November 15, 2017

Castro Statement on Passage of FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) issued the following statement after voting in favor of passing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018:

“This evening, I voted in favor of the FY2018 NDAA Conference Report which supports our military and national security around the world and strengthens our nation’s defense capabilities. San Antonio is Military City, USA and this legislation included measures that matter to San Antonians and reflect their priorities.

“Overall, this bill provides a 2.4 percent increase in military pay, higher than what the Trump Administration suggested, and increases funding to $50 million in DOD Impact Aid for schools with large numbers of military connected students. The bill also increases operations and maintenance funding to address military readiness gaps. These provisions give our military the funding resources they need to successfully operate and protect American citizens both at home and abroad.

“I’m also pleased that the legislation includes a measure that I specifically requested which will modify the requirements for nonprofit research institutions to enter into certain research and development projects with the federal government.

“I applaud the bill’s inclusion of the requirement for Department of Defense (DoD) to release documents relating to the exposure of members of the Armed Forces to Toxic substances. This makes it easier for veterans and their doctors to understand what a veteran was exposed to, the potential severity of that exposure, and any potential health conditions associated with that exposure, in order to appropriately diagnose and treat their medical needs.

“Additionally, requiring the Veterans Secretary to establish a center of excellence relating to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of health conditions relating to exposure to burn pits and other environmental factors would give those who have bravely sacrificed so much for our nation the ability to receive the care and services they need.

“Giving the Secretary of Defense the ability to grant Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) recruits an additional 365 days in the delayed entry program will provide the additional time needed to complete the required background checks.  This will permit the DoD to continue to recruit individuals whose have skills that are vital to the national interest. 

“Despite the Trump Administration’s discriminatory actions and rhetoric about transgender individuals’ ability to serve in our military, I was pleased to see that this bill does not include any provisions that involve banning transgender service members from military service or any limits to transgender service members’ ability to receive health care. All service members who put their lives on the line for the United States deserve to be recognized for the service they make to our country with dignity and respect.

“Other provisions in the NDAA contributed to the strength of the overall package. For example, one measure directs the Secretary of Defense to ensure that all foreign born service members serving in the military are informed of the naturalization through military service program which provides an expedited application process for military personnel.  This will help ensure that all foreign born service members are afforded an equal opportunity to become naturalized citizens.

“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. I believe the provisions listed above make it worthy of support.”