Smith Statement on House Armed Services Committee Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act Mark-Up

Washington D.C. – Yesterday, the House Armed Services Committee completed its mark-up of the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

April 29, 2016

“The House Armed Services Committee is maintaining its bipartisan tradition. We worked through a lot of issues throughout the mark-up process, including a number of very controversial provisions. We crafted legislation the way it is supposed to be done. We held productive debates, disagreed, voted, and at the end of the process we passed a very significant piece of legislation.

“The National Defense Authorization Act is a very important bill that provides funding for essential defense priorities and sets military policy that impacts members of the military, their families and our local communities. As Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, I will continue to fight for a bill that reflects our national priorities”

The Amendment Process

During the mark-up, Democrats fought hard and won votes to protect the environment, overriding measures that would have prohibited USDA funds from being used to support DOD efforts to procure alternative fuels, prevented the construction of biofuel refineries, and overturned President Obama’s executive orders on climate change and sustainability.

Democrats won on a vote to establish equality for women in the military, by including them in the Selective Service.

Democrats won on votes to expand parental leave for military members to 14 days, expand adoption leave for dual military couples to 36 days, and require the Secretary of Defense to study flexible maternity and paternity leave sharing.

Fighting for Our Principles

With the support of my colleague Congressman Clyburn, I offered an amendment to pressure South Carolina to take down the Confederate battle flag flying above The Citadel, but Republicans modified it and voted for a version that would allow the flag to continue flying.

I continue to fight to remove unnecessary restrictions on the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and offered an amendment to get rid of the unnecessary restrictions on GTMO transfers added in last year's NDAA. My amendment failed but I will continue to fight to close this international eyesore that undermines national security objectives and damages our credibility with regard to human rights and international law.

Democrats fought back against an effort to prohibit unused military facilities from being used to house unaccompanied undocumented children.

Democrats fought back against efforts to protect government contractors who pervasively violate labor, nondiscrimination, workplace safety, minimum wage, and other laws from disclosure requirements.

Democrats fought against efforts to expand religious organizations’ ability to conduct ‘taxpayer funded discrimination’ against LGBT individuals, women, and other groups.

Democrats fought to remove $317 million in unrequested funds for nuclear weapons modernization, to reverse restrictions on dismantling nuclear weapons no longer in use, stop plans for an infeasible $300 billion ‘Star Wars’ space-based antimissile shield, and fought for independent cost estimates and more insight into the 30-year trillion-dollar plan for nuclear modernization.

Democrats fought big oil-driven efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act and undermine collaboration between DOD and DOI on land management via attacks on the sage grouse, the lesser prairie chicken, and the burying beetle.

Included in the Mark

The bill expresses a Sense of Congress valuing the expanded opportunities for women in the military and recognizing their long history of military service to the United States.

It  includes $10 million for research, development, and training at historically black universities and colleges; $20 million for military STEM education for at-risk youth; and $10 million for K-12 STEM education.

It allows transgender servicemembers who have changed their name after separation from service to receive amended discharge documents with their new name. 

It requires the Secretary of the Navy to review the court-martial convictions of those accused in the Port Chicago Naval Magazine incident of July 1944, to ensure there was no racial bias.

It requires a review of the service records of Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander veterans from the Korean war and Vietnam war to determine whether racial bias unjustly prevented them from receiving Medals of Honor, in order to set the record straight.

It directs the Secretary of Defense to examine the feasibility of  allow applicants to the Discharge Review Board and the Boards for the Correction of Military Records to appear before the boards remotely.

It includes Talia’s Law, a measure to prevent child abuse and neglect on military installations.

It fully funds nuclear nonproliferation and funds nuclear clean-up efforts.

It directs a study to try and identify individuals who are at high risk for suicide, as well as outlining efforts to combat suicidality.

It affirms the Secretary of Defense’s legal ability to allow immigrants – including DREAMers – to enlist in the military and serve our nation in uniform.

I continue to fight for the wellbeing of our service members and provide critical support in efforts to address opioid misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose and death. I offered an amendment accepted by the committee directing the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress on the DOD’s efforts to prevent, educate and treat prescription opioid drug abuse.

I support people-to-people ties, as they form bonds and bridges between nations. Helping build capacity abroad through education, including English language programs, advances national security goals. The bill requires a brief on opportunities to explore expanded education programs abroad and at home, including partnerships with U.S. colleges and universities.

I recognize the importance of exploring technology for clean water and desalination. Knowing the DOD has made advances in desalination technology and that lack of clean water is a factor in destabilization around the world, the bill requires the DOD to provide further information on the recent advances in desalination technologies and how those advances have been shared with other Government agencies.

I continue to work towards stability and security in Somalia. The bill affirms the DOD’s bi-lateral security cooperation and counter-terrorism efforts to improve the security situation in Somalia and address terrorist threats from Al-Shabaab.

To watch the full committee mark-up, visit the House Armed Services Committee YouTube Channel: