December 02, 2016

Castro Statement on House Passage of FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) today issued the following statement after voting in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017:

“Today I voted to pass the FY2017 NDAA, an imperfect bill, but one that supports our military and national security around the world and strengthens our nation’s defense capabilities. I cast this vote with the priorities of Military City USA and our people in mind.  

“The wellbeing of our servicemen and women is of utmost importance. I’m glad that this legislation increases their compensation, raising military pay by 2.1 percent. Our military members and their families deserve the best, most efficient, and most economical healthcare possible. I’m pleased that this bill reforms the Military Health System by standardizing Military Treatment Facilities across the services and increasing access for beneficiaries. The NDAA also improves access to care for TRICARE beneficiaries by requiring the Department of Defense (DoD) to ensure extended clinic hours for urgent care and primary care services.

“An ongoing issue confronting the DoD is its handling of sexual assault cases. This legislation seeks to improve those processes by including  provisions to modernize the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) based on recommendations developed over two years of work by the Military Justice Working Group. There are measures to increase transparency by providing public access to court documents and pleadings; to improve visibility of sentencing dates by replacing unitary sentencing with offense-based sentencing; and to create several new offenses, including a prohibition on retaliation and a prohibition on inappropriate relationships between a military recruit or trainee and a person of special trust. 

“San Antonio is a national leader in the cyber industry – folks in our city understand the importance of strong cyber defenses and are on the forefront of the field. Today’s legislation fully funds our cybersecurity and cyberspace operations at $6.7 billion. America must always be one step ahead of the growing cyber threat, and this funding will support our defenses against a complex, evolving enemy.

“Also contributing to my decision to vote in favor of the NDAA was the removal of harmful provisions prior to the House’s final consideration of the legislation today. For instance, the bill no longer includes the ‘Russell Amendment,’ which would have allowed federal contractors and grant recipients to discriminate against LGBT individuals.

“This legislation does contain some measures with which I disagree. For example, while the bill reforms TRICARE by formalizing it into an HMO and PPO system, it also unfortunately establishes two fee structures for the next 50 years – one that applies to current retirees and one that applies to future retirees, creating inequity in a defined benefit for military retirees. While the inclusion of these kinds of measures is unfortunate, I believe the positive components of this legislation outweigh the negatives. 

“The top priority of the United States government is keeping the American people safe. Integral to achieving that goal is a strong Department of Defense. While I have my objections to pieces of this bill, I believe its whole is worthy of support.”

The NDAA passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 375 to 34, and would authorize $611.2 billion for Department of Defense operations in FY2017.