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    With Honor Action’s Bipartisan Priorities in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act

    With Honor Action’s Bipartisan Priorities in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act

    CHARLOTTE, NC – With Honor Action works alongside the For Country Caucus, a bipartisan group of 26 veteran Representatives, and a number of bipartisan Senators. Together we fight polarization in Congress, passing legislation focused on national security, national service, and veterans affairs.

    With Honor Action advanced the 22 pieces of bipartisan legislation below in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

    We are pleased the NDAA has passed both chambers of Congress for a 62nd year in a row and remains one of the only reliable pieces of annual legislation. However, we are disappointed that the bill failed to include a number of key priorities. For the second straight year, a deviation from regular order resulted in important bipartisan legislation being cut with little or no discussion from the final law. Notably, the NDAA failed to assist our Afghan allies evacuated to the United States last year and those trapped and at risk in Afghanistan.

    1)Department of Defense Cyber & Digital Service Academy [Sec. 1535]

    A key recommendation from the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (AI), the DoD Cyber and Digital Academy establishes a scholarship-for-service program for students pursuing tech-related programs with a mandatory service requirement in the Department of Defense. This legislation will help build stronger technical talent that helps our military modernize and better prepare for the sweeping technological advancements we face in AI and other areas.

    2)Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Expansion Act [Sec. 519A]

    JROTC provides invaluable leadership training and civic education to tens thousands of young Americans across the nation. Initiated as a recommendation from the National Commission on Military, National Service, and Public Service, this act tasks the Secretary of Defense with expanding the number of JROTC units and developing a plan that would ensure greater access in rural, low-income, and historically underserved communities.

    3)Expansion of Eligibility to Serve as Instructors in the JROTC [Sec. 512]

    Current law states that JROTC instructors must be military retirees. This provision addresses the JROTC instructor shortage by expanding eligibility to servicemembers that have served at least eight years and received an honorable discharge.

    4)Modification to Annual Report on Military & Security Developments Involving the Russian Federation [Sec. 1243]

    The For Country Caucus has been among the most active bipartisan bodies in Congress engaged on Russian aggression and Ukrainian assistance and oversight. The Russian invasion of Ukraine presents the United States a unique opportunity to study the strategic and operational strengths and weaknesses of a rival military. This provision tasks the Department of Defense with developing an assessment to be submitted to Congress.

    5)Sense of Congress on Taiwan Defense Relations [Sec. 5512]

    Expresses the sense of Congress that Taiwan’s future will be determined by peaceful means, not Chinese force, and that the United States should continue to support the development of capable and modern Taiwanese defense forces that are prepared to repel a Chinese assault.

    6)Report on the Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences for Servicemembers [House, Directive Report Language]

    Directs the Secretary of Defense to conduct a study of the prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). An ACE is a potentially traumatic event that occurs between the ages of 0 and 17. ACEs are one of the most significant risk factors for suicide and future mental and physical health crises, among service members.

    7)Demonstration Project on Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Services for Children of the Armed Forces [Directive Report Language]

    Directs the Secretary of Defense to brief the Committees on Armed Services on the adequacy and availability of mental health services for children of military personnel with mental health needs.

    8)Annual Report on Members Separating from the Active Duty Who File Claims for Disability Benefits [Sec. 563]

    The U.S. has an obligation to acknowledge service-related disabilities. This provision requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a report which details the number of Armed Service members who have filed claims for disability benefits since 2019. The report must include how these claims were handled, when the claim was submitted relative to their discharge date from active duty, and whether a mental health check was completed.

    9)DHS Roles & Responsibilities in Cyberspace Act [Sec. 7124]

    Tasks the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security with conducting a review of its incident response plans and sets the conditions for improvements to our cyber incident response framework.

    10)Support for R&D of Bioindustrial Manufacturing Processes [Sec. 215]

    Bioindustrial manufacturing is a nascent but exciting form of manufacturing that uses living organisms, cells, tissues, or enzymes, to produce materials that are both more environmentally sustainable and create a more resilient supply chain. This provision authorizes the Secretary of Defense to strengthen our bioindustrial manufacturing infrastructure through the creation of regional bioindustrial networks. This expansion will keep bioindustrial manufacturing in the U.S., securing supply chains essential to the production of critical chemicals and materials.

