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NJ Congressman Van Drew Votes for National Defense Authorization Act



(Washington, D.C.) – Last week Congressman Jeff Van Drew voted to pass H.R. 2500, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 which secures a strong national defense that is built on Washington politics 3bipartisan principles and advances American values. This bill includes paid parental leave for Coast Guard families and South Jersey’ federal employees at the William Hughes Technical Center. 
“The House of Representatives took a historic step forward for the national and economic security of the American people by voting to approve the NDAA,” said Congressman Jeff Van Drew. “This piece of legislation not only takes care of our troops and their families, but also the thousands of federal employees throughout South Jersey.”
Key provisions of the NDAA:
Authorization Level
• The bipartisan, bicameral conference report authorizes $738 billion for defense spending for FY 2020, below the President’s request of $750 billion and consistent with the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019. 
Paid Parental Leave for All Federal Employees
• The conference report includes paid parental leave for all federal employees – provisions that had also been included in the House-passed NDAA.
• The provisions provide federal employees with 12 weeks paid parental leave in the case of birth, adoption, or fostering.
• To be eligible, the employee must have one year of service in the federal government (cumulative across difference agencies).
• After receiving this benefit, employees must return to work for 12 weeks. 
o This requirement can be waived in the case of a physical or emotional illness, or a circumstance outside of the parents’ control.
• This could result in cost savings in terms of retention rates and can be a tool to help recruit and compete for talent with private industry.  
Repealing the “Widow’s Tax”
• When a service member makes the ultimate sacrifice for our country, their spouse receives annuity payments from both the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense.
• The VA program, called the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) program, supports the military families of service members who lost their lives in the line of duty.
• The DOD’s plan, called the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), is an insurance plan that service members pay into with monthly premiums.
• Under current law, the military family’s SBP payment is reduced, dollar for dollar, by the DIC payment.  (This reduction is the so-called “Widow’s Tax.”)
• The conference report repeals this reduction over a three-year phase-in, allowing surviving families to collect both payments in full. 
Supporting Our Troops and Our Military Families
Pay for Our Troops and Our Military Families
• Authorizes funding for a 3.1 percent military pay raise.
• Also authorizes an extension of a wide array of bonuses and incentive pays for our men and women in uniform. 
Taking Care of Our Service Members and Our Military Families 
• Mandates a 1-year deployment deferment for mothers after the birth of a child.
• Requires a report on the effectiveness of suicide prevention programs and the development of metrics evaluating treatment plans, mental health screenings and resiliency programs.
• Requires a comprehensive assessment of child care capacity on military installations to identify and remedy child care waiting list backlogs.
• Authorizes financial assistance to civilian child care providers who care for the children of survivors of service members killed in combat.
• Streamlines staff hiring for child development centers by authorizing direct hire authority and ensuring background investigations are transferable between military installations.
• Authorizes $40 million for assistance to local educational agencies with military dependent students.
• Authorizes $10 million for local educational agencies eligible to receive a payment for children with severe disabilities. 
• Doubles the maximum reimbursement amount for state licensure expenses incurred by military spouses as they move their families around the country.  
Reforming Military Family Housing
• Requires the military services to establish a Tenant Bill of Rights for residents in privatized military family housing that sets minimum acceptable livability standards, requires better communication, creates greater transparency, addresses establishment of a formal dispute resolution process, bans the use of non-disclosure agreements as a condition of moving out of military housing, and enhances protections against reprisals. 
• Adopts numerous provisions that reform the oversight and management of military family housing.
• Authorizes an additional $140.8 million to hire additional civilian personnel to improve the oversight and management of military family housing.
• Creates a public database for complaints related to military housing, requires annual financial audits of randomly selected privatized military family housing, and requires annual congressional reports on the condition, maintenance, and management of privatized military family housing.
• Requires the Secretary of Defense to develop an assessment tool to identify and measure health and safety hazards in military housing.
Provisions on Russia and Europe 
• Increases funding for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which provides support and assistance to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, by $50 million, bringing the funding level to $300 million in order to provide robust ongoing support of Ukraine’s efforts to counter Russian aggression.  Adds coastal defense cruise missiles and anti-ship missiles to the categories of appropriate security assistance and intelligence support.
• Extends the prohibition on funding for any activity that would recognize the sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea.
• Includes provisions designed to counter Russian influence and election interference efforts as part of the FY 2020 Intelligence Authorization Act, which is included in the NDAA.
• Continues to limit military-to-military cooperation with Russia, extending a rule of construction that the prohibition does not affect bilateral military-to-military dialogue for the purposes of reducing the risk of conflict.
• Imposes sanctions related to Russia’s construction of the Nord Stream II pipeline project.
• Prohibits the use of federal funds to suspend, terminate, or file notice of withdrawal to the NATO alliance.
• Expresses the sense of Congress in strong support of the U.S. commitment to the NATO alliance.
Provisions on Turkey
• Prohibits the transfer of an F-35 aircraft or related materials to Turkey, now that Turkey has taken possession of the S-400 air defense system.
• Allows a waiver if Turkey were to abandon the S-400 air and missile defense system, along with any other equipment, materials, or personnel associated with the system; refrain from acquiring new Russian equipment that would risk compromising the F-35; and provide credible assurances that it would not take possession of an S-400 in the future.