U.S. Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, added a number of provisions to the national defense bill to expand benefits for military personnel.
“I was pleased to see the House Armed Services Committee come together in a bipartisan manner to put forward provisions that respect the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make every day,” said Davis. “The personnel benefits in the defense bill demonstrate that we value our servicemembers. As we move forward, I will seek ways to build on the committee’s work to ensure our men and women in uniform have the support they deserve.”
Davis amendments and provisions included in the NDAA:
- Afghan Security Forces Fund for Women. Davis secured $41 million in the Afghan Security Forces Fund that will be used for the recruitment, integration, retention, training, and treatment of women in the Afghan National Security Forces; and the recruitment, training, and contracting of female security.
- Equal Justice for our Military. The Davis amendment directed the DOD to examine cases where servicemembers have less access to Supreme Court review than civilians operating in the civilian court system. This study is an important early step to eliminating restrictions to our servicemembers’ ability to access to our Supreme Court. Davis has introduced the Equal Justice for our Military Act to grant personnel access to the Supreme Court.
- Military Family Leave Act. Those who serve our country give so much, and their spouses and families are no exception to the sacrifice. Davis seeks to minimize that burden. Davis added an amendment so servicemembers will have more flexibility when it comes to their frequent moves when it concerns their spouses’ job or education, their children’s education, and exceptional and chronically sick family members.
- Explosive Ordnance Disposal Report. Davis increased the occasions and depth of briefings required by Congress regarding the Explosive Ordnance Disposal programs in the DOD. These briefings will continue to help develop EOD talent management, career opportunities and funding, among other things. It will ensure we are best managing and utilizing this critical capability within the armed forces.
- GI Bill Benefit Transparency. There is a substantial benefit that the Post 9-11 GI Bill provides servicemembers to further their or their dependent’s education. Due to the length of service requirements to earn the benefit or transfer the benefit to a dependent, many service members have experienced difficulty understanding how much of the benefit they have earned. In this year’s bill the DOD will find ways to better educate servicemembers on their earned GI Bill benefits before they leave the service.
- Cyber training and talent management. We have directed the Secretary of Defense to examine how to further develop cyber protection teams that can leverage the best attributes, authorities, and capabilities of both civilian and military cyber practitioners. In addition, the DOD will seek to help cyber forces evaluate and quickly integrate new technologies such as autonomy, machine learning, and big data analytics.
- Minesweeper Capabilities Protections. Davis protected a critical capability in the U.S. Navy. Her amendment will preserve mine countermeasure ships and helicopters until there are adequate replacement mine countermeasures capabilities that are available in sufficient quantity and capacity to meet the combatant commander.
Provisions that Davis included in the NDAA base bill or cosponsored:
- Russian federation. Davis cosponsored language to strongly restate the policy of the United States about sustaining credible deterrence against aggression by Russia in order to enhance regional and global security and stability.
- Equal treatment of reserve servicemembers who serve on Active Duty. Congress created gaps in benefits for the reserve components when they authorized the 12304b deployment authority. These gaps meant that reservists had unfair restrictions on their pre-mobilization and transitional health care and other benefits simply because of the law used to call them to service. While we were not able to address all the gaps, under this year’s bill, all reservists on active duty orders will have access to the health care pre and post deployment.
- Climate change. Davis cosponsored an amendment to require the Secretary of Defense to submit to the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and the House of Representatives a report on vulnerabilities to military installations and combatant commander requirements resulting from climate change over the next 20 years. We must prepare for the effects of climate change on our national security.
- Prohibition on Sharing of Intimate Photos and Special Victims Counsel Training. Davis moved to protect servicemembers from sexual assault by increasing special victims' counsel training regarding the unique challenges often faced by male victims of sexual assault, and amended the Uniform Code of Military Justice to explicitly prohibit the wrongful broadcast or distribution of intimate visual images.
Davis offered an amendment based on her legislation to end food insecurity experienced by some military families. Many military personnel are denied Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) because their basic allowance for housing, when included with their basic pay, makes them ineligible. Davis offered an amendment to exclude BAH from SNAP calculation. The amendment was not permitted to go forward on procedural grounds, forcing Davis to withdraw it. However, Davis received assurances on the record from the Chairman of the Agriculture Committee that they will work to solve this issue in the upcoming Farm Bill.
“I appreciate the commitment to work with me to address food insecurity among military families,” said Davis. “Our military families deserve immediate attention to this issue.”
Another Davis amendment addressed the gap in military survivor benefits. Davis sought to extend survivor benefits for military widows using a modest increase in TRICARE pharmacy copays. Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) for these widows will expire next spring. Davis received a commitment from the Chairman that he would work with Davis to take care of these widows.
“I thank the chairman for his reassurance that we will show our commitment to the sacrifice made by these widows,” said Davis. “It shouldn’t be such a struggle to ensure that 63,000 widows have the benefits they deserve.”
The House Armed Services Committee approved the NDAA in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote after a nearly 14-hour marathon session.