June 22, 2023

ICYMI: Chairing First Subcommittee Markup, Senator Warren Highlights Provisions for National Defense Authorization Act

“This mark strengthens the all-volunteer force, improves the quality of life for everyone who serves, and ensures that we instill command climates to prevent sexual assault and harassment.”

Video of Hearing (SASC)

Washington, D.C. – Charing her first Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee Markup, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) highlighted her priorities and the many provisions offered to the full Committee for inclusion in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024, including the following pieces of legislation:

  • Junior Reserve Officer Training (JROTC) Safety Act to better protect JROTC recruits following reports of program instructors sexually assaulting and harassing high school students, increase oversight of the agencies charged with running the program, and prohibit mandatory enrollment of students into the program.
  • DoD Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act to limit the influence of contractors on the military, constrain foreign influence on retired senior military officers, and assert greater transparency over contractors and their interaction with DoD.
  • Retired Officers Conflict of Interest Act alongside Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Representatives Jason Crow (D-Colo.) and Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) to require public reporting on retired service members working on behalf of foreign governments and creates civil penalties if they break the law.
  • Stop Price Gouging the Military Act to close loopholes in current acquisition laws, tie financial incentives for contractors to performance, and provide DoD the information necessary to prevent future rip-offs.
  • Financial Relief for Civilians Treated at Military Hospitals Act with Representative Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) to ensure that Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) run by the Department of Defense (DoD) can continue to enhance military readiness without racking up huge bills for civilians receiving emergency medical care.

Transcript: Markup for National Defense Authorization Act Fiscal Year 2024
U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Personnel
June 21, 2022

Senator Elizabeth Warren: The Subcommittee meets today to mark up an original bill, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024. We will hold this Subcommittee markup in OPEN session. 

I am confident that we can conduct our business publicly without disclosing classified information or adversely impacting the process. In this regard, I ask that any Senator wishing to offer an amendment or raise an issue of a classified nature defer that for the full Committee’s consideration. 

While this Subcommittee is meeting in open session, the entire contents of the Markup Book are subject to amendment throughout its consideration by the Armed Services Committee and are therefore embargoed until passed by the full Committee and reported to the Senate.

Traditionally, the Subcommittee has used the Chairman’s mark as a markup vehicle. Without objection, we will use the Chairman’s mark as a markup vehicle, subject to amendment. There being no objection, it is so ordered.

I remind Members, when calling up an amendment for consideration, please identify the amendment by amendment number.  This courtesy will help eliminate confusion and speed up consideration of all amendments.

Consistent with the practice and precedent of both this Subcommittee and the full Committee, the following amendments will not be in order, and will not be considered: 

  • Amendments involving a significant matter that is not within the jurisdiction of this Subcommittee;
  • Amendments that involve the jurisdiction of another committee that has not agreed to consideration of the amendment for inclusion in this Subcommittee’s markup; and
  • Amendments that would constitute an earmark.

Further, it has been the practice that any amendment to add funding must be accompanied by an offset.  Accordingly, if any Senator proposes an amendment that would increase spending, she or he must also identify an offset to pay for it.  Unless the offset can be made from funding under the jurisdiction of this Subcommittee, the amendment must be offered at the full Committee.

It is our obligation to live up to our promises to support service members and their families. All three of my brothers served in the military. I know how hard service members work, and I know how hard their service can be on their families.

This mark and the work of the subcommittee continue a long tradition of bipartisanship. I want to thank Senator Scott for being a great partner as the ranking member of the subcommittee.  We come from opposite sides of the aisle, but we are in fierce agreement that we must do everything we can to support those who serve.

I’m proud of this mark, which supports a 5.2 percent pay raise for all service members and for our civilian defense workforce.  This is the largest pay raise in decades. This mark also fully supports the Administration’s request to fund family programs, childcare programs, and healthcare for service members, their families, and retirees.

The mark before us consists of 78 legislative provisions, 34 items of special interest, and two budget items. This mark strengthens the all-volunteer force, improves the quality of life for everyone who serves, and ensures that we instill command climates to prevent sexual assault and harassment. This mark also includes important steps to address a deeply troubling trend of military suicides. I particularly thank Senator Blumenthal and Senator Sullivan for their work on this important issue.

Last September Senators Hirono, Blumenthal, Gillibrand, and I opened an investigation into the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, or JROTC.  Our investigation was prompted by disturbing reports of instructors in the program sexually harassing or assaulting the students enrolled in the program. This mark strengthens program oversight and instructor certification requirements.  It also provides the DoD with authority to hold programs accountable if they fail to protect students.  It requires annual reporting on allegations of instructor misconduct and makes sure students know their rights. Following reports of some schools forcing students to participate in JROTC, the mark also makes clear that this is a voluntary program. I look forward to studies this bill requires from the GAO that will help guide our work to address any other shortfalls in keeping students in the JROTC program safe. It also includes a provision requested by Ranking Member Wicker to establish and support more JROTC units.

I’m also proud of how this mark addresses medical debt. No one should be pursued by debt collectors because they had a medical emergency. This bill allows civilian debts owed to military treatment facilities to be held in abeyance until DoD issues its interim rule to waive those fees. It also requires DoD to provide a briefing on how medical debt is affecting service members.

One of the greatest risks to our national security is allowing defense contractors to distort our national security priorities. The American people deserve to know that our nation’s decisions are based on what’s best for our security, not on what results in the biggest payday for Lockheed Martin or Raytheon. I will continue my efforts to strengthen these laws in the NDAA. 

Similarly, it is important that our military decisions not be influenced by well-organized lobbying efforts conducted by foreign governments.  A recent investigation revealed that an astounding number of retired military officers secretly working for other countries. This mark strengthens the review process for approving any such work.  It also subjects those approvals to public scrutiny by removing the cloak of secrecy. 

This mark also includes a provision to require the Secretary of Defense to ensure that each installation of the Department of Defense that has an Indian Tribal Nation or Tribal interests located near the installation has a dedicated Tribal liaison at the installation. 

The mark also enhances the due process rights for civilians who hold security clearances.

And finally, as the military continues to struggle to meet its recruiting goals, I’m proud of the many provisions in this bill to enhance recruiting and to support service members and their families. We still have a lot of work to do, and I plan to offer additional amendments throughout the process to address these shortfalls.  Even so, this is a strong start.

The Biden administration just announced major steps to support military families. Our mark takes those steps further, including initiating a pilot program to determine whether enhanced pay can help address the childcare crisis that is particularly acute for service members.  This is a matter of concern for all families with children, but it is a particularly urgent problem for service members who are often stationed in places where they don’t have family nearby as a safety net and who may have a spouse or partner whose schedules are as unpredictable and demanding as their own. This mark is an important first step in addressing the childcare crisis.

The mark also takes steps to address the mental health issues facing many of our military families.  The mark expands non-medical counseling services provided by the Department of Defense to qualifying populations without regard to their geographic location.

These are only a few highlights of the legislative package we present for markup. I want to thank all of the members of the subcommittee and the full committee for their work, as well as their staff. I especially want to thank the committee staff, Jon Clark, Gary Leeling, Andy Scott, Sofia Kamali, Noah Sisk, Jenny Davis, Sean O’Keefe, Katie Magnus, and Brendan Gavin.

At this point, I invite Ranking Member Scott to make a statement.