December 15, 2021
GILLIBRAND ANNOUNCES VICTORIES INCLUDED IN FY22 NDAA
Gillibrand Successfully Pushed to Include IRC Recommendations to Improve Climate For Sexual Assault Survivors and Ensure Survivors Have Timely And Reliable Access to Defense Investigators, Expert Witnesses, and Trial Support;
Added $517 million above President Biden’s budget request for clean-up of military communities impacted by PFAS contamination
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Chair of the Personnel Subcommittee, announced that several of her provisions were included in the final language of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022. Gillibrand secured several provisions that would improve the quality of life of service members and their families, including an across-the-board pay increase for service members and civilian DoD employees, expanded access to health care and mental health services, and the implementation of IRC recommendations to improve the climate for sexual assault survivors in the military. As the leading advocate on military sexual assault reform in the Senate, Gillibrand successfully included several measures to improve the climate of the military justice system. However, the measures did not go far enough and she will continue advocating for her bipartisan, filibuster-proof Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act (MJIIPA).
“I am proud to have fought for and successfully included several provisions in the FY22 NDAA that will give our service members, their spouses, and their children access to better child care, pay, and clean water,” said Senator Gillibrand, chair of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee. “While we still have work to do to address the epidemic of sexual assault in our military, several positive steps were made to help survivors of sexual assault access the resources they need to pursue their day in court. I will never stop fighting until our service members have a system they can trust and is worthy of their sacrifice.”
Below is a description of Gillibrand’s provisions included in the final language of this year’s NDAA:
Pay Raise for Military Members
The Senate NDAA, supported by Senator Gillibrand, provides a 2.7% pay raise for service members and the DoD workforce.
The United States government is currently facing severe cyber personnel shortages and capacity gaps in cybersecurity, IT, cloud computing, and AI. Senator Gillibrand’s Cyber Academy provision would require that the Department of Defense (DoD) submit reports to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees that assess the establishment of a National Cyber Academy, a talent strategy to satisfy DoD’s future cyber education requirements, and DoD’s overall workforce requirement for civilians and military personnel for cyberspace and information warfare.
Senator Gillibrand is the lead advocate in the Senate for improving the military justice system. Several of Gillibrand’s amendments are based on recommendations offered by the Independent Review Commission. However, the measures did not go far enough and she will continue advocating for her bipartisan, filibuster-proof Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act (MJIIPA). Along with these reforms, several of Senator Gillibrand’s military justice provisions were also included in the bill, including the following:
• Creates an exception to the Privacy Act to allow victims of crimes to receive information on the administrative adjudication of their case.
• Authorizes the Department of Defense Safe Helpline to receive sexual assault reports in both unrestricted and restricted forms, and to provide support to victims making such reports.
• Establishes an annual primary prevention research agenda that will ensure state-of-the-art policies are being used to direct the DoD’s response to sexual assault and interpersonal violence.
• Requires the Secretary of Defense to include information on race and ethnicity of victims and accused to the maximum extent practicable in the annual Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) Report. This allows for the exclusion of such information, if necessary, based on privacy concerns, impacts on accountability efforts, or other matters of importance, as determined by the Secretary of Defense.
• Reforms that will make the military justice sentencing process reflect the federal system of sentencing in criminal cases. Military judges will use presidentially-issued guidelines to sentence those convicted at court-martial, resulting in more uniform and predictable sentences.
• Mandates the Secretary of Defense to submit a report on workforce development to ensure adequate staffing to care for victims and enforce policies on prevention and interpersonal violence.
• Mandates the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to improve the performance of the Military Criminal Investigation Organizations (MCIOs).
• Ensures the defense has timely and reliable access to defense investigators, expert witnesses, trial support, and necessary resources.
• Increases oversight by requiring the DoD to track incidents and allegations of retaliation for reporting of crimes.
Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) Military Occupational Specialty (MOS)
In response to the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee’s report, this provision tasks the Department of Defense with evaluating options for establishing a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) military occupational specialty (MOS) and reporting its findings and recommendations to Congress.
Paid Parental Leave
Senator Gillibrand supported Senator Duckworth in her fight to ensure that all service members are able to access paid parental leave that will lead to more stable, healthy military families and, ultimately, better retention, recruitment, and readiness. Increasing access to parental leave is shown to have long-term positive effects on the strength of both parent-child and spousal relationships. Currently, many service members only receive 3 weeks or less of parental leave, and foster parents do not receive any form of paid parental leave. This amendment authorizes up to 12 weeks of parental leave for all service members, both primary and secondary caregivers, in the case of birth, adoption, or long-term foster placement of a child. Service members can also now defer their parental leave to a later year if occupied with a professional circumstance that is deemed reasonable and appropriate. This provision will allow service members to care for their families and take time for themselves during a critical adjustment period and will help them achieve long-term success, both professionally and personally.
