WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sixty-six major provisions offered by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14), Chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, were adopted during consideration of the annual defense policy bill by the Armed Services Committee this week.
“For my last year in Congress and as Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, I could not be more excited to have 66 of my provisions included in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act to strengthen military justice reform, address servicemembers’ and their families’ needs, and eliminate Defense Department waste, fraud, and abuse. All are important, but taking sexual harassment prosecutorial decisions out of the chain of command; confronting the epidemic of deaths by suicide of servicemembers in Alaska, on the USS George Washington, and across the military; and addressing the urgent need for additional child care capacity for military families are among the most critical and impactful for ensuring readiness and morale, our national security, and the health and wellbeing of our brave servicemembers and their loved ones,” Chair Speier said. “Additionally, my provisions would provide a 2.4% inflation bonus to military and DoD civilian personnel earning less than $45,000 annually, which will increase their total pay by 7% in 2023; provide financial assistance to victims of military crimes; offer advocacy services to military families with dependents with special needs; advance PFAS cleanup and testing; strengthen protections for whistleblowers; and initiate an independent review of quality and patient safety in military health care. Though I am disappointed that the committee included an unjustifiable provision to prevent the Navy from decommissioning five expensive and useless Littoral Combat Ships, I will work with Chairman Smith to remove that provision when the NDAA reaches the House floor.”
Chair Speier’s provisions include:
Pay for Servicemembers and Defense Department Civilians
Chair Speier’s provision would address the impact of inflation on servicemembers and DoD civilians and would add to the 4.6% pay increase included in the NDAA, bringing the total boost to 7%.
- Pay Inflation Bonuses to Military and Civilian Personnel: Authorize $1.3 billion to pay monthly inflation bonuses equal to 2.4% of basic pay for servicemembers and Department of Defense (DoD) civilians earning less than $45,000 per year from January 2023 through December 2023.
Suicide Prevention and Behavioral Health
Chair Speier authored several NDAA provisions to address the suicide crisis in the military, where the active-duty suicide rate has increased 40% over five years. Chair Speier’s provisions would expand access to behavioral health for servicemembers by taking short-term and long-term actions to build the behavioral health workforce.
- Expand Behavioral Health Programs at Uniformed Services University: Expand the existing clinical psychology program and establish new social work and counseling programs to provide additional uniformed and civilian behavioral health providers for DoD.
- Establish a Scholarship-for-Service Program for Behavioral Health: Cover the cost of education for students in clinical psychology, social work, and counseling in exchange for a commitment to work as a civilian behavioral health provider at a military medical treatment facility.
- Train New Behavioral Health Providers at Military Medical Treatment Facilities: Create pre- and post-doctoral internship programs for new clinical psychologists to complete their training at a military medical treatment facility in exchange for a service commitment.
- Retain Behavioral Health Providers: Increase retention pay for DoD civilian behavioral health clinicians.
- Fill the Shortfall of Behavioral Health Providers: Require DoD to develop and implement a plan to resolve its 1,000 provider shortfall in uniformed and civilian behavioral health providers, including by leveraging telehealth.
- Extend Licensure Reciprocity: Enable Military Family Life Counselors and Deployed Resiliency Counselors, who provide non-clinical assistance with relationship, financial, and other life problems, to easily provide services to servicemembers throughout the country.
- Review Promotion Rates for Uniformed Behavioral Health Providers: Require the military surgeons general to report to Congress on the reasons for low promotion rates for military psychologists and social workers and alternatives to improve promotion rates and retention.
Chair Speier added several provisions to the NDAA that would further strengthen the historic and transformational military justice reform enacted in the FY 2022 NDAA and would offer additional support to survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and other interpersonal violent crimes.
- Take Sexual Harassment Charging Decisions Out of the Chain of Command: Reserve prosecutorial decisions, including referrals to court-martial, for the new standalone military offense of sexual harassment to the Special Trial Counsel, an independent military attorney outside of the chain of command of the victim and accused.
