Rep. Cisneros Secures Defense Priorities in the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (CA-39), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, voted in support of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The annual NDAA authorizes funding for Department of Defense (DoD) programs and activities. The annual national defense budget involves millions of military and civilian personnel, thousands of facilities, and commands located around the world.
“As a Navy veteran, I was proud to join my colleagues to pass the NDAA, invest in our national security, and support our nation’s heroes,” said Rep. Cisneros. “This legislation outlines a defense policy that reflects our values, protects our nation, and provides the resources our servicemembers need to do their jobs, whether they are serving near California’s 39th Congressional District or around the world. I’m honored to have worked alongside my colleagues on the Armed Services Committee to strengthen our nation’s defense and secure my district’s priorities, including toughening our stance against our adversaries, improving military healthcare and services to military families, promoting diversity and inclusion, and addressing climate change.”
“In this era, where partisanship is the norm, the Democratic members of the Armed Services Committee have worked diligently to preserve our Committee’s long-standing tradition of bipartisanship, and the FY20 NDAA is a reflection of that tradition,” said House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith. “While this year’s NDAA contains bipartisan provisions, our new Democratic majority has had an undeniable impact on the contents of this bill. Thanks to the leadership of veterans on the committee like Congressman Gil Cisneros and other members of our excellent freshman class of veterans, the bill passed today reflects our Democratic values, supports our troops, and provides for a strong national defense enterprise.”
Rep. Cisneros fought for and secured numerous priority provisions in the FY 2020 NDAA including:
- Taking care of servicemembers and their families: Numerous provisions to take care of military families by improving military housing, expanding access to healthcare, and investing in transition assistance programs.
- Assistance for servicemembers as they enter the civilian workforce: Expanding the Work for Warriors job placement and employment assistance program.
- Combatting sexual assault: Funding for programs that support survivors of sexual assault and combats the rise of assaults in our military.
- Reasserting Congressional authority to authorize the use of military force: A bipartisan amendment offered by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and co-sponsored by Rep. Cisneros to prohibit federal funds from being used for military force against Iran without congressional authorization.
- Supporting transgender servicemembers: An amendment offered by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) and co-sponsored by Rep. Cisneros to overturn President Trump’s transgender ban.
- Increasing pay for servicemembers: authorizing a 3.1 percent pay raise for our servicemembers.
- Expanding university research: An amendment to increase the Navy university basic research by $5,000,000 to support innovative scientific research, which would help the U.S. military maintain technical superiority, was included in the bill.
Rep. Cisneros also successfully secured the inclusion of language to address a number of other important concerns:
- Supporting Servicemembers Transitioning To Civilian Life After the Military:
- Transition Assistance Reform: Congress has enacted numerous reforms to the military’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) in recent years, yet we continue to see numerous veterans unable to find a job and fail to receive their benefits. Rep. Cisneros successfully fought for a provision in the FY 2020 NDAA directing DoD to provide a progress report on recent reforms to TAP and examine their current effectiveness to adequately prepare servicemembers for civilian life so that Congress can continue to improve this critical program.
- Support for Servicewomen entering Civilian Life: Rep. Cisneros, along with Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, secured a provision to require continuation and expansion of a program to support transitioning servicewomen. At the end of May, Reps. Cisneros and Houlahan jointly introduced complementary legislation requiring an extension of an ongoing pilot program run by the US Air Force and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) under the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) that educates transitioning servicewomen about women’s health care at the VA. The FY 2020 NDAA includes language from these bills requiring DoD to continue and encourage participation in the program to help ensure transitioning servicewomen are aware of the health services available to them, including eligibility for gender-specific services and mental health programs.
- Supporting Transgender Servicemembers and Equality in the Military:
- Rep. Cisneros co-sponsored an amendment led by Rep. Jackie Speier that requires qualifications for eligibility to serve in an armed force to account only for the ability of an individual to meet gender-neutral occupational standards and not include any criteria relating to the race, color, national origin, religion, or sex (including gender identity or sexual orientation).
- Combatting Sexual Assault and Supporting Survivors
- Access to Nonprivileged Court Filings and Related Materials: Rep. Cisneros secured language directing DoD to study the establishment of standards for providing sexual assault survivors and their counsel with access to nonprivileged court filings and related materials. Rep. Cisneros believes that sexual assault survivors should be afforded every opportunity to have appropriate and competent legal representation and vigorous enforcement of their rights. Enabling sexual assault survivors to have access to nonprivileged court filings and investigative materials pertaining to them will help ensure survivors do get competent legal representation and vigorous enforcement of their rights.
- Extend the Defense Advisory Committee on Investigation, Prosecution, and Defense of Sexual Assault: Rep. Cisneros also secured language that directs the Commission to look into existing rules that may be limiting the voice of sexual assault victims in cases pertaining to them.
- Prevention of Sexual Assault in Armed Forces Act: Rep. Cisneros joined Rep. Lori Trahan to introduce the Prevention of Sexual Assault in Armed Forces Act. This legislation would create a Defense Advisory Committee on the Prevention Of Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces, established and maintained by the Secretary of Defense. It would also allow not only officers, but all enlisted military members to participate in the Funded Legal Education Program (FLEP).
- Addressing Sexual Assault at Military Academies: Rep. Cisneros supported Chairwoman Speier’s amendment to temporarily create an Office of Chief Prosecutor charged with making binding recommendations to the Military Service Academies' superintendents regarding special victims' offenses and whether to refer them to trial.
- A Foreign Policy that Reflects our Values:
- Moving to End the Korean War: Rep. Cisneros co-sponsored an amendment that was included in the NDAA to make clear that diplomacy is essential for addressing North Korea's nuclear program as a military confrontation would pose extreme risks. Rep. Cisneros believes the United States should pursue a sustained and credible diplomatic process to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea and bring the 69-year-long Korean War to an end. Rep. Cisneros is firmly committed to our alliance with South Korea and believes no U.S. troops should be withdrawn from the peninsula until specific conditions are met.
- Eliminating and Improving Transparency with Regards to Civilian Casualties: Rep. Cisneros worked with his colleagues to increase oversight and transparency of civilian casualties resulting from strikes outside areas of active hostilities and to direct DoD to work with a federally funded research and development center to conduct an independent assessment of processes and procedures related to civilian casualties.
- Support for Education and Innovation:
- Improving Language Training: Rep. Cisneros co-sponsored an amendment that enables DoD to award three-year competitive grants to DoD schools and to local education agencies that host a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. program for the establishment, improvement, or expansion of world language programs in elementary and secondary schools.
- Addressing Cyber Challenges:
- Helping Small and Mid-Size Manufacturers Improve Cybersecurity: Rep. Cisneros worked with his colleagues to secure language in the FY20 NDAA that requires DoD, in consultation with the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program, to develop policies to assist small- and mid-sized manufacturers meet cybersecurity requirements.
- DoD-VA Health Records Interoperability:
- Bipartisan Amendments to Improve Implementation of Electronic Health Records at VA and DoD: Rep. Cisneros worked with his colleagues to secure language in the FY20 NDAA that provides oversight and accountability to how the Federal Electronic Health Record Modernization joint program office operates. His amendments would ensure IT interoperability between the VA and the DoD health records is operated efficiently, providing the best level of healthcare and seamless service to our veterans and servicemembers.