WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations, Environment & Public Works and Finance committees, as well as Ranking Member of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee, issued the following remarks after the Senate approved the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report. The bill authorizes more than $738 billion in spending plus an additional $5.3 billion for emergency disaster recovery.
“It is a solemn duty that we have to support the men and women of America’s military, as well as their families. Each year, Congress comes together in a bipartisan manner to ensure our troops have the tools they need to carry out their mission of defending our nation against all enemies foreign and domestic. The bill passed by the Senate today will provide for our national defense priorities and ease the burden on their families. Maryland is home to over 40 thousand active and reserve service members.
“Beyond the military hardware, it’s the investments we make in our people – military and civilian – that define the strength of our armed forces. Based on terrible conditions at Fort Meade and elsewhere around the country, the year’s NDAA provides a sweeping overhaul of military housing, including increased evaluations for lead and mold, greater transparency of repairs and remediation, the establishment of a Tenant Bill of Rights and more provisions designed to ensure our troops, their families and their children are in safe, affordable housing. We also require the Department of Defense to assess childcare development centers and streamline childcare fee assistance.
“Ensuring that our service members have the best, and most advanced medical care is crucial to me. That is why I was pleased that the Committee included my amendment that preserves Medical Research funding, and ensures that these efforts are not short changed by other Army priorities. My amendment also preserves Ft. Detrick’s status as the Center of Excellence for Joint Biomedical Research, Development and Acquisition Management. This will ensure that the Department of Defense continues to be the leader in advanced medical research”
“I was pleased to have supported and pushed to end the Department of Defense’s burdensome ‘Widow’s Tax’ is a $1,000 reduction to survivors and spouses who are enrolled in the Survivor Benefit Plan, and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation program. This Tax affects more than 65,000 military families nationwide whose loved one has died as a result of their military service. This has cost these families an average of about $11,000 annually.”
“As the military has often set a standard for our civilian workforce, I was pleased that the Conference Report extends 12 weeks of paid parental leave to all federal civilian employees. We know bring the federal government in line with many large private employers and hope that this example will spur others to follow suit with a fair benefit for new mothers and fathers.”
“I appreciated the acknowledgement in the NDAA Conference Report similar to my legislation that the U.S. should not be providing military equipment to foreign security forces that may engage in human rights violations or transfer such weapons to terrorists. As the world’s leading arms supplier, the United States has a moral obligation to ensure that U.S. weapons are used responsibly. NDAA integrates human rights training into security cooperation agreements.”