Senator DONNELLY. For purposes of a statement, I want to thank Chairwoman Shaheen, Ranking Member Ayotte, members of the subcommittee, and the staff, for their thoughtful and bipartisan approach to developing this mark.
The most critical component of our military is the well-being of our servicemembers, and they have sustained a number of readiness challenges as we have dealt with the effects of sequestration.
Our committee mark takes a number of important steps to redress these problems, and today I would like to take the opportunity to speak on three amendments that I have introduced to support service men and women.
My first amendment, while jurisdictionally a personnel matter, addresses a critical challenge to readiness: the mental health of our servicemembers. I am pleased that Senators Blumenthal and Wicker join me on this amendment on military suicide prevention, which would require a DOD assessment of new tools that could be
implemented to better screen servicemembers for mental health needs and suicidal risk factors.
My goal is to identify servicemembers who are struggling with mental health issues and get them the help they need before they resort to taking their own life. I have introduced legislation to implement a pilot program to integrate annual mental health assessments into a servicemember's PHA, and to solicit the input of a first- line supervisor while protecting servicemembers' privacy. The design of this pilot program would benefit from further evaluation from military health care professionals, and the report required by my amendment directs that evaluation to be completed for consideration in next year's NDAA.
I thank Senators Blumenthal and Wicker for their work on and support of this bipartisan amendment.
My second amendment, introduced with Senator Graham, addresses the appropriate levels of the MRE war reserve, and I thank this subcommittee for approving it. Congress has monitored the MRE war reserve closely since 2003, when our military experienced ration shortages during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. At that time, the committee worked to increase the Reserve from 3.4 million cases to 6 million cases.
As we draw down from more than a decade of war, some projections have indicated that the Defense Logistics Agency, DLA, will now recommend reducing the Reserve by 25 percent. My amendment directs DLA to develop a comprehensive strategic plan that
ensures an adequate MRE inventory, the appropriate levels of MRE war Reserves, and provides for surge capability to support unforeseen contingencies.
And finally, I introduced an amendment that addresses the use of burn pits in Afghanistan, and I thank you again for approving that.
The committee has rightfully requested a report on the potential health effects on personnel in the vicinity of burn pits. To further improve upon waste disposal on base, several companies are working to develop technology that disposes of trash in forward-operating bases in a safe manner while also supplying energy to the base. This amendment required that the report requested by the committee also included an assessment of incinerator technologies that are available to the Department of Defense for use in Afghanistan, including any such incinerator technologies that could also
contribute to energy production and any other waste-to-energy strategies.
We will protect the health of our warfighters while, if possible, producing much needed energy for base operations and reducing reliance on fuel transports in a forward- operating environment.
Madam Chairwoman, Ranking Member, thank you again for the
opportunity to speak, and I look forward to the markup.