Washington, DC – Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, released the following statement after the House passed H.R. 4350, the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Strickland secured passage of over 20 provisions to support servicemembers and military families at Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) and across our nation, specifically addressing several aspects of housing security, military hunger, employment for military spouses, access to contraception for servicemembers and dependents, recognizing the contributions of Native American servicemembers, and more.
“Congress and the Department of Defense need to show that we value servicemembers and their families, like those at Joint Base Lewis McChord, who sacrifice so much to keep us safe and secure,” said Strickland. “I’m pleased to have secured several provisions in this year’s NDAA which invest in servicemembers and help their families thrive. From housing security in high-cost, high-growth areas, to making sure no military family goes hungry — investments in military communities are an investment in our nation’s readiness. I’m proud to have worked with my colleagues and Chairman Smith to craft and pass a bipartisan defense bill that supports our national security and invests in the military communities at JBLM and across our nation.”
“For more than sixty years this committee’s focus has been to provide the Department of Defense and the men and women who serve our country with the tools to meet the ever-changing national security threats we face. For the sixty-first consecutive year, the Armed Services Committee has fulfilled its critical responsibility and completed, on a bipartisan basis, a defense bill that will bolster our national security and provide for the common defense. I want to thank Congresswoman Strickland for her tireless work in our Committee to ensure a defense bill which addresses crucial needs of servicemembers and their families, including military hunger, housing security and other priorities, in Washington and across our nation,”said Chairman Adam Smith (WA-9).
Over 20 Strickland priorities were included in the FY22 NDAA, which passed the House today after passing out of committee on September 2nd, several of which are listed below:
- The bipartisan Military Hunger and Prevention Act – Introduced by Reps. Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Don Young (AK-at-large), Don Bacon (NE-02), Salud Carbajal (CA-24) and Jim Baird (IN-4), this bill helps military families living with food insecurity make ends meet by creating a basic needs allowance to support servicemembers who are currently not eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
- Supporting an Equitable Housing Allowance For Military Families: Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) is a U.S. based allowance intended to provide uniformed Service members equitable housing compensation based on housing costs in local civilian housing markets. Strickland’s amendment would commission a study that would determine whether BAH is currently sufficient to support the average family size for servicemembers disaggregated by Armed Force, rank, and military housing area.
- Supporting off-base housing solutions by examining the Rental Partnerships Program: Strickland’s amendment directs the Department of Defense to evaluate the Rental Partnership Program, which provides off-base housing information and resources, including participation and awareness of the program among servicemembers and their families, and whether Congress should provide dedicated funding for the program.
- Shielding servicemembers from unreimbursed moving expenses: Servicemembers and their families move every 2-3 years and military families can spend thousands of dollars on moving expenses, some of which are not reimbursable. Strickland’s amendment directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a report on unreimbursed moving expenses incurred by members of the Armed Forces and their families by branch, rank, and military housing area, examine the root causes of the unreimbursed expenses, and establish a policy regarding this issue.
- Examining Wait Times for On-Base Housing: Strickland’s amendment responds to the wait times military families are experiencing to get into housing at JBLM and on bases located in competitive housing markets across our nation, and directs the Department of Defense to provide a briefing on wait times for housing located on military installations in competitive housing markets, create a strategy to address housing demand, and determine the threshold for acceptable wait times.
- Connecting Military Families with Local Nonprofit Services: Within many communities near military installations there are nonprofit providers who can assist military families find affordable housing and provide other necessary wraparound services. However, families are not always aware of these services, or may have trouble accessing them. Strickland’s amendment directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a report on how and the extent to which commanders of military installations connect military families with local nonprofits and government entities that provide services to the military, including assistance with housing.
- Examining Temporary Lodging Reimbursements when relocating to competitive housing markets: Strickland’s amendment directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a report regarding the extent to which military families are aware of and access Joint Travel Regulation reimbursements when searching for new housing ahead of a Permanent Change of Station. It also examines whether giving servicemembers and their spouses a maximum of 10 days reimbursement per diem is appropriate based on the time it takes to secure housing in highly competitive housing markets, such as the area around JBLM.
- Supporting Military Spouse Employment and Addressing Employment Discrimination: Strickland’s amendment requires a report on employment discrimination against military spouses in the civilian job market, including the effect of race and gender, and any policy solutions that could prevent such discrimination.
- Supporting the Legacy, Contributions, and Sacrifices of American Indian and Alaska Natives in the Armed Forces: Native Americans have had a significant impact on our military throughout our nation’s history – over 30,000 active servicemembers and 140,000 veterans identify as Native American. They have played an integral role in our military, from the Native Code Talkers in WWI and WWII to present-day conflicts, and have been recipients of our nation’s highest awards, including the Medal of Honor. Strickland’s amendment expresses the sense of Congress that Congress honor this history, and honor the legacy of tribal communities to our military. It also commits Congress to working to improve representation of Native Americans and veterans in senior leadership, improving cultural competency in the military around these communities, and supporting tribal nations.
- Supporting Access to Contraception for Servicemembers and Dependents: Strickland cosponsored Rep. Jackie Speier’s (CA-14) amendment focused on the parity provision of the Access to Contraception for Servicemembers and Dependents Act. It would bring health care provided by the military in line with basic aspects of health care guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act to ensure dependents and non-active duty TRICARE beneficiaries do not have to pay copays for contraceptive care.
The FY22 NDAA also includes:
- Vital benefits for Servicemembers and their families, including a 2.7 percent pay increase, expanded parental leave, improved mental health care services and a new basic needs allowance for lower-income Servicemembers.
- Combating sexual assault in the military by creating an Office of Special Victim Prosecutor to prosecute these crimes, removing the commanding officer from these decisions and finally criminalizing sexual harassment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
- Significant investments in emerging technologies to modernize institutions of national security, including a 36 percent increase in defense-wide research and development, as well as new funding to improve DOD research labs.
- Action on the climate crisis by removing barriers to improving the extreme weather resilience of critical defense infrastructure and requiring the DOD to consider climate risks in its strategic planning.
- Addressing strategic and security challenges, ranging from competition with China, to the risks posed by violent extremism and white nationalism, to strengthening our cybersecurity infrastructure, to strengthening the provisions providing for the needs of our Afghan partners with Special Immigrant Visas.
- Recruiting a stronger, fairer, more diverse Armed Services by promoting academic partnerships with minority-serving colleges and universities, rooting out extremism among Servicemembers and establishing a $15 minimum wage for covered DOD service and construction contracts.