Duckworth Statement on Senate Passage of National Defense Authorization Act
[WASHINGTON, DC] – Combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) issued the following statement after the Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This bipartisan legislation would increase pay for our servicemembers and their families, improve the way our Armed Forces address domestic violence and authorize the purchase of new naval ships, aviation assets, armored vehicles and 5th generation fighter aircraft that allow us to defend our interests, support our allies and project our power.
“The brave men and women of our Armed Forces are willing to put their lives in danger to defend our country and our constitution. They deserve to know that our country is behind them, and this legislation is an expression of that commitment,” said Senator Duckworth. “In order to ensure our war-fighters are prepared to contend with the full range of threats we face, this NDAA makes critical investments in our personal equipment and modernization programs and makes important down-payments on our greatest assets: servicemembers, their loved ones and Gold Star Families. The Senate’s passage of this legislation is a positive step and I appreciate the hard work of my colleagues to make this happen.”
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. Senator Duckworth also filed several amendments to the NDAA that would have expanded partnerships between DOD and Illinois facilities, required DOD to help servicemembers apply for citizenship and begin tracking how many Veterans are deported, required more transparency about military activities around the world, and prevented Donald Trump from making a rash decision about troop reductions on the Korean Peninsula that would negatively impact our national security.
“Moving forward, I will continue to fight for every person who is willing to put their life on the line in service to this great nation,” added Senator Duckworth. “I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to improve servicemembers’ transitions to civilian life, increase access to counseling and treatment for servicemembers struggling with opioid addiction, prevent military families from going hungry and ensure that DOD partners in Illinois continue to play a vital role in advancing our national security.”
More information on Duckworth’s amendments is available below:
• Improve Durability of Roads & Runways Utilizing Technology Developed at Illinois’s Fermilab. Duckworth’s amendment would have authorized the Secretary of the Army to award funding through a pilot program to advance new technology being developed at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, to improve the durability of military roads and runways against weather, temperature changes and aging and significantly reduce maintenance costs.
• Expand Partnership Between DOD & UI Labs-DMDII in Chicago. Duckworth’s amendment would have expanded existing partnerships between DOD and its manufacturing institutes like the UI Labs—Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) in Chicago, which produces innovative research and develops advanced manufacturing techniques to help maintain our military and economic advantage.
• Help Address the Need for STEM(MM) Jobs at Rock Island Arsenal. Duckworth’s amendment, which she also offered last year, would have helped the Rock Island’s Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center by requiring the Secretary of Defense perform an assessment of the science, technology, engineering, mathematics, maintenance and manufacturing, known as STEM(MM), workforce at arsenals, depots and ammunition plants, including the numbers and types of positions and expectations of loss due to retirements and voluntary departures. The amendment would also require DOD to identify what type of STEM(MM) jobs are needed to support future missions and develop a plan to address the upcoming needs.
• Require DOD to Help Servicemembers Become Citizens, Begin Tracking How Many Veterans Are Deported. Following the deportation earlier this year of Miguel Perez, a Veteran and long-time Chicago resident, Senator Duckworth filed an amendment that would have required the Secretary of Defense to examine the feasibility of tracking how many Veterans have been deported – something the government does not currently do – as well as how many spouses of servicemembers and Veterans have been deported. Duckworth’s amendment also builds upon two previously introduced pieces of legislation, the Immigrant Veterans Eligibility Tracking System Act and the Naturalization at Training Sites Act, which would “fast track” the applications of Veterans and servicemembers who are applying for naturalization and establish naturalization offices at each initial military training site to help immigrant servicemembers become American citizens.
• Prevent Donald Trump from Withdrawing U.S. Troops from South Korea. Since Donald Trump has suggested he is considering withdrawing U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula – which would be a significant victory for Kim Jong Un – Duckworth and U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced an amendment that would have prevented the President from making a rash decision about troop reductions unless the Secretary of Defense certifies it is in our national security interest and would not significantly undermine the security of our allies in the region.
• Require DOD to Disclose Activities in Countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Niger and Somalia. Duckworth’s amendment would have required the Secretary of Defense to publish a report on DOD’s missions, operations and activities in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Somalia, The Philippines and Yemen in order to be more transparent with the American people. Last fall, when 4 American Special Forces servicemembers were killed during an ambush in Niger, it was the first time much of the American public learned that American troops were operating in the country.
• Provide Counseling + Treatment for Opioid Addiction & Substance Abuse to Servicemembers Transitioning out of the Military. When a Servicemember is transitioning out of the military, DOD provides one final medical exam, which they may use to refer a patient for follow-up medical care. Duckworth’s amendment would have added counseling and treatment for opioid addiction and substance use disorders to the list of medical conditions – like PTSD – for which DOD can refer patients to receive care. Health providers would also provide alternatives to opioids to treat chronic pain management.
• Help Ensure that No Servicemember or Military Family Goes Hungry. This amendment would have built upon the bipartisan Military Hunger Prevention Act, which Senator Duckworth introduced earlier this year with Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Tom Udall (D-NM) and would fix a quirk in federal law in how servicemember’s Basic Allowance for Housing impacts federal food assistance income thresholds. Current federal law prevents many low-income servicemembers who live in areas with high costs of living from participating in federal food assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), forcing them to instead rely on food pantries and food banks for emergency food assistance when the nation they are serving owes them much more.
• Help Entrepreneurs Grow Their Small Businesses. Duckworth’s amendment would have helped current and aspiring entrepreneurs grow their small businesses by providing them with consulting and training as well as grants, loans, export assistance and subcontracting opportunities through the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDC). The amendment will also require an annual report on the SBDC’s activities and also allow SBDCs to collect income from partnerships with other businesses.
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