Cantwell: National Defense Authorization Act Invests in Washington State Servicemembers; Funds PFAS Cleanup

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) cheered Senate passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022, which contains a number of provisions to help Washington servicemembers and their families, reform the way the military addresses sexual assault, and clean up contamination from harmful PFAS chemicals near military installations. The NDAA passed the Senate today by a vote of 88-11 and now goes to President Biden’s desk for his signature.

“This bill invests in Washington servicemembers and their families by guaranteeing 12 weeks of parental leave and creating a basic needs allowance, along with authorizing $517 million in new funding specifically targeted for PFAS research and cleanup,” said Senator Cantwell. “It also reforms how the military handles sexual assault allegations, creating a more independent process to investigate and prosecute crimes. The reforms included in the NDAA are essential to addressing this epidemic.”

Supporting servicemembers in Washington:

Addressing Sexual Assault in the Military:  The NDAA includes reforms to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) to address sexual assault in the military. It includes some provisions of the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act, which was cosponsored by Senator Cantwell.

  • The bill criminalizes sexual assault under the UCMJ and removes the Commander from prosecution decisions for certain crimes including rape, sexual assault, murder, and kidnapping.
  • It also directs the Secretary of Defense to designate a single office within the Department of Defense (DOD) to monitor allegations of retaliation towards victims of sexual assault. 
  • According to the latest annual Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) Report, FY2016, the Department of Defense estimated that there were nearly?15,000?sexual assaults against service members?in FY16 and just 9% of those ended in conviction

Military Pay Increases: The NDAA increases service member pay by 2.7 percent, including those based at Washington’s military installations. There bill also creates a basic needs allowance for service member households making less than 130% of the federal poverty line. Washington is home to over 87,000 active duty, reserve, and civilian personnel.

Paid Parental Leave: The NDAA increases parental leave to 12 weeks for all service members for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child.

Basic Needs Allowance: The NDAA creates a basic needs allowance for servicemember households making less than 130% of the federal poverty line.

Military Construction Projects:

  • The bill authorizes $59 million for the Dental Clinic at Naval Health Clinic Oak Harbor located at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
  • The bill authorizes $27 million for?the?Air Support Operations Complex?at the Camp Murray Air National Guard Station in Tacoma.

Addressing perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS):

PFAS Task Force: The NDAA authorizes $715.9 million for PFAS clean-up and establishes a PFAS Task Force to address the impacts of the DOD’s use of PFAS. These chemicals enter the environment through production or waste streams and are extremely difficult to remove. According to the EPA, PFAS chemicals are known have “adverse reproductive, developmental and immunological effects in animals and humans.”

  • The bill requires the DOD to publicly disclose the results of DOD testing for PFAS on and in the areas surrounding military installations.
  • The NDAA also extends the Center for Disease Control (CDC) study on the health impacts of PFAS substances in drinking water in and around DOD installations for an additional two years.
  • The bill requires an update, within 60 days of enactment of the bill, on PFAS remediation efforts at 50 military installations across the country, including Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane and Naval Air Station Whidbey Island - Ault Field.