U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (FL14) released the following statement upon the House’s 329-101 passage of the bipartisan FY23 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):
“This year, the American people have witnessed our service members’ bravery and commitment to serving and defending our nation and its values in the aftermath of Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the growing threat posed by China. That is why we have crafted a defense bill that equips our military and the Department of Defense with the necessary resources and technology to meet current and future threats against the United States and its allies.
“We are also making good on our promise to meet the immediate and long-term needs of our service members and their families while they’re serving our nation at home and abroad. This includes an increase in military basic pay by 4.6 percent for our troops, and an additional 2.4 percent inflation bonus for those earning less than $45,000/year. Importantly, the NDAA also codifies a $15 minimum wage for workers on federal service and construction contracts.
“Our package also meets the current moment when our neighbors are feeling the pinch on a hot housing market, adding funds to the basic allowance for housing to ensure that military families can find adequate housing wherever they may serve and lower costs at the same time. We also provide support for the costs of everyday food and products service members purchase from commissaries.
“I am proud that my amendment to help better tackle the challenges that our Special Operator service members face when transitioning to civilian life was included. I introduced this amendment with my fellow co-chairs of the Special Operations Forces Caucus to require the Government Accountability Office to conduct a report on the ability of servicemembers assigned to Special Operations units to utilize Department of Defense transition programs. It’s our duty to serve our men and women in uniform as well as they serve us, and that includes meeting their needs – physical, mental and financial – when they return home.
“Recognizing that climate change increasingly threatens our military preparedness, this legislation includes provisions to tackle these challenges head on, with measures to increase energy security, pilot sustainable aviation fuels, and strengthen our military installations against wildfire and other climate-fueled threats. Additionally, I'm proud to have worked with Congresswoman Veronica Escobar of Texas to successfully include provisions that will expand electric vehicles (EV) charging across our military installations, and to ensure that our military hospitals, housing, and other critical facilities are up to par when it comes to issues of resilience and energy efficiency.
“With this week’s House passage of legislation to support the over 3.5 million veterans who have toxic exposure, the Congress has once again demonstrated its ability to work in a bipartisan fashion to support our military families. It is my hope that the Senate works quickly to pass this critical defense bill to support the work of our troops at home and abroad as it has in years past.”
The NDAA includes the following priorities for MacDill Air Force Base and Tampa residents:
- Supports an increase in military basic pay by 4.6% for service members, plus adds 2.4% inflation bonuses for those earning less than $45,000/year.
- Adds $750 million for commissary to help reduce costs.
- Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH): Adds funds to decrease BAH reduction by 2% and requires a report on a more transparent, fair, and flexible way to calculate the basic allowance for housing.
- Child care: Requires the Secretary of Defense to complete a pay study and adjust the pay of child development center employees as compared to similarly trained and qualified public elementary school employees.
- Spouse change of station reimbursement: Authorizes financial reimbursement for moving expenses for spouses with home businesses.
- Impact aid: Authorizes $53.0 million for the purpose of providing assistance to local educational agencies with military dependent students and $22.0 million for local educational agencies eligible to receive a payment for children with severe disabilities.
- the bill requires the Defense Advisory Committee on Investigation, Prosecution, and Defense of Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces to assess evidence in the military justice system for survivors of sexual assault; and a GAO study the impact the use of Incident Committees and potential improvements to the incident determination process.
- Contraception and infertility: Eliminates TRICARE copays for contraception for one year and increases access to infertility services.
Access to behavioral health:
- The bill includes several provisions that would:
- Increase opportunities to grow the number of available behavioral health providers.
- Require analysis of the number of providers needed to support care delivered at military treatment facilities and embedded in operational units.
- Establish a program to better train civilian behavioral health providers to meet the unique challenges of service members and their families.
- Expand license portability for providers delivering non-medical counseling.
- Require GAO to review whether TRICARE conforms with the requirements of certain mental health parity laws.
Increase Oversight of Privatized Military Family Housing Projects
- Notice for ground lease extensions: Requires the military departments to notify and brief the House Armed Services Committee before executing any lease-term extension for a privatized military family housing project.
- Increases congressional oversight of the privatized military family housing program by requiring an annual briefing on the health and status of military housing privatization projects enterprise wide.
- Afghan Special Immigrant Visas (SIV): Extends the authorization of this program, the deadline for those who qualify to apply for SIVs, and allows those Afghans wounded during their service to the U.S. Government to apply for the SIV program even if they have not met the one-year minimum employment threshold. This provision reaffirms the commitment to Afghan citizens who, at great personal risk, supported U.S. operations in Afghanistan.
- Requires a report on how strike and combatant engagement data archived by U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan can be shared, when requested, to support safe and efficient explosive remnants of war (ERW) clearance operations.
Supporting and Empowering HBCUs and other Minority Serving Institutions
- Allocates over $111 million for research activities at HBCUs – triple the President’s budget request.
- Requires the DoD to submit a report on actions that may be carried out to increase the participation of minority-serving institutions in the research, development, test, and evaluation activities of the DoD following the release of the National Academies study on defense research capacity at HBCUs and other minority serving institutions.
- Establishes the Dellums Fellowship Program to provide scholarships and internships for eligible students, particularly women of color, with high potential talent in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.
- Establishes a pilot program to increase research capacity at HBCUs and other minority serving institutions.
Quality of Life and Innovation Infrastructure
- Adds $1.7 billion in Facilities Sustainment Renovation and Modernization funds to address poor and failing infrastructure including quality of life infrastructure such as barracks and child development centers.