Bennet Secures Measures to Strengthen National Security and Defense Efforts in Senate Defense Authorization Bill

Bennet-Led Provisions in Final Bill Boost Small Business Innovation, Promote Gender Diversity, and Strengthen American Capabilities in Artificial Intelligence

Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, announced that four of his measures to strengthen national security and defense were included in the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by the Senate. The NDAA also included the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Year 2021, which included several of Bennet’s measures to address threats and harness opportunities related to next generation technologies like artificial intelligence (AI). 

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the NDAA in July, and both chambers will likely negotiate the final package in the coming months. 

“From strengthening our nation’s artificial intelligence capabilities and standards-setting to driving tech-based small business innovation, the provisions we secured in the Senate defense authorization bill will help our military respond to the ever-changing national security and defense challenges facing our nation, ” said Bennet. “The bill also includes our amendment to push the Defense Department to outline a strategy to retain women in the armed forces. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure these measures are included in the final bill.”  

The Senate-passed bill includes the following Bennet-led measures:  

  • Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Incentives for Onboarding Small Businesses: Small businesses in Colorado have identified barriers to transitioning from research dollars to receiving a contract with the Department of Defense (DoD). This amendment directs DoD to report options to increase the rate of transitioning innovative small businesses from temporary contracts to full contracts as well as DoD’s progress in standardizing procedures and contracts. Bennet developed this amendment in collaboration with the Small Business Technology Council, which has many members in Colorado.
  • Retention of Women in the Military: Retention of women in the armed forces has stagnated, if not decreased, over the last 15 years. This amendment pushes DoD to focus on strategies to retain women, which is critical to ensuring a diverse force and leadership structure. 
  • Strengthening AI Capabilities at DoD: This amendment, which Bennet introduced with U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), directs DoD to consider assigning personnel to the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center – the hub for AI at DoD – in a way that better integrates the emerging technology across the force and improves innovation and AI adoption throughout DoD. 
  • Setting Global AI StandardsThis Portman-Bennet amendment directs DoD to take steps toward setting standards for the development and implementation of AI in the defense industrial base and seeks to ensure the U.S. defense industry does not fall behind as China aims to set global standards.  

Bennet-led measures in the IAA, which improve the Intelligence Community’s (IC) ability to defend the United States, include:  

  • Open Source Intelligence: This provision bolsters the IC’s capabilities to collect and analyze open-source information that is proliferating online by requiring an Open Source Intelligence strategy and plan. It requires the Director of National Intelligence to conduct an IC-wide survey of existing capabilities and to develop a cost-sharing model to ensure open source data investments are coordinated across the IC. 
  • Maintaining America’s AI Edge and Securing Semiconductor Supply Chains: This amendment enhances U.S. and allied advantage in AI capabilities, including in AI chips, and secures essential semiconductor supply chains by mapping vulnerabilities and threats, identifying opportunities for collaboration with partners and allies, and assessing compute power—which is essential to harnessing the potential of AI—trends of adversarial nations, such as China.   

Bennet-backed measures passed in the FY21 NDAA include:  

  • Agent Orange Presumptive Conditions and Benefits: Introduced by U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), this amendment provides a presumption of service-connection for Bladder Cancer, Hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism for veterans exposed to certain herbicide agents while serving in Vietnam. Under a presumption of service-connection, specific conditions diagnosed in certain veterans are presumed to have been caused by their military service and health care benefits and disability compensation may be awarded by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Bennet has continuously called for action to deliver Agent Orange benefits to afflicted veterans, joining his colleagues in condemning the Trump Administration for stonewalling critical benefits in November 2019 and February of this year.
  • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Study: Introduced by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), this amendment increases the authorized funding for the five-year nationwide study on the human health implications of PFAS contamination in drinking water and other sources of water from $10 million to $15 million and enables DoD to transfer funds to ATSDR. 
  • Promoting U.S. Leadership in 5G Technologies: Introduced by U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), this amendment supports U.S. innovation in the race for 5G, providing funding to invest in alternatives to Chinese equipment providers Huawei and ZTE. The amendment, which is based on Bennet’s Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act with Warner, Burr, and others, aims to reassert U.S. and allied leadership by encouraging competition with Huawei that capitalizes on U.S. software advantages in order to accelerate development of an open-architecture model (known as O-RAN) that would allow for alternative vendors to enter the market for specific network components, rather than having to compete with Huawei end-to-end. 

Bennet also introduced an amendment with U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) authorizing DoD to reimburse communities for mitigation efforts taken in light of PFAS contamination around active duty military bases prior to the signing of memorandums of understanding with the Air Force. Bennet and Gardner have spearheaded this effort over the past three years. 

Bennet and U.S. Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO-2)’s Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act was included in the House version of the FY21 NDAA passed earlier this week. Bennet also filed the CORE Act as an amendment to the Senate version of the bill. 

Bennet also filed as an amendment his State Elections Preparedness Act with U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), which would loosen a funding match requirement for states to access federal election security grants, and an amendment with U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to study restorative practices in schools and to address the School to Prison Pipeline.