Press Release

Senator Gillibrand Announces Defense Bill Wins; Hails Historic Military Justice Reforms

Dec 16, 2022

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Chair of the Personnel Subcommittee, announced that several of her provisions were included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023. As the leading advocate on military sexual assault reform in the Senate, Gillibrand successfully pushed to remove all remaining judicial functions and prosecutorial duties for covered offenses, including sexual assault, from commanders. She also secured several provisions that would improve the quality of life of service members and their families, including an across-the-board pay increase for service members and civilian DoD employees. Following passage in the Senate on Thursday, the bill now heads to the president’s desk for his signature. 

“This year’s NDAA is a historic milestone in the effort to professionalize the military justice system and give service members a system worthy of their sacrifice,” said Senator Gillibrand. “For nearly a decade, I have fought alongside survivors, veterans, advocates and legal experts to implement a simple but fundamental change: removing judicial functions and prosecutorial decisions for covered offenses from the chain of command and putting them in the hands of independent, trained professionals. This year’s defense bill implements this critical reform along with many other reforms I pushed for, including measures to maintain our strength and influence in cyberspace, an across-the-board 4.6% increase in base pay for all military personnel, and better mental health and health care benefits to protect the well-being of our service members.” 

Senator Gillibrand’s priorities included in the FY2023 NDAA:

Military justice: Following nearly a decade of relentless advocacy alongside survivors, veterans and legal experts, Senator Gillibrand has passed historic changes to the military justice system. The FY2023 NDAA strips commanders of all remaining judicial functions and prosecutorial duties for covered offenses, including sexual assault. It also adds two new covered offenses to the list of those created last year – death or injury of an unborn child and mail: deposit of obscene matter – and will add a third, sexual harassment, in 2025. 

Pay raise for service members: This provision authorizes necessary funding to give a 4.6% raise to service members and the Department of Defense’s civilian workforce.

Cyber Academy: Establishes the Cyber and Digital Service Academy as a scholarship-for-service program partnered with universities and colleges in the United States, with a requirement for post-graduation DoD service for participants. This transformational program will provide financial support to the nation’s future cyber workforce in pursuit of higher education in a number of covered cyber disciplines. It also attempts to address projected shortages in DoD’s cyber workforce in order to tackle emerging threats across the globe.

Food access: This provision will reduce hunger in the military by increasing the eligibility threshold to participate in the Basic Needs Allowance program from 130% of the federal poverty line to 150%. This change will help service members and their families afford basic household items and keep food on the table. When appropriate, this provision also authorizes the Service Secretaries to increase this benefit to 200% of the poverty line. Senator Gillibrand co-led a letter to the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) and the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) asking for its inclusion in the final NDAA bill. 

Health care wait times: Today, many military families are forced to wait several months after moving duty stations to receive referrals from their new primary care manager for specialists to treat lifelong, previously diagnosed illnesses. Senator Gillibrand’s amendment will allow TRICARE Prime beneficiaries to receive specialist referrals from their current duty station in advance of a permanent change of station move. With this change, military families will have the ability to immediately seek out a specialist at their new duty station, which will help remove barriers to care and make the transition to a new duty station more seamless. 

Affordable child care: After meeting with service members and their families across the state to discuss child care needs, Senator Gillibrand championed a pilot program to reimburse travel expenses for child care providers designated by the service member if child care is not available at a military child development center at a family’s new duty station within 30 days. This will allow service members to bring a parent, family member, or close friend with them to a new duty station to help care for their children while waiting for a child care slot to become available. Gillibrand also supported the inclusion of a provision to help expand capacity at military child development centers.

Mental health resources: This provision mandates that DoD submit a report on shortfalls in its behavioral health workforce, while also directing that a plan of action be developed to recruit and retain more qualified providers. 

Rideshare pilot program: Gillibrand pushed for the creation of a ridesharing pilot program on remote military installations to provide safe and affordable transportation for service members in hard-to-reach areas.  

