Defense and Military
The issues of Defense and the Military are important to our district and to my work in Congress.
We need to support our troops with sufficient funding so that they have access to adequate equipment and receive necessary training.
I believe that the best way to protect our troops is to bring them home. My votes for strict timelines for withdrawal from Iraq corresponded with the hundreds of responses I heard from people in the 9th Congressional District.
The National Guard has been stretched too thin by extended tours overseas. Their primary function is to respond to emergencies within the United States. I believe they should be readily available to respond when needed during catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina.
Some of the Defense-related bills I am sponsoring or co-sponsoring in the 112th Congress are:
H.R.1046, the Honor the Written Intent of our Soldier Heroes Act (Honor the WISH Act), which would allow our servicemembers to designate any person to direct disposition of their remains, was included in House-passed version of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. Currently, our servicemembers are limited to designating spouses and blood relatives. With the complexities of families today, I believe a servicemember who is willing to sacrifice their life should be trusted with the decision of who can oversee something as simple, meaningful, and final as making their funeral arrangements.
I am proud to be the sponsor of H.R.2192, the National Guard and Reservist Debt Relief Extension Act of 2011, which would exempt from the application of the means-test presumption of abuse qualifying members of reserve components of the Armed Forces and members of the National Guard who, after September 11, 2001, are called to active duty or to perform a homeland defense activity for not less than 90 days.
I am a cosponsor of H.R.780, the Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan Act, which states that it is the policy of the United States to ensure that funds made available for operations of the Armed Forces in Afghanistan are to be used only for providing for the safe and orderly withdrawal of all U.S. military personnel and Department of Defense (DOD) contractor personnel in Afghanistan.
I am a cosponsor of H.R.1297, the Ensuring Pay for our Military Act of 2011, which would require the Secretary of the Treasury, during a federal funding gap impacting the Armed Forces, to transfer to the Secretary of Defense (DOD), and the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) in the case of the Coast Guard, amounts necessary to continue to provide pay and allowances to members of the Armed Forces, including the reserves, who perform active service during the funding gap.
In the 111th Congress:
H.R. 707 , the Home Front to Heroes Postal Benefit Act, which would provide for a program under which postal benefit vouchers are provided for members of the Armed Forces who are serving in overseas operations or who are hospitalized due to a disease or injury incurred as a result of such service.
H.R. 775 , the Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act, to repeal the requirement for reduction of survivor annuities under the Survivor Benefit Plan to offset the receipt of veterans dependency and indemnity compensation.
H.R. 1681, Veterans Transitional Assistance Act of 2009, which would ease the transition for our wounded warriors by providing them assistance in applying for VA benefits.
H.R. 2456, Veterans Education Tuition Support Act of 2009, which would forgive student loans and waive any fees incurred by a student-soldier who must drop out of school for military service.
Additionally, I voted in favor of:
- H.R. 5136 - The National Defense Authorization Act of FY 2011
- H.R. 2647 - The National Defense Authorization Act of FY 2010
In the 110th Congress:
I supported S. 3001 (Public Law No: 110-417), the FY 2009 Defense Authorization, representing a House-Senate agreement on the bill. Some of the key provisions are:
- National Guard and Reserve equipment— $800 million
- Equipment Reset— $8.6 billion for Army and $1.8 billion for Marine Corps
- Increasing Capabilities in Afghanistan
- Requires a report on the command and control structure for military forces operating in Afghanistan
- Requires reporting on enhancing security and stability in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region
Improving Inter-Agency Coordination
- Establishes an advisory panel on ways to improve coordination among DOD, State and USAID on matters relating to national security
Our Service Members and Their Families
- A pay raise of 3.9%, an increase of 0.5% above the budget request.
- Prohibits increased premiums and co-pays for TRICARE recipients and increased user fees for the TRICARE retail pharmacy program.
- Increases the size of the Army by 7,000, the Marine Corps by 5,000, the Navy by 1,023 and the Air Force by 450 above the requested levels.
- Authorizes $3.2 billion to expand quality family housing
- Encourages the use of preventive care services by TRICARE beneficiaries.
- Establishes a task force on suicide prevention
- Provides tuition assistance and training opportunities for military spouses
- $35 million for Impact Aid to help local educational agencies supporting our military children
- Authorizes a pilot program to allow a service member to be released from active duty for a maximum of three years to focus on professional goals outside of the military.
- Permanently prohibits service members from being charged for meals at military treatment facilities
- Authorizes ten days paternity leave
- Expands the phased-in annuity authorized in the FY08 NDAA to surviving spouses of members who die while serving on active duty.
General Contractor Oversight
Contains several provisions aimed at increasing oversight of contractors both at home and overseas. These include:
- The Clean Contracting Act of 2008, to promote competition in federal contracting;
- Creation of Configuration Steering Boards for major acquisition programs;
- A study on the use of off-shore subsidiaries by DOD contractors; and
- A database of information on contractors who violate the law.
Protecting Our Service Members
- Authorizes $1.7 billion for MRAP vehicles for our troops overseas.
- Directs additional research and development of unexploded ordnance detection technologies
- Adds authority for DOD to conduct proper oversight and survivability testing of personnel protective equipment
- Prohibits any funds for training and support of the Iraqi Security Forces from being used on infrastructure
- Authorizes the hire of recipients of special visas granted to Iraqi translators who worked for U.S. forces in Iraq.
- Requires a strategy to establish measures of PRT effectiveness and performance
- Prohibits the use of funds to establish permanent bases in Iraq and prohibits U.S. control of Iraqi oil revenues.
The FY 2009 Defense Appropriations (as part of H.R. 2638, a consolidated appropriations bill), fundedthe provisions that were authorized in the FY 2009 Defense Authorization, which is outlined above.
I voted for H.R. 4986 (Public Law No: 110-181), the 2008 Defense Authorization Act, which addresses many of the needs of our military that have gone unmet, including:
- A 3.5% pay increase for service members
- Prohibiting increases in TRICARE and pharmacy user fees
- An additional $980 million for National Guard and Reserve equipment
- Creating the Wounded Warrior Resource Center to give service members and their families a single point of contact to address their health care and benefits issues
- Requiring a comprehensive policy to address traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Authorizes $18.4 billion to fully address the Army’s stated equipment reset requirements and $8.6 billion to address the reset needs of the Marine Corps
- Authorizes 13,000 new soldiers in the Army and 9,000 new Marines
The FY 2008 Defense Appropriations, H.R. 3222 , provided the funding for the military needs that were included in the 2008 Defense Authorization Act.
The Wounded Warriors Act, H.R. 1538 , which responds to the Walter Reed scandal by improving the care of injured soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, was incorporated into H.R. 4986, FY 2008 Defense Authorization, which the President signed on January 28, 2008 (PL 110-181).
I co-sponsored a bill to provide tax relief for military families and veterans. H.R. 6081 (PL 110-245), the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act (HEART Act), provides $1.2 billion in targeted tax breaks to military personnel and their families, including tax relief under the Earned Income Tax Credit, clarifies the availability of recovery rebates for military families, and expands homeownership opportunities for veterans.
I supported H.R. 3625 (PL 110-93), HEROS Act, which makes permanent the Secretary of Education’s authority to provide U.S. troops called to active duty with higher education relief, including providing them more leeway on repaying their student loans, by voice vote.
I co-sponsored the House version of the National Guard and Reservists Debt Relief Act, S. 3197 (PL: 110-438), which makes it easier for members of the National Guard and Reserves called up for active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, who are often required to leave their job behind at a moment’s notice, to file for bankruptcy, by exempting them from the means test requirements of the 2005 Bankruptcy Law.