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Van Hollen Statement on NDAA Final Passage

December 17, 2019

Legislation – which includes several Maryland priorities – now heads to the President’s desk

WASHINGTON
– Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) released the
following statement on the Senate passage  – and his support –  of
the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The legislation, having
passed both the full House and Senate, will now head to the President’s desk
for signature.

“I’m pleased
that the House and Senate were able to come together on a bipartisan basis to
pass this legislation to support our service members and federal employees,
strengthen our national security, and invest in critical projects throughout
Maryland. On the home front, this legislation provides funding to the many
federal agencies and military installations in Maryland that support our
national defense. It also includes a pay increase for our men and women in
uniform, paid parental leave for all federal employees, and a repeal of the
disgraceful Widow’s Tax. The bill addresses serious concerns we’ve raised on
private military housing, including at Fort Meade and Aberdeen Proving Ground.
And it incorporates legislation I’ve introduced to authorize the honorary
promotion of Bethesda Veteran Col. Charles McGee and to ensure WWI minority
Veterans are appropriately recognized for their acts of valor. In addition to
supporting the members of our Armed Forces and our civilian workforce, this
bill included provisions I authored that will protect our national security
interests. While not perfect, I was pleased to support this compromise and
secure these priorities for Maryland and our country.”   

Priorities of Senator Van Hollen’s included in
the final NDAA are:

·        
Provisions to improve privatized military
housing at military bases including Maryland’s Fort Meade and Aberdeen Proving
Ground.
Senator Van Hollen has been engaged with leaders at Fort Meade and
Aberdeen Proving Ground to address unacceptable conditions of  military
housing caused by inadequate maintenance by private contractors at those
installations. The NDAA includes key provisions of legislation co-sponsored by
Senator Van Hollen entitled the Ensuring Safe Housing for Our Military Act.
Improvements include withholding payment to
contractors of the Basic Allowance for Housing under certain circumstances; a
Tenant Bill of Rights; the creation of the position of Chief Housing Officer;
the addition of the oversight of military
privatized housing in performance evaluations
of installation commanders; consideration
of a landlord’s history in the contract renewal process; a uniform code of basic standards for privatized military
housing; and access for tenants to an online work order system.

·        
Provisions to repeal the Widow’s Tax. Currently,
military widows and widowers who qualify for the VA’s Dependency and Indemnity
Compensation (DIC) are forced to take a dollar-for-dollar offset from the DOD
Survivors Benefits Plan (SBP) benefit, even though their retired spouses
elected to pay into the program. SBP is a service member-purchased annuity,
whereas DIC is an indemnity payment when military service caused the member’s
death. No other federal surviving spouse is required to forfeit his or her
federal annuity because military service caused his or her sponsor’s death.
Additionally, the offset does not apply to surviving military children — only
to the spouse. In September, Senator Van Hollen met with a constituent and
military widow who was subjected to this offset after the loss of her husband,
and Senator Van Hollen promised he would continue to fight to repeal this
provision within the NDAA.

 

·        
Provisions
to guarantee paid parental leave for all federal employees
.
This
language will provide over 2 million federal workers with 12 weeks of paid
leave to care for a new child after birth, adoption, or the initiation of
foster care. Senator Van Hollen is an original cosponsor of the FAMILY Act,
which provides up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for all workers,
as well as the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act. He will continue to fight for
all workers to receive paid family and medical leave.

·        
The
Senator’s legislation to authorize the honorary promotion of Bethesda Veteran
and Tuskegee Airman Col. (Ret.) Charles McGee
.
Col. McGee, a resident
of Bethesda, Md., served with the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II, completing
136 combat missions. He completed an additional 100 combat missions in the
Korean Conflict and 173 combat missions in the Vietnam War, amassing a record
three-war total of 409 combat missions – more than any other Air Force fighter
pilot. Col. McGee completed a distinguished 30-year career in the United States
Air Force, serving in numerous leadership and command capacities and becoming
the first African American to command a stateside Air Force Wing and Base in
the integrated Air Force.

·        
Provisions
of the Senator’s Valor Medals Review Act
.
These provisions require the
Department of Defense to undertake a review of valor medals awarded to minority
Veterans during WWI to determine whether any should receive the Medal of Honor.
The language encourages the Department to conduct this review in consultation
with the Valor Medals Review Task Force, a joint project of the
Congressionally-established World War I Centennial Commission and the George S.
Robb Centre for the Study of the Great War, which has conducted extensive
research to identify WWI Veteran service records for this review. Service
members of all races, religions, and backgrounds fought in WWI, but the Medal
of Honor was not awarded to minority Veterans until the 1990s. Congress has
authorized more recent reviews for minority service members from World War II
to the present, but the only review undertaken for WWI took place in 1919 – and
no minority Veterans received the Medal of Honor as a result of that review.
Addressing this issue is long overdue. William Butler, an African American
Veteran from Salisbury, Md. was recognized with the Croix de Guerre with Palm,
the Distinguished Service Cross, and a recommendation for the Medal of Honor –
but he never received that award – the nation’s highest military honor. This
legislation is designed to right that historic wrong and ensure that cases like
William Butler’s get a fair review.

·        
Authorization for new military construction
projects on Maryland defense installations. This authorization of funds supports
everything from infrastructure improvements to new facilities. These funds are
in addition to ongoing funding of all Maryland military installations that the
Senator has supported in Defense Appropriations legislation.

·        
$426 million for the National Security Agency at
Fort Meade

·        
$101 million for Joint Base Andrews

·        
$27.8 million for Fort Detrick

·        
$18.5 million for Naval Support Activity South
Potomac

·        
$13.8 million for Naval Support Activity
Bethesda

·        
$12 million for the Army National Guard combined
support maintenance shop in Havre de Grace

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