Gillibrand Opening Remarks

Senator Gillibrand's Opening Remarks at Personnel Sub-Committee Hearing

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, delivered the following opening remarks today at the Subcommittee’s markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014:

Good afternoon. The Personnel Subcommittee will come to order.

In prior years, the Personnel Subcommittee markup has been held in closed session. I am pleased that this mark-up, my first as Chairwoman of the Personnel Subcommittee, will be held in open session. I am confident that we can conduct our business in public without any disclosure of classified information or any adverse impact on the process. In this regard, I ask that any Senator wishing to offer an amendment or raise an issue of a classified nature defer that to the full committee’s consideration.

Please note also that while this subcommittee meeting is in open session, the entire contents of the Markup Book are subject to amendment throughout its consideration by the Armed Services Committee and are therefore embargoed until passage by the full committee and reported to the Senate.

This Mark is consistent with Chairman Levin’s guidelines for this markup, to:

  • “Sustain the quality of life of the men and women of the all-volunteer force (active duty, National Guard, and Reserves) and their families, as well as Department of Defense civilian personnel, through fair pay, policies, and benefits, and address the needs of the wounded, ill, and injured service members and their families” and
  • “Ensure the future capability, viability, and fiscal sustainability of the all-volunteer force.”

We have before us today a markup package that contains 62 legislative provisions, seven items of special interest, and four budget items. The details of these proposals were briefed to the staffs of committee members last week, so I will limit my comments to the highlights.

  • The total funding authorized for military personnel and health care in the base budget would be $170.1 billion, $1.7 billion more than what Congress authorized last year, and in line with the President’s request.
  • The Mark would authorize a pay raise of 1 percent for all members of the uniformed services, which is consistent with the President’s request.
  • The Mark would reauthorize a number of bonus and special pay authorities to encourage enlistment, reenlistment, and continued service by active-duty and reserve component personnel.
  • The Mark does not include Administration proposals to establish or increase TRICARE fees, deductibles, and copayments for certain military retirees and their families.
  • The Mark would authorize the fiscal year 2014 active-duty end strengths requested by the Department of Defense: 
    • 520,000 for the Army
    • 323,600 for the Navy
    • 190,200 for the Marine Corps
    • and 327,600 for the Air Force

This represents a reduction in active-duty end strength of over 40,000 service members from this year’s authorized levels.

  • The Mark would authorize reserve component end strength in line with the President’s request.
  • The Mark would authorize the payment of the Survivor Benefit Plan annuity to a special needs trust for the sole benefit of a disabled dependent child incapable of self-support because of mental or physical incapacity.
  • The Mark would authorize a total of $30 million for supplemental impact aid, which includes $25 million for heavily impacted schools, and $5 million for schools with military children with severe disabilities.
  • The Mark would make various enhancements to DOD credentialing programs for service members to help them take advantage of their military training and experience as they transition back into civilian life.
  • The Mark would allow for service credit for cyberspace experience or advanced education for newly commissioned officers
  • The Mark would direct the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress on current capabilities and the feasibility of tracking suicides among military dependents in both the active and reserve components.
  • The Mark also comprehensively addresses the issue of sexual assaults in the military. This Subcommittee held a hearing on this topic—my first hearing as Chairwoman—in March, and just last week, the full committee held an all-day hearing on the same topic with over 20 witnesses, including all of the Service Chiefs. The mark includes provisions from various bills that have been filed on this subject, including:
  •  From my bill, the Military Justice Improvement Act, provisions that would
    • Establish new JAG O-6 disposition authority and a new, separate convening authority for serious offenses, except for specified military-unique offenses;
    • Remove character of the accused from Rule 306 of the Rules for Courts-Martial as a factor a commander could consider in deciding how to dispose of an offense;
    • Require commanders to report allegations of sexual-related offenses to criminal investigation organizations for investigation.
    • From the Military Justice Improvement Act and a bill offered by Senator McCaskill, a provision that would amend Article 60 of the UCMJ to prohibit convening authorities from changing findings for certain serious offenses and require written explanation for changes in sentences.
    • From a bill offered by Senators Klobuchar and Murkowski, provisions that would:
    • Express the Sense of the Senate that rape, sexual assault, and forcible sodomy offenses should be tried by court-martial; 
    • Require that disposition of substantiated sexual-related offenses be noted in personnel records of the offenders; 
    • and Require the retention of forms regarding both restricted and unrestricted reports for 50 years. 
    • From a bill offered by Senators Murray, Blumenthal, and Ayotte, provisions that would:
       
      • Require all military departments to establish Special Victims Counsel; 
      • Enhance responsibilities for DOD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office; 
      • Require the Secretary of Defense to submit proposed legislation to prohibit sexual acts and contacts between military instructors and trainees;
      • and Ensure the availability of Sexual Assault Response Coordinators for members of the National Guard and Reserves. 
      • From a bill offered by Senators McCaskill and Klobuchar, a provision that would require the comprehensive review of training, qualifications, and experience of individuals responsible for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response programs.
      • Finally, the Mark includes a provision that would amend the military whistleblower protection statute to require Inspectors General to investigate allegations of reprisals for reporting sexual assaults.

These are only a few of the highlights of the legislative package we present for markup. As I indicated earlier, your staffs have been fully briefed on the provisions contained in this package.