- Strengthen Independent Investigations of Sexual Harassment: Clarify that the new independent investigations of sexual harassment must be conducted by trained investigators who are outside the chain of command of the victim and accused.
- Enhance Military Justice Reform: Add two crimes (death or injury of an unborn child and mailing obscene materials) to the covered offenses under the jurisdiction of the Special Trial Counsel; clarify that all prosecutorial decisions, such as selecting expert witnesses, be made by the Special Trial Counsel; and require DoD to conduct an annual assessment of the impact of military justice reform beginning in 2025.
- Address Sexual Violence in the National Guard: Require additional reporting and regular inspections (every five years) of the compliance of the National Guard of each state with laws and DoD policies on sexual assault, sexual harassment, and suicide prevention and response, including public grading on a scale of “Excellent, Satisfactory, and Unsatisfactory.”
- Provide Compensation and Restitution to Military Crime Victims: Establish a Military Crime Victims Financial Assistance Fund to provide up to $50,000 per incident in financial assistance to victims of interpersonal violent crimes, such as assault and rape, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including for unreimbursed health care expenses and property damage.
- Pilot Financial Assistance for Victims of Domestic Violence: Establish a five-year pilot program to provide grants of financial assistance of up to $7,500 to assist victims in exiting an abusive relationship with an intimate partner who is a servicemember.
- Increase Punishment for Hate Crimes: Incorporate the federal sentencing enhancement for hate crimes within the military’s ongoing sentencing reform.
- Strengthen the Military Service Inspectors General: Require the inspectors general to retain (and not refer to command) cases alleging a failure to follow policies or procedures related to sexual harassment, sexual assault, and domestic violence; and require the inspectors general to notify complainants before referring other cases to a command investigation.
- Reform Non-Judicial Punishment: Require legal review before imposing non-judicial punishment (NJP), require the services to establish guidance regarding use of the “vessel exception” under which servicemembers cannot decline NJP and opt for a court-martial, and initiate a Government Accountability Office review of the use of the vessel exception.
- Offer Referrals to Civilian Victim Assistance Programs: Require DoD to establish a policy to provide for referrals to civilian victim assistance providers for victims of sexual assault.
- Defend Military Whistleblowers: Allows military personnel who are retaliated against for making a protected communication the same, favorable burden of proof that their federal civilian employee counterparts are afforded.
- Review Victim Access to Evidence: Require the Defense Advisory Committee on Investigation, Prosecution and Defense of Sexual Assault in the Military to review military service policies and practices and make recommendations to improve sharing of evidence with victims of military crimes.
- Prevent Misuse of Family Advocacy Determinations: Prohibit sending Incident Determination Committee letters, which are misused to revictimize domestic violence victims in civilian court.
- Evaluate Title IX Compliance at DoD Schools: Require the Government Accountability Office to review the efforts of DoD schools to comply with the title IX prohibition on sex-based discrimination in educational programs.
- Examine Military Prosecution: Initiate a Government Accountability Office review of training, experience, and career paths for military prosecutors.
Quality of Life for Servicemembers in Alaska
In April, Chair Speier visited installations in Alaska, where soldier suicides doubled in 2021 compared to the previous year. She included several provisions in the NDAA that she developed with Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and introduced in the standalone Don Young Arctic Warrior Act to address behavioral health capacity, financial pressures, and quality of life needs for servicemembers stationed in Alaska.
- Establish Arctic Pay: Authorize a new $300 per month special pay for servicemembers who conduct extreme cold weather operations.
- Address High Cost of Internet: Pilot a broadband allowance to cover the difference between the cost of high-speed, uncapped internet in Alaska (as high as $180 per month) as compared to the contiguous United States.
- Authorize Travel Allowance: Establish a travel allowance to pay for airfare for one trip home per three-year tour for servicemembers stationed in Alaska and their dependents.
- Increase Transportation Options: Initiate a car-sharing pilot at installations in Alaska.
