Vote Explanation for H.R. 4909 — Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act
Last night, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017, to provide critical military personnel funding and resources for our troops. The bill includes several amendments that I introduced, which will strengthen our counter-ISIL political strategy; ensure the military provides more effective mental health resources to veterans and active duty personnel; require the President to notify Congress with an action plan when Iran conducts a ballistic missile launch; and remove the narrowing of U.S. resettlement eligibility requirements to include Afghans who risked their lives working for the U.S. in Afghanistan.
- Anti-ISIL Campaign Strategy: This amendment requires the Departments of State and Defense to implement a comprehensive counter-ISIL strategy that includes clear military and political objectives for Iraq and Syria with rigorous reporting requirements.
- Military Suicide Prevention: The amendment will provide better proactive and reactive mental health care for our nation’s active military personnel. It builds upon existing provisions and requires the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to identify patterns and trends in incidences of suicide among the service branches, and develop a methodology in order to provide more effective mental health care among active personnel. This information must then be shared between the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure a coordinated strategy to address military suicide.
- Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Eligibility: This amendment will remove the narrowing of eligibility requirements that would have prevented hundreds of Afghans who risked their lives working for the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and now face daily death threats, from even being considered for resettlement in the United States. These brave Afghans face well-documented death threats due to their work with our government — this amendment offers them a chance to stay alive, rather than abandon them to the same enemies they united with the U.S. to destroy. This amendment was endorsed by The New York Times Editorial Board.
- Iran Ballistic Missile Launch Reporting Requirement: Under this amendment, the President would be required to conduct an intelligence assessment and officially notify Congress within two weeks whenever Iran conducts a ballistic missile launch or test and inform the Congress as to actions the President will take in response, including efforts to pursue additional sanctions.
Additionally, I worked to secure provisions that will advance Massachusetts’ role as a leader in our national defense efforts. As part of the NDAA, MIT Lincoln Labs, located at Hanscom Air Force Base, has been authorized an additional $40 million this year to modernize and upgrade their research facilities, as well as $265 million over the next five years. The bill also supports the JSTARS program managed at Hanscom Air Force base, an important communication and command platform for our combat forces.
When I served in Iraq, I often felt that Congress was unprepared and unable to provide us with the support we needed. It is my responsibility to ensure that we provide support for our troops serving on the front lines and our veterans here at home. Several of my amendments will provide that critical support by improving our military mental health resources and implementing a comprehensive political strategy in our fight against ISIL. I’m proud that the bill also includes my provision to stand with hundreds of Afghans who risked their lives working for the U.S. These provisions will save lives and strengthen our national security. That’s why I voted for this bipartisan bill.
In its current form, however, the NDAA includes a provision advanced by House Republicans that would weaken anti-discrimination protections for LGBT individuals. These attempts to inject an anti-LGBT provision into a national security bill are shameful, and I will continue to fight to remove this language from the final bill before it reaches the President’s desk. Many LGBT men and women now serve proudly and openly in our armed services, risking their lives for our safety here at home. Like all of our troops, they deserve support without discrimination, and I am confident this provision will be removed.