Defense bill now law

Dec 17, 2017

The President signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 conference report into law on Tuesday. In all, the NDAA authorizes $700 billion for defense spending, raises military pay by 2.4 percent, and increases troop levels across the services. Among the provisions of particular interest to the Marianas:

Unlimites H visas safe 

After intervention by the congressional office, a technical error in the Senate version of the 2018 NDAA, threatening the Marianas’ unlimited access to foreign workers using H visas, has been corrected. H visas are used for temporary and seasonal workers in various categories, including professional occupations, agriculture, or construction. In addition to preserving the Marianas’ exemption from the numerical limit on H visas that applies nationwide and is usually oversubscribed the 2018 NDAA creates a new subcategory of the H-2B visa and allows up to 4,000 for services or labor directly associated with the military build-up. This provision only applies to the Northern Marianas if and when the current immigration transition period ends and the Commonwealth government agrees on the terms of the build-up.

$12.9M for Tinian divert

The 2018 NDAA also includes an additional $12.9 million for the Air Force divert airfield project on Tinian. Together with $9 million that Congress authorized in the 2017 NDAA, a total of $21.9 million is now available to lease the additional 142 hectares on the north side of Tinian airport needed for the divert project. The decision to site the divert field and support facilities on Tinian was made last December with the approval of Tinian leadership and Governor Torres and my support.

Palau agreement approved 

After a seven-year wait, the agreement to extend Palau’s Compact of Free Association through 2024 was formally approved when the conference report was enacted into law. I have been an outspoken proponent of the strategic importance of Palau to the United States and of the need to keep America’s commitment to this trusted ally. In April, my bill to extend the Compact, H.R. 2085, passed the House Natural Resources Committee unanimously; and the extension of the Compact has now been included in the NDAA.