Washington, DC – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14), Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, voted today for the conference agreement on the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This year’s NDAA includes several major provisions authored by Chair Speier that address critical topics including military sexual assault, intimate-partner violence, racial justice, and support for military families. It passed on a bipartisan vote of 335 to 78.
“I am deeply disappointed that this NDAA conference report once again threw out important House provisions that address the sexual assault and harassment epidemic in our military. However, it does include some provisions to strengthen the military’s response to sexual assault, sexual harassment, and intimate-partner violence and includes groundbreaking provisions to promote racial and gender equity within the Armed Services, as well as a pay increase for servicemembers and greater support for child care and other needs of military families,” Chair Speier said. “These are long overdue changes that will benefit our brave servicemembers who risk their lives for the nation and should not be subject to discrimination, harassment, and sexual violence at home. The bill would finally erase the names of confederate traitors from U.S. military installations, and it is worthy of strong support when it comes to the House floor. While we have much more to do, we must enact this bill to make progress on justice and equity for servicemembers, and I look forward to working with the Biden-Harris Administration next year to accomplish even more.”
Chair Speier’s provisions included in the NDAA conference report include:
- Establish a Deputy Inspector General for Diversity and Inclusion within the Department of Defense (DoD): This new office will investigate underrepresentation of people of color among military officers and high-ranking enlisted servicemembers, racial disparities within military administrative and personnel systems, and white-supremacist and criminal-gang activity among servicemembers.
- Increase Representation of Women and People of Color in the Armed Services: The military will be required to establish specific goals to increase recruiting, accessions, and promotion of minorities and women, and to report to Congress on a plan to achieve these goals and their progress.
- Expand Participation of Women in International Military Education and Training (IMET) Programs: The secretaries of state and defense will be required to establish a plan to double the participation of women to roughly 16% of foreign program participants.
- Address Bias by Anonymizing Candidates Before Military Promotion Boards: Within 3 years, the military must redact all personally identifiable information, such as names, photographs, race, and gender signifiers, of servicemembers before promotion boards to remove the potential for conscious or unconscious bias.
- Track White Supremacy among Servicemembers: The DoD Inspector General will be required to improve tracking of white-supremacist and other extremist activity by servicemembers within the military services.
- Establish a Military-Civilian Task Force on Domestic Violence: This task force, which will be independent from DoD, will report to Congress with findings and recommendations to address intimate partner violence among servicemembers and military families.
- Establish a Military-wide Safe-to-Report Policy: Clarify that servicemembers may report sexual assault without fear of being disciplined for related minor collateral misconduct, such as drinking in the barracks.
- Improve Coordination for Survivors of Sexual Trauma: Ensure a warm handoff for survivors when relocating between stations within the military or when separating from the military and transferring from service providers within DoD to resources within the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Improve Oversight of Military Sexual Assault Investigations: Require DoD to report to Congress information about military sexual assault investigations that remain open more than 6 months along with the reasons for delay.
- Establish a Confidential Reporting Process for Sexual Harassment: Servicemembers will have a new option to report sexual harassment while withholding their own identities from commanders. These confidential reports will be included in the military’s “Catch a Serial Offender” database, and the servicemember who filed the confidential report will be notified if their harasser is the subject of complaints from other servicemembers and given the opportunity to convert to a formal report.
- Modernize Military Appellate Court Factual Sufficiency Review Standards: The current standard, which is unique among military and civilian appellate courts in the United States, has allowed sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse cases to be overturned on highly dubious grounds, and the new standard will yield greater likelihood of justice for survivors while maintaining due process protections.
- Require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to Review the Military’s Procedures for Responding to Missing Servicemembers: GAO will compare the military’s procedures with best practices from state, local, and federal law enforcement, and it will recommend ways for the military to improve its procedures, especially given widespread concerns about the Army’s response to several missing servicemembers at Fort Hood, TX, including SPC Vanessa Guillén.
- Improve Oversight of Next Generation Body Armor: Require DoD to report on barriers to fielding next generation body armor that will provide better, gender-specific protection for military servicemembers.
- Expand Child Care Options for Military Families: Address waiting lists, establish competitive pay for providers in high-cost areas, provide housing priority for military spouses that operate Family Care Centers, and expand the Financial Assistance Program to pay for in-home child care, such as by a nanny or au pair. Additionally, it requires 24-hour child care be provided on bases where servicemembers are required to work night shifts.
- Strengthen the Exceptional Family Member Program: Programs for military families with children who have special needs will be expanded to include comprehensive case management services, increased respite care, and access to specialized attorneys to advocate for the educational needs of military children with disabilities.
- Improve Oversight of the Next Generation Interceptor Missile Defense Program: Require an independent cost estimate and two successful flight tests before buying.
- Transparency of Contractor Ownership: Expand reporting requirements to identify the beneficial owner of contractors.
- Strengthen Whistleblower Protections: Clarify that nondisclosure agreements do not prevent employees of government contractors and subcontractors from filing a whistleblower complaint.
- Enact the Elijah Cummings Federal Employee Anti-Discrimination Act: Strengthen EEO protections and increase accountability for federal employees who are found to be responsible for discrimination.
- Authorize Incentive Pay for Programming Proficiency: Develop a system to track coding language aptitude and proficiency by military servicemembers and DoD civilians and offer financial incentives for needed programming skills.
- Investigate Suicide at Remote Military Installations: Require a Comptroller General report covering unique challenges of preventing suicide by military servicemembers and military family members at remote bases outside of the contiguous United States.
Chair Speier’s additional provisions adopted in the House report language include:
- Examine Access to Contraception and Family Planning Education. Require DoD to issue a report on barriers experienced by servicemembers in accessing contraception and the status of implementation of new DoD requirements on reproductive health care, such as ensuring access to contraception for the full length of deployment.
- Examine Equal Employment Opportunity: Require the Department of Defense to report on ways to improve the EEO process for DoD civilians.