Congresswoman Veronica Escobar Delivers Big NDAA Wins for El Pasoans and Fort Bliss
Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, voted to advance H.R. 2500, the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), to the full House of Representatives.
The annual defense bill improves the lives and financial security of our men and women in uniform, authorizes $655.9 billion in spending for national defense, and includes El Paso’s priorities. Below, an overview of the big wins so far for the region on infrastructure, diversity, resiliency, advanced manufacturing, veteran healthcare, and small business opportunities.
- Programs that invest in infrastructure for the communities that support military installations can positively impact readiness and quality of life for our service members, their families, and their neighbors in cities like El Paso.
- While a Defense Community Infrastructure Program (DCIP) pilot was authorized in 2019, progress hasn’t been made on implementation. That’s why Congresswoman Escobar pushed for this year’s NDAA bill to require the Department of Defense (DoD) to produce implementation guidance and report to Congress. Infrastructure investments are essential for El Paso and our community deserves the chance to access these programs.
- Communities like El Paso know that diversity makes us stronger. Yet, DoD has let their strategic diversity efforts fall by the wayside. While enlisted ranks show diversity similar to that of the general American population, more work needs to be done to ensure our military officers are as diverse as the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines they lead.
- At the request of Congresswoman Escobar, this year’s NDAA bill requires the Secretary of Defense to update and implement the Department of Defense Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan.
- Installations like Fort Bliss do impressive work on Net Zero energy projects, are experienced in dealing with renewable sources like solar, and even help support external desalination work. But not all bases are created equal when it comes to resilience.
- Following devastation by hurricanes and continued threats from a changing climate, Congresswoman Escobar fought for this year’s NDAA bill to affirm the value of resiliency work done by installations like Fort Bliss and offered an amendment that creates a standardized measure for assessing climate-related risks and pushes the DoD to plan for resiliency in construction and address long-term environmental effects. Our service members should never again have to wait months for recovery after a natural disaster.
- Additive manufacturing holds immense promise for the military – no one knows this better than the talented and innovative team at UTEP’s W.M. Keck Center who already partner with DoD. But our defense leaders can’t realize the full potential of this technology if we haven’t strategically considered all its applications.
- Congresswoman Escobar worked to ensure this year’s NDAA bill includes Congress’ support for the technology and requires that DoD assess and report to Congress on the contributions that this technology can make in theatres of combat.
VETERAN HEALTHCARE AND MILITARY READINESS
- We know that DoD-VA partnerships can provide many benefits. From cost savings on shared facilities expenses to improved medical readiness of practitioners who get experience with a broader patient base, the value is undeniable.
- Congresswoman Escobar made sure this year’s NDAA bill requires DoD to look at the potential benefits of co-locating military treatment facilities in close proximity to veterans’ facilities. The bill mentions El Paso’s William Beaumont Army Medical Center (WBAMC), who is already a pioneer in this important work and will look to re-establish this connection following WBAMC’s recent move across Fort Bliss.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR SMALL BUSINESSES AT FORT BLISS
- Small businesses contribute outsized value to our community. Upon learning that Fort Bliss could lose an on-installation small business representative, Congresswoman Escobar led the charge to learn the Army’s plans and protect our community businesses’ ability to get local procurement advice and compete for Department of Defense contracts.
- Because of the Congresswoman’s leadership, this year’s NDAA bill includes language to require the Army to report to Congress on its strategy to reorganize small business representatives and provide clear metrics for tracking service to communities like ours. El Paso small businesses are the backbone of our economy and deserve the opportunity to serve our military.
PROTECTING OUR MILITARY AGAINST PARTISANSHIP
- Congresswoman Escobar worked with her colleagues to ensure this year’s NDAA bill includes language to protect our military against the Trump administration’s efforts to use national defense funds to construct, replace, or modify a wall at our southern border.
- Military construction projects for Fort Bliss and other military installations across the country should never be put at risk in order to fund partisan pet projects.