- Fund Cold-Weather Equipment: Authorize an additional $74 million for cold-weather clothing and equipment.
Quality of Life for Sailors on Board Ships Undergoing Complex Overhaul
Seven sailors attached to the USS George Washington have died by suicide over the past 12 months, and more attempted suicide. This tragedy exposed the unacceptable conditions and hardships faced by sailors assigned to ships undergoing nuclear refueling and complex overhaul. Chair Speier worked with Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) to include several NDAA provisions to help sailors assigned to ships undergoing complex overhaul.
- Authorize Complex Overhaul Pay: Establish a new, $200 per month special pay for sailors assigned to ships undergoing refueling and complex overhaul.
- Subsidize Moves for Sailors Assigned to Complex Overhaul: Require the Navy to offer paid moves to sailors assigned to ships undergoing complex overhaul so they can live closer to the shipyard and shorten commute times.
- Expand Access to Behavioral Health on Carriers: Require the Navy to assign at least two behavioral health providers and at least two behavioral health technicians to each aircraft carrier.
- Address Undermanning: Require the Navy to fill at least 75% of billets on ships undergoing complex overhaul, and add ships undergoing complex overhaul to quarterly undermanning reports to Congress.
- Limit Assignment Length: Require the Navy to report on its progress implementing alternative assignment practices to limit the time a first-term enlisted sailor is assigned to a ship undergoing refueling and complex overhaul and ensure they can develop experience and proficiency within their career field.
- Improve Quality of Life: Require the Navy to complete feasibility studies on improving housing and parking options for sailors assigned to ships undergoing complex overhaul and who must commute up to two hours each way.
Chair Speier included several NDAA provisions to support military servicemembers and military families, including several developed based on her engagements with servicemembers, military families, and visits to military child development centers.
- Provide Contraception Coverage Parity for Military Families: Eliminate copays for FDA-approved contraception, for TRICARE beneficiaries for one year, equivalent to the coverage by health plans under the Affordable Care Act.
- Increase Pay for Child Care Workers: Require DoD to conduct regional pay studies and increase compensation for military child development center employees to be competitive with similarly credentialed elementary school employees.
- Improve Benefits for Child Care Workers: Require DoD to assess the feasibility of alternative benefit packages, including retirement, health care, insurance, and leave, that would be more attractive to employees of military child development centers.
- Invest in Child Care Center Maintenance: Require the military services to increase spending on facilities sustainment, restoration, and modernization for child development centers, ramping up to 5% of replacement cost within four years.
- Support Child Care During Moves: Provide financial support for extended family members who provide child care in the course of permanent-change-of-station moves.
- Advance Child Care Partnerships: Require the military services to report specific plans to Congress on the cost, benefits, and feasibility of entering into agreements with public- and private-sector entities to provide child care services to military families.
- Promote Child Care Fee Assistance: Require the military services to implement a promotion campaign to raise awareness of child care fee assistance options, including the in-home child care fee assistance pilot program that helps servicemembers to hire nannies and other in-home child care providers.
- Streamline Child Care Employee Transfers: Require DoD to update policies and procedures to speed the interservice transfer of child care and other non-appropriated fund employees.
- Provide Advocacy Services for Military Families with Special Needs: Establish a grant program to contract with nonprofit organizations, such as Parent Centers, to assist military families enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program in advocating for appropriate educational services for dependents with special needs.
- Expand Bereavement Leave: Provide bereavement leave to servicemembers in case of the death of a parent.
- Review the Quality of Military Health Care: Initiate a National Academy of Medicine review of the quality, patient safety, and accountability processes in the Military Health System.
- Accelerate Production of Modern Body Armor: Provide an additional $67 million to field advanced body armor specialized for females and small-statured males.
- Cover Pet Moving Expenses: Reimburse up to $2,000 in pet moving costs for overseas military moves.
