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Sen. Harris Praises Passage of Annual Defense Bill, Includes Key Provisions


Date: Sept. 18, 2017
Location: Washington, DC

Today, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris praised the final passage of the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which contains bipartisan provisions drafted by Harris that will directly support California's military and defense community:

"This bill ensures our brave service members have the equipment, support, and benefits required to defend our nation, and improves military readiness, capacity, and modernization," said Harris. "My amendments, introduced with colleagues across the aisle, respond to the needs of the National Guard and aim to support members of the military, veterans, and their families. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure these critically important provisions are signed into law once the final bill is sent to the President."

The bill includes a provision, authored by Harris, that seeks to end limitations related to the National Guard's service providing military funeral honors for veterans.

"The passage of Senator Harris' amendment for our California Military Funeral Honors program demonstrates her unwavering resolve to ensure our Soldiers and Airmen have the tools they need to be successful in the years to come," said Major General David S. Baldwin, Adjutant General, California National Guard. "I am grateful to have her leadership as our representative in the U.S. Senate and on behalf of the men and women of the California National Guard, thank her for her work on these issues."

The bill also includes a provision introduced by Harris and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) to help protect certain immigrants who enlisted with the U.S. military through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program, which provides critical skills such as language, medical and cultural expertise to our armed forces.

The amendments led by Harris include:

Military Funeral Honors Programs: Requires the Secretary of Defense to conduct a report about the regulations surrounding the National Guard's performance of military funerals. Members of the Guard who volunteer for this face a mandated termination of their orders at the end of three years. This mandatory termination imposes a severe hardship on a state, requiring it to recruit and train replacements that are suitable and available. Current restrictions are creating backlogs in states with large veteran populations such as California. This amendment was co-sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).

MAVNI: Under current law, MAVNI recruits are automatically separated from the Armed Forces at 730 days if they have not yet completed basic training. But because of extensive new security screening, many MAVNI recruits are unable to even begin basic training and some risk falling out of immigration status and subject to deportation once separated from the military. This amendment allows the Secretary of Defense to extend the deadline for basic training by one year, allowing additional time for background checks to be completed and preventing men and women who have signed up to serve from being separated.