategic Rail Corridor Network (STRACNET) infrastructure on military installations, like Camp Navajo, to assess the need for potential upgrades that could support contingencies in Europe and the Pacific.

National Guard and Reserve Forces

Requires a plan for modernizing Air National Guard fighter force structure in order to provide long-term planning for Air Force airpower and fighter squadrons like the 162nd Wing, which flies F-16s in Tucson.

$15 million for the Army National Guard’s Readiness Center in Surprise.

$17 million to support Army Reserve maintenance activities in San Tan Valley.

$12 million for the Army Reserve Area Maintenance Support Activity facility in Queen Creek.

$11.6 million for the Air National Guard to construct emergency defense infrastructure at the Tucson International Airport.

$12 million to begin construction of the entry control point for the Morris Air National Guard Base. The current gate poses traffic safety and security issues, creating congestion on Valencia Road in Tucson. This project relocates the existing installation entrance to a new site in order to meet standoff and traffic requirements.

Requires the Secretary of the Air Force to develop and brief Congress on a plan to transfer KC-135 air refueling aircraft to the National Guard. The activity duty Air Force is in the process of bringing new KC-46A aircraft into service, while older KC-135 aircraft still have years of useful life left and could be used in units like the Arizona National Guard 161st Air Refueling Wing.


Increases the research, planning, and phase-out efforts on PFAS – commonly known as toxic “forever chemicals” – and environmental cleanup efforts.

Establishing a Strategy for 5G Wireless Broadband at all Military Installations

Requests the Secretary of Defense to develop and implement a strategy to deploy tailored 5G connectivity to military bases and facilities.

Support for Training National Guard on Wildfire Prevention and Response

Allows for the U.S. Department of Defense to support training National Guard forces on wildfire prevention and response.

Extension of Special Pay and Bonuses

Taken from Sinema’s Military Housing Affordability Act, which allows for the U.S. Department of Defense to temporarily increase housing allowances where Basic Housing Allowance has not kept up with rising home prices.

Cold Weather Special Duty Pay

Includes special duty pay for soldiers assigned to the Yuma Proving Ground Cold Regions Test Center (CRTC) in Alaska.

Electricity Resilience

Requires the U.S. Department of Defense to give guidance on specifications for medium voltage gas insulated switchgear, microgrids, and microgrid controllers. Guidance language will lead to a more secure supply chain, ensuring that contracts to procure and operate microgrids are not sourced from prohibited actors. Sinema crafted this legislative language with input from local Arizona partners such as Arizona State University. This provision will benefit local Arizona installations, such as Ft. Huachuca and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) / Sentinel Landscape Support

Authorized the continuation of the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) program. The U.S. Department of Defense would partner with conservation trusts to acquire lands outside military installation boundaries. This acquired land is then used as a buffer and easement to protect military installations from commercial and residential encroachment that would undermine training.

Additional Arizona Priorities

Directs DOD to provide a comprehensive report to Congress on the prevalence of Valley fever – which is endemic to Arizona – in the military and its effect on military readiness to provide a better understanding of the value of developing of a preventative Valley fever vaccine. 

Extends the authorization for protection of certain facilities and assets from unmanned aircraft.

Directs a briefing on the Army’s Degraded Visual Environment Pilotage System (DVEPS), including plans to incorporate DVEPS into the helicopter fleet.

Requires the creation of at least three new commercial solutions openings for emerging technologies and dual-use products and services each year, as well as a feasibility study and recommendations on ways to improve the acquisition of commercial products and services.

Directs a briefing on lessons learned from combatant command partnerships with private industry to better identify, leverage, and experiment with emerging capabilities and commercial technologies.

Authorizes the replacement of substandard enlisted barracks using various funding sources for five years. 

Requires that enlisted housing meets the same basic standards as all other government-owned military housing.