Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, voted in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2014 (H.R. 1960), which provides necessary authorities and funding provisions for our nation's military. Congressman Castro worked closely with the House Armed Services Committee to include measures important to San Antonio--Military City USA--and military families across the USA, including an accountability report for sexual assault in the military, directing the Department of Defense to brief Congress on excess military infrastructure overseas, and encouraging the creation of a central repository for trauma research. Congressman Castro will continue to champion these important issues and work to ensure they become law. H.R. 1960 was adopted by the House of Representatives with overwhelming support, 315-107. Below are some highlights:
Require an Independent Progress Report on Implementation of Preventative Measures at Military Basic Training Facilities
"My first hearing as a U.S. Congressman on the House Armed Services Committee was a review of sexual misconduct at Lackland Air Force Base and the application of the Air Force's recommendations. During that hearing and in my follow up visit to Lackland, I was heartened to learn of the progress they have made in implementing preventative measures. It must be clear that sexual assault is not tolerated in our military.
As we learn of the sexual assault incidents in the military in areas as far ranging as the Pentagon, it is critical to stress that we must we must implement reforms to prevent future transgression and never let this happen again. This independent progress report will serve as an accountability marker. The report will not only gauge the progress being made in ensuring the critical implementation of the Air Force's recommendations, but it will also provide a model of best practices for other branches of the military to learn from. This legislation does make progress in combating sexual assault in the military, yet we must not forget that there is still much work to be done."
Since 2011 over 33 instructors at Lackland AFB have been charged with sexual misconduct and at least 63 potential victims have been identified. In June 2012, General Edward Rice, Commander, Air Education and Training Command, appointed Major General Margaret Woodward to lead an independent investigation into misconduct with basic trainees and technical training students at Lackland AFB. There are 46 recommendations linked to the findings. During a House Armed Services Committee hearing in January 2013, Air Force Chief of Staff, General Mark Welsh indicated that while 23 of those recommendations were already in place, 22 would be implemented throughout 2013.
Direct Department of Defense to Identify Excess Capacity Overseas
"The military installations in our states have a profound impact on the families in our communities. We owe it to them to make sure we are being proactive and have realized all possible cost savings abroad before we are asked to consider another round of painful and costly base closings back home.
The nature of warfare is vastly different than it was three decades ago: the threats are different, the tools to address those threats are different and the force structure needed to accomplish our mission is different. From cyber threats to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, our world has changed. All of these factors make right now the best time to get a comprehensive plan together for consolidating our overseas military infrastructure."
The Pentagon has requested the authority to initiate a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round in 2015. BRAC rounds have occurred in 2005, 1995, 1993, 1991, and 1988. The latest BRAC round resulted in 24 major closings nationwide. In Texas, the 2005 commission closed 16 facilities. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the 2005 BRAC round cost more than $35 billion, $14 billion more than initial estimates. In the same report the GAO also estimated that the 2005 BRAC rounds amounted to less than a third of the projected one-time savings.
According to the FY12 Base Structure Report issued by the office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Installations and Environment), the United States has 666 military sites in foreign nations, including 232 in Germany, 109 in Japan and 85 in S. Korea.
On May 24, 2013, Rep. Castro submitted a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urging the Department of Defense to provide Congress with a comprehensive review of our overseas military infrastructure before asking for any BRAC authority. The letter was signed by 27 members of Congress, including 6 Republicans, 14 Texans and 10 members of the of House Armed Services Committee.
Establish a Trauma Clinical Research Repository
"San Antonio has a long tradition of medical missions caring for our troops. In an era of constrained medical research budgets and a shrinking Defense budget, it is imperative that trauma research funding be used efficiently and for the greatest good. For many years, the Department of Defense has recognized the importance of this research, which has resulted in the lowest percentage of soldiers dying of combat injuries in military history. However, traumatic injury remains the most common cause of death for American soldiers in combat and trauma has been classified as a national public health issue.
To ensure that we continue to care for our service men and women with the best care they deserve, I have been working with community leaders to urge the Department of Defense to establish a Trauma Clinical Research Repository with the goal of streamlining research in this critical field and decreasing the number of soldiers who die of combat injuries in future conflicts. We must ensure that the momentum developed in medical research will decline. In this bill, the Department of Defense has been directed to work with other federal agencies to explore and implement ways to share and maximize critical trauma research data."
Trauma contributes to the death of virtually every soldier who dies in combat, accounts for over 60% of civilian deaths of Americans between the ages of 1 and 44, and is the second most costly public health problem in the U.S. Trauma research is vastly underfunded, relative to the cost to society of traumatic injuries. The Defense Health Board and the Service Surgeon Generals have expressed concern over the prospect of dwindling medical research funding.
Invest in important youth education programs at military bases
"The pace of technological change and a globalized economy require a large domestic science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce. STARBASE provides STEM knowledge and skills for primarily at-risk youth at military base across the nation. I'm pleased to have worked with House Armed Services Committee to fund the DOD STARBASE program. The STARBASE program continues to be a low-cost investment that will build interest in STEM at younger ages to attract students needed to support a 21st century workforce."
The Department of Defense (DoD) STARBASE is a program at military bases designed to teach STEM subjects to fifth grade students. The STARBASE program started in 1993 in Michigan and has expanded to 76 sites located all over the country. STARBASE provides STEM educational opportunities for more than 68,000 students from diverse communities in over 1,100 schools nationwide. There are four STARBASE sites in Texas. There is one program at the Kelly Field Annex to Joint Base San Antonio. STARBASE Kelly has been in operation since 1995 and includes students from Edgewood ISD, South San Antonio ISD, Southwest ISD, and San Antonio ISD and Lackland AFB personnel.