    11)Supporting Education Recognition for Veterans During Emergencies (SERVE) Act [Sec. 5127]

    Tasks the Department of Veterans Affairs with creating an online database of veterans who self report service-connected medical training. In moments of healthcare crises, this database will allow for the VA to call on these veterans for assistance.

    12)Post-Widow’s Tax Repeal Survivor Benefits Plan Open Enrollment for Service-Disabled Veterans Act [Sec. 643]

    In the 116th Congress, members of the For Country Caucus successfully repealed what was dubbed as the “Widow’s Tax.” The “Widow’s Tax” required surviving spouses who received a Dependency and Indemnity Compensation to pay a dollar-for-dollar offset from their Military Survivor Benefit Plan. Although the repeal helped many families, nearly 1,600 service-disabled veterans had withdrawn from the benefit plan and stopped paying premiums. This provision creates a special open enrollment period for this targeted veteran population, allowing them to re-enroll, catch up on any missed premiums, and collect the benefits.

    13)Increases in Maximum Allowable Income for Purposes of Eligibility for Basic Needs Allowance [Sec. 611]

    Addressing unacceptably high levels of food insecurity among working-age active duty, the legislation increases eligibility for the Basic Needs Allowance , raising eligibility from household incomes that fall below 130% federal poverty guidelines to 150%, and allows the Secretary of Defense to increase eligibility threshold to 200% for specific cases.

    14)Requirements to Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs of Members of the Armed Forces for Uniform Items [Sec. 390]

    Directs the Secretary of Defense to track out-of-pocket costs for uniforms. The findings will be used to develop an appropriate uniform replacement allowance for officers of the Armed Forces.

    15)Fairness for Federal Firefighters [Sec. 5305]

    Many federal firefighters are veterans, which prompted With Honor Action and members of the For Country Caucus to champion this legislation. The law intends to help an estimated 10,000 federal firefighters receive the same access to job-related disability and retirement benefits as state, county, and municipal firefighters by creating a presumption of service-connected disabilities stemming from serious diseases.

    16)Treatment of Personally Identifiable Information Regarding Prospective Recruits [Sec. 531]

    This law strengthens the privacy safeguards surrounding the collection of Personally Identifiable Information in military recruitment. It authorizes the Secretary of Defense to establish the Military Recruiting Modernization Program as a pilot program to evaluate the usage of more modern technologies in handling personally identifiable information.

    17)Short Course on Emerging Technologies for Senior Officials [Sec. 9507]

    This provision, a priority of both the Cyberspace Solarium Commission and a recommendation of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, directs the Secretary of Defense to develop a short course addressing how recent technological advances affect the Defense Department.

    18)Improvements to Principal Cyber Advisors [Sec. 1501]

    Codifies the offices and roles of the Principal Cyber Advisors. It also authorizes the PCA to the Secretary of Defense to certify portions of the Department’s Cyberspace Activities Budget.

    19)Cybersecurity Grants for Schools [Sec. 7104]

    With cyberattacks targeting schools on the rise, this provision increases funding for K-12 cybersecurity education, both for educators and students.

    20)Cyber Diplomacy Act [Sec. 9502]

    In April 2022, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the creation of a Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy to address “the national security challenges, economic opportunities, and implications for U.S. values associated with cyberspace, digital technologies, and digital policy.” Section 9502 codifies the Secretary’s announcement. This bureau will be led by the first-ever U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Cyberspace and Digital Policy Nathaniel Fick, a Marine who served formerly on the With Honor Action Advisory Board.

    21)Enhancing Maritime Cybersecurity [Sec. 11224]

    Cyber attacks on the maritime ports increased by 400% in 2020. This provision tasks the Commandant of the Coast Guard and relevant cybersecurity agencies with developing a list of tools and resources open to the public designed to assist maritime operators in identifying, responding to, and recovering from cyber incidents.

    22)Baltic Reassurance Act [Sec. 1272]

    Directs the Department of Defense to continue its comprehensive Baltic Defense Assessment, specifically focusing on interactions between Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania with NATO. This will be done in an effort to improve resistance to cyber aggression by the Russian Federation.

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