Garamendi Secures Wins for Climate Change, Military Housing, and More in Annual Defense Authorization
Washington, DC—Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA), Chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee within the House Armed Services Committee, issued the following statement after he voted in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020. The bill will now be conferenced with the Senate’s version of the legislation.
“This legislation includes the largest pay raise for our service members in a decade, and as Chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee I fought to include the strongest possible language to:
- Require the military to mitigate climate change and reduce energy consumption
- Address the privatized military housing crisis that was forcing many service members and their families into substandard living conditions on bases throughout the country
- Expand health care services for service members and veterans experiencing medical issues as a result of exposure to toxic hazards during their service
- Support and expand the missions at Beale and Travis AFBs
I will fight to preserve these critical provisions as the House and Senate conference their versions of the bill in the coming weeks,” Garamendi said.
The House version of the NDAA still includes every amendment Garamendi secured through the Armed Services Committee’s initial markup of the legislation. Additionally, Garamendi successfully added two additional amendments to the bill on the House floor. An overview of the language Garamendi successfully included is listed below:
Combat the Climate Crisis
“Climate change is one of the greatest threats we face as a civilization. The U.S. military is the largest institutional consumer of oil in the world, and one of my focuses as Chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee has been to ensure the U.S. military is prepared to respond to climate change and be an ally in the fight to end the global climate crisis. This markup takes unprecedented steps to empower the military to address climate change and reduce its energy consumption,” Garamendi continued.
The legislation addresses climate change by:
- Requiring the development of installation master plans that assess current climate vulnerabilities and plan for mitigating the risks to installations from extreme weather events, mean sea level fluctuation, wildfires, flooding, and other changes in environmental conditions.
- Limiting the Department of Defense’s ability to spend planning and design funds until it initiates the process of amending the building standards for military construction (Unified Facility Criteria) to ensure that building practices and standards promote energy, climate, and cyber resilience at military installations.
- Requiring all proposals for military construction projects to consider potential long-term changes in environmental conditions, increasingly frequent extreme weather events, and industry best-practices to withstand extreme weather events.
- Requiring the Department of Defense to report on the feasibility of transitioning installation planning from 100-year floodplain data to a forward-looking predictive model that takes the impacts of sea-level rise into account.
Support Veterans and Service Members Seeking Health Services
The markup language also includes the full text of the OATH Act, legislation that Garamendi introduced to ensure active duty military personnel and veterans can accurately document any toxins they were exposed to while deployed, so they can receive VA treatment for any health issues stemming from that exposure.
Garamendi introduced the bill in the House of Representatives this May, and successfully attached the legislation as an amendment to the NDAA.
“Our service members and veterans deserve the best care available and to have their medical records accurately reflect any Occupational and Environmental Health hazards they have been exposed to during their service to our great country,” Garamendi said. “Currently, active duty members and veterans are unable to make disability claims with the Veterans Administration based on exposure to toxic hazards such as mold, chemicals, and open-air burn pits because those exposures are not tracked in their medical records. This bill will change that and provide our nation’s service members with the support they deserve, and I’m incredibly pleased it has been added to the NDAA. This will greatly increase the OATH Act’s chances of becoming law.”
Addresses the Privatized Military Housing Crisis
“This legislation provides assurances that the men and women of Travis and Beale AFBs, as well as every service member and their family, receive good quality housing when they are stationed on base,” Garamendi continued. “Sadly, this year the Readiness Subcommittee was made aware of the unhygienic and dangerous living conditions thousands of service members and their families are subject to in privately constructed military housing. I’m relieved that this legislation takes bold steps to strengthen the tenants’ voices and to hold private housing contractors accountable for developing safe on-base housing for service members and their families,” Garamendi continued.
The legislation addresses problems with the management and oversight of military family housing by:
- Requiring the military services to have a tenants’ bill of rights for residents of privatized military family housing that includes at minimum the following elements: a prohibition on reprisal by either the private partner or military chain of command; provision of a housing advocate that is not co-located with or employed by the private partner; a dispute resolution mechanism; a mechanism for withholding rent payments where appropriate during the dispute resolution process; prompt provision of maintenance by qualified personnel and effective communication regarding the status of their work orders to include access to an electronic work order management system; professional and courteous property management services; and information about known and potential hazards at time of home selection, to include mold, lead, rodent infestation, and history of sickened residents.