Basic Needs Allowance:
Gillibrand helped secure key provisions of the Military Hunger Prevention Act of 2021, a bill to support military families struggling with food insecurity, which was introduced by Senator Duckworth. Unintended barriers to assistance exist for struggling military families, such as counting a service member’s basic housing allowance as revenue in determining eligibility for federal nutrition programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). As a result, low-income military families facing food insecurity are disqualified from this resource and often rely on food pantries and food banks for emergency food assistance. Along with Senator Duckworth, Gillibrand helped correct this unacceptable situation and ensure these families can put food on the table by establishing a basic needs allowance for service members with a gross income at or below 130% of the federal poverty guidelines. Authorizing a basic needs allowance to eligible, low-income members of the Armed Forces will help low-income military families living with food insecurity make ends meet.
Military Health Care
The bill authorizes coverage of preconception and prenatal carrier screening tests for certain medical conditions under the TRICARE program. It also directs the Secretary of Defense to report to Congress on the increase of TRICARE co-pays for Group A beneficiaries. The increased co-pays have resulted in higher costs for service members seeking mental health care and speech, physical, and occupational therapy. Additionally, the DoD is expected to develop a pilot program to ensure that when beneficiaries are referred for mental health care, they receive direct assistance in identifying appropriate mental health providers within the direct care system or TRICARE network. A 2020 DoD IG report revealed barriers that have led to delays, and in some cases, the inability to receive coverage. Lastly, Gillibrand’s provision on Autism CARES compels the Secretary of Defense to work with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to analyze data on treatment and applied behavior analysis (ABA) effectiveness.
Suicide Prevention and Response
With the rate of military and veteran suicide outpacing military operation deaths four to one, Senator Gillibrand has been fighting for improved access to mental health care for service members. Gillibrand’s provision mandates the Secretary of Defense to establish an independent suicide prevention and response review committee at military installations within 90 days.
Following her push in September, Gillibrand also secured key provisions of the Brandon Act named in Brandon Caserta’s honor, which would expand access to mental health care services for active-duty military personnel, including access to confidential mental health evaluation referrals without fear of retaliation.
Military Child Care
Along with Senator Duckworth, Senator Gillibrand pushed to include funding that will improve the quality and availability of child care services for service members and their families. The FY22 National Defense Authorization Actincludes funding to encourage the military services to seek out creative solutions to solve child care availability challenges, including exploring options to create public-private partnerships to increase capacity and availability of quality child care for service members and their dependents and meet the real-life needs of military families. It also directs the Department of Defense to conduct a study into the current poor and failing conditions of military child care centers and provides a near-term fix for poor conditions in these facilities by temporarily authorizing the Department of Defense to use Operations and Management funding for minor child care construction projects.
Gillibrand successfully pushed to include critical per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) provisions in the final NDAA negotiations. Earlier this year, she introduced the Filthy Fifty Act, which would help expedite the testing, cleanup, removal, and remediation of PFAS at some of the most contaminated U.S. military installations and state-owned National Guard facilities by setting testing and cleanup deadlines for PFAS remediation. The bill establishes a list of “priority installations” with 50 bases in the U.S. that have among the highest detections of PFAS. The FY22 NDAA included three provisions modeled after this important piece of legislation, including a provision to establish a two-year deadline for the DoD to complete testing for PFAS at all currently identified military installations and National Guard facilities. Gillibrand also secured a provision that requires the DoD to submit a report to Congress with the status of clean-up efforts to remediate PFAS at 50 priority installations, matching those listed in the Filthy Fifty Act, that are among the most contaminated with PFAS. The final provision requires the DoD to establish a schedule with proposed deadlines to complete PFAS remediation at all military bases, National Guard facilities, and formerly used defense sites that have been identified as having a PFAS release related to DoD activities.
Gillibrand also added $517 million above President Biden’s budget request for clean-up of military communities impacted by PFAS contamination.
Assessment and Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury or Havana Syndrome
Havana Syndrome is the term given to the anomalous health incidents (AHIs) that were first experienced by the U.S. Embassy staff in Havana, Cuba in 2016. Gillibrand secured $30 million for the Defense Health Program to improve the understanding and treatment of Havana Syndrome. She also supported language that creates an Interagency Coordinator for anomalous health incidents, and separately, language that provides any U.S. government employee and their family members experiencing AHI symptoms access to the National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for assessment in a timely manner.
