Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17), a member of the powerful House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, helped pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included several of her key amendments to support Gold Star families, Cadet Nurses who served during World War II and leasing capabilities at the Rock Island Arsenal.
"Earlier this week, I returned from a bipartisan Congressional Mission to the Middle East where I saw critical military assets firsthand and met with servicemembers who work around the clock to keep us safe," Congresswoman Bustos said. "That's why I was proud that the most robust defense authorization in history included my amendments to invest in our troops and military bases, support military families in times of need and recognize the courageous efforts of women who stepped up when duty called."
"In this era, where partisanship is the norm, the Democratic members of the Armed Services Committee have worked diligently to preserve our Committee's long-standing tradition of bipartisanship, and the FY20 NDAA is a reflection of that tradition," said House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith. "While this year's NDAA contains bipartisan provisions, our new Democratic majority has had an undeniable impact on the contents of this bill. Thanks to the leadership of Congresswoman Bustos and other members of our excellent Committee, the bill passed today reflects our values, supports our troops, and provides for a strong national defense enterprise."
Congresswoman Bustos included the following provisions:
Earlier this year, Congresswoman Bustos introduced the Gold Star Spouses and Spouses of Injured Servicemembers Leasing Relief Expansion Act -- a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would extend home and automobile leasing protections in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, allowing the spouses of catastrophically injured servicemembers to terminate property leases and automobile leases and Gold Star spouses to terminate automobile leases. Following introduction of this legislation, these policies have already been adopted by companies like Toyota.
The inspiration for this legislation came from testimony submitted by the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) last Congress during a markup of the Gold Star Spouses Leasing Relief Act -- another piece of legislation introduced and passed by Congresswoman Bustos. In their testimony, PVA advocated that the same protections being offered to widows and widowers also be provided to the spouses of servicemembers who sustain catastrophic injury. As a result of injury, servicemembers may spend a significant amount of time in rehabilitation facilities -- additionally, cars or property that they own may become inaccessible. This legislation would eliminate the loophole and alleviate potential financial burdens for servicemembers and their families.
Another bicameral, bipartisan piece of legislation included by Congresswoman Bustos honors the 120,000 Cadet Nurses who served during World War II, including 13,514 from Illinois. This bill would distinguish them as honorary veterans, as well as provide them with burial privileges. The U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps was established in 1943 during World War II to address nursing shortages. This piece of legislation has garnered the support of organizations such as the American Nurses Association, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Organization of Nurse Executives.
This legislation also helps the Rock Island Arsenal by reauthorizing an the authority for local commands at arsenals, depots and ammunition plants to approve leases for underutilized space on their own installations, which Congresswoman Bustos included in a previous NDAA bill. In addition, it requires the Army to complete a needs assessment on what would be required for the Army to create an internal listing service of army assets available for lease at arsenals, depots and plants.
Other priorities of Congresswoman Bustos included in the NDAA are:
The most robust defense budget in history at $773 billion;
A 3.1 percent raise in military pay;
A tenant bill of rights to protect families in privatized military housing;
$11.5 billion for military construction, family housing;
$121.3 million to clean up drinking water on or near military bases;
A "safe-to-report" policy at military service academies, which allows sexual assault victims to report sexual assault without fear of discipline;
Required briefings on Russian interference and strategies to counter interference efforts in the 2020 election;
Required collaboration in Asia to contain North Korean threats and prohibit troop reduction in South Korea below 28,000;
Protection for the Department of Defense against cyber threats.