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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 - Extension of Remarks

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

The House in Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union had under consideration the bill (H.R. 1960) to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2014 for military activities of the Department of Defense and for military construction, to prescribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year, and for other purposes:

Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chair, I rise to speak on House consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014.
I thank Chairman McKeon, Ranking Member Smith and the Rules Committee, and the Armed Services Committee for their work on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014.

The National Defense Authorization Act's purpose is to address the threats our nation must deal with not just today, but into the future. This makes our work vital to our national interest and it should reflect our strong commitment to ensure that the men and women of our Armed Services receive the benefits and support that they deserve for their faithful service.

This is the 52nd consecutive National Defense Authorization Act, which speaks to the long-term commitment of the Congress and successive Administrations to provide for National Defense. This bill encompasses a number of initiatives designed to confront sexual assault in the military, making more efficient the work of protecting America, addresses the mental health needs of men and women in the armed services, and extends economic opportunity to small minority and women owned businesses.

We do live in a dangerous world, where threats are not always easily identifiable, and our enemies are not bound by borders. The recent Boston terrorist attack reminds us of how fragile our nation's security could be without a well trained and equipped military.

The definition of war has changed and with it our understanding about what is needed to combat a unique type of enemy that fights under no flag or for any nation.

U.S. Special Operations Command, a vital part of our military, provides much of the special skills needed to defend our nation today. This legislation continues to build on previous efforts to support their important work.

I am still deeply concerned about the President's authority, as stipulated by the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, AUMF, to indefinitely detain individuals apprehended in the United States--including citizens of the United States--without due process and with little independent review or oversight. As a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, I am committed to making sure that the Constitution and its protections are enforced. The purpose to defend this nation is not just on the grounds of this Capitol, but also the foundation that supports the principles of liberty, freedom and democratic values.

The bill includes several provisions that recognize the strain of more than a decade of war has placed on our troops and the equipment, technology, and tools that they use. It supports a 1.8 percent pay raise. I had wanted a 2 percent raise for our troops.

This Congress must communicate its wholehearted support for the security of the nation by addressing mindless cuts created by sequestration, the $174.6 billion in operation and maintenance funding the bill provides will help mend some of the damage that has been done to overused equipment and neglected facilities. It also strengthens our ability to confront cyber threats, and provides important authorities to protect vital information. The bill also continues to lay the foundation for enabling competition in military space launch.

I am also pleased that so much has occurred to improve the bill during its consideration on the House Floor, including the adoption of seven amendments that I offered. Combined, these amendments will help our military families have access to mental health counseling when needed and that contracting opportunities with the Department of Defense are extended to women and minority owned businesses. In addition, the bill has been improved to include provisions that are critically important to women, including provisions to prevent and respond to sexual assault and research to combat Triple Negative Breast Cancer.

The bill amended on the House floor now also contains provisions that will help secure our borders and make the defense logistics management system more efficient.

Let me discuss briefly the amendments I offered that were adopted by the House and included in the final version of the bill.

Jackson Lee Amendment #1 directs the DoD and NIH to collaborate be to combat Triple Negative Breast Cancer. The amendment directs the Department of Defense to identify specific genetic and molecular targets and biomarkers for TNBC.

Triple Negative Breast Cancer is a term used to describe breast cancers whose cells do not have estrogen receptors and progesterone receptors, and do not have an excess of the ``HER2'' protein on their cell membrane of tumor cells. This makes commonly used test and methods to detect breast cancer not as effective.

This is a serious illness that effects between 10-17 percent of female breast cancer patients and this condition is more likely to cause death than the most common form of breast cancer. Seventy percent of women with metastatic triple negative breast cancer do not live more than five years after being diagnosed.

Jackson Lee Amendment #1 will help to save lives. TNBC disproportionately impacts younger women, African American women, Hispanic/Latina women, and women with a ``BRCA1'' genetic mutation, which is prevalent in Jewish women. TNBC usually affects women under 50 years of age and makes up more than 30 percent of all breast cancer diagnoses in African American. Black women are far more susceptible to this dangerous subtype than white or Hispanic women

Jackson Lee Amendment that #2 directs the Department of Defense to post information on sexual assault prevention and response resources online for ease of access by men and women in the armed services.

There is no greater crime that an individual can commit than the crime of sexual molestation and sexual assault. The perpetrators of these crimes rob victims of their dignity and sense of wellbeing. Victimization is not easily relieved by treating the immediate physical injuries that may result, but can last for years. Moreover, victims of sexual assault are profoundly affected for the rest of their lives often with PTSD or other medical conditions. As elected officials, we have an obligation to condemn this violence, work for stronger enforcement of laws and provide adequate funding for programs to assist individuals who may have experienced such abuse.

In 2012, we know that victims of sexual violence or abuse among civilians are routinely under reported. The Defense Department report states that of the 26,000 estimated victims only 3,374 crimes were reported and just 302 of the 2,558 incidents pursued by victims were prosecuted.

Jackson Lee Amendment #2 will make sure that information is available and easily accessible to military personnel for the purpose of raising awareness, promoting education and the long term goal of influencing organizational culture around the issue of sexual violence.

Many in the military are just learning that there is a huge difference between sex and sexual violence. Jackson Lee Amendment #3 would educate both victims, potential victims, witnesses or victimizers that these are acts of violence and should be treated as such. It may also help influence thinking among military leaders on the nature of these crimes and promote changes in policy to aggressively provide support to victims and judicial remedies to prosecute and punish criminal behavior.

Jackson Lee Amendment #4 expresses the sense of the Congress that the Secretary of Defense should develop a plan to ensure a sustainable flow of qualified mental health counselors to meet the long-term needs of members of the Armed Forces, veterans, and their families.

Houston is home to one of the largest populations of military service members and their families in the nation. There are over 200,000 veterans of military service who live and work in Houston; more than 13,000 are veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan. For the brave men and women who have been wounded in combat, help is on the way.

Although some of a soldier's wounds are invisible to the naked eye they are still wounds that should be properly treated. One of the best ways to increase access to treatment is to increase the number of medical facilities and mental health professionals who are available to serve the needs of men and women currently serving and those who have become veterans.

Jackson Lee Amendment #5 will improve the efficiency of the management system and how the Department of Defense inventory will support modernization that uses technology to tag and track items purchased to increase transparency to the agency on what it has and where it is located. This change could mean tens of millions in savings if implemented DoD wide by reducing labor cost for tracking and moving equipment, but more important prevent repurchasing of items that agency already owns, but may not be able to locate.

The private sector has leaped forward in using inventory tracking technology and protocols to monitor large and small products from the time they leave manufacturing facilities until they are sold at retail or wholesale stores.
The DoD is one of the largest customers for products in the nation and should have the benefit of the best knowledge and technology available to more efficiently manage its inventory.

The most advanced warehouse inventory management systems are fully automated and biometrically controlled to track items and create records of people who make request to transport items from storage to use. These systems make sure that persons seeking to move items have the authority to do so and that the requests create records that can be tracked as well as track the items moved. These fully automated warehouses have no staff, but rely upon technology that is designed to store and retrieve items in the most cost effective and efficient manner possible.

Jackson Lee Amendment #5 will extend economic opportunity to small businesses by requiring DoD to small business concerns owned and controlled by women and minorities before conversion of certain functions to contractor performance would aid the economy. Federal contracting can be an important revenue source for businesses of any size. In fiscal year 2011, federal agencies obligated a total of around $537 billion in government contracts to businesses. However, federal agencies' goal for contracting with women and minority owned businesses is five percent.

The Department of Defense is a major consumer of products and services that range from office products to military specific equipment. The wide ranges of business opportunities provide ample reasons to engage women and minority owned businesses as contractors or subcontractors.

In addition to the Jackson Lee Amendments offered to this bill, I joined my Colleagues on the Committee on Homeland Security in supporting an amendment to promote collaboration and cooperation between the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security regarding the identification of equipment, either declared excess, or made available to DHS on a long-term loan basis that will help increase security along the border.

I also request that my colleagues support another amendment that I joined in sponsoring along with the leadership of the House Committee on Homeland Security which would allow the transfer of technology from DoD to state and local law enforcement. Before the creation of DHS a program was created to facilitate this type of equipment transfer and this amendment adds the Secretary of Homeland Security in a consultative role in the equipment transfer process. This amendment also gives applicants seek DoD equipment for use in border security preference in this statute. This will facilitate expedited transfer of equipment that Federal, state and local first responders can use to strengthen our border security efforts.

I do have grave concerns about some features of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014. For example this bill assumes adoption of the House Budget Resolution framework, which would hurt our economy and require draconian cuts to middle-class priorities. This is a serious concern for me because of how it would impact my constituents in the 18th Congressional District.

The Administration has communicated that it would veto this bill in its current for and I hope that the conference process will resolve the issues that are the most troubling like the treatment of the Guantanamo detainees. This issue is a mark against everything the United States stands for and it is damaging our reputation and credibility around the world.

The detentions should end and people properly processed to other facilities or tried in courts of law to address charges or crimes against the United States. My hope is that this provision will be dropped from the bill as the legislative process goes forward.

We must continue to direct our efforts as a body to ensure that our troops remain the best equipped and prepared military force in the world. They are not just soldiers they are sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters--they are some of the people we represent as members of Congress. Support of them is a sacred obligation of Congress both to those who are at risk on battlefields and serving as the guard against threats around the world, but they are also those who have returned home from war.

I thank Chairman McKeon and Ranking Member Smith for their work on this bill.

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