September 18, 2017

NDAA Passes Senate, Includes Numerous Provisions Led by Senator Elizabeth Warren

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today applauded the Senate's passage of the critical National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018, which included multiple provisions she spearheaded. Senator Warren successfully fought for the inclusion of several major legislative priorities focused on improving the lives of servicemembers and their families, securing funding for Massachusetts military priorities, and addressing key national security concerns.

"The defense bill has a long tradition of bipartisan cooperation and I was glad to join that tradition as part of the Armed Services Committee," said Senator Warren. "This legislation supports our service members and their families, promotes common-sense Pentagon spending reforms, advances cutting-edge defense research, and bolsters the Commonwealth's innovation economy. Most importantly, this NDAA will make a real, positive impact on the lives of Americans."

As a member of the Military Personnel subcommittee, Senator Warren focused on specific provisions to support servicemembers, including an amendment that will help ensure servicemembers receive the pay raises they are entitled to, based on legislation she introduced with Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). She also secured an amendment to limit inappropriate debt collector actions against servicemembers, and language to help ensure military borrowers receive student loan benefits. In addition, the NDAA contains an amendment based on legislation introduced by Senator Warren and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) to support victims of domestic terrorism, in recognition of survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Senator Warren successfully fought to secure additional funding to support Massachusetts' military installations and advance defense research, including more than $93 million to fund military construction projects in Massachusetts, an additional $45 million in funding for the U.S. Army's basic and applied research accounts, and a series of amendments supporting Department of Defense (DOD) operations across the Commonwealth.

Senator Warren also secured a number of amendments on national security issues ranging from addressing U.S. nuclear policy to stymieing Russia's disinformation campaign. The bill also contains several of Senator Warren's priorities to support DOD's ability to meet 21st century challenges.

In addition to including a number of key Warren provisions in the text approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee in June, the legislation passed by the full Senate earlier today contains two additional amendments introduced by Senator Warren.

Senator Warren secured an amendment based on the bipartisan Securing the Electric Grid to Protect Military Readiness Act of 2017, which she initially introduced with Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). It requires DOD to issue a one-time report on significant cyber vulnerabilities and security risks to the national electric grid and the associated implications for military readiness.

Another amendment led by Senator Warren will require DOD to conduct a longitudinal medical study on blast pressure exposure by military personnel, assess the feasibility of including blast exposure history as part of a service record, and review safety precautions surrounding heavy weapons training to account for emerging research on blast exposure. The amendment codifies recommendations made in a recent report on soldier survivability, which analyzed data from blast gauges over a period of several years.

Senator Warren worked to secure the following provisions in the NDAA:

Fighting for Servicemembers

  • Pay Raises for Servicemembers: Senator Warren worked with Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) to include an amendment in the bill that will help ensure servicemembers receive the pay raises they are entitled to. This amendment is modeled on a portion of the Leadership Recognition Act, introduced earlier this year by Senators Ernst and Warren.
  • Limit Inappropriate Debt Collector Actions Against Servicemembers: An amendment that requires DOD to review and update its policies regarding harassment of and contact with servicemembers by debt collectors. This proposal, which is reflected in Senator Warren's Servicemember Debt Collection Reform Act, comes on the heels of a report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about debt collectors taking advantage of servicemembers in a variety of ways, including contacting commanding officers inappropriately, and alleging that servicemembers owe disputed or imaginary debts.
  • Benefits for Borrowers: Report language urging DOD to work with the Departments of Education and Veterans Affairs to automate the application of student loan benefits available to military borrowers using information in existing federal databases, and help ensure servicemembers receive benefits to which they are entitled.
  • Protect Servicemembers from Sexual Harassment:  The committee-passed bill makes it an offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice to share private images of another individual without their consent. This change is similar to the Protecting Servicemembers Online Act, a bipartisan bill previously introduced by Senators Warren and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) in response to the Marines United incident that will provide military prosecutors with more tools to combat sexual harassment online.
  • Prevent and Treat Gambling Disorders in the Military: An amendment requiring DOD to begin tracking gambling disorder in its health assessments, enabling the Department to better support servicemembers dealing with gambling disorder. This amendment reflects Senator Warren's Preventing and Treating Gambling Disorder in the Military Act, and follows an amendment offered by Senator Warren and adopted in the FY2016 NDAA proposing a Government Accountability Office study on the issue. 
  • Support Victims of Terrorism: An amendment that elevates the priority ranking for civilian victims of terror, making it easier for non-military individuals with traumatic injuries to receive treatment in military hospitals, while also allowing treatment facilities to maintain military medical readiness and provide training opportunities for the next generation of military healthcare providers.  This provision reflects the intent of the Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes Act, which was introduced by Senators Warren and Susan Collins (R-Maine) in response to the Boston Marathon bombing.

