Romney Applauds Senate Passage of Defense Bill with Wins for Utah

Includes Romney measures to protect against China and Russia, reaffirm Utah’s role in our national security, and improve passport services for Utahns

WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) today applauded Senate passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024 (NDAA), annual legislation that authorizes funding levels and provides authorities for the U.S. military and other critical defense priorities, ensuring America’s forces have the training, equipment, and resources they need to carry out their missions. The bipartisan Senate NDAA includes several Romney measures aimed at protecting against threats from China and Russia and reaffirming the critical role Utah plays in our national security. It also includes provisions from Romney on passport services, continuing his efforts to improve access to passport services for Utahns. The NDAA passed by a 86-11 vote.

“As the United States faces growing threats from adversaries, our military must have the resources, equipment, and capabilities it needs to keep our nation safe,” Senator Romney said. “This year’s Senate NDAA includes several provisions which I fought for to protect against these growing threats by modernizing our nuclear triad, fully understanding the extent of China’s defense-industrial complex, and bolstering our domestic critical mineral capabilities to reduce our dependence on adversaries like China and Russia.

“Importantly, this year’s defense bill also includes many measures which will bolster Utah’s role in our national defense,” Senator Romney continued. “Among those measures is my legislation to help ensure Utah’s Dugway Proving Ground continues its efforts to prepare our military for evolving chemical and biological threats. By strengthening the Sentinel program, which has a major presence at Utah’s Hill Air Force Base, the NDAA demonstrates our commitment to modernizing our nuclear triad at a time when deterrence against China and Russia is of paramount importance. The legislation will also help address the current military recruitment crisis—which has real impacts on our national security—by enhancing military recruiter access to high school and college students.

“Lastly, I’m proud that we were able to include several of my provisions to improve passport services for Utahns and others in our country who currently must travel long distances to obtain urgent, in-person consular services at passport agencies. With the passage of the NDAA today, we are one step closer to bringing a passport agency to Salt Lake City,” Senator Romney concluded.

Romney Measures Included in the Senate NDAA:

Ending China’s Unfair International Advantages: The Senate-passed version of the bill includes an updated version of Senator Romney’s Ending China’s Developing Nation Status Act which establishes that it is U.S. policy to oppose granting “developing nation” status to China in international organizations and future treaties. Directs the Administration to pursue changing the status of China to “developed nation” in existing international organizations. (Cosponsored by Senators Van Hollen, Sullivan, Cornyn, Scott (SC), and Braun)

Improving Passport Services for Utahns: The Senate-passed version of the bill includes several of the provisions authored by Senator Romney, and included in the Department of State Authorization Act of 2023, continuing his longstanding efforts to bring a passport agency to Salt Lake City and improve Utahns’ access to consular services. Specifically, Romney’s provisions on passport services in the NDAA would:

  • Require quarterly reporting on the demand for urgent passport services, broken down by major metropolitan area, and the steps taken by the State Department to reduce and meet the demand for urgent passport services, particularly in areas that are more than a five-hour drive from the nearest passport agency.
  • Require the State Department to produce a strategy to ensure reasonable access to passport services for all Americans, including how to reduce passport processing times to an acceptable average for renewals and expedited service and provide U.S. residents living in a significant population center more than a five-hour drive from a passport agency with urgent, in-person passport services, including the possibility of building new passport agencies.
  • Require a prominent, clear advisory in passports to note that many countries deny entry to travelers during the last six months of their passport validity period and urging all travelers to renew their passport one year prior to its expiration.

Focusing Resources on U.S. National Security with Respect to China: Section 1412 of the bill is a provision authored by Senator Romney to require the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to prioritize projects that advance core national security interests of the United States with respect to the People’s Republic of China.

Supporting Dugway Proving Ground: Section 1042 of the bill is Senator Romney’s Chemical and Biological Defense Program Improvement Act, legislation to remove a bureaucratic roadblock that prevents the U.S. Army from requesting funding for military construction projects related to chem-bio program facilities like those at Utah’s Dugway Proving Ground. Senator Romney led the Utah delegation in introducing this legislation to help Dugway continue its vital work. (Cosponsored by Senator Lee and in the House by Representatives Stewart, Curtis, Owens, and Moore)

Bolstering the Sentinel Program and U.S Nuclear Deterrent: Section 1513 of the NDAA includes key components of Senator Romney’s Sentinel Nuclear Deterrence Act, including authorizing multiyear and advance procurement for the program. This will provide our nuclear defense program with added long-term stability. The committee report also includes language requested by Senator Romney to help stabilize key supply chains for the Sentinel program. (Cosponsored by Senators Fischer, Lee, Lummis, Barrasso, Ricketts, and Daines)

Advancing U.S. Critical Mineral Independence from China: Section 1057 includes an enhanced version of Senator Romney’s Critical Mineral Independence Act of 2023, bipartisan legislation to push the Department of Defense to achieve critical mineral supply chain independence from China, Russia, and other geostrategic competitors and adversaries. (Cosponsored by Senators Sullivan and Peters)

Promoting Military Service: Sections 591-593 include a version of Senator Romney’s Military Service Promotion Act of 2023, legislation aimed at addressing the current military recruitment crisis by enhancing military recruiter access to high schools and colleges, a top priority for the Utah National Guard. (Cosponsored by Senators King and Cotton)

Exposing China’s Defense Spending: Section 1257 of the NDAA includes an updated version of Senator Romney’s China Defense Spending Transparency Act, bipartisan legislation requiring the Defense Intelligence Agency to publish a comprehensive analysis exposing the true extent of China’s defense-industrial build up. (Cosponsored by Senators Manchin, Sullivan, and King)

Black Sea Security Act: Section 6231 of the bill includes a version of the Black Sea Security Act of 2023, legislation led by Senators Shaheen and Romney to require the Administration to develop a strategy to strengthen coordination between the U.S., NATO, and partners in the Black Sea in an effort to increase security, support economic prosperity, and promote democracy.

American Security Drone Act: Senator Romney cosponsored an amendment led by Senator Rick Scott to prohibit government purchases of drones from China and other entities that pose a national security risk.

Combatting Fentanyl Trafficking: Title LXVIII of the NDAA is the FEND Off Fentanyl Act, a version of legislation cosponsored by Senator Romney which authorizes the Treasury Department to employ sanctions and anti-money laundering tools against fentanyl traffickers and those supporting them.

Intergovernmental Critical Minerals Task Force Act: The Senate-passed NDAA includes a version of the Intergovernmental Critical Minerals Task Force Act, legislation led by Senators Peters, Romney, and Lankford to identify new domestic opportunities for mining, processing, refinement, reuse, and recycling of critical minerals and reduce the United States’ reliance on China and adversarial nations for critical minerals.

Other Utah Wins in the NDAA:

Support for Construction at Hill Air Force Base: The Senate NDAA authorizes $96.2 million for new military construction projects at Hill Air Force Base, including:

  • $82 million for the F-35 T-7A East Campus infrastructure project, which would support F-35 maintenance, repair, and training facilities, in addition to a T-7A Depot Maintenance Complex; and
  • $14.2 million for a new open storage area for the Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Hill, Utah in support of F-35 depot maintenance and the LGM-35A Sentinel programs.

Support for the F-35 Program: The Senate NDAA authorizes $4.877 billion for 48 new F-35A fighters for the Air Force, in support of the President’s Budget request.