Congresswoman also championed provisions to protect military children from discrimination and to improve oversight and accountability in the world’s most expensive weapons system
Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–April 29, 2016. This week, Iraq War Veteran and House Armed Services Committee Member Tammy Duckworth (IL-08) voted to support the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets our nation’s defense policy and ensures that our Servicemembers have the tools they need to defend our nation. The legislation, which passed the Armed Services Committee and will now be considered by the full U.S. House of Representatives, includes several provisions authored and championed by Congresswoman Duckworth to improve servicemember quality of life, reduce government waste and promote job creation at Illinois’ Rock Island Arsenal and around the nation.
“As legislators, we owe the men and women we send into danger overseas the certainty and confidence that our country stands behind them as they engage our enemies on our behalf. Now is not the time to risk delaying critical pay raises and disrupting development of urgently needed weapons systems, and it was important for the House Armed Services Committee I serve on to pass an NDAA to provide American troops deployed across the globe with authorities, funding and tools needed to defend our nation.”
“While I will always support our Armed Forces, I did not cast my vote in favor of the NDAA lightly. I am extremely disappointed the current version relies on a budget gimmick that midway through the year risks funding for overseas operations like counter-terrorism and our response to Russian and Chinese aggression. These sorts of stunts mislead the American people, undermine our nation’s ability to implement long-term defense strategies effectively and put our troops in an uncertain and unfair position.”
“While I look forward to working in the full House to fix this NDAA’s deep flaws, I am proud several of my provisions to save taxpayer dollars by cutting waste, protect servicemembers and help create jobs at Illinois’ Rock Island Arsenal were included. Moving forward, I remain committed to enhancing accountability in our budget process and working in a bipartisan fashion with my colleagues to craft a final NDAA that meets key priorities, makes needed reforms and uses a rational budgeting approach that doesn’t place our military at risk of drastic cuts.”
Congresswoman Duckworth submitted a total of 21 servicemember quality of life, waste reduction and job creation proposals to the Armed Services Committee, 15 of which were included in the version of the FY17 NDAA that passed yesterday. They include provisions to:
- Protect Illinois jobs at the Rock Island Army Arsenal and in American manufacturing by building upon her efforts last year to ensure Rock Island Army Arsenal retains its manufacturing capabilities in the future. The committee adopted an amendment she offered that required the Department of Defense (DoD) to reduce its over-reliance on foreign manufacturing and shift work to Rock Island and other arsenals. Her efforts will also improve Rock Island’s flexibility so it can compete for additional work with the private sector.
- Reduce the costs of helicopter pilot medical expenses.As a former Army UH-60 Black Hawk pilot, Congresswoman Duckworth is familiar with the acute and chronic injuries that helicopter pilots suffer. The DoD estimates treating these injuries costs the government upwards of $250 million annually. The FY17 NDAA includes language authored by the Congresswoman requiring the DoD to study this issue and implement cost-effective solutions to improve pilots’ long-term health.
- Improve helicopter safety and crashworthiness.Having survived her Black Hawk being shot down over Iraq in 2004, Congresswoman Duckworth has championed aviation safety and survivability efforts. The committee-passed NDAA includes Duckworth language requiring the DoD to study technologies that could prevent and mitigate helicopter crashes in an effort to improve the safety and reliability of its helicopter fleet.
- Save taxpayer money on military construction projects.Duckworth’s commonsense proposal to remove restrictions that encouraged costly new construction projects over more cost effective conversions and repairs was included in this NDAA version. These unnecessary new construction projects cost the government almost $345 million each year.
- Keep our military facilities and operations safe from unmanned drones.The increasing popularity of drones could pose a risk to military facilities and operations, so Congresswoman Duckworth pushed for language in the NDAA that will help the DoD identify and integrate proven Unmanned Aerial Systems (drone) detection and mitigation technology.
- Help update Illinois National Guard helicopters.Congresswoman Duckworth sought additional funds, included in this NDAA, to purchase additional UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters for the Army. This could help update the Illinois National Guard fleet, which currently consists of some of the military’s oldest helicopters, and ensure our troops have the best equipment available and retain a high state of readiness.
In addition to having several of her provisions included in the committee-passed FY17 NDAA, Congresswoman Duckworth also garnered significant support for two provisions she has championed:
- Provide All New Military Children Equal Opportunities to Bond with their Parents
Congresswoman Duckworth offered an amendment to modernize, simplify and expand Department of Defense parental leave policies that unintentionally discriminate against adopted and foster children and children of same-sex couples. These children currently do not receive the same opportunities to bond with their new parents as other dependents because of confusing and disparate parental leave policies for new mothers, new fathers, adoptive and same-sex parents. The Congresswoman has also introduced legislation, the Military Parental Leave Modernization Act, to address this issue:
“I applaud Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s recognition that a modern military demands a modern benefits package to continue recruiting and retaining the world’s finest troops, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to help our Armed Forces better compete for talent,” said Congresswoman Duckworth when she introduced her bill in the House. “Our military readiness also depends on the strong and resilient families that make up its backbone—families that deserve a 21st century parental leave policy that allows them the time they need to bond with their new children. I hope Congress will step up and pass my Military Parental Leave Modernization Act to secure the rights and protections that all new parents, both in and out of uniform, deserve—doing so will only make our military stronger and more competitive.”
- Increase Accountability and Oversight of the World’s Most Expensive Weapons System
Congresswoman Duckworth offered an amendment that would have placed the F-35’s Block 4 modernization program into a more transparent acquisition process known as “major acquisition defense project,” as recommended by Congress’ independent and non-partisan watchdog, the U.S. Government Accountability Office. This good government amendment would have increased oversight of the world’s most expensive weapons system, preventing waste and delays, while pushing the DoD to adhere to best-business practices.