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Virginia

Defense legislation draft follows 63 years of tradition in protecting servicemembers

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Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia commented on the draft of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in a Thursday afternoon media call.

The defense bill has been passed for the last 63 years.

“For Virginia, it’s really important,” Warner said, because the Commonwealth is military dependent.

The bill includes a 4.6 percent pay raise to servicemembers and Department of Defense civilian workers.

Virginia has $285 million in 14 sites improving conditions at military installations.

“When these men and women are literally putting their lives on the line to protect our country, they shouldn’t have to worry if they’re putting enough food on the table,” Warner said. Food insecurity and housing are concerns for military servicemembers.

A full summary of the draft FY23 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is available here.

“As the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I’m glad to see an agreement on draft legislation that will help bolster our military readiness, support critical Virginia jobs, tackle the needs of military families, and reinforce our commitment to Ukraine in its fight against authoritarianism. I look forward to considering this legislation in the Senate,” Warner said in a press release.

The legislation would support $857.9 billion in funding for our nation’s defense, including Warner-championed provisions:

  • Help provide better housing support for servicemembers and their families. These provisions direct DoD to reevaluate methodologies for calculating the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) to better reflect servicemembers’ housing needs, and look at barriers to home ownership that are unique to members of the military. These provisions are based on two Warner-sponsored bills, the BAH Calculation Improvement Act and the Increasing Home Ownership for Servicemembers Act.
  • Authorize more than $285 million in funding for 14 military construction projects in Virginia, including in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Dahlgren, Newport News, Ft. Belvoir, Langley, and at the Pentagon.
  • Accelerate the construction of two new child development centers in Hampton Roads to provide critical child care for infants and children on installations. This provision mirrors a Congressionally Directed Spending request made by Warner to help address the larger challenges military families face with the supply of available child care.
  • Overhaul how the military understands and studies food insecurity among members of the military. The provision, based on an amendment led in the Senate by Warner, will improve how the military collects data and analyzes rates of food insecurity among servicemembers and their families.
  • Support the critical work of the U.S. Intelligence Community by including the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 (IAA). The IAA allocates funding, provides legal authorities and enhances congressional oversight of the Intelligence Community.
  • Bring federal data collection into the 21stcentury and boost financial transparency by modernizing data collection by the federal financial regulators. This provision is based on Warner’s Financial Data Transparency Act, which requires regulators to develop common data formatting standards that promote the usability and organization of financial data they already collect from regulated institutions, and make data easier for the public to use and for agencies to process.

Other crucial measures supported by Warner in the bill are authorization of nearly $132 million for defense research activities at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority Serving Institutions.

The legislation would also direct the Department of Defense to undertake more detailed research into mental health and rates of suicide among members of the military. An Inspector General would be directed to review efforts by the U.S. Navy to prevent and respond to suicides in light of deaths in the Hampton Roads region and elsewhere.

In continued effort to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia, the legislation would:

  • Extend the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) and authorize $800 million for this program in the coming fiscal year.
  • Authorize more than $6 billion to fully fund the European Deterrence Initiative.
  • Hold Russia accountable for its atrocities by stating that the United States will collect, analyze and preserve evidence related to Russian war crimes, and will assist in pursuing appropriate accountability for those responsible.
  • Increase transparency and accountability by taking steps to ensure that Inspectors General are able to adequately conduct oversight of U.S. funding to ensure it is most effectively being applied in support of Ukraine’s efforts.
  • Express the full commitment of the United States to NATO and to continuing Ukrainian assistance during Russia’s violent and illegal invasion.
  • Authorize more than $2.7 billion for munitions production capacity, and direct an assessment of our defense industrial base’s capacity long-term.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.