Today, the House passed a compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included key provisions for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as advocated for by Congressman Mike Turner. The bill will have a far reaching impact on Southwest Ohio and Wright-Patterson AFB when approved by the Senate and signed into law by the President. Turner’s amendments to the annual Defense Department bill include provisions which enhance leadership at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) and the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL). Additionally, the NDAA Committee Report as approved by the House helps meet airspace needs for Unmanned Aerial Systems. Turner was appointed by House Speaker John Boehner as a conferee on the compromise legislation, granting the Dayton community a voice at the table. Following approval by the House, the bill is expected to pass the Senate, and the President has dropped a veto threat to the bill.
“This year’s NDAA brings AFIT one step closer to achieving prominence amongst our military’s postgraduate schools. In this legislation will ensure that Air Force personnel and leadership reductions do not affect the quality of AFIT leadership by establishing two leadership positions, to help guide AFIT in the years ahead. I look forward to continuing my effort with Sen. Portman in strengthening AFIT’s mission of training the future leaders of our Air Force,” said Turner.
Following Turner’s efforts to boost the leadership at the Air Force Institute of Technology, the conference committee between the House and Senate saw fit to provide for greater Air Force oversight of the postgraduate school. The leadership of the school will now be comprised of both a Commandant and a Provost.
AFRL Hiring Authority
“With my provision included in the final bill, laboratories will have the edge to stay competitive with the commercial market and bring talented personnel into the Department of Defense. Our nation’s Defense Laboratories are experiencing both a critical hiring need and a severe shortage of engineers and scientists with advanced degrees. This is something which could affect the future needs of the Air Force Research Lab,” said Turner.
Specifically, Turner’s language included via an amendment while the NDAA was being considered by the full House Armed Services Committee eliminates the sunset provision of the Defense Laboratory hiring authority which he had placed in the FY09 NDAA. The expedited hire authority provided under Section 1108 applies to scientific and engineering positions which require an advanced degree.
The provision allows AFRL to waive some advertising and preference requirements, but maintains the requirement that the applicant meet all relevant qualifications. Since the enactment of the legislation, AFRL and the other defense laboratories have been able to reduce the hiring time by weeks and has become a critical tool of AFRL personnel management to hire the best scientific talent. A recent Defense Department report showed that “direct hire” generally cut the number of days it took to hire an applicant from 147 to 91.
Meeting Airspace Needs for Defense-Related UAS Research
“This final bill allows the AFRL to play a role in the decisions on Unmanned Aerial Systems testing needs. These are experts who have pioneered the expanding field on unmanned flight. Ohio, the birthplace of flight will continue that tradition through AFRL which will play a key role in integrating UAS into the National Airspace System,” noted Turner.
After Turner had included this same provision in the FY 09 NDAA, the House Armed Services Committee had voted to include it once again. The committee noted that the availability of special use airspace is important to research related to Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and the needs of our national defense. The proliferation of technology enabling the use of UAS represents a clear future threat to national security; however, lack of special use airspace to research detection techniques is a potential impediment to the nation’s ability to counter this emerging threat.
The committee encouraged discussions between the Air Force Research Laboratory to explore ways for the FAA and the Department of Defense to work together on problems related to integrating UAS into the National Airspace System. The final bill with Turner’s language urges the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration to place a high priority on meeting national defense needs for special use airspace related to UAS research, including addressing defense needs for special use airspace for research in “detect and destroy” technologies.