SENATE PASSES DEFENSE BILL WITH KEY SHAHEEN MEASURESDecember 20, 2013
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, announced today that many of her critical priorities were included in the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill cleared the Senate with a bipartisan 84-15 vote tonight and authorizes all Department of Defense programs and major defense policy issues.
“Our service members must have the necessary resources to accomplish their missions safely and effectively,” Shaheen said. “This bill strengthens our national security, protects our men and women in uniform and makes strategic investments in our military readiness.”
This year’s bill includes numerous provisions championed by Shaheen including reforms to the Department of Defense’s handling of sexual assault cases, efforts to reduce the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and efforts to eliminate unnecessary spending including planning for unauthorized Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) proceedings. The bill also authorizes the U.S. Army to complete the transfer of the Paul A. Doble Army Reserve Center to the City of Portsmouth, NH.
Three Shaheen provisions designed to reform military sexual assault investigations and prosecutions received unanimous support and were included in the final legislation. Collectively, they will strengthen the screening and selection process for military officers responsible for sexual assault prevention and response, improve information sharing between civilian law enforcement experts and military justice professionals, and accelerate the Department of Defense’s ongoing review of all sexual assault policies and procedures.
“We need to dramatically change the way we investigate and prosecute sexual assaults in the military,” Shaheen added. “And while the bipartisan provisions included in this bill represent comprehensive and significant reforms to the military justice system, the fact is we still have more work to do. Moving forward, we must build off the progress we made this year.”
The bill also includes critical reforms to the Special Immigrant Visa Program for Iraqi and Afghan civilians who served alongside American troops during the war, including an extension of the Iraq program, which was saved from expiration earlier this year as a result of Senator Shaheen’s efforts.
“There are a countless number of Iraqi and Afghan civilians who have sacrificed their safety to help our men and women in uniform,” Shaheen said. “Extending and reforming the special immigrant visa program was a matter of honoring the commitment we made to these brave men and women.”
The Special Immigrant Visa Program provides visas to Iraqis and Afghans who have provided faithful and valuable service to the U.S. Government and face threats of retribution from terrorist groups as a result. Shaheen has led ongoing bipartisan efforts with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) to extend and reform the SIV program, and helped prevent the Iraq program from expiring in October by pushing Congress to unanimously pass a short-term patch until a longer-term extension could be enacted.
The bill also included several provisions from Shaheen’s Next Generation Cooperative Threat Reduction Act of 2013 that will modernize the way the United States meets challenges posed by the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s). Building on the successful model established by Senators Sam Nunn and Dick Lugar two decades ago under the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program, this new effort will require the President to establish a multi-year regional assistance strategy to coordinate cooperative threat reduction (CTR) in one of the most challenging security regions in the world: the Middle East and North Africa.
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