(Senate - June 23, 2020)

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[Page S3158]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


      By Mrs. FEINSTEIN (for herself, Mr. Cornyn, Ms. Cortez Masto, Mr. 
        Blumenthal, Mr. Markey, and Ms. Rosen):
  S. 4043. A bill to require the Secretary of Defense to develop a 
comprehensive database and repository on military aviators and conduct 
a study on such aviators to determine the incidence of cancer diagnosis 
and mortality among such aviators, and for other purposes; to the 
Committee on Armed Services.
  Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I rise to speak in support of the 
``Military Aviators Cancer Incidence Study Act,'' which I introduced 
  This legislation would require the Department of Defense to conduct a 
study to determine if there is a higher incidence of cancers occurring 
in military aviators as compared to similar age groups in the general 
  It has been reported that the prevalence of cancer is particularly 
high among military aviators, particularly among fighter pilots in the 
United States Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.
  There have been several alarming clusters of cancer diagnoses at 
military installations, including at Naval Air Weapons Station China 
Lake in California and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North 
  Four commanding officers who served at Naval Air Weapons Station 
China Lake have died of cancer. Each officer had completed thousands of 
flight hours in advanced jets.
  According to a study by the U.S. Air Force in 2008 titled ``Cancer in 
Fighters,'' six pilots and weapons systems officers for the F-15E 
Strike Eagle at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, aged 33 to 43, were 
diagnosed with cancer between 2002 and 2005. Each officer had completed 
at least 2,100 flight hours.
  A study by the U.S. Air Force in 2010 reported on a cluster of seven 
members of the Air Force Special Operations Command diagnosed with 
brain cancer among crew members of the C-130 between 2006 and 2009. The 
individuals affected were three C-130 pilots, two flight engineers, one 
loadmaster, and one navigator assigned to different installations 
around the world.
  And yet, there has been no comprehensive study conducted of cancer 
rates among military aviators.
  One challenge of extracting findings from previous studies by the 
Navy or the Air Force on cancer rates is that each study focused on 
pilots who are active duty members of the Armed Forces and did not 
include the medical records of former pilots who are veterans, which is 
the population in which cancer most often appears.
  Members of the Armed Forces who serve full military careers are not 
likely to be counted in data captured by the Department of Veterans 
Affairs. Members who served 20 years or more are eligible for health 
care under the TRICARE program, which is managed by the Department of 
  Also, many members pursue private sector jobs after separating from 
the Armed Forces and receive health care outside of the Federal 
Government. Those factors have made it difficult to see if the health 
issues that families of military aviators are experiencing are part of 
larger trend.

                        How the bill would help

  Our bill would require the Department of Defense in conjunction with 
the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, and 
the Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct a study across the United 
States Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps to determine whether there is 
a higher incidence of cancers occurring among military aviators as 
compared to similar age groups in the general population.
  If the study determines a higher rate of cancer among military 
aviators, the Department of Defense would then move into a second phase 
of the study and report to Congress on the following:
  Carcinogens associated with military flight operations;
  The operating environments where aviators might have been exposed to 
increased radiation;
  Duty stations, dates of service, aircraft flown, and additional 
duties that could have increased the risk of cancer for each affected 
military aviator;
  Locations where a military aviator served or additional duties of a 
military aviator associated with higher incidences of cancer;
  Potential exposures due to service in the Armed Forces that are not 
related to aviation, such as exposure to burn pits or toxins in 
contaminated water; and
  The appropriate age to begin screening military aviators for cancer 
based on several variables.


  Military aviators take enough risks while serving our country without 
also having to worry about contracting cancer from radiation exposure.
  The high prevalence of cancer among these pilots is deeply 
concerning, particularly the clusters of cases at China Lake.
  We must determine why these aviators are getting cancer and if their 
jobs are exposing them to dangerous carcinogens.
  The study is an important step to help us understand what is 
happening and how we can better protect our military men and women. I 
hope my colleagues will join me in support of this bill.
  Thank you Mr. President. I yield the floor.