Burn pits: Throughout the preceding decades of deployments, more than three million service members have been exposed to toxins due to the widespread use of burn pits in deployed environments, with many subsequently developing cancers and respiratory diseases. The cause of these illnesses goes unrecognized because doctors fail to connect the toxic exposure with their symptoms. This provision will require DoD to assess methods to reduce the effects of burn pits and create an action plan to execute such methods.

Autism Care Demonstration: Empowers the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to provide data and final recommendations as to how Applied Behavior Analysis services should be provided through TRICARE.

Directs the Defense Health Agency to reevaluate the invasive stress tests currently used in the Autism Care Demonstration and determine if other tests may better gauge stress. It further directs the Defense Health Agency to modify or eliminate overly intrusive questions in the current test and ensure parents understand they are not required to answer objectionable questions. 

PFAS remediation & treatment at U.S. military installations: Gillibrand successfully pushed to include critical per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) provisions that will further help address PFAS contamination at military facilities and exposure to defense communities. The FY2023 NDAA includes three of Gillibrand’s provisions to: 

  1. Establish prizes for the development of personal protective firefighting equipment that does not contain PFAS.
  2. Phase out military purchases of personal protective firefighting equipment containing PFAS.
  3. Provide $20 million for an ongoing study on the impact of PFAS on defense communities’ health, conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.  

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.

Unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP): As established in the FY2022 NDAA, the UAP office was given the task of providing a full spectrum of intelligence, scientific, and technical assessments related to UAPs. This year, three major updates were made to the office:

  1. UAP Reporting: This provision aims to improve IC and DoD personnel reporting of UAPs. Most importantly, any person with relevant UAP information that has not been formally reported to Congress can directly inform the UAP Joint Program Office (JPO) and Congress without retaliation. 
  2. Intelligence Community involvement: This amendment will help ensure that the Intelligence Community is actively participating in addressing undersea phenomena and will modify the current All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) to include a director from DoD with a deputy director appointed from the Intelligence Community.
  3. Transparency of records: This provision directs the Comptroller General, in coordination with ODNI and DoD, to collect and review all records of UAP collection from 1947 to the present. The provision allows one year for the compilation of records and mandates a summary on all records collected 180 days after compilation is complete. The provision also directs the IC and relevant agencies to comply with all requests of the GAO Comptroller General to improve transparency with the public and dispel misinformation. 

Protections for Midshipmen: This provision establishes sexual harassment and assault as grounds for suspending or revoking an individual’s license, certificate of registry, or merchant mariner’s document. Additionally, many parts of Senator Gillibrand’s Improving Protection for Midshipmen Act, introduced with Senator Wicker (R-MS), were included to strengthen sexual assault and sexual harassment prevention, response, investigation, and accountability in the maritime industry and provide additional safeguards for the Midshipmen at the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA).

Ukraine Invasion War Crimes Deterrence and Accountability Act: As a cosponsor of Senator Cornyn’s (R-TX) legislation, Gillibrand pushed for a formal report from the president that must be presented to Congress within 90 days and details U.S. efforts to:

  1. Collect, analyze, and maintain evidence of war crimes and atrocities (as defined in the U.S. Code) committed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine;
  2. Deter the commission of such crimes by making Russian commanders, troops, and leaders aware of efforts to collect evidence and identify those committing war crimes. 

MILCON/VA funding

  1. Fort Drum
    1. $3.6m – Automated Record Fire Plus Range 
    2. $5.3m – Planning & Design Money for a Physical Fitness Testing Facility  
  1. United States Military Academy
    1. $39.8m – Engineering Center  
  2. Air Force Research Laboratory – Rome Research Site
    1. $4.2m – HF Antennas, Newport and Stockbridge Test Annexes 
  3. Glenmore Road Armory/FMS 17 (Army National Guard)
    1. $17m – National Guard Vehicle Maintenance Shop 
  4. Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station
    1. $2.8m – Planning and Design Money for Combined Operations and Alert Facility
  5. Lexington Armory
    1. $3.58m – National Guard Readiness Center Addition/Alteration