Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16), member of the House Armed Services Committee, voted for H.R. 4350, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022. This bipartisan legislation honors our values, supports servicemembers and their families in El Paso and across the world, strengthens our security, and advances our leadership in the world.
The legislation authorizes $768 billion in discretionary spending for national defense for FY22, while making significant quality of life improvements for servicemembers and their families and making key investments in innovation and emerging technologies.
“The FY22 NDAA leans forward and makes historic investments in our defense, resilience, innovation, and provides vital quality of life improvements for our servicemembers and their families, said Congresswoman Escobar. “As member of the House Armed Services Committee, I am immensely proud to have worked to craft and support legislation that secures big wins for Fort Bliss and El Paso and fulfills Congress’ obligation to provide for the common and future defense of our nation.”
Below is an overview of the major FY22 NDAA provisions authored and championed by Congresswoman Escobar:
Improve Quality of Life for Our Servicemembers:
The FY22 NDAA takes several key steps to improve the quality of life for our service men and women, including authorizing support for a 2.7 percent pay increase and increasing the allowable parental leave for primary and secondary caregivers in military families. In addition, it includes improvements in military health care, including easier access to mental health appointments at military medical treatment facilities and clinics, expanding eating disorders treatments for members of the Armed Forces and certain dependents of members and former members of the uniformed services, and requireing DoD to conduct a thorough and independent review of suicide prevention and response programs at various military installations.
Honor Our Heroes:
The legislation includes a provision authored by Congresswoman Escobar to authorize President Joe Biden to posthumously award Private Marcelino Serna, El Paso native and the most decorated WWI soldier from Texas, the Congressional Medal of Honor. Additionally, it directs DoD to report to the House Committee on Armed Services on the status of Medal of Honor reviews for veterans who participated in World War I – particularly for veterans of African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, and Jewish American descent.
Advance Innovation and Economic Development Opportunities in El Paso:
The legislation includes a language authored by Congresswoman Escobar to promote innovation and emerging technologies in our military while supporting communities like El Paso. Her efforts include authorizing the DRIVE AM program at $5 million. This program is one that universities like the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) would benefit from and use to train veterans, servicemembers, and others in additive manufacturing. Additionally, she included language expanding the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) to include economically disadvantaged communities.
Promote Research and STEM Education in El Paso:
Congresswoman Escobar championed a provision to require a plan for the creation of a Minority Institute for Defense Research and require the head of each agency that awards contracts to the Department of Defense Federally Funded Research and Development Centers or to University Affiliated Research Centers to include a requirement to subcontract with Minority Institutions like UTEP for at least 5 percent of the contract award to develop those Minority Institutions’ capacity to address DoD’s research and development needs.
Additionally, FY22 NDAA includes major changes to the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education program, which awards scholarships to college sophomores looking to do research degrees in STEM fields. The changes include awarding research internships to students and prioritizing students from minority serving institutions (MSI) and community colleges for research internship opportunities and scholarships.
Support Military Child Development Centers:
The FY22 NDAA includes funding for Military Child Development Centers (CDC) to help servicemembers and their families have access to affordable and high-quality childcare. The funding would also help renovate many CDC facilities that are in “poor” or “failing” conditions and construct newer ones to help servicemembers who are in immediate need for childcare. Additionally, expands the in-home childcare pilot program, providing financial assistance for in-home childcare.
Reform the UCMJ In Order to Better Combat Sexual Assault in the Military:
To protect those who bravely put their lives on the line for our country, Congresswoman Escobar championed the incorporation of many of the recommendations made by the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military to the Secretary of Defense, including provisions on independent investigations of sexual assault and harassment and reforming the military criminal investigative organizations, to further protect servicemembers.
These recommendations include, criminalizing sexual harassment and violent extremism under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), establishing judge-alone sentencing and sentencing parameters (guidelines) to increase fairness across the system, and increasing the notification for Survivors of Sexual Assault by directing the Services to notify survivors of sexual assault about the outcomes of any administrative action taken against their perpetrator.
In addition, Congresswoman Escobar fought to include provisions to improve reporting requirements on demographics of offenses in the Military Justice System and establish a clearinghouse of evidence-based practices to prevent sexual assault and harassment, suicide, and other harmful behaviors under DoD.
Protect National Guard from Being Exploited for Political Gain:
Congresswoman Escobar successfully included in the FY22 NDAA a provision to prohibit the deployment of a State’s National Guard forces in another State, federal district, or U.S. territory if paid for with private funds – unless such duty is in response to a major disaster or emergency under section 401 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. Additionally, for the first time in history, the FY22 NDAA extends the authorities over the National Guard of the District of Columbia to the Mayor of the District of Columbia in the same manner as the governor of a state.
Provide Access to Contraception for Servicemembers:
Congresswoman Escobar secured a provision to improve reproductive care for servicemembers. This provision would ensure that everyone enrolled in TRICARE has coverage of contraceptives and care without cost-sharing for one year. This provision eliminates harmful roadblocks to contraceptive care, including copays for non-Active Duty servicemembers and military family dependents. Prior to the ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirement, women spent between 30% and 44% of their out-of-pocket health costs on contraception alone. Congresswoman Escobar believes that no servicemember or military family member should be forced to pay out of pocket for basic preventive care, including contraception, that their civilian counterparts do not pay.
Address the Climate Crisis:
The FY22 NDAA includes provisions authored by Congresswoman Escobar to direct DoD to reduce flood risk, damage, and disruption to military facilities, enhance military installation master plans by requiring DoD to address installation resilience, increases the frequency at which the plans must be developed, and ensures reporting on ongoing coordination with public or private entities.
Additionally, FY22 NDAA includes a provision by Congresswoman Escobar to direct the DoD Climate Working group to design technical specifications for the assessment and mitigation of risk to supply chains from extreme weather and changes in environmental conditions.
Invest in Talent Across the Military:
The legislation updates outdated diversity training requirements to ensure training includes programming to reduce discrimination and bias based on race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identify, among other items.
Additionally, it includes language authored by Congresswoman Escobar to directing GAO to examine policies on servicemembers’ tattoos, including the process and waivers used for recruiting or retaining servicemembers who have unauthorized tattoos. The report should also describe what is known about the effect of unauthorized tattoos on recruitment, retention, reenlistment, and servicemembers’ careers.
Protect Small Businesses and Competition in Federal Acquisition:
Congresswoman Escobar included a provision in the FY22 NDAA to expand a General Service Administration (GSA) e-commerce pilot program that enables federal agencies to access procurement opportunities. This provision would ultimately allow small businesses to participate in the program’s e-commerce portal and compete in this process, without being pushed out due to limited competition and unfair practices in the e-commerce marketplace. Additionally, the legislation raises the required percentage of domestic content for acquisitions covered by the Buy American Act and requires certain contractors to submit annual reports regarding diversity and inclusion within their workforce.
Honors Our Commitments to Our Afghan Allies:
The legislation authorizes $500 million for DoD relocation support to SIVs and at-risk Afghans and requires the Secretary of Defense to provide in-depth reports and briefings to Congress, providing critical information on the U.S. ability to counter terrorism in Afghanistan, accountability on the military equipment left in the country, and the plan to rescue American citizens and Afghan allies who remain in the country – including vulnerable women and girls – ensuring transparency and ongoing oversight of the security situation in Afghanistan.
Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic:
Congresswoman Escobar successfully included in the FY22 NDAA a provision to direct DoD to study the incorporation of antimicrobial and antiviral technology in the manufacturing of DoD-issued clothing and individual equipment to reduce the threat of transmission of infectious diseases among personnel in training and deployment due to the ongoing worldwide pandemic.