Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, chair of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, announced that she has secured major provisions in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023. Among the provisions are additional reforms to the military justice system, the establishment of a landmark Cyber Academy, a pay raise for service members, assessments on toxic exposures and suicide prevention, inclusion of women in the selective service, support for military families, funding for Israel’s missile defense programs, and more.
The bill now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.
“Congress has a solemn duty to deliver resources, flexibility and support to our service members and their families,” said Senator Gillibrand, chair of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee. “I am proud that we’ve included several substantial reforms that will build on last year’s effort to professionalize the military justice system. Six additional criminal offenses were put under the authority of the Special Trial Counsel; we direct the president to remove several additional judicial and prosecutorial responsibilities from commanders; and we now require randomized selection of courts-martial juries, further removing bias from the military justice system. I am grateful for the committee’s support for these reforms, which will help ensure that survivors of sexual assault receive fair and impartial justice.”
Gillibrand continued, “I am also proud that we secured language to establish a Department of Defense Cyber and Digital Service Academy, which will enable us to address projected gaps in DoD’s cyber workforce and will establish a scholarship program to provide financial support to future cyber warriors. Finally, the legislation contains provisions to give our service members a much-deserved pay raise, include women in the selective service, support the health and mental health of military families, and fund Israel’s missile defense system. These important programs and measures are now on their way to becoming law.”
Gillibrand’s provisions include:
Pay raise for service members: Authorizes necessary funding to give a 4.6% raise to service members and the Department of Defense’s civilian workforce, including a $15 an hour minimum wage.
Military justice reforms: The full committee passed a Gillibrand amendment to build on last year’s historic changes to the handling of sexual assault in the military. The amendment places an additional six criminal offenses under the authority of the Special Trial Counsel. For cases involving covered offenses, the amendment also directs the president to remove many of the military commander’s remnant judicial and prosecutorial responsibilities, such as ordering expert witnesses, granting immunity, and ordering depositions. This legislation fills the gaps in last year’s reforms and will further professionalize the practice of military justice through increased involvement by trained legal practitioners—allowing commanders to fully focus on warfighting. The reforms go into effect at the end of 2023.
Randomized selection of courts-martial juries: The NDAA requires the randomized selection of courts-martial juries. This will provide service members accused of crimes with an unbiased fact finder that is free from command influence. No longer will supervisors select their specific subordinates to sit in judgment of those within their command who are standing trial. This provision directs the president to promulgate regulations that randomize the selection process for military panels, moving courts-martial further toward equal footing with civilian criminal courts.
Establishes a Department of Defense Cyber and Digital Service Academy: The legislation attempts to address projected shortages in DoD’s cyber workforce to tackle emerging threats across the globe. This transformational program will provide financial support to future cyber warriors in pursuit of higher education in a number of covered cyber disciplines. This scholarship program will serve as a framework for building a bench of cyber professionals committed to national defense.
Includes women in the selective service: Adopted by the full committee.
Toxic exposure: Requires DoD to assess methods to reduce the effects of burn pits and other environmental toxins on service members. The Department would also be required to create an action plan to execute such methods.
Suicide prevention: Requires the Secretary of Defense to report to Congress on possible reforms to improve suicide prevention in the military.
Supports military families: Provisions include: allowing TRICARE Prime beneficiaries to receive specialty care referrals in their current duty stations prior to permanent changes of station; expanding eligibility for doulas to active-duty service members and other individuals receiving care at military medical treatment facilities.
Israel missile defense: Authorizes funding for the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system, David’s Sling Weapon System, and Arrow 3 Upper Tier Interceptor Program as outlined under the Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel.
Mental health: Mandates that DoD report on the effects of the potential mental health provider shortage crisis, while also directing a plan of action be developed to acquire and retain more qualified providers.