Congressman Joe Wilson, Senior Member of the House Armed Services Committee, has issued the following statement after the House Armed Services Committee completed the markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022:
“This year’s National Defense Authorization Act reaffirms Congress’s commitment to our men and women in uniform. Through modernization of the nuclear triad, supporting military families, taking action against the Biden administration’s defense budget cuts, making improvements to mission readiness, and demanding answers from the Biden administration on Afghanistan, this bill advances peace through strength.
“As a veteran and father of four sons who have served in the military overseas, I appreciate these victories for our servicemembers and am committed to continue working for our military and their families. I am grateful to have worked with my colleagues to advance this important, bipartisan legislation.”
Highlights from the FY22 NDAA
Exercising Oversight of the Biden Afghanistan Policy
“The American people have lost confidence in the Biden administration following the catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan. It is my constitutional duty as a member of the House Armed Services Committee to hold this administration accountable for this disastrous policy that left American citizens and our Afghan allies behind and ensure it never happens again. That is why I introduced an amendment requiring the Department of Defense to brief Congress on their plan to track local national support to US armed forces in future conflicts. A comprehensive, inter-agency effort is clearly necessary to ensure allies that risk their lives for the United States are not left behind like they were in Afghanistan.
“Additionally, the Biden administration has jeopardized 20 years of advancement by Afghan women, who are now at risk of oppressive Taliban rule. That is why I supported an amendment requiring the White House to develop a strategy for preserving the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.”
The bill requires the White House to brief Congress on all military equipment, including aircraft, left behind, to explain its decision to abandon Bagram airfield, and to assess the extent of Iranian support for the Taliban. It also requires the White House to brief Congress on future terrorist threats facing the US following the overtaking of Afghanistan by the Taliban.
Taking Action to Counter Biden Defense Cuts
“This NDAA ensures the Pentagon is properly resourced to modernize its capabilities against an emboldened China and reemerging Russia without sacrificing near-term readiness.”
Congressman Wilson supported a bipartisan amendment to address the White House’s inadequate top-line budget. The amendment strengthens deterrence against China by preventing the Navy from decommissioning three cruisers and includes $4.7 billion for shipbuilding, $1.7 billion for new aircraft, and $878 million for additional combat vehicles on the military service’s unfunded priority lists.
Helping Military Families with Special Needs
The FY22 NDAA includes the Representation for Exceptional Military Families Act, which Congressman Wilson introduced earlier this year.
“I am grateful that my bill, the Representation for Exceptional Military Families Act, was included in this year’s NDAA to support families with special needs. Families with members who have special needs face unique medical and educational challenges. Congress has a responsibility to ensure they are well-supported and that their family circumstances are not a barrier to military service.”
The bill would create an Exceptional Family Member Program Advisory Council to empower families enrolled in the Department of Defense’s Exceptional Family Member Program. This council will allow the services to hear from experts within the disability community and families with lived experiences.
Reducing Barriers for Military Voters
The FY22 NDAA also includes the Reducing Barriers for Military Voters Act, which Congressman Wilson introduced earlier this year.
“The Reducing Barriers for Military Voters Act provides select deployed service-members an auditable, electronic ballot delivery system so their ballots arrive in time to be counted in accordance with state law.”
Military absentee ballots are rejected at three times the rate of the general population. Of those rejected, half are because they arrived too late. The bill is supported by 14 military advocacy groups, including Blue Star Families, the Military Officers Association of America, and the National Military Families Association.
Supporting our Military Families
This NDAA supports a 2.7 percent increase in military basic pay, increases the allowable parental leave for primary and secondary caregivers including foster parents, authorizes a basic needs allowance to qualified, low-income service members, and expands the in-home childcare pilot program providing financial assistance for in-home childcare.
It also incorporates many of the recommendations of the Department of Defense’s Independent Review Commission on sexual assault in the military. It creates special victims prosecutors to manage suspected cases of sexual assault and makes sexual harassment a standalone violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. These reforms leverage the considerable legal expertise already in the military services to help military commanders maintain safe command climates. In addition, the bill strengthens military installation relationships with civilian family advocacy organizations and improves awareness and training for military leaders and beneficiaries.
Making Tactical Training Safer
This year’s defense bill includes provisions to systematically track causes of tactical vehicle rollovers across the military services.
“I want to thank the loved ones of service members who lost their lives in these tragedies for sharing their stories during this year’s congressional hearings. The Joint Security Council and Mishap Investigation Board is a step in the right direction towards identifying trends between services to reduce fatal training incidents.”
• Establishes a Joint Safety Council within the Office of the Deputy Secretary of Defense that advises on all operational safety matters, establishes safety standards, collects and analyzes safety data, and develops safety priorities.
• Addresses concerns about the quality and objectivity of the military department’s mishap investigations by directing the Deputy Secretary of Defense to develop a plan for the establishment of a Mishap Investigation Review Board, which would provide oversight and independent review of mishap investigations.
• Requires the Secretaries of the Army and Marine Corps to develop a plan to address the recommendations contained in GAO’s recent report on tactical vehicle mishaps.
Modernizing the Nuclear Triad
“I was grateful to see bipartisan support for a two-site solution to plutonium pit production. The past three administrations have recognized the importance of modernizing our nuclear arsenal and I look forward to the Savannah River Site continuing to contribute to our national security.”
The NDAA authorized continued full funding for plutonium pit production at the Savannah River Site. This project will assist in creating modern nuclear weapons to increase deterrence through peace through strength.
Supporting the Savannah River Site
“As the only Member of Congress to have worked at the Savannah River Site, our office understands how important the Savannah River Site is to both our state and nation. This bill includes an additional $6.5 million for Payments in Lieu of Taxes for the counties of Aiken, Barnwell, and Allendale.”
Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PiLT) funding goes to these counties to support schools, emergency services, and county operations that would have otherwise received taxes through development on that property.
Fighting for South Carolina Military Installations
South Carolina’s five military installations fulfill both active-duty and National Guard training exercises. This bill invests in military aircraft, including the F-35 joint strike fighter and AH-64 Apache, UH-60 Blackhawk, CH-47 Chinook helicopters. Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort supports flight for F-35 aircraft. McEntire Joint National Guard Base supports AH-64 Apache, UH-60 Blackhawk, and CH-47 Chinook helicopters.
The bill further supports South Carolina military installations by fully funding Fort Jackson’s Reception Barracks, Joint Base Charleston’s Fire and Rescue Station, and McEntire’s Hazardous Cargo Pad, and upgraded F-16 Mission Training Center (MTC).