Unidentified Aerial Phenomena
UAPs pose a significant challenge to our national security, appearing in sensitive U.S. airspace and around military personnel. Gillibrand’s amendment establishes an office that would replace the current Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force and would have access to Department of Defense (DoD) and Intelligence Community data related to UAPs. By doing so, the office will have the authority to establish a coordinated effort to report and respond to UAPs, significantly improve data-sharing between agencies on UAP sightings, address national security concerns, and report health effects people may experience in relation to UAP events. The office will be administered jointly between the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence, and will empower military and civilian personnel working for the DoD and Intelligence Community to report incidents and information involving UAPs.
U.S.-Israel Cooperative Missile Defense
Senator Gillibrand secured $500,000,000 for the U.S.-Israel Cooperative Missile Defense programs, which will assist in the development of short, medium, and long-range missile defense systems to protect Israeli citizens. This funding is in line with the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding that includes funding for the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow programs. Gillibrand also helped establish a grant program at the State Department to support U.S.-Israel cybersecurity cooperation.
Throughout the recent decades of deployments, more than three million service members have been exposed to toxins due to the widespread use of burn pits in deployed environments, with many subsequently developing cancers and respiratory diseases. The cause of these illnesses goes unrecognized because doctors fail to connect the toxic exposure with their symptoms. This provision will require Department of Defense doctors to be trained on the signs of toxic exposure in order to provide the appropriate treatment and coverage for these service-connected injuries.
Existing policy prohibits Cadets and Midshipmen at Service Academies from having dependents. Senator Gillibrand fought to change this outdated, discriminatory policy. The NDAA requires the Secretary of Defense to prescribe regulations within one year that includes the option for Cadet parents to retain parental rights. Additionally, the Secretary must provide Congress with a briefing by May 1 regarding the forthcoming policy.
Merchant Marine Academy
Earlier this year, Senator Gillibrand called for an investigation into allegations made by an anonymous female cadet at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) in Kings Point on Long Island who said she was raped at sea by her engineering supervisor. Along with the investigation, Gillibrand’s provision will mandate the Merchant Marine Academy to establish a Sexual Assault Advisory Council to review policies on sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. USMMA and federal government employees are prohibited from serving on the council.
Additionally, Gillibrand secured a provision stating the Secretary of Transportation may appoint a qualified candidate for up to 20 critical position vacancies. Critical positions at the USMMA include positions that handle culture, infrastructure, student health, academy governance, and others as determined by the Sexual Assault Advisory Council.
Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program Projects
Gillibrand secured $27 million that will support projects to maintain and improve Fort Drum’s facilities and water infrastructure. Specifically, this funding will support the Wellfield Expansion Resilience Project to help develop the Fort Drum water supply.
Global War on Terrorism
This year, President Biden ended the longest war in American history when he withdrew troops from Afghanistan. This provision will establish a memorial commemorating the Global War on Terrorism on the National Mall. Gillibrand also secured a provision to create an independent, nonpartisan Afghanistan War Commission to conduct a thorough study in the aftermath of the war. The study will explore U.S. combat operations, reconstruction and security force assistance activities, intelligence, and diplomatic affairs pertaining to Afghanistan from June 2, 2001 to August 30, 2021.
Clean Drinking Water at Fort Drum
Gillibrand helped secure $27 million authorized for energy resilience and conservation investment projects that will help maintain and improve Fort Drum’s water infrastructure. Specifically, this funding will support the Wellfield Expansion Resilience Project to help develop the Fort Drum water supply.
Gillibrand and Senator Kelly (D-AZ) secured language requiring the Department of Defense to establish a microelectronics network that prioritizes geographic diversity. This language, along with $250,000,000 secured for microelectronics research, will go a long way towards supporting domestic microchip manufacturing and workforce development, including at universities, research centers, and businesses across New York.
Gillibrand’s Memorializing Overwhelmingly Gallant Actions that Defended Individual Soldiers and Honored Units Act (“MOGADISHU Act”) amendment was included in the NDAA and allows for the award of the Distinguished Service Cross to four service members who fought in the Battle of Mogadishu.
• $200,000,000 for classified projects related to National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence implementation
• $14,800,000 for the Francis S. Gabreski Airport to build a Civil Engineer Complex, which will benefit the 106thRescue Wing, Air National Guard.
• $17,200,000 in MilCon funding for the West Point Military Reservation Engineering Center.
• $20,000,000 in research, development, test, and evaluation funding to support short pulse laser directed energy demonstration.
• $10,000,000 for the defense-wide manufacturing science and technology program. Specifically, this funding will enhance manufacturing speed for high-performance, cost-effective integrated silicon-based lasers.