Fighting for Massachusetts

  • A provision adding $45 million in additional funding for the Army's basic and applied research accounts. Overall, the bill increases funding for science and technology by approximately $250 million over the President's Budget request, and will also make it easier for DOD laboratories to enter into research agreements and access technical expertise at U.S. universities, and create new flexibilities for awarding research and development funding.
  • $11.4 million to improve security at Hanscom Air Force Base by building a new Vandenberg Gate complex.
  • $10 million to build an Indoor Small Arms Range at Westover Air Force Base in order to enhance training for airmen.
  • $21 million to improve family housing at Natick Soldier Systems Center, and authority to conduct a land swap in order to locate families closer to the base.
  • $51.1 million (not requested in the President's Budget) to construct new Maintenance Facility Shops at Westover Air Force Base, moving this project from FY19 to FY18.
  • Full funding for the Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental (DIUx), located in Cambridge, Mass., to help accelerate innovative technology into the hands of men and women in uniform. 
  • Report language supporting construction of a new Advanced Microelectronics Integration Facility at MIT Lincoln Lab beginning in 2019, and recognizing the critical role that the lab plays in national security research.

Fighting to Strengthen U.S. National Security

  • Improve Transparency on Emoluments: An amendment in the bill that will require DOD to report annually to Congress on instances when a retired general officer requests a waiver from the emoluments requirements in order to accept payment from a foreign government. This provision in reflected in Senator Warren's Countering Foreign Interference with our Armed Forces Act.
  • Track Civilian Casualties: In an effort to improve transparency and hold the Trump Administration accountable for actions overseas, Senator Warren secured an amendment requiring DOD to submit an annual report detailing civilian casualties caused as a result of U.S. military operations. This reporting provision is also reflected in Senator Warren's Preventing Civilian Casualties in Military Operations Act, and follows a 2014 speech she delivered on the negative consequences of civilian deaths for U.S. national security. 
  • Counter Disinformation: Senator Warren, along with Senator Ernst (R-Iowa), successfully included an amendment requiring DOD to report annually on Russian efforts to target military personnel in disinformation campaigns. This proposal is also included in Senator Warren's Countering Foreign Interference with our Armed Forces Act
  • Reaffirm Nuclear Treaty Commitments: An amendment expressing the view of Congress that DOD should consider existing U.S. treaty obligations in its forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which outlines the U.S. government's approach to the U.S. nuclear arsenal, prevention of nuclear weapons proliferation, securing nuclear materials, and related priorities. Additionally, Senator Warren secured an amendment that requires the Secretary of Defense to consult with other national security agencies in preparing the NPR, and to provide an unclassified version of the final NPR for public review as done by the Obama Administration.

Fighting to Modernize the Defense Department

  • Improve Workplace Safety for DOD Contractors: Senator Warren successfully included an amendment to the bill that would require DOD contracting officers to consider workplace safety and health violations when evaluating the responsibility of a prospective DOD contractor. This amendment is similar to her Contractor Accountability and Workplace Safety Act and continues her work on holding federal contractors accountable for labor violations, which also includes a report on abuses among large contractors and a letter to the Department of Justice requesting a criminal investigation into particularly egregious violations by a Navy shipbuilder that resulted in several deaths.   
  • Increase Cyber Resiliency: The committee-passed bill provides an additional $10 million for the Cyber Resiliency for Weapons Systems (CROWS) program, which is tasked to identify vulnerabilities in current and existing weapons systems and has offices at Hanscom Air Force Base.  The mark also creates a Strategic Cybersecurity Program, a team of elite hackers that will work with the CROWS program to prioritize and address the most pressing cybersecurity needs of the Department of Defense.
  • Achieve Audit-Readiness: The committee-passed bill includes language to incentivize DOD to achieve audit-readiness by the end of this calendar year, including by requiring that nominees for the Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller) and other senior financial management positions have prior audit experience, and mandating a pay reduction for the Secretary of each military service for each year an audit is not achieved after 2020.  
  • Enhance Software Acquisition: The committee-passed bill also includes language requested by Senators Warren and Perdue (R-Georgia) that requires the Defense Innovation Board, an advisory board made up of executives from cutting-edge software and technology firms, conduct a study of how to improve the Department's acquisition policies for software and provide recommendations to the defense committees.
  • Utilize Open-Source Software: Senator Warren cosponsored an amendment led by Senator Rounds (R-S.D.) requiring DOD to use open source software methods and open source licenses whenever possible for unclassified, non-defense software, in accordance with private sector best practices.