Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement today after voting against the FY’15 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed the Senate earlier this evening:
“While there are priorities of mine that I have fought hard for in this bill, and I am proud they are in the final bill, I could not in good conscience vote in favor of this bill authorizing the arming of Syrian rebels,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I remain unconvinced this is the correct approach, and previous history suggests that arming Syrian rebels will be an ineffective solution with potentially serious unintended consequences in the long-term.”
Gillibrand pushed hard for a series of measures aimed at better assessing sexual assault in the military, in addition to protecting sexual assault survivors’ mental health records to ensure that victims aren’t afraid to seek care because their records will likely be used in courts martial. Gillibrand also secured, among others, approval of a measure ensuring critical care for military children with developmental disabilities, a measure tracking the services’ progress on combat integration, and a measure directing the services to create cyber career tracks.
The following is background information of Gillibrand-led highlights in the FY’15 NDAA:
Included New Sexual Assault Measures Protecting Survivors’ Mental Health Records and Better Assessing Assault in the Department of Defense:
Gillibrand included language she wrote requiring a modification of the therapy records rule in the Military Rules of Evidence to ensure that victims aren’t afraid to seek care because their records will likely be used in courts martial. The modifications will require the military to either clarify or eliminate the current exception to the privilege when the admission or disclosure of a communication is constitutionally required.
Senator Gillibrand also included language requiring a biennial survey of Department of Defense civilians to solicit information on issues relating to sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination, and the climate within the Department of Defense. It also requires the Department to report back on the feasibility of establishing similar surveys for contractors and military dependents.
Senator Gillibrand also included a requirement that the Secretary of Defense establish a Defense Advisory Committee on Investigation, Prosecution, and Defense of Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces to serve as a watchdog that assesses sexual assault cases on a yearly basis and provides its analysis in reports to the Secretary of Defense and Armed Services Committees.
Tracking Progress on Opening Combat Roles for Women
Gillibrand got in a requirement for a Comptroller General of the United States review of the progress of developing and validating gender-neutral standards, including the effectiveness of the services’ evaluation and testing processes, and the Defense Department’s monitoring of whether the services will meet the January 2016 deadline for integration.
The bill also included a requirement that the Secretary of Defense direct the service secretaries to validate gender-neutral occupational standards as well as a requirement that the Secretary direct the service secretaries to ensure that properly designed and fitted combat equipment is available to and distributed to female members of the Armed Forces. The bill also requires the Comptroller General to review military service outreach programs and recruitment efforts focused on accessing women into the Armed Forces and to report to Congress on the results of this review.
New Effort to Ensure Health Coverage, Long-Term Care For Military Children with Developmental Disabilities
Gillibrand also fought for a provision that would protect long-term care for military children with disabilities, giving them the same access to care that non-military children currently have. Under this measure, any servicemember who invests in a Survivor Benefit Plan would be able to transfer their benefit to a Special Needs Trust. This trust would allow special needs children of deceased servicemembers to access funds for treatment without losing federal benefits that are critical to their care, such as Social Security Disability and Medicaid. This language is based on S.1076 the Disabled Military Child Protection Act of 2013 which was offered by Senator Gillibrand and Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC).
Closing Cybersecurity Skills Gap – Recruit & Train Cybersecurity Experts
In an effort to put the U.S. at the forefront of defense against cyber-attacks by recruiting and training cybersecurity experts for the Department of Defense, Gillibrand directed the services to help close the cybersecurity skills gap by examining ways to improve the recruitment and retention of cybersecurity professionals. Currently, there is no clear career track or incentive for either servicemembers or civilians to grow and progress in the cyber field.
Studying How the Department of Defense Works with Small Businesses on cybersecurity
In response to a report about the cybersecurity vulnerabilities of small business defense contractors, the Government Accountability Office will now issue a report identifying the gaps and weaknesses in the area of cybersecurity infrastructure and education.