- Prohibiting the use of non-disclosure agreements in connection with entering into, continuing, or terminating a lease for on-base privatized military family housing.
- Recommending the full committee authorize funding to hire civilian personnel to provide additional oversight and management of military family housing and require a report on the manpower requirements and execution plan to appropriately staff military housing offices.
Funds Military Construction Projects to Meet Travis and Beale AFB’s Priorities
- $6.6 million for KC-46A ALTER B181/B185/B187 SQUAD OPS/AMU to make the required changes to facilities on base for Travis to fulfill a new role as a home for the new KC-46A tanker aircraft.
- $19.5 million for KC-46A Regional Maintenance Training Facility to provide full scale training necessary for maintaining the new KC-46A aircraft.
- $64 million for the Alert Force Complex that needs to be improved to adequately support a detachment that plays a critical role in maintaining communications between the President and parts of our strategic nuclear delivery systems.
- $17 million for additional updates to improve the antiquated Mechanized Material Handling System at Travis.
- 40.5 million for a 230/60kV Interconnection and Transmission System, funded through the Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program (ERCIP), to improve resilience and power supply on the installation, which are critical in supporting the missions at Beale.
- $33.7 million for the Hydrant Fuel System to replace and modernize the critical underground pressurized fuel system and storage tanks that are currently obsolete and non-compliant.
Expand Tricare Reserve Eligibility
Garamendi also successfully added his legislation, the Tricare Reserve Select Improvement Act, to the NDAA mark as an amendment, which would extend eligibility for TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS) to all National Guardsmen and Reservists by 2030, regardless of their civilian occupation. Under current law, federal employees who serve in the National Guard or Armed Forces Reserve are prohibited from participating in Tricare Reserve Select (TRS).
“Our service members must have access to quality, affordable healthcare,” Garamendi said. “Under current law, National Guardsmen and Reservists who are federal employees are only eligible to enroll in the FEHB Program and are restricted from participating in TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS). This legislation would remove that restriction to provide continuity of care and a more affordable option for these servicemembers and their families. I’ve heard from reservists in my district at Travis and Beale Air Force Bases about this issue and how it’s impacted their quality of life, and it’s time for Congress to finally act on this common-sense piece of legislation. I’m pleased that this legislation will be included in the House version of the NDAA.”
New Resources to Fight Wildfires
Garamendi also successfully added an amendment to the bill that will allow the National Guard to use unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to help track wildfires, perform search and rescue efforts, and assist in other efforts to combat emergencies in California and throughout the nation.
“This amendment will provide invaluable resources for the State of California to respond to wildfires and other disasters,” Garamendi said. “The idea for this amendment came to me last year when I was studying the damage from the Mendocino Complex Fire in our community. First responders and other state officials explained to me that the availability of unmanned aircraft systems could help them track hot spots and in turn deploy their resources more efficiently to beat wildfires earlier and prevent greater loss of life and property. It is also a critical asset for wildfire prevention. I’m incredibly proud this legislation is included in the House NDAA, and I will do everything in my power to ensure it becomes law,” Garamendi concluded.
Military to Mariner Program/ Amendment #182
Ensures departing service members and veterans can more easily credit their military sea service toward earning a Merchant Mariner Credential needed to sail US-flagged vessels.
“Merchant Mariners provide a vital service to our nation’s economy and national security. They ferry supplies, goods, and cargo during war time and help transport vital U.S. exports during peace time. This amendment will help increase the number of eligible Merchant Mariners and provide service members and veterans with a strong career path to pursue after their military service,” Garamendi said.
GPS Backup/ Amendment #184
Extends the authority to carry out the backup Global Positioning System capability demonstration, which is a current expiring directive authority from the FY18 NDAA, by an additional 18 months, and extends the report submission an additional 18 months. This will support the establishment of a reliable backup system in the event that our nation’s GPS systems are disrupted or hacked.
“GPS is much more than a navigational tool for your car. It’s a technology used for much of our nation’s critical infrastructure and by almost every major industry in America, as well as the military, law enforcement, and first responders,” Garamendi said. “We are increasingly reliant on the precision, navigation, and timing services that GPS provides. From land navigation on cell phones to a timing source for our national infrastructure, we need a reliable backup system to GPS. This amendment supports efforts to establish a reliable backup system that will keep our nation’s critical infrastructure safe.”