Spanberger Votes to Pass Strong Defense Authorization Bill, Pay Raise for Servicemembers

The Bipartisan Legislation Also Includes Provisions to Strengthen the Defense Department’s Response to Future Pandemics, Require Identification of Federal Law Enforcement Officers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger yesterday voted with a bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a strong bill to authorize U.S. Department of Defense funding levels and set the country’s national defense priorities.

As the United States grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, the defense authorization passed in the U.S. House today focuses on maintaining the strength of the U.S. military, protecting servicemembers, and building resilience — including against future pandemics. Among its provisions, the bill includes a measure to provide U.S. servicemembers with a three-percent raise.

Additionally, the House-passed legislation includes an amendment supported by Spanberger and led by U.S. Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA-06) that would require any federal law enforcement officer to be clearly identified by name and agency on their uniform. This amendment is particularly timely given the deployment of unmarked federal law enforcement amid demonstrations in Portland, Oregon.

“Our servicemembers are the bedrock of a smart national security strategy, and this bill provides them with the compensation, tools, and training they need to keep our nation safe. And at a time when we risk ceding U.S. global leadership in the fights against COVID-19 and the climate crisis, this year’s defense bill reasserts the strategic importance of our alliances and partnerships around the world,” said Spanberger. “In this moment of significant health and economic uncertainty, I’m proud to support this bill’s provisions to give our troops a much-deserved pay raise, hold federal forces accountable for unacceptable behavior, and strengthen our nation’s resilience in the face of future pandemics and other threats to U.S. national security. I’m also encouraged to see the inclusion of my amendments to strengthen our response to climate change, hold the Turkish government accountable for threatening our security, take care of the families of servicemembers who’ve been wounded defending our country, and use sustainable, American-made products in future military construction. Only by working together can we build a Defense Department that protects those who put on the uniform while also staying focused on the tremendous challenges ahead.”

The bipartisan defense bill includes several provisions Spanberger led or co-led, including:

  • Strengthening the nation’s resiliency against climate change. The legislation includes an amendment Spanberger introduced with U.S. Representative Joe Neguse (CO-02) requiring the Department of Defense to conduct reporting on climate change-related threats to U.S. national security. The Department of Defense’s reporting to Congress would include an overview of the ways in which climate change could act as a threat multiplier and exacerbate conflicts around the world.
  • Incorporating innovative wood products in Department of Defense Facilities. Spanberger introduced a bipartisan amendment to this legislation with U.S. Representative Austin Scott (R-GA-08) requesting the Secretary of Defense, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, review the potential to incorporate wood products at Defense Department facilities. These products would offer construction options to support mission readiness, increase sustainability, promote carbon sequestration, and expand high-paying jobs for workers in Central Virginia and across the country.
  • Holding Turkey accountable for actions that threaten the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies. The defense authorization bill includes a bipartisan amendment co-led by Spanberger and U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-16) that would require the imposition of sanctions on Turkey. This serious action would be in response to the Turkish government’s acquisition of the S-400 air and missile defense system from the Russian Federation, which has jeopardized the security of NATO and compromised trust in the Turkish government.
  • Waiving the passport fees of wounded servicemembers. This bipartisan bill includes an amendment Spanberger helped introduce to waive passport fees for family members obtaining a passport to visit an injured servicemember overseas. Last year, Spanberger co-led the introduction of bipartisan legislation — the No Passport Fees for Heroes’ Families Act — that would accomplish the same goal.

The Spanberger-supported defense authorization bill includes additional provisions that would strengthen U.S. national security and increase support for U.S. servicemembers, including:

  • Giving servicemembers the pay raise they deserve. The bipartisan bill includes a 3 percent pay raise for servicemen and women.
  • Reaffirming commitments to allies around the globe. The bipartisan bill makes clear that Congress must continue to strengthen its alliances and partnerships, maintain forward-deployed forces, and that alliances and partnerships are the cornerstone of U.S. national security. This includes limits on force reduction in Europe, commitments to a presence in the Indo-Pacific, and continued support for partners in Iraq and Syria countering the threat of ISIS.
  • Creating a Pandemic Preparedness and Resilience National Security Fund. The defense authorization legislation includes $1 billion to be directed toward increasing the nation’s ability to prepare for and respond to future pandemics.
  • Providing for the removal of names of Confederates from U.S. military bases. The defense bill requires the Department of Defense to identify and report on a process to change the names of all military bases and infrastructure named for individuals who took up arms against the United States by serving the Confederacy. The bipartisan legislation also prohibits public displays of the Confederate flag on Department of Defense installations.
  • Establishing a Chief Diversity Officer at the Defense Department. The legislation establishes a Chief Diversity Officer reporting directly to the Secretary of Defense, as well as a Chief Diversity Officer in each of the military service branches. The bill also requires the Secretary of Defense to establish a Diversity and Inclusion Council to help develop a strategy to be included in the National Defense Strategy to increase diversity in the military mirroring the U.S. population.

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