Duckworth Provision to Expand Reproductive Care, Help Servicemembers Start and Grow Families Included in NDAA
Other priorities the Senator secured in Committee-passed NDAA will support a strong and ready Total Force, help restore American competitiveness, strengthen ties in Indo-Pacific and improve logistics to bolster readiness
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] — Combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years and is a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), secured several important provisions in the committee-passed Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that will support our servicemembers, enhance strategic partnerships in the Indo-Pacific, improve logistics to bolster readiness and energy resiliency and continue to restore American competitiveness through increasing access to top talent and cutting-edge technology. Among her top priorities included by the committee is a provision that will expand TRICARE—the main healthcare program for uniformed servicemembers—coverage of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) services for servicemembers and their dependents. SASC passed this NDAA that also includes a 5.2% pay raise for our troops this week on a bipartisan basis, and it will now be considered by the full U.S. Senate. The NDAA authorizes funding for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), sets our nation’s defense policy and ensures that our servicemembers have the tools they need to defend our nation.
On her provision to expand ART, Duckworth said: “Even before I was wounded, I had made the difficult decision to delay building a family because I knew getting pregnant would impact my ability to be an Army aviator—and to advance in the career I loved. Because of ART—and my access to reproductive healthcare through the VA—I’m now a mom to two beautiful girls. The reality is that members of the uniformed services face unique challenges when trying to start or build a family, and studies show that servicemembers and Veterans have higher rates of infertility compared to the general population. Right now, DoD’s extremely restrictive policy on providing coverage for ART for servicemembers who may need some extra help in building a family is woefully behind much of the country, which is why I’m so proud my colleagues joined me to expand access to ART and help more of our uniformed servicemembers start the families they’ve dreamed of.”
On her other wins in the broader NDAA package, Duckworth said: “The brave men and women in uniform who serve our nation at home and abroad deserve to know that our country fully supports them as they and their families sacrifice to defend our country and our Constitution. Though I do not support every provision in this bipartisan compromise, I’m proud that bill we sent to the full Senate includes a well-deserved pay raise for our troops and several of my provisions to support our servicemembers, improve military readiness, enhance strategic partnerships and strengthen our national security. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to continue improving the NDAA and ensure Congress passes a strong bill that lets our troops know we have their backs.”
Additional key Duckworth provisions included in this year’s Committee-passed NDAA would:
Support a Strong and Ready Total Force by:
- Expanding Equitable Access to Infertility Treatments through language requiring TRICARE to cover Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) services—excluding IVF—for male and female members of the uniformed services and their dependents, without regard to coital conception.
- Compensating Reservists for their Skills by amending the requirement for DoD to pay reservists incentive and special duty pays at the same rate as their active-duty counterparts to allow the Department of Defense to pay out specific, individual incentive pays that are intended to compensate servicemembers for having a specific skill or taking on a hazardous duty, allowing for better implementation of the program.
- Paying Reservists for Maintaining their Proficiency by requiring that Reserve Component servicemembers be paid for flight hours they have to fly to maintain their proficiency.
- Supporting Community Schools and Kids by authorizing an additional $80 million for school districts to receive critical Impact Aid from the DoD, rectifying state and local tax base funding shortfalls due to the presence of federal property in their district, along with bill text recalculating eligibility requirements and requiring the DoD to report to the Congress about how to best support local schools.
- Adding Flexibility for Aiding Military Families in Need by expanding the Secretary of Defense’s discretionary ability to waive consideration of Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) as income when determining eligibility for the Basic Needs Allowance, a program to provide additional resources for military families with a gross household income below 150% of the federal poverty line.
- Ensuring Recognition of Underrepresented Veterans by extending time to review World War I valor medals from six years to eight years in response to significant review delays by the Task Force. This review was originally authorized in the FY2020 NDAA to make sure that minority Veterans are recognized equitably.
- Helping improve servicemember retention rates by addressing the military services’ inconsistent and ineffective use of exit surveys, which prevents them from gathering important data about the reasons why servicemembers choose to leave the military. This data could help DoD improve retention efforts.
- Supporting Critical Medical Training for Guardsmen with language highlighting the importance of, and encouraging the continued support of, critical care, public health and other medical training furthered by the National Guard and the State Partnership Program.
- Enabling Lifesaving Helicopter Missions by encouraging the Army to prioritize airworthiness certification of rescue hoist technologies already in use by other services, which improve medical evacuation and rescue operations of Blackhawk helicopters.
Lead in the Indo-Pacific Region by:
- Better Training Our Partners in Southeast Asia. Duckworth’s Southeast Asia Partnership Expansion Act is included in this NDAA to help expand and fund critical training opportunities to build interoperability with our Southeast Asian partners, improving our cooperation on cybersecurity.
- Duckworth said of the bill: “By working more closely with our partners across Southeast Asia, we can continue to bolster our cyber capabilities and interoperability and help these key partners better protect against cyber-attacks. I’m proud this was included in the bill and will build on the success of the pilot program I wrote into a previous NDAA—helping enhance our mutual cyber security, resilience and readiness.”
- Promoting Advanced Manufacturing in the Indo-Pacific with language directing the Department of Defense to report on opportunities to bolster maintenance readiness by deploying advanced and additive manufacturing capabilities across the Indo-Pacific region.
