WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives passed the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Thursday, with a strong bipartisan vote.
U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart (D-Illinois), a member of the House Armed Services Committee that crafted the bill, announced highlights of the bill Thursday.
“I’ve been a member of the United States military for over 35 years, and I can tell you this bill has great ramifications for Southern Illinois and our military,” Enyart said. “This bill gives our service members a much-deserved 1.8 percent pay raise, and ensures no military base closure program will begin in the next year.”
The $513 billion bill contains provisions for counter-terrorism programs, prohibits the Base Realignment and Closure commission from reconvening through 2017, and provides for stronger sexual assault protections in the military.
The annual defense appropriations bill contains several provisions that will help retain jobs in Southern Illinois, Enyart said. General Dynamics in Marion and its employees will benefit from the NDAA bill. The plant will play a key role in the production of munitions.
Likewise, Boeing in St. Louis employs more than 800 residents of the 12th Congressional District and will benefit from Navy Growler EA-18 fighter aircraft production included in the legislation.
Other components of the bill championed by Enyart include a $55 million increase in funding for the National Guard’s Youth ChalleNGe program, aimed to help adolescents who have dropped out of school, and an expanded Reserve and National Guard jobs program which has a proven record of reducing unemployment among Guardsmen.
The bill also contains language authored by Enyart and U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) to prohibit the transfer of Apache helicopters from the National Guard. As the former Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, Enyart stressed the importance of Guard readiness and training.
“The Guard’s No. 1 duty is to be an operational reserve force for our nation’s military,” Enyart said. “The Guard cannot do that if vital equipment used in training and readiness exercises is removed from the equation.”
The amendment also bars the Army from reducing active duty end strength for fiscal year 2015 below 490,000 and the National Guard from reducing its end strength below 350,000 in the same year. This measure will ensure high readiness levels for the military.
The bill contains provisions to help combat sexual assault and violence in the armed services. Enyart spoke on the House floor Wednesday regarding military sexual assault cases.
“Justice needs to be properly served to victims of sexual assault and to all members of our military,” Enyart said. “Decades ago, military defense attorneys were taken out of the chain of command. We must do the same with the prosecution. It is the only way justice can be properly served — without influence, perceived or real.”
Enyart is the only member of the House that has served in four roles related to the Uniform Military Code of Justice – military prosecutor, military defense attorney, staff judge advocate, and commanding general. His perspective on sexual assault cases in the military garnered national attention during a House Armed Services Committee hearing last month.
The bill passed the House with a vote of 325-97. The Senate is expected to pass a similar version in the near future.