Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Vice Chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, voted to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022.
This bipartisan defense legislation strengthens America’s national security and meets the needs of servicemembers, veterans, and military families in El Paso and across the country. This robust legislation includes key provisions introduced and championed by Congresswoman Escobar to modernize our defense technology, combat sexual assault in the military, and bolster pay for servicemembers while also improving their service benefits.
“This year’s NDAA makes bold investments in what makes our nation strong – from our technology and alliances to our brave men and women in uniform,” said Congresswoman Escobar. “As a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the representative of Fort Bliss in Congress, I was proud to have crafted and voted for this legislative milestone that advances justice for survivors of sexual assault, secures a well-deserved pay raise for our troops, addresses the threat of climate change, protects the National Guard from being exploited for political gain, and more.”
Thanks to the leadership of Congresswoman Escobar and her colleagues, the FY22 NDAA:
Improves Quality of Life for Our Servicemembers:
The FY22 NDAA takes several key steps to improve the quality of life for our servicemembers, 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, Congresswoman Escobar’s provision expanding eating disorders treatments for members of the Armed Forces and certain dependents of members and former members of the uniformed services, post-partum care, and requiring DoD to conduct a thorough and independent review of suicide prevention and response programs at various military installations.
Reforms 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 and to honor victims like Pfc. Vanessa Guillen, Congresswoman Escobar championed the incorporation of many of the recommendations made by the Independent Review Commission to the Secretary of Defense on Sexual Assault in the Military. These recommendations include, removing the Commander from decisions related to the prosecution of covered crimes including rape, sexual assault, murder, manslaughter, and kidnapping, criminalizing sexual harassment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), establishing judge-alone sentencing and sentencing parameters 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.
Advances Innovation and Economic Development Opportunities in El Paso:
The final FY22 NDAA language includes a provision 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, Congresswoman Escobar included language expanding outreach done by the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) to include economically disadvantaged communities.
Promotes 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 to benefit institutions like UTEP. Additionally, the 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. She also secured $7.5 million in authorized funding for the Space Force University Partnership, a program UTEP was recently selected to participate in.
Supports Military Child Development Centers:
Congresswoman Escobar successfully included in the FY22 NDAA 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.
Protects National Guard from Being Exploited for Political Gain:
The FY22 NDAA includes a provision authored by Congresswoman Escobar 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.
Invests in Talent Across the Military:
The FY22 NDAA requires independent review from the Services on the recruitment and retention of Latino service members and 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 final report due by July 1, 2022, should also describe what is known about the effect of unauthorized tattoos on recruitment, retention, reenlistment, and servicemembers’ career.
Addresses 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 by enhancing military installation master to address installation resiliency. 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.
Honors Our Commitments to Our Afghan Allies:
The FY22 NDAAA expresses the sense of Congress about the importance of Afghan Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) and honoring our commitments to those Afghan partners, who at great personal risk, supported the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. The legislation requires the Secretary of Defense to provide in-depth reports to Congress providing critical information on U.S. ability to counter terrorism, accountability of military equipment left in the country, and any plans to address American citizens and Afghan allies who remain in the country. It also directs the establishment of a multi-year independent Afghanistan War Commission to examine the U.S. and NATO involvement in Afghanistan. The commission will review key strategic, diplomatic, and operational decisions across the entirety of the U.S. government and develop a series of reports with recommendations and lessons learned regarding the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.
Protects 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 federal e-commerce marketplace.
A comprehensive summary of the provisions in the FY22 NDAA is available here