U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) today voted for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which contained several of his amendments, including the Helping Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Return to Employment (HIRE) at Home Act and an amendment to help disabled or injured veterans with special housing needs. The NDAA also authorized funding to continue work on the much-needed new headquarters building for Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base near Bellevue. The bill passed by a vote of 98-0.
"Our men and women in uniform put themselves in harm's way protecting the freedoms and way of life we too often take for granted," Johanns said. "They know their mission will not always be easy, but returning home shouldn't be hard, and basic needs, such as housing, should certainly be met. My amendments seek to ease the transition home, ensure they find housing and serve as a small token of our appreciation for their dedicated service. In addition, I am pleased this bill moves forward construction of the new STRATCOM building, which I wholeheartedly support"
The NDAA included authorization of $128 million for the ongoing construction of the new STRATCOM facility. This is the second installment for the estimated $525 million project, which has already received $120 million, and will continue to be funded in annual authorizations.
The HIRE at Home Act, a bipartisan amendment Johanns introduced with Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), will help clear obstacles for veterans looking for civilian employment by encouraging states to consider the specialized military training as filling all or some of the state certification and licensing requirements.
Johanns' second veterans amendment was introduced with Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and expands housing repair and modification services to veterans through public-private partnerships. The amendment was supported by the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Habitat for Humanity. The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs currently assist eligible disabled veterans and service members with housing modifications. However, not all veterans who are disabled or low-income qualify for this program. This amendment attempts to rectify this gap in housing assistance.
Johanns also offered a resolution asking the Department of Defense to consult Congress on any recommended unified command changes to Cyber Command and an amendment, along with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), to allow decommissioned Department of Defense aircraft to be acquired by the U.S. Forest Service for firefighting efforts.