Politics Funding for victims of 'Havana Syndrome' to be included in Pentagon bill
Congress blocks cuts to top contractors’ weapon budgets
Congress recently blocked the Pentagon from moving more than $1 billion that defense officials had wanted to use instead on programs they consider higher priorities. More than $500 million of the money was for a handful of weapons built by powerful contractors. The Pentagon had said it does not need the $500 million-plus that was appropriated for […] The post Congress blocks cuts to top contractors’ weapon budgets appeared first on Roll Call.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Monday said she has secured funding in the Department of Defense draft appropriations bill to implement the recently passed HAVANA Act, federal law that includes assistance for U.S. officials impacted by mysterious health incidents that some argue are targeted attacks.
The Maine senator did not disclose the potential level for funding because it is included in the classified annex of the appropriations draft bill, like other funding for the Intelligence Community.
Publicly disclosing the number can potentially reveal sensitive information on Havana Syndrome cases, a congressional aide told The Hill.
As Biden Agrees To Cut Free College, Elder Care, Pentagon To Get More Funds Than It Wants
Congress is projected to spend more than $7 trillion on the Pentagon over the next 10 years, which is more than double the cost of the Build Back Better Act over the same timeframe. Yet Biden and Democrats have been working to shrink their bill and reach a compromise between progressive and moderate lawmakers.On Tuesday, the president met with nearly 20 lawmakers for legislative negotiations and the hope of reaching an agreement.
An estimated 200 U.S. officials including diplomats, intelligence officers and executive branch members are believed to be victims of so-called Havana Syndrome, a medical mystery where victims have reported intense, debilitating health symptoms alongside the occurrence of specific noises and intense pressure.
Reports of Havana Syndrome have occurred among U.S. officials across the world and in Washington D.C. Some have reported suffering long-term health consequences and have had to go on medical leave.
The Biden administration has taken to calling these reports "Anomalous Health Incidents (AHI)," a controversial term that some advocates say downplays concern that U.S. officials are being specifically targeted and attacked and from what some describe as a "directed energy" source.
A dangerously distracted Pentagon
Our allies can look forward to U.S. military officials mansplaining how they, too, can become “climate-literate.”No, the first plan produced by this administration's Defense Department is a "Climate Adaptation Plan," which purports to "take bold steps to accelerate adaptation to reduce the adverse impacts of climate change.
Yet the administration has sought to prioritize investigations into the source of the health incidents, both the method causing the injuries - which medical evaluations have determined to include traumatic brain injury similar to a concussion - and whether there is a perpetrator, with some intelligence assessmentsthat Russia is behind the targeting of officials.
President Biden earlier this month signed into law the HAVANA Act, authored by Collins, which authorizes the director of the CIA and the secretary of State to provide additional financial support for U.S. officials who are determined to be victims of AHI's and that the agencies create regulations for "fair and equitable criteria for payments."
"As the government investigates the source of previous attacks and seeks to prevent future ones, the HAVANA Act I authored will provide critical relief to Americans who are experiencing debilitating symptoms likely caused by a directed energy weapon," Collins said in a statement.
Blinken to diplomats on 'Havana Syndrome': 'I wish we had more answers'
Government workers have been found to have hearing, balance and cognitive changes and mild traumatic brain injury after experiencing odd sounds, sensations.In a letter to diplomats and other State Department staffers obtained by NBC News, Blinken said he’d been hearing “growing concerns” over the incidents that he said date back to “at least 2016.” He said those affected by the incidents want urgent clarity.
"I will continue to push for the full implementation and funding of the HAVANA Act during the ongoing Appropriations process to ensure that victims receive the support they deserve."
The securing of funding comes as pressure is increasing on the State Department from lawmakers to do more to address the phenomenon.
Last week, senators in both parties called on the State Department to "immediately" appoint a high-level official to oversee the Department's response to AHI's, following the departure in September of the agency's point person, Pamela Spratlen.
"We urge you to immediately announce a successor to Ambassador Spratlen to lead the Department's Health Incident Response Task Force. Critically, this post must be a senior-level official that reports directly to you," the.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price responded to the letter at the time saying the Department would be in a position to fill Spratlen's role "in the coming days."
Bipartisan bill would create NSC position to oversee 'Havana syndrome' response .
A bipartisan group of senators is seeking to up the ante on addressing mysterious "Havana syndrome" attacks, pushing the White House to establish a point-person to lead a wide-ranging investigation while setting aside millions for U.S. personnel injured in the incidents.A bill introduced Tuesday by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and others would force President Biden to designate a senior official on the National Security Council to lead a whole-of-government response to the attacks, which are believed to have impacted some 200 Americans, many of them employed by the CIA or the State Department.