March 15, 2023

At First Hearing of Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, Senator Warren Highlights Importance of Access to Child Care, Relief of Civilian Medical Debt, and Increased Oversight of the JROTC Program

Video of Hearing (YouTube)

Washington, D.C. – Today, chairing her first hearing of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) highlighted the importance of providing adequate child care to military families, addressing failures in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, and putting pressure on DoD to exercise its authority to waive civilian medical debt. 

Transcript: Military and civilian personnel programs in the Department of Defense in review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2024 and the Future Years Defense Program
U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Personnel
Remarks from U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren
Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Good afternoon, and welcome to the first Personnel subcommittee hearing of the 118th Congress. 

I’m pleased to welcome all of you to today’s hearing to receive testimony on the military and civilian personnel programs in the Department of Defense and the military services in review of the Administration’s defense authorization request for fiscal year 2024. 

All three of my brothers served in the military, so supporting the military and military families means a lot to me – and I am particularly pleased to be chairing my first hearing as an Armed Services subcommittee chair. I am honored to Chair this Subcommittee and I look forward to continuing its long history of bipartisanship and working as a partner with Ranking Member Scott and with all of our members on both sides of the aisle to improve the lives of our service members, retirees, military families, and the civilian workforce. 

Our annual posture hearing provides the Department the opportunity to discuss their personnel policy priorities for the coming year. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the all-volunteer force. In today’s hearing, I would like to focus on how we welcome young people into the military, how we support families who continue to serve, and how the military contributes to our communities. 

The Administration’s National Defense Strategy gets it exactly right in prioritizing service members. We must do this to address one of the military’s greatest challenges, the ongoing struggle to meet its recruiting goals. Today, only the Marine Corps and the Space Force are meeting their recruiting targets. Meanwhile, the Army is set to miss its target by tens of thousands of soldiers, and the Navy has recently lowered its requirements and standards for many ratings in order to address anticipated shortfalls.  

The most direct way to address this shortfall is by making sure that we are taking care of our personnel and their families. This is just as much of a readiness issue as our supply of tanks, and missiles, and material needed to fight on land and at sea. 

So, where to start?  

I have a lot of work that I want to propose for this subcommittee, including protecting and enhancing healthcare, continuing to build on Senator Gillibrand’s leadership in addressing sexual assault, and combating the corrosive impact of the revolving door between senior Pentagon officials and defense contractors and foreign governments. I also look forward to working with the Readiness subcommittee to be certain that U.S. military families are not living in unsafe and unsanitary housing conditions. I have done extensive investigative work here, and I have worked with other Committee members on bipartisan legislation. 

For today’s hearing, I’ve picked three items to begin with: access to child care, medical debt, and the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, or JROTC. 

First, child care. Accessing child care remains a problem for all families – military and civilian. We must modernize and improve the way that DoD ensures that service members and their families have access to child care – and I am happy to work with any member of the Committee, Democrat or Republican – who has good, smart, creative ideas on how to do that. 

Second, I want to take a good, hard look at medical debt and how it affects both members of the military and civilians. I want to ask specifically about implementation of my amendments, along with Rep. Joaquin Castro, to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act to provide DoD the authority to waive civilian debts from military hospitals – a bill that was intended to keep our doctors sharp without sticking patients with giant bills. I won’t get to cover it today, but I am also concerned about service members who have TRICARE, but who still get stuck with medical bills they are expected to pay on their own. 

Finally, I have questions about the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, or JROTC, particularly about reports of sexual assault of our children. 

We have much to do to better support military families. I look forward to getting to work on these issues and many more. Now I will turn to Ranking Member Scott for his comments to open this hearing.