- Expand Mid-Career Accessions for Cyber and Other Specialized Fields: Extend lateral-entry authorities that allow the military services to commission officers at a higher rank to reflect private-sector experience to include warrant officers, and establish a special pay authority to increase the competitiveness of pay for mid-career officer accessions.
- Block Cuts to Autism Care for Military Dependents: Require the Defense Health Agency to reverse cuts to payment rates to applied behavior analysis providers under the Autism Care Demonstration.
- Address Lack of Power Ports at Ship Sleeping Berths: Require the Navy to assess the feasibility of adding charging infrastructure for mobile devices at the sleeping accommodations for individuals embarked aboard battle force ships.
- Promote Geographic Stability: Require the military services to report on their efforts to reduce the frequency of permanent-change-of-station (PCS) moves, increase geographic stability for military families, and implement talent marketplaces to give officers and enlisted personnel more control over future assignments.
- Review Part-Time Military Spouse Employment: Require the Government Accountability Office to report on the impact of part-time employment practices on military personnel, including military household financial stability, health and well-being of military families, and retention and recruitment of servicemembers.
- Consider Doctoral Tuition Assistance: Require DoD to report to Congress on the costs and benefits of expanding servicemember tuition assistance programs to part-time doctoral programs.
Oversight of DoD Programs and Platforms
Chair Speier authored several NDAA provisions to improve the performance of DoD, promote the wise use of taxpayer funds, and protect military families and communities from harmful environmental threats.
- Improve Implementation of the Women, Peace, and Security Act: Authorize DoD to incorporate Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) within security cooperation programs, develop curriculum on WPS for the war colleges and service academies, and standardize and enhance the DoD gender advisor workforce.
- Ensure Whistleblower Protections Apply to Pandemic Programs: Update whistleblower reprisal laws to ensure that reports to the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee and the Inspector General for Pandemic Response are protected communications.
- Allow FBI Employees to Appeal Whistleblower Complaints to MSPB: FBI is the only executive agency that does not allow its employees to appeal decisions to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). This bill reverses that error and corrects a pay issue for the Office of Special Counsel.
- Address Abusive Pricing Practices of Sole-Source Vendors: Require contractors like Transdigm to disclose pricing data to contracting officers to ensure that DoD can negotiate a fair price for sole-source parts.
- Share Cost Savings with Military Whistleblowers: Allow military personnel to share in up to $10,000 in savings generated when they report waste, fraud, or abuse, offering parity with such incentives for federal civilian employees.
- Expand PFAS Study of Military Personnel: Expand an existing Centers for Disease Control study on the impact of PFAS on human health to additional military installations, and conduct exposure assessments at additional installations with known PFAS contamination.
- Ban Firefighting Gear with PFAS: Prohibit DoD from acquiring firefighting clothing and equipment that contains PFAS.
- Disinter a Convicted Murderer and Rapist from Arlington National Cemetery: Require the Secretary of the Army to disinter Andrew Chabrol, a former Navy officer who sexually harassed, kidnapped, raped, and murdered an enlisted sailor, from Arlington National Cemetery, and extend disinterment authority to similar situations at national cemeteries.
- Examine Professional Military Education (PME): Establish a commission to review the military’s $8 billion investment in PME, including its purpose, implementation, outcomes, and relevance of the curriculum.
- Advance Battery Recycling and Research: Establish pilot programs to increase battery recycling across the military and invest in advanced battery research projects focused on rare earth alternatives.
- Address Undermanning in the Surface Fleet: Require the Navy to report to Congress on its efforts to reduce undermanning and improve risk analyses related to the Navy’s chronic failure to fill all sea billets with sailors with the required qualifications.
- Review Army Performance Evaluations: Initiate an independent review of the Army’s fitness report system, and make recommendations to incorporate best practices for public- and private-factor performance evaluations.
- Assess the Finances of the Armed Forces Retirement Home: Require the Comptroller General to review the projected financial sustainability of the Armed Forces Retirement Home over the next 20 years given its reliance on shrinking revenue sources.