Wednesday, Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) voted to support the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020. The bill authorizes funding for the Department of Defense, the defense-related activities of the Department of Energy, the Overseas Contingency Operations, and emergency disaster recovery to restore installations damaged by extreme weather or earthquakes. The legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives 377-48.
“If you serve this country, Congress should have your back and invest in you and your family. I’m proud that this bill includes a number of measures to support our troops and their families,” said Rep. Kilmer. “In our region, we have talented civilians doing vitally important work to keep our country safe. We were able to include measures that benefit those workers and our region’s economy.”
Key provisions in the bill focus on improving the lives of military families, including a 3.1 percent pay raise for service members, and provisions to improve military housing and clean-up contaminated drinking water at military bases. The legislation also includes a measure championed by Rep. Kilmer to ensure that the Secretary of Defense initiates earlier consultations with tribal governments for military construction projects that may impacts treaty rights and works with tribes to minimize impacts to tribal lands, sacred sites, or tribal treaty rights.
The bill includes additional priorities backed by Rep. Kilmer, including:
Ensuring Fairness for Shipyard Workers
For decades, the Navy has sought to recruit and retain talented workers to public shipyards for critical positions in science and engineering using the Accelerated Promotion Program (APP). In 2016, the Navy suspended the program as it sought recertification from the Office of Personnel Management. Workers hired during that one-year gap in the program were adversely affected by the suspension, leading to lost pay and slower promotions compared to their other colleagues. To fix this issue, Rep. Kilmer authored an amendment that asks the Navy for a plan to make this right for those workers.
Supporting Servicemembers and Federal Workers
The bill includes measures to support American service members and their families, implementing long-sought reforms supported by Rep. Kilmer, including a 3.1% pay increase for service members. The NDAA also includes a measure to provide all federal employees with 12 weeks of paid parental leave – bringing Civilian Employee parental leave benefits more in line with what military personnel receive and enhancing employee retention. Additionally, the NDAA repeals the “widow’s tax,” which will ensure that when a service member makes the ultimate sacrifice for our country, their spouse will continue to receive annuity payments from both the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense. The legislation also includes a requirement for the Department of Defense to develop a comprehensive mental health policy that ensures mental health services are available for service members and that these services are delivered effectively.
Increasing Tribal Mitigation Capabilities
Currently, the Department of Defense must undertake meaningful consultations and discussions with Native American tribes in the event that a military construction project impacts treaty rights and must make sure that those impacts are appropriately mitigated. To improve the consultation process and minimize potential impacts to tribes, the NDAA includes a measure championed by Rep. Kilmer to ensure that the Secretary of Defense initiates consultations with tribal governments earlier in the process and works with tribes to minimize impacts to tribal lands, sacred sites, or tribal treaty rights.
Reducing Jet Noise
Over the past several years, Rep. Kilmer has pushed the Department of Defense to fund efforts to reduce the noise of the Navy’s EA-18G Growler through his work on the Appropriations Committee. In addition to the measures secured by Rep. Kilmer to monitor Navy jet noise and make that monitoring data public in the Defense Appropriations bill, the NDAA directs the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of the Air Force to conduct real-time noise-monitoring at Navy and Air Force installations. Like the Defense Appropriations bill, the NDAA also sets aside $2,000,000 to continue developing technology that could be installed on Growler engines to reduce their noise.
Ensuring the Military is a Responsible Climate Partner
The NDAA ensures that the military makes progress toward being a responsible partner in fighting climate change. This year, the NDAA requires the Department of Defense to develop installation master plans that assess current climate vulnerabilities and establish measures to mitigate the risks. It also requires the Department of Defense to amend the building standards for military construction to ensure that building practices and standards promote energy efficiency, climate resilience, and cyber resilience at military installations. Relatedly, the bill requires all proposals for military construction projects to consider potential long-term changes in environmental conditions, and increasingly frequent extreme weather events, as well as, industry best practices to withstand extreme weather events.
Improving Military Housing Issues
The NDAA implements the most substantial overhaul of the Privatized Military Housing Initiative since its creation in 1996. These reforms address the considerable gaps in oversight and accountability seen at all levels of housing management from ineffective housing offices, to substandard property management, to under-engaged military leadership. The bill also requires the Services to establish a Tenant Bill of Rights that sets minimum acceptable livability standards, requires better communication, creates greater transparency, establishes a formal dispute resolution process, bans the use of non-disclosure agreements as a condition of moving out of military housing, and enhances protections against reprisal.