Congress OKs Bill Ensuring Truck Access to Military Bases

President Biden Is Expected to Sign the NDAA Into Law
Truck enters Charleston AFB
A truck enters a security checkpoint at Charleston AFB in South Carolina. (Nicholas Pilch/U.S. Air Force)

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Congress has advanced a comprehensive Pentagon policy bill with provisions specific to trucking, clearing the measure for enactment before the legislative body adjourns.

The annual National Defense Authorization Act cleared the U.S. House of Representatives on Dec. 14 by a vote of 310-118, readying the bill for the president’s signature. The Senate advanced the measure the previous day by an 87-13 tally. The White House indicated President Joe Biden would sign the must-pass defense measure into law. Congress is scheduled to adjourn for the year before the end of the month.

The NDAA includes provisions related to climate, energy and transportation for fiscal 2024. 

Amid a high-energy political year on Capitol Hill, congressional leaders recognized the legislative achievement associated with the bill’s passage. “Thanks to the good work done by both sides, the final version of the NDAA contains many of the most important, bipartisan provisions we had in the Senate’s original bill,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Dec. 13. “We’ll give our service members the pay raise they deserve. We’ll strengthen our resources in the Indo-Pacific, to deter aggression by the Chinese government, and give resources for the military in Taiwan.”

Specific to trucking policy, the measure would mandate the Department of Defense to greenlight certain standards for accessing military installations. It also emphasizes enhancements associated with cross-border trade. American Trucking Associations was among the groups highlighting Congress’ focus on the access to military bases. The group referred to the provisions in the bill as legislative victories for the industry.

“These wins for trucking are particularly noteworthy during a Congress that hasn’t found agreement often,” Bill Sullivan, ATA’s chief advocacy and public affairs officer, said prior to the bill’s final passage. “It proves that we still can push good policies forward and succeed.”

ATA’s Moving and Storage Conference and ATA’s Government Freight Conference also endorsed the defense policy bill. “More than 300,000 military families relocate each year, so efficient and consistent access to military bases for movers and crew members is essential to meeting their needs while also supporting military readiness,” said Ryan Bowley, executive director of the ATA Moving and Storage Conference. “We applaud Congress for including this important provision, and as [Department of Defense] works on implementation, we urge engagement with movers and other industries who provide important support to our national security.”

“Base access is a challenge for carriers, whether you’re hauling arms and ammunition or household goods,” said Mike Matousek, director of the ATA Government Freight Conference. “Part of the solution is a workable fitness standard that is consistent across the services, a requirement for DOD to move the ball forward and a way to hold the agency accountable for inaction.”

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The leaders of the congressional defense committees touted the legislation’s final version.

“Providing for our national defense is Congress’ most important responsibility under the U.S. Constitution, and the NDAA is key to fulfilling that duty. Our nation faces unprecedented threats from China, Iran, Russia and North Korea,” said Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), as well as Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairmen and ranking members of the Armed Services committees, respectively, in a statement on Dec. 12.

They went on, “It is vital that we act now to protect our national security. We would like to thank all the conferees for their hard work and contributions to this year’s bill. Through months of hard-fought and productive negotiations, we have crafted a bipartisan and bicameral conference report that strengthens our national security and supports our service members.”