Charlotte, NC – With Honor Action fights polarization in Congress in part by working alongside the veteran, cross-partisan For Country Caucus (FCC) in the U.S. House and initiating, advancing, and passing into law bipartisan efforts that matter for our nation and world. 2021 was an especially productive year as With Honor Action supported and helped pass into law the following 23 pieces of bipartisan legislation:
Advancing Voluntary National Service:
Advancing voluntary national service and additional civic education has wide bipartisan support, as With Honor Action’s past research and polling nationally has demonstrated. With Honor Action teamed up with Voices for National Service and other allies, initiated public service announcements including ads for Senators Roger Wicker and Roy Blunt in the spring of 2020, and helped pass into law the first major expansion of AmeriCorps in generations. The legislation appropriated $1 billion dollars for AmeriCorps, enabling it to increase its cost of living stipends for young Americans serving in diverse communities, and expand its COVID relief efforts including outreach to hungry families and support for struggling public schools.
Honoring Our Commitments to Wartime Allies:
Recognizing that our wartime allies in Afghanistan could face a dire situation, With Honor Action started early in the year by advocating for further reforms to the deeply flawed Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) process. In the spring, With Honor Action convened veteran service organizations and humanitarian organizations and advocated nationally for mass evacuations, reforms to humanitarian parole processing, and continued support for wartime allies still stranded in Afghanistan. These efforts included a White House demonstration with Human Rights First, a national media push including this Time Magazine op-ed by With Honor Advisory Board Member and Medal of Honor recipient Florent Groberg, and this public service ad With Honor Action produced with FCC Members Reps. Jason Crow, Peter Meijer and Captain Groberg. Much work remains, as tens of thousands of Afghans who served with U.S. forces remain trapped in Afghanistan. Laws that passed include the following:
HOPE for Afghan SIVs Act – The HOPE for Afghan SIVs Act was sponsored by FCC Members Reps. Jason Crow, Seth Moulton, Jimmy Panetta, Peter Meijer, Salud Carbajal, James Baird, Elaine Luria, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Scott Franklin, Mikie Sherrill, Chrissy Houlahan, Don Bacon, Van Taylor, and Mike Garcia. The act’s key provisions were passed in a supplemental appropriations act in late July, shortly before the withdrawal from Afghanistan unfolded. It was among the most bipartisan acts to pass Congress in recent years. The act waived a requirement that SIV applicants receive a medical screening in Afghanistan. By waiving the screening until their arrival in the United States, the act helped cut red tape and expedite the SIV application process for vulnerable Afghan allies. Additionally, the bill appropriated $500 million to evacuate Afghan allies ahead of the U.S. troop withdrawal. Another $600 million went to the State Department for refugee and migration assistance and $25 million to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement for the special immigrant visa program.
The Averting Loss of Life and Injury by Expediting SIVs (ALLIES) Act – The ALLIES Act, led by FCC Members Reps. Jason Crow and Peter Meijer, passed alongside the HOPE act and increased the total number of available special immigrant visas for Afghan nationals by 8,000 – thereby raising the total available visas by over 30%.
WELCOMED Act – The WELCOMED Act was sponsored by FCC Members Reps. Seth Moulton, Don Bacon, Elaine Luria, Peter Meijer, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Jason Crow, Jimmy Panetta, Kai Kahele, Mikie Sherrill, and Conor Lamb. The bill provided crucial resettlement assistance to Afghan evacuees. Due to the rushed nature of the Afghan evacuation, many Afghans came to the U.S. under a program called ‘Humanitarian Parole’. Under Humanitarian Parole these evacuees were ineligible for the assistance that they would have received had they arrived as refugees or SIVs. The WELCOMED Act rectified this injustice and provided crucial resettlement assistance to deserving Afghans.
Expanding Verification of SIV Applicants Through the SPOT Database – Passed in the defense bill that President Biden should soon sign into law, this provision directs the DOD and Department of State (DOS) to submit a joint report on the use of the Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker (SPOT) database to identify Afghans eligible for special immigrant visas. The SPOT database is a government contracting database and will help verify Afghan contractors who are eligible for SIVs. The rapid collapse of the Afghan government