Today, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Vice-Chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, voted for the passage of H.R. 7900, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023, in the House of Representatives.
"This year's NDAA strengthens our national security, prioritizes our servicemembers, and modernizes key facets of our Armed Forces," said Congresswoman Escobar. "As a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the sole representative for Fort Bliss in Congress, I was proud to have crafted and voted for this robust package that secures a well-deserved pay raise for our brave men and women in uniform, advances protections against harassment in the military, inspires innovation at all levels of our Armed Forces, and so much more."
Thanks to the leadership of Congresswoman Escobar and her colleagues, the FY23 NDAA:
Improves Quality of Life for our Fort Bliss Servicemembers and Their Families
Ensuring our servicemembers are cared for is a top priority for Congresswoman Escobar. Through the NDAA, a 4.6% pay raise was secured for servicemembers and civilians. Additionally, her bill, H.R. 7930, the Military Spouse Entrepreneur Act, which reimburses business costs for military spouse entrepreneurs when their servicemembers are required to move posts, was included in the package.
Designates the El Paso Healing Garden a National Memorial
To honor the lives lost during the August 3rd, 2019 domestic terror attack in El Paso, Congresswoman Escobar championed a provision which designates the Healing Garden located at Ascarate Park in El Paso as the El Paso Community Healing Garden National Memorial. This amendment is in tandem with her bill H.R. 4380, which passed the House in March 2022.
Invests in Fort Bliss Infrastructure
Congresswoman Escobar successfully secured $15 million in construction funding for a new firehouse station at Fort Bliss. The new station would serve the William Beaumont Army Medical Center area. Additionally, Congresswoman Escobar ensured language was included in the FY23 NDAA that amended the Defense Community Infrastructure Program (DCIP), which authorizes the Department of Defense to award grants to local and state governments for community infrastructure supportive of military installations. Her amendment would allow critical infrastructure assets located on land leased from the Department of Defense, like the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Desalination Plant, to be eligible for these funds.
Supports Our Brave Men and Women in Uniform
Congresswoman Escobar included an amendment requiring complaints of harassment or prohibited discrimination made by a member of the Armed Forces to be completed within 180 days. Her amendment also allows for members to seek review or appeal in a U.S. court if they wished to after the 180 days are exhausted. The NDAA also eliminates TRICARE contraceptive costs for a year at a time when reproductive healthcare is under attack in states like Texas.
Codifies Tiguas Gaming Rights
Last year, Congresswoman Escobar introduced her bill, H.R. 2208, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and Alabama-Coushatta Tribes of Texas Equal and Fair Opportunity Act, to grant gaming rights to the Tiguas. This bill was included as an amendment in the NDAA, making their rights one step closer to being codified into law and granting this community its right to sovereignty, as favorably ruled on by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Provides for our Colonias
There has traditionally been little funding set aside just for the needs of Colonias and oftentimes localities have had to tackle Colonia issues on their own. The FY23 NDAA includes language authored by Congresswoman Escobar which reauthorizes the Wastewater Assistance to Colonias program, increases funding for the program, and lowers the local cost-share for localities that receive funding.
Grows Ties Between the Services and UTEP
To keep up with the high demand for qualified aviators, Congresswoman Escobar championed a provision in the NDAA to have the Secretary of the Air Force provide a briefing to the House Committee on Armed Services on how the Air Force can engage with Minority-Serving Institutions like University of Texas at El Paso on developing innovative programs aimed at recruiting and training future pilots. Cost and culture have often been barriers to entry into the Air Education and Training Command for women and minorities. Congresswoman Escobar expects the briefing to bring solutions to the barriers these underutilized and talented groups face. Congresswoman Escobar also advanced an amendment ensuring internships and fellowships in the recommendations to be submitted to Congress on the modification or expansion of workforce development programs of the Department of Defense that will be used to increase the proportion of the workforce hired from minority-serving institutions like UTEP.
Includes Stakeholders in Castner Range's Protection
Congresswoman Escobar amended a 2013 NDAA land conveyance and transfer authority, that originally authorized the Secretary of the Army to transfer Castner Range, without consideration, to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Division, to include an authority to also potentially transfer Castner to the Department of the Interior to be designated as a national monument.
Modernizes Our Military to Tackle the Climate Crisis
The FY23 NDAA secures $138.6 billion in research and development initiatives to keep our Armed Services innovative and competitive. Additionally, Congresswoman Escobar authored language to establish a pilot program for the Army to install microgrids at military installations and field electric vehicle fleets. This program would be in accordance with the strategic goals of the Department of Defense and the Army Installation Energy and Water Strategic Plan. Finally, she secured two amendments directing the Secretary of Defense to conduct a study of military housing resilience and energy efficiency as well as an assessment of deficiencies at Military Health System facilities to ensure they comport to health, safety, and energy codes.
Prioritizes Civilian Support Personnel
Those who work in service of our country should be paid a livable wage. The FY23 NDAA includes a provision providing inflation bonuses for civilians with incomes under $45k/year and codifies a $15 minimum wage for employees working on federal service and construction contracts.
Bolsters Small Businesses
Congresswoman Escobar believes small businesses are the backbone of our economy and our communities. As such, working to ensure competitiveness within federal contracts should remain a priority. She included an amendment that requires a study to be conducted by the General Services Administration to track how counterfeit items on the e-commerce platforms impact small businesses.