Congresswoman Susan Davis Secures Key Provisions in NDAA

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Washington, December 12, 2019 | comments

Congresswoman Susan Davis, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, secured a number of provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The final version of the annual defense bill, known as a conference report, passed the House on a bipartisan vote of 377-48. It is expected to clear the Senate and be signed by the President. 

Davis’s language, which was included in the House version of the NDAA, to create a basic needs allowance to bridge the gap for eligible servicemembers who are currently not eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits was not included in the final bill. In high cost of living areas like San Diego, some families of junior enlisted servicemembers  struggle to put food on the table. Because of the way military pay is structured, military families who are eligible in other areas are often ineligible for SNAP when stationed in high cost of living areas like San Diego due to the inclusion of housing allowance in the eligibility calculation. A basic needs allowance will fix this problem. 

“It’s disappointing the Senate chose to ignore the military families who are struggling to put food on the table,” said Rep. Davis. “What does it say about us as a nation when we can’t come together to take care of those who fight to keep us safe? Despite my disappointment in the lack of a basic needs allowance, there are plenty of quality policy improvements in defense and for military families in this bill.”

Davis said she plans to keep pushing for a solution to military hunger. “We should be able to meet the basic needs of our military,” Davis said. 

The final NDAA makes two significant policy changes that will impact military families and federal workers. It finally repeals the “Widow’s Tax,” which currently reduces payments to families of fallen service members from the DOD Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) by the amount they receive from the VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) program.  The conference report repeals this reduction, allowing surviving families to collect both payments in full.  Davis has been working with her colleagues for years to address this issue.

The conference report provides all federal employees with 12 weeks paid parental leave in the case of birth, adoption, or fostering of a child. 

As a senior member of the committee, Davis influences policy changes and crafts key provisions each year in the bill.  The following provisions were included by Davis in the base language of the NDAA prior to committee and floor consideration: 

Family Leave - Military parents are currently prohibited from taking maternity and paternity leave consecutively.  Davis’s language removes this prohibition. Military families deserve the flexibility of taking leave when it works for them. 

Improvements to Child Care for Members of the Armed Forces - Authorizes financial assistance to civilian child care providers who care for the children of survivors of members who die in the line of duty and to expand direct hiring authority for child care providers. 

Comprehensive Policy for Provision of Mental Health Care to Members of the Armed Forces - Directs the Secretary of Defense to develop and implement a comprehensive policy of mental health care to members of the Armed Forces. 

Support for Women in the Afghanistan Security Forces - Davis included a provision to set a goal of using $45.5 million to support the efforts of the Government of Afghanistan to promote the recruitment, training, integration, and retention of Afghan women into the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

This represents a key step to assure that peace and security processes do not overlook the inclusion of women, a critical strategy that research has shown reduces conflict.  The NDAA sets a goal of using $45.5 million to support the efforts of the Government of Afghanistan to promote the recruitment, training, integration, and retention of Afghan women into the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

As Co-Chair of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus, Davis included the following provision in the NDAA:

  • Increases resources available to sexual assault survivors, including an increase in the number of investigative personnel and Victim Witness Assistance Program liaisons with the goal of ensuring that investigations of sex-related offenses are completed not later than six months after the date of initiation. 

  • Provides additional digital forensic investigators to enhance DoD’s ability to recover text messages between an individual accused of sexual assault and their victim, investigate child pornography, and help make the case in allegations of Internet fraud.

  • Provides for additional training for commanders on their roles in the disposition of sexual assault and collateral offenses.

  • Requires that victims of sexual assault receive periodic updates throughout the court-martial process regarding the status of the case, while expanding authority of military judges to review actions prior to the referral of a court-martial.

  • Takes steps to ensure that a victim’s preference of prosecution jurisdiction and other decisions by the victim are properly documented.

  • Expands the training of special victims’ counsel on state civilian criminal justice matters in the state where the victim is assigned and requires that a special victims counsel be made available to victims not later than 72 hours after a request for such. 

The following Davis Amendments were passed by the House Armed Services Committee during its consideration of the NDAA in June:

Tijuana Sewage Runoff Impact to Readiness - In last year’s NDAA, Davis added language directing the Navy to look at the national security impact of sewage runoff for Navy SEAL training at the future site for a SEAL training facility.  When scheduled training corresponds with sewage spills or discharges, military personnel may be exposed to untreated sewage with consequences to their health. In a follow up to the Navy’s written report, Davis included language directing the Navy to brief the House Armed Services Committee on readiness impacts of Tijuana sewage runoff in waters adjacent to military installations. 

Sexual Trauma - The physical trauma from a sexual assault can require health care attention well after the assault.  Davis would require the Department of Defense to study the feasibility of providing healthcare coverage for sexual trauma victims regardless of their military status.

Wildfires - Early detection of wildfires can be a matter of life or death.  The Davis Amendment would require the Department of Defense to look at using space-based sensors to assist with the early detection of wildfires. 

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