Senate Passes Several Duckworth Provisions as Part of 2020 Defense Bill
Duckworth’s provisions will help protect servicemembers from toxic chemicals, support IL jobs and shield Veterans from deportation
[WASHINGTON, DC] – Combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) successfully secured a number of her priorities in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that passed the U.S. Senate on a bipartisan vote of 86-8 today and now heads to the President’s desk for his signature. 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. Duckworth is a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC)
“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, protect noncitizen servicemembers and Veterans from deportation and reduce servicemembers’ exposure to toxic chemicals. With this bill’s passage, Congress is sending a message that we have our troops’ backs.
Duckworth is 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 serving 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 the FY2020 NDAA will:
- 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 FY2020 NDAA would establish an annual certification process across all military housing and require the Secretary of Defense to 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.
- Encourage DOD to help noncitizen servicemembers and Veterans become citizens. The 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. The provision also provides Parole in Place (PIP) support for military members and their dependents as well as consideration of military status in removal determinations. 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 $75 million for the Arsenal’s Defense Community Infrastructure Program. A Duckworth-authored provision in the FY2020 NDAA would allocate $75 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. Duckworth visited the Quad Cities in February to discuss the need for 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 this provision. “I’m proud my provision to help ensure the long-term success of the Arsenal and invest in the Quad Cities infrastructure that Arsenal employees rely on are set to become law.”
- Prepare the next generations of American workers to work at our National Laboratories and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). A Duckworth-authored provision in the FY2020 NDAA would ensure these workers gain the training and skills they need to succeed. This amendment builds on Duckworth’s DOE National Labs Jobs ACCESS (Apprenticeships for Complete and Committed Employment for Specialized Skills) Act, which addresses looming workforce shortages at National Laboratories and NNSA sites by establishing apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship programs between these facilities and universities, community colleges, local high schools and intermediaries.
Duckworth also successfully included provisions that will:
- Provide $100 million in military construction for a new Joint Operations and Mission Planning Center at Scott Air Force Base.
- Authorize $127 million in funding for the Joint DOD-VA Medical Facility, the Lovell Health Care Center in North Chicago, Illinois.
- Make voting easier for servicemembers by providing them with the ballots and registration cards necessary to vote while deployed overseas along with instruction from trained personnel on how to cast their vote in their registered state.
- Require DOD to issue a report on food insecurity among members of the Armed Forces and their dependents due to Congress no later than May 1, 2020.
- Allow the National Guard to access Defense Environmental Remediation Account (DERA) funds for the limited purpose of addressing PFOS and PFOA exposure.
- Require DOD to establish a comprehensive, department-wide plan to prevent military sexual assault.
- Allow TRANSCOM to move forward on its efforts to reform the Defense Personal Property Program only after it submits an analysis to Congress on the different options available.
- Secure the procurement of eight new F-15EXs and four C-130Js.
The FY2020 NDAA also includes several provisions Duckworth supported that will:
- Authorize 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees. Expanding paid family is a major priority for Senator Duckworth. She has introduced legislation that would update the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to help more educational support professionals (ESP) at schools – teacher’s assistants, custodians and maintenance staff, among others – access its benefits without the risk of losing their job. Duckworth also helped introduce the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, which would establish a comprehensive paid family and medical leave program that will provide 12 weeks of paid leave for workers who need time to care for a newborn or adopted child, a seriously ill family member, or their own serious health condition.
- Prohibit federal agencies and federal contractors from asking about a job applicants’ criminal history prior to the extension of a conditional offer of employment. A criminal conviction is a tremendous barrier to employment for formerly incarcerated individuals, but this provision will give them a much better chance of gaining employment and beginning a new chapter in their lives.
- Fix the Survivor Benefit Plan/Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (SBP/DIC) offset, known as the widow’s tax. Duckworth helped introduce the Military Widow’s Tax Elimination Act in March of this year.
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