Today, the House of Representatives passed the FY11 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes several key amendments and provisions by Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. Shea-Porter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, amended the NDAA to ensure that TRICARE costs do not increase next year, to require the Department of Defense (DoD) to improve contractor accountability in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to assess the vulnerabilities in the defense supply chain. (A full list of Shea-Porter's amendments and provisions is included on pages 2, 3, & 4).
Protecting TRICARE From Cost Increases
Last year the Department of Defense (DoD) unexpectedly raised some TRICARE fees, which were later rescinded following widespread objection. That is why Shea-Porter inserted two amendments during Committee mark-up of the bill that will ensure that TRICARE health care co-payments and prescription drug costs do not increase in 2011.
"Our military families rely on TRICARE, and they should not have to worry about cost increases during these difficult economic times," said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. "My amendments will ensure that TRICARE costs do not increase next year."
"Congresswoman Shea-Porter's amendments preventing increases in TRICARE co-payments and pharmacy fees will make a real difference for service members and their families," said Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton. "I appreciate her contributions to this year's defense authorization bill."
Improving Contractor Accountability in Iraq and Afghanistan
Shea-Porter's amendment requires a penalty for prime contractors that do not provide contract information to databases in Iraq and Afghanistan. This amendment will hold large for-profit contractors accountable by withholding award and incentive fees if they do not comply. She wrote this amendment because an astounding amount of money is being stolen, and the oversight agencies are hampered in their efforts to identify and make a case against those who are stealing if agencies don't have complete records.
"There is waste and fraud and taxpayers are getting stuck with the bill," said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. "We often don't even know who we are doing business with so we cannot follow the money. "Taxpayers deserve accountability, and my amendment will provide that."
Assessing the Vulnerabilities in the Defense Supply Chain
Shea-Porter inserted an amendment during the Committee mark-up that will establish an Executive Agent within the Department of Defense to prevent the introduction of counterfeit and defective microelectronics into the defense supply chain. A number of recent reports focus on the dangers posed by attacks on the supply chain. Our national security is increasingly dependent on computer-reliant technology, and Shea-Porter's language will help ensure that the products and services we buy and use are not vulnerable to sudden, catastrophic failure or to cyber attacks.
"Hazardous foreign products or counterfeits are a danger to America's security," said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. "This amendment will establish an executive office responsible for assessing these products and services for possible threats or security risks, and for developing best practices to prevent harm to defense systems and components. With our national security increasingly dependent on computer-reliant technology, we must ensure that the products and services we buy and use are not vulnerable to cyber attacks."
***A full list of Shea-Porter's provisions included in the NDAA is below***
Studying Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Shea-Porter's language will require an assessment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) incidence by military occupation. This study will identify military occupations where service members report a high incidence of PTSD, so preventive measures can be more accurately targeted to those most susceptible.
Examining the Feasibility of a Burn Pit Registry
Shea-Porter's language directs the Secretary of Defense to provide a report on the feasibility of establishing an active registry for service members and veterans who have been exposed to occupational and environmental chemical hazards. The report will discuss the processes by which service members exposed to toxic chemicals could be included in the registry and also procedures to provide medical examinations to service members eligible for inclusion in the registry. A significant number of the roughly two million service members who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been exposed to these toxic burn pits, and hundreds of returning veterans are now displaying health symptoms. This language was based on HR 4477, the Military Personnel Toxic Exposure Registry Act, introduced by Rep. Tim Bishop and Shea-Porter on Jan. 20, 2010, which has been endorsed by Disabled American Veterans, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Military Officers Association of America, and the National Guard Association of the United States.
Studying Pre-Deployment Counseling for Single Servicemembers with Dependent Children
Shea-Porter's language directs the Secretary of Defense to study the feasibility of establishing a pre-deployment counseling and services advisory panel. The language also requires a review of pre-deployment counseling and services provided to single servicemembers and their dependent children, to identify best practices and make recommendations for improvement. There are 72,968 single active-duty servicemembers with dependent children in today's military, of whom 18,237 are currently deployed, and the needs of these families must also be met to preserve readiness and retention.
Honoring Military Spouses
Shea-Porter's language authorizes the design of an official military spouse pin. Lapel pins would be available to all spouses of service members or veterans who have served in a combat zone for more than 30 days. The pin will enable spouses of National Guard and Reserve service members, who do not live on or near bases, to find each other more easily. Earlier this month, Congresswoman Shea-Porter introduced the Military Spouse Pin Act (H.R.5233), which was endorsed by the National Military Family Association. This bill's language was incorporated into Section 572 of the FY11 NDAA.
Reviewing Genitourinary Trauma in the Military
Shea-Porter's language requires a review of the current state of medical training and research for genitorurinary trauma within the DoD to determine if better care can be provided in combat zones. Genitourinary trauma currently accounts for up to 10% of all war related injuries, and too many service members and veterans are currently living with these painful injuries.
Expanding the Small Arms Industrial Base to Increase Competition
Shea-Porter's language redefines the small arms industrial production base by striking the definition that previously limited the small arms base to only three companies, and by requiring the Secretary of Defense to award contracts for small arms parts procurement through a competitive process. Full and open competition for future small arms parts procurement will strengthen US manufacturing capacity, and increased competition will help reduce taxpayer expenditures.