Senate Passes Duckworth’s Defense Bill Provisions to Protect Servicemembers & Support Illinois Jobs
After powerful Duckworth speech Tuesday, Senate set to vote tomorrow on preventing war with Iran
[WASHINGTON, DC] – Combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a Purple Heart recipient and one of the first handful of Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom, highlighted several key priorities she authored and successfully included in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that passed the U.S. Senate today. This year’s NDAA, which also includes a well-deserved 3.1% pay raise for our troops, 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. Duckworth’s priorities included in the Senate-passed version of the FY2020 NDAA include provisions to protect servicemembers from toxic chemicals, prevent hunger in the military, support Illinois jobs and promote accountability at DOD.
“The brave men and women in uniform who are deployed across the globe deserve to know that our country stands behind them as they risk their lives to defend our country and our Constitution,” Duckworth said. “While I do not support every part of this legislation, I’m proud that several of my provisions were included to support jobs at both the Rock Island Arsenal and Scott Air Force Base, enhance accountability at the Department of Defense and expand Congress’ role in use of force decisions. By passing this bipartisan NDAA—and by finally ensuring a debate and a vote to prevent a misguided war with Iran—the Senate is sending a message that we have our troops’ backs, and I’m proud to have worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance this important legislation.”
Duckworth is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and an Iraq War Veteran who served in the Reserved Forces for 23 years before retiring from military service in 2014 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. She served on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) during her four years in the U.S. House of Representatives, where she authored numerous provisions aimed at improving servicemember quality of life, reducing government waste and promoting job creation. Last year, Duckworth also authored several amendments that were included in the FY2019 NDAA to prevent low-income servicemembers from going hungry, make it easier for Illinois’s small businesses to secure DOD contracts, make the federal contracting process more efficient and further secure the Rock Island Arsenal’s future.
Key Duckworth provisions included in this year’s NDAA would:
- Help protect servicemembers from lead poisoning and ensure the DOD is complying with federal standards in military housing. With recent reports indicating that DOD’s compliance with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standards on lead-based paint may not be consistent, this Duckworth-authored provision in the Committee-passed FY2020 NDAA would establish an annual certification process across all military housing and require the Secretary of Defense report annually to Congress a comprehensive summary of the data on lead-based paint in military homes, as well as a list of which departments have failed to submit the required certification. An additional Duckworth-led provision in this legislation would enable third parties to test for lead-based paint on military bases, while another Duckworth-led provision would establish lead testing and reporting procedures for military children while ensuring that any care provided by DOD to a military child be carried out in accordance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
- Protect servicemembers and military families from exposure to toxic pollution. Duckworth-authored provisions in the Committee-passed FY2020 NDAA would end the military’s use of PFOS and PFOA, two known carcinogens that have polluted drinking water systems and groundwater on and near military facilities in the U.S. and abroad, in firefighting foam by 2022 and require a report from DOD on PFOS and PFOA contamination at military installations. This report would also help fill in important data gaps to better inform future plans to mitigate exposure, from technologies and methods to levels of investments needed. Duckworth also secure $2 million for PFOS/PFOA modeling and research and authored an amendment that was included in the legislation to ensure the Army National Guard and Air National Guard are better able to access funds already available to active duty forces for PFAS cleanup efforts. The provisions build on Duckworth’s Get the Lead out of Military Housing Act.
- Encourage DOD to help noncitizen servicemembers and Veterans become citizens. The Committee-passed FY2020 NDAA included Duckworth’s provision requiring DOD to inform noncitizen members of the Armed Forces about the existence of naturalization offices, potential pathways to citizenship, the required lengths of service to obtain citizenship and the application process. Many Veterans who have been deported were eligible for naturalization while they served in the military, but the U.S. government failed to prioritize assisting them with completing the naturalization process. Because of this lack of follow-through, Veterans who thought they had become citizens found out later that they were vulnerable to deportation because their paperwork had never been processed, and some of them were even deported.
- Extend the Rock Island Arsenal’s lease and provide $100 million for the Arsenal’s Defense Community Infrastructure Program. A Duckworth-authored provision in the Committee-passed FY2020 NDAA would allocate $100 million for eligible projects—transportation infrastructure, schools, emergency response, telecommunications, wastewater, utilities and others—near the Rock Island Arsenal that would improve military value and enhance the lives of servicemembers who live in the surrounding communities. The Association of Defense Communities (ADC) estimates a $100 million authorization and appropriation could result in $300-400 million total impact nationwide. Duckworth visited the Quad Cities in February to discuss important investments in the region’s infrastructure with Moline Mayor Stephanie Acri and Rock Island Mayor Mike Thoms.
“The Rock Island Arsenal plays an important role in our national security and helps create jobs that generate economic development throughout the region,” Duckworth said regarding these provisions. “I’m proud my provisions to help ensure the long-term success of the Arsenal and invest in the Quad Cities infrastructure that Arsenal employees rely on were included in this year’s defense authorization bill.”
- Invest in key national defense priorities. Provisions authored by Senator Duckworth in the Committee-passed FY2020 NDAA would secure: $75 million for the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) platform, $8.8 millions for FVL research, $2 million for 3D printing research at universities, $3 million for research into the unique challenges facing the female warfighter, $5 million for robotic construction research and $2 million for research at minority and historically black colleges. She also secured the procurement of eight new F-15EXs and three new KC-46s.
Duckworth also successfully included provisions that would:
- Help prevent sexual assault in the military by developing a Department-wide policy and Branch-specific programs
- Increase DOD accountability
- Improve oversight of privatized military housing
- Urge DOD to review the issues of hunger and food insecurity in military families and work to end it
- Provide $10 million for a new Joint Operations Center at Scott Air Force Base
- Ensure Veterans and servicemembers have equal access to military funeral honors
- Require DOD to issue a new report on infertility in the military
- Prevent DOD policy from limiting wind farm development
Earlier this week, Duckworth and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin also offered an amendment that would have returned Springfield’s 183d Wing, a unit of the Illinois Air National Guard, to flying status by authorizing the U.S. Secretary of the Air Force to transfer A-10, F-16, F-15E/X or F-35 aircraft to the Wing. The Wing flew F-16s until 2005, but now serves as the centralized repair facility for F-16 engines and as an Air Operations Group.
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