Late yesterday, the House unanimously approved two amendments to the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) offered by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ). The first would help prevent more suicides among veterans and Guard and Reserve members. The second would task the Defense Department to report on how it will reverse the growing deficit of scientific and technical talent in the defense and intelligence communities.
"Right now, certain categories of reservists are not receiving the kind of suicide prevention and outreach services they need," said Holt. "My amendment would make it possible for National Guard Adjutant Generals to receive contact information from the Defense Department for those at-risk reservists in their states so they can initiate outreach efforts to members of the Individual Ready Reserve and Individual Mobilization Augmentees."
Holt's latest effort comes just weeks after the House voted to include an additional $20 million in suicide outreach and prevention funds in the Fiscal Year 2014 Department of Veterans Affairs budget that Holt had requested. Over the last two years, Holt has secured an additional $80 million in the federal budget for suicide prevention and outreach for active duty, Guard, and Reserve personnel, as well as America's veterans.
Holt's second amendment to the NDAA directs the Secretary of Defense to report to Congress on how the Pentagon will meet a looming crisis in finding enough scientists and engineers to help America keep its technological edge over potential opponents.
"At a recent cyber briefing on the Hill, Cyber Command officials noted that NSA is seeing a marked increase in employees asking to have resumes undergo clearance reviews so they can look for other jobs. During my own visit to some other NSA facilities in the DC metro area last year, I heard from NSA officials that some universities are now telling NSA--in writing--that their pay scales are not sufficiently competitive. These are warning signs that we ignore at our peril.
"One of our greatest advantages over our past and current opponents has been our scientists, technology experts, engineers and mathematicians. These are the people who create our satellites, help us break codes, and develop clandestine intelligence collection capabilities. Losing that talent puts our nation at risk. My amendment tasks the Secretary of Defense with telling Congress how he's going to meet that challenge."
Holt is a former member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and past chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel.