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Stansbury Votes for Historic Defense Bill, Investing in Climate, Increased Wages, and Family Leave

September 24, 2021

Bill would raise service member salaries, establish a $15 minimum wage, expand family leave, address sexual assault, and invest in climate

WASHINGTON—Yesterday, U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury (N.M.-01) voted to pass a national defense spending bill that provides groundbreaking provisions that invest in the well-being of servicemembers and their families while investing in the climate resilience of military installations and innovations critical to national security and New Mexico’s economy.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last night would provide servicemembers with a 2.7% pay raise, raise the minimum wage for all defense contractors to $15 an hour, and create a new allowance to address food, housing, and other basic needs for servicemembers and their families.

The bill also implements reforms to prevent and protect servicemembers from sexual assault and sexual harassment by creating an independent Office of the Special Victim Prosecutor.

“Our servicemembers sacrifice so much in service to our country. This NDAA represents one of the most forward-leaning defense bills in our nation’s history, investing in increased salaries and wages, family leave, and climate resilience,” said Rep. Stansbury. “New Mexico has a long and proud history of answering the call to serve, with among the highest percentage of veterans in the country—and I am grateful that this bill recognizes and honors that service.”

Key Provisions of the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act

Vital quality-of-life improvements for New Mexico servicemembers and their families

  • Raising military basic pay by 2.7%.
  • Raising the minimum wage for all defense contractors to $15 per hour.
  • Investments in a first-of-its-kind basic needs allowance for military families that to address hidden but longstanding food insecurity.
  • Improvements in health care, including mental health care and suicide prevention.
  • Increases in parental leave for service members.
  • Increased funding for school districts educating students from military families, including funding that will directly benefit Albuquerque Public Schools and the Bernalillo Municipal School District.

Climate Change Resilience Investments

  • Authorizes funds to enhance resilience to extreme weather events.
  • Requires the Department of Defense to incorporate consideration of extreme weather risks into strategies and planning.
  • Directs the Secretary of the Air Force to assess options for reducing aircraft fuel burn.

Reforms to enhance accountability for sexual assault and counter the threat of domestic extremism in the military

  • Creates an Office of the Special Victim Prosecutor for survivors of sexual assault, a groundbreaking independent office to reduce the conflict of interest in reporting sexual assault to a commanding officer.
  • Establishes an Office of Countering Extremism responsible for training and education about extremist activities, data collection and analysis, and to counter extremism within the Department of Defense.

PFAS

  • Requires the Department of Defense to use state standards for clean-up of PFAS contamination when they are more strict than federal regulations.
  • Prohibits the Department of Defense from procuring PFAS-containing items including food packaging, cleaning products, and certain textiles.
  • Establishes a 2-year deadline for completion of PFAS testing at Department of Defense and National Guard installations.
  • Requires the Department of Defense to publish and make publicly available results of drinking and ground water testing for PFAS, conducted on or near military installations, formerly used defense sites, and national guard sites.
  • Requires the Department to report on the status of clean-up at 50 PFAS sites across the country.

Afghanistan

  • Authorizes $500 million for Department of Defense relocation support for recipients of Special Immigrant Visas and at-risk Afghans.
  • Requires the Secretary of Defense to provide in-depth reports and briefings to Congress, provide critical information on U.S. abilities to counter terrorism, accountability on military equipment left in the country, and plans to rescue American citizens and Afghan allies who remain in the country.
  • Directs the establishment of a commission on the war in Afghanistan, covering the entire twenty years of the U.S. and NATO conflict in Afghanistan and to make recommendations about lessons learned.
  • Recognizes the men and women of the Armed Services who supported the largest Noncombatant Evacuation Operation in United States history and recognizes the ultimate sacrifice of the 11 Marines, sailor, and solider who gave their lives for this mission.