June 23, 2020 - Issue: Vol. 166, No. 115 — Daily Edition116th Congress (2019 - 2020) - 2nd Session
STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS; Congressional Record Vol. 166, No. 115
(Senate - June 23, 2020)
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[Page S3158] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS 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 today. 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 population. 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 Carolina. 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 Defense. 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. Conclusion 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. ____________________