Congresswoman Escobar Votes for Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act
Washington, DC, December 8, 2022
Today, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Vice-Chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, voted for final passage of H.R. 7776, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023, in the House of Representatives. The bill now goes to the Senate for a vote and will then be sent to the President’s desk for his signature.
“I am so proud of this final package that strengthens our national security, prioritizes our servicemembers, and modernizes key facets of our Armed Forces,” said Congresswoman Escobar. “As a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the sole representative for Fort Bliss in Congress, I’m thrilled to see the investments coming home to our community. The FY23 NDAA will make monumental investments in our colonias, military assets, personnel, and so much more.”
“We are grateful to Congresswoman Escobar’s efforts to help revive an important wastewater assistance program that allows communities to step forward for federal funding and bring more infrastructure to our most vulnerable residents,” El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said. “El Paso County has made robust investments in recent years to connect more of our residents to water and wastewater and so this program is a great vehicle to increase collaboration with the federal government and continue to improve the conditions for people living in our communities.”
“We appreciate the support of Congresswoman Escobar and the House Armed Services Committee to add legislative language that enables projects on land leased from the Department of Defense to be eligible for certain grant assistance,” said Lisa Rosendorf, EPWater’s Chief Communications and Government Affairs Officer. “Locally, this means the Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant and other facilities on land leased from Fort Bliss will have new grant funding opportunities, but beyond that, it will benefit military communities across the country, supporting critical infrastructure projects while also benefitting our national defense.”
“This bill authorizes important funds UTEP requested for the Space University Partnership program that connects 14 universities, including UTEP, with the Space Force. We look forward to increasing research and developing talent for the Space Force and aerospace industry here in El Paso,” said UTEP President Heather Wilson.
Thanks to the leadership of Congresswoman Escobar and her colleagues, the FY23 NDAA:
Improves Quality of Life for our Servicemembers and Their Families
Ensuring our servicemembers are cared for is a top priority for Congresswoman Escobar. Through the NDAA, a 4.6% pay raise was secured for servicemembers and civilians. Additionally, her bill, H.R. 7930, the Military Spouse Entrepreneur Reimbursement Act, which reimburses qualified relicensing and business costs for military spouse entrepreneurs when their servicemembers are required to move posts, was included in the package.
Invests in Infrastructure
Congresswoman Escobar successfully secured $15 million in construction funding for a new firehouse at Fort Bliss. The new station would serve the William Beaumont Army Medical Center area, which currently lacks a dedicated fire station. Additionally, Congresswoman Escobar ensured language was included in the FY23 NDAA that amended the Defense Community Infrastructure Program (DCIP), which authorizes the Department of Defense to award grants to local and state governments for community infrastructure supportive of military installations. Her amendment would allow critical infrastructure assets located on land leased from the Department of Defense, like Kay Bailey Hutchinson Desalination Plant, to be eligible for these funds.
Promotes the U.S. Space Force’s University Partnership Program
Congresswoman Escobar successfully advocated for increased funding for the U.S. Space Force’s University Partnership Program. Having begun in 2021, this program includes several universities, including the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), and encourages these institutions to connect with the Space Force for the purpose of recruiting students, leadership development, research, and sponsoring projects.
Grows Ties Between the Services and UTEP
Cost and culture have often been barriers to entry into the Air Education and Training Command for women and minorities. To keep up with the high demand for qualified aviators, Congresswoman Escobar championed a provision in the NDAA to have the Secretary of the Air Force provide a briefing to the House Committee on Armed Services on how the Air Force can engage with Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) like UTEP on developing innovative programs aimed at recruiting and training future pilots. Additionally, the NDAA includes provisions to continue growing the defense research capacities at MSIs in order to expose students to opportunities at the Department of Defense and bolster the Department’s workforce.
Increases Funding for the Military Munitions Response Program
Congresswoman Escobar secured additional funding for the Military Munitions Response Program (MMRP) at Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS), which addresses the risks of the presence of military munitions. These sites, like Castner Range, have been left uncleaned for decades and this funding will ensure FUDS across the country are cleaned up and the surrounding communities are protected. The Congresswoman also included bill language requiring the Department of Defense to establish a cleanup target goal for the completion of all MMRP sites, such as Castner Range.
Modernizes Our Military to Tackle the Climate Crisis
Congresswoman Escobar drafted language to establish a pilot program for the Department of Defense, in collaboration with the Department of Energy, to use infrastructure such as microgrids at military installations to electrify vehicle fleets and maintain grid resilience. Additionally, she authored language to require the DoD to conduct a study of military housing resilience and energy efficiency to assess compliance with the Unified Facilities Criteria for Housing and with the latest published editions of relevant codes, specifications, and standards that incorporate the latest hazard-resistant and energy-efficient designs and establish minimum acceptable criteria for the design, construction, and maintenance of residential structures.
Increases Funding for Additive Manufacturing in Future Vertical Lift and Low-Cost Missile Technology
Congresswoman Escobar included language to authorize $10 million for the Additive Manufacturing in Future Vertical Lift program and $10 million Low-Cost Missile Technology program. This funding will allow America Makes and the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining to work closely with minority-serving institutions like UTEP to diversify the defense workforce and build up our supply chain.
Prioritizes Civilian Support Personnel
Those who work in service of our country should be paid a livable wage. The FY23 NDAA includes a provision providing inflation bonuses for civilians with incomes under $45k/year and codifies a $15 minimum wage for employees working on federal service and construction contracts.
Provides $500m over 5 years for our Colonias
There has traditionally been little funding set aside solely for the needs of colonias and oftentimes localities have to tackle colonia-specific priorities on their own or compete for funding meant for other types of communities. The FY23 NDAA includes language authored by Congresswoman Escobar which reauthorizes the Wastewater Assistance to Colonias program and includes $500 million in funding over 5 years for the program while lowering the local cost-share for localities. This provision was drawn from Congresswoman Escobar’s bill, H.R. 3238, the Colonia Infrastructure Improvement Act. Additionally, a project was secured to conduct a flood risk management study specific to El Paso County for economically-disadvantaged communities like our colonias.
Promotes Transparency of the DoD’s 1122 Program
Congresswoman Escobar crafted language that would establish and maintain a publicly available website providing up-to-date and comprehensive information on the purchase of equipment through the 1122 DoD program. This program allows states and local governments access to federal sources to purchase equipment for counter-drug, homeland security, and emergency response activities.
A comprehensive summary of the provisions in the FY23 NDAA is available here.