Build the Logistics Enterprise for a Combat-Credible Deterrent by:
- Improving Energy Security for Our Troops Overseas and Partner Militaries. Duckworth’s Energy Security for Overseas Troops Act is included in this NDAA to create a DoD program for collaboration between U.S. forces and partner militaries to implement new operational energy solutions that improve energy resilience and reduce reliance on fossil fuels, critical for militaries operating on islands or in remote locations in the Indo-Pacific region.
- Duckworth said of the bill: “Through working with our allies and partners across the globe, we can find innovative solutions to bolster our overseas operational energy capabilities in contested environments and help ensure the men and women in uniform are not put at risk because of energy supply chain issues. I’m proud this was included in the bill to help improve military readiness, enhance the safety of our troops and increase energy resilience.”
- Charting a Sustainable Future for C-40 Aircraft by recognizing the Air Force’s decision to retain C-40 aircraft—like those flown by the 932nd Airlift Wing at Scott Air Force Base—in the coming fiscal years and requiring the Air Force to provide Congress with its plan for the long-term future of the aircraft.
- Bolstering the Army’s Railroad Network with language directing Army Materiel Command to provide a briefing on progress towards recommendations from a 2021 GAO report to improve the Army’s rail operations capability and capacity in order to meet current demand requirements and any large-scale mobilization efforts.
- Improving Vital Refueling Capabilities and recognizing the importance of the MQ-25, the Navy’s first unmanned platform dedicated to its air wings that will extend the strike radius of F/A-18 Super Hornets or F-35Cs to beyond 1000nm and urging rapid incorporation of all components of the developing program.
- Promoting New Aircraft Maintenance Technology by encouraging the adoption of new, advanced technologies to tackle corrosion and airframe defects in a more effective way.
- Improving Maintenance Through Virtual Reality by encouraging the U.S. Air Force to explore virtual reality and other new methods of delivering necessary training to servicemembers in an immersive, effective, rapid and cost-effective way.
Tackle Climate Change and Defend the Environment by:
- Ensuring the Military Effectively Uses Sustainable Aviation Fuel with language updating the definition of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in a pilot program encouraging adoption of SAF to help ensure the military uses the most advanced, effective fuel to significantly cut emissions.
- Reducing DoD Consumption of Single-Use Plastics with an increased investment of $6 million in a proven DoD program that evaluates sustainable products for military use and language recognizing the program’s importance for accelerating the DoD’s shift away from harmful, single-use plastics and adoption of more sustainable products.
- Building Resiliency and Protecting the Environment with language encouraging the DoD to consider the full lifecycle cost and resilience benefits of ground source thermal heat pumps to efficiently heat and cool buildings while reducing fossil fuel use.
Restore American Competitiveness by:
- Leveraging Servicemember Artificial Intelligence Skills Effectively. This provision is a modified version of Duckworth’s Managing Active and Reserve Tech Talent Effectively Act that directs the services to review talent management mechanisms for various AI-related occupational skills and require the services to integrate these processes and policies into current personnel systems to better leverage these members. The legislation addresses allowing Reserve Component members to use their civilian experiences and training to qualify for such designations, giving the DoD access to some of the most cutting-edge talent.
- Duckworth said of the bill: “To ensure our national security and military readiness is as strong as it can be, we cannot risk overlooking the computer programming, artificial intelligence and other advanced technological talent of our servicemembers—particularly those members of the Reserve Component who have tech and digital skills from their civilian careers. I’m proud my bill to help the Department of Defense better understand, manage and grow our technological workforce in the military was included in the NDAA so we can make sure our military remains ready for the next fight.”
- Accelerating Modernization of the Organic Industrial Base with report language encouraging the adoption of a Digital Manufacturing Modernization Accelerator to facilitate expert support to the organic industrial base as critical DoD suppliers modernize their systems and processes to improve efficiency and security of manufacturing for our military.
- Enhancing U.S. Army Helicopter Pilots’ Situational Awareness through increased investment to develop and evaluate a modular, open systems architecture binocular helmet-mounted display system to provide a synthetic vision capability, critical to AH-64E Apache helicopter missions in all weather conditions.
- Leading Advances in High Performance Computing through increased investment in DoD’s High Performance Computing Modernization Program that would provide the Department with advanced simulation and computing services to help reduce the cost of designing, prototyping and testing weapon systems from strategic to directed energy to hypersonics.
- Advancing U.S. Supercomputing Power with an increased investment of $10 million and language encouraging the Department of Energy to continue the advancement of exascale computing efforts of a quintillion operations a second, important for maintaining the U.S.’s supercomputing edge.
- Championing Workforce Development by encouraging the Department of Defense to strengthen relationships with educational institutions and industry partners to expand the advanced and additive manufacturing workforce.
- Maintaining U.S. Manufacturing Capacity by directing the Department of Defense to assess the capacity of domestic worsted wool, woven cotton and uniform footwear industries to ensure industrial capacity and servicemember safety.
- Actively Protecting Servicemembers by directing the Service Secretaries to explain current efforts to field active protection systems for low-flying aircraft to counter enemy air defense systems and better protect servicemember lives.
- Safeguarding Satellite Communications by supporting ongoing work by the Space Force virtualizing waveforms to increase flexibility, responsiveness and resiliency in military and commercial satellite communication operations.
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