Houlahan Celebrates Passage of Bipartisan Defense Bill Headed to President’s Desk

fighterImage by David Mark

WASHINGTON. D.C. — Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) announced legislative priorities she successfully incorporated into the recent FY22 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The annual defense bill has now been sent to the Senate, where it is expected to pass later this week before heading to President Biden’s desk for signature.

A former Captain in the Air Force, Houlahan authored dozens of provisions adopted in the final text. The NDAA passed the House last night 363-70.

“I cannot overstate how much servicemembers, veterans and the entire military community in Pennsylvania will benefit from this bill,” said Houlahan. “When I’m home in Chester and Berks counties, the message across party lines is clear – we want bipartisan cooperation for the good of the American people. This bill not only honors the service and sacrifice of our servicemembers and veterans through a 2.7% pay raise, health care expansion, and job opportunity training but also strengthens our military posture to face evolving national security threats around the world. At a time when cooperation and compromise across the aisle in Washington is not a given, we can all take pride in this bipartisan accomplishment.”

“As a veteran and the only Pennsylvanian on the House Armed Services Committee, I take my responsibility to represent the needs of our Commonwealth seriously. I vividly remember sitting with Pennsylvania National Guard members of the 28th Infantry Division last spring, asking what could be done to help them balance the demands of serving their country and their civilian lives and careers. I’m proud to say our Military Moms Matter provisions and more are a result of these types of direct feedback. These victories are our victories, and I’m immensely grateful to represent such a service-minded community.”

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Houlahan’s comprehensive Military Moms Matter provisions were incorporated into the FY22 NDAA with overwhelming bipartisan agreement. Her legislation:

  • Improves overall readiness by allowing new moms more time to complete their physical fitness test postpartum in consultation with their medical provider.
  • Directs the Secretary of Defense to establish defense-wide policies within 180 days to:
    • Provide postpartum care in Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs), including mental health assessments, pelvic health evaluation and treatment, considerations for physical therapy, pelvic health rehabilitation services, and obstetric hemorrhage treatment.
    • Schedule postpartum health care services in MTFs, considering if it makes sense to schedule them concurrently with well-baby appointments.
    • Excuse postpartum members of the Armed Forces from physical fitness requirements for a specific period of time.
  • Increases maternity and paternity leave to 12 weeks for both primary and secondary caregivers.
  • Separates the 6 weeks of convalescent leave from paternity/maternity leave.

Houlahan also championed over a dozen provisions that were adopted in the final bill. Highlights of her legislative successes include measures to:

  • Encourages Department of Defense (DOD) to look at incorporating alternate forms of therapy such as seminars, retreats, workshops, or outdoor recreational therapy events into current DOD suicide prevention treatment plans. DOD should also assess any evidence on the benefits or drawbacks of these treatments. While these are not a replacement for access to mental health care, they can be part of a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention.
  • Strengthens supply chain resilience by pushing DOD to research and develop alternative technologies for the extraction, processing and recycling of critical minerals and rare earths that are in everything from cell phones to advanced weapons systems. Also requires DOD to assess disruptions and vulnerabilities in our supply chains of tin, tantalum, tungsten and niobium – all critical minerals. Houlahan is working to lessen U.S. reliance on China and other adversaries for these essential materials.
  • Urges funding for retrofitting DOD facilities with private rooms for nursing mothers.
  • Requires the (DOD) to assess ways to make access to ROTC scholarships more equitable, since some colleges and universities do not currently offer ROTC programs to their students. Houlahan went to college on an ROTC scholarship and is working to make sure that option is available to more students.
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In addition to Houlahan’s provisions, this bill:

  • Secures a 2.7% increase in military basic pay for our men and women in uniform.
  • Honors military families by expanding access to child care, improving financial security of low-income military members and those with family members living with a disability, protects military communities from PFAS chemicals and strengthens access to health care, including mental health care and reproductive care.
  • Makes historic and significant changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice by removing the Commander from key decisions related to sexual assault and related crimes, creating an Office of the Special Trial Counsel within each service, criminalizing sexual harassment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and improving fairness and transparency across the system.
  • Supports key investments to address the threat of climate change and bolster energy resiliency.
  • Combats our adversaries by utilizing new tools to deter aggression from Russia and China and addresses transnational threats including terrorism.
  • Builds on Congress’s bipartisan action in passing Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) legislation to provide for the relocation of our Afghan allies and partners by requiring the Secretary of Defense to continue to provide in-depth reports and briefings to Congress on the situation in Afghanistan.
  • Invests in Historically Black Colleges and Universities to help build a fairer and more diverse Armed Services.

“Thanks to the hard work of Rep. Chrissy Houlahan and House Democrats, this year’s bill invests in what makes our country strong: Our growing economy, rich diversity, technological innovation, critical alliances and partnerships, democratic values, and our service members,” said Rep. Adam Smith, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “When we prioritize these sources of national strength, we are creating fair opportunity for local communities across our country while protecting our national security. That’s why the FY22 NDAA supports a 2.7% pay raise for U.S. service members, reforms the Uniform Code of Military Justice to address the sexual assault crisis in our military, contains measures to ensure our military is diverse and inclusive, and equips the Department of Defense to support the Biden-Harris Administration’s whole-of-government response to the climate crisis.

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The full text of the FY22 NDAA can be found here and a summary here.

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