Houlahan Secures Record Number of Priorities in Annual Defense Bill Markup

Washington, D.C.Image via Pixabay

Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) has announced that all 19 of her amendments were included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with unanimous, bipartisan support. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee since 2019, this is Houlahan’s fifth NDAA and first as a member of the minority party in Congress. Her record number of amendments adopted during markup is further evidence of her effective, bipartisan approach to strengthening national security.

“I’m enormously proud of the bipartisan spirit our committee displayed throughout this process. We’ve signed the NDAA into law every year without fail for over six decades, and it’s an increasingly remarkable achievement. While I joined the vast majority of my colleagues in voting favorably on this bipartisan bill and am proud of the fruitful conversations we had, I am also disappointed by the conversations we didn’t have. We did not talk enough about basic needs like health care, child care, or reproductive care – quality of life issues that service members talk to me about time and again.”

Houlahan continued, “Our military can have the best technology, systems, and weapons in the world, but if we are not supporting our service members’ lives and livelihoods, we will not be able to meet and overcome the emerging threats of tomorrow. This process is far from over, so I will be working diligently with all of my colleagues to create the strongest possible bill to support our service members and thus our nation’s defense. I especially look forward to moving the needle forward in the new Quality of Life panel I will be leading alongside my colleague Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE).”

The NDAA, Congress’ annual defense bill, outlines defense priorities and spending across all branches of the military. For the last 63 years, the historically bipartisan NDAA is one of the few pieces of legislation that has become law every year. Proving bipartisan progress is still possible on Capitol Hill, the legislation passed by a vote of 58-1. The NDAA will now head to the House Floor in the coming weeks for further amendments and final consideration.

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Ahead of the committee markup, several of Houlahan’s efforts were unanimously adopted into the base text of the bill, including:

  • Improving transparency of the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program by providing data on the number and total dollar amount of contracts awarded
  • Requiring data on the availability of tungsten, a rare critical mineral in the National Defense Stockpile
  • Directing $50 million for the M9173A Heavy Dump Truck for the Army and Army Reserve
  • Establishing Commercial Rocket Accelerated Flight Testing Programs to fund new and innovative flight systems
  • Acquiring an additional $2.5 million for the Metals Affordability Initiative, a collaborative effort managed by the Air Force Research Laboratory to ensure the continued advancement of metals technologies for the betterment of the warfighter, industry, and the public consumer
  • Creating a pilot project to expand the use of robotic sensing to improve maintenance of existing surface vessels and shipyard infrastructure
  • Reducing DoD reliance on foreign-manufactured active pharmaceutical ingredients
  • Directing the Navy to conduct a study on the benefits of incorporating autonomous systems on manned surface ships to improve efficiency

“I am a third-generation veteran, but I’m also an engineer, educator, and – perhaps my favorite title of all – a mom. These diverse experiences enable me to effectively legislate on a wide range of priorities for our country. From paid family leave to security clearances to TRICARE coverage and everything in between, I am committed to exploring every option to protect our national security.”

During Wednesday’s 14-hour committee markup, Houlahan successfully advanced 19 amendments. Highlights of her provisions include:

  • Expanding paid leave eligibility for federal employees who are veterans under the Family and Medical Leave Act
  • Ensuring the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) develops a comprehensive report on security clearance process for individuals under current or previous investigation for terrorist/foreign state sympathies
  • Establishing a public-private partnership pilot program to accelerate the scaling, production, and acquisition of advanced capabilities from small companies for our national defense
  • Directing a comprehensive strategy on force resilience that provides a proactive, intentional approach to holistic health within the Total Force Fitness framework
  • Requiring a report on improving fertility support services for service-members separated from their partners.
  • Collecting data on TRICARE reimbursement of human donor breast milk
  • Improving understanding TRICARE coverage issues for National Guardsmen and Reservists through additional reporting
  • Directing $29 million in funding for the Army’s Humanitarian Demining program to eliminate the devastating impacts of war
  • Increasing the number of positions to work on our weapons programs at the National Nuclear Security Agency
  • Requiring the DoD to establish a strategy to ensure that we have an adequate domestic production level of niobium oxide, a critical mineral often found within steels used for infrastructure
  • Expanding options for remote and telework for military spouses
  • Clarifying congressional intent to allow Army funding for the maintenance and repair of the Military Women’s Memorial
  • Transitioning the DoD’s travel management system to a commercial option, improving functionality for servicemembers and their families
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“This year’s defense bill contributes to over six decades of this Committee’s commitment to investing in the greatest sources of America’s national strength: service members and their families, innovation and technology, allies and partners, and our defense industrial base and military readiness,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee. “As we continue to face enormous challenges posed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the acute threat posed by Russia, and the persistent threats posed by North Korea, Iran, and violent extremist organizations, we have sent a clear, bipartisan message to our allies and partners, global competitors, and the American people: democracy still works and Congress is still able to come together in the spirit of bipartisanship and our shared respect for our armed forces and providing for our national security and national defense.”

Houlahan applauds the many additional priorities she championed in the legislation including:

  • A historic 5.2% pay raise for service members
  • Improving cybersecurity coordination with Taiwan
  • Preventing AI from being involved in the nuclear launch sequence
  • Exploring alternatives to Arlington National Cemetery to ensure our veterans continue to receive the honors they deserve
  • Increasing access to contraceptives for service women by eliminating copays
  • Ensuring our weapon systems supply chains are secure from start to finish
  • Improving our understanding of recruitment efforts for women in STEM fields
  • Giving local communities access to updates on military cleanup efforts of PFAS, a harmful chemical found in a lot of military equipment
  • Funding additional research and exploration of Quantum Computing

For a summary of the FY24 NDAA prepared by Committee staff, click here (Democratic) or read the Chairman’s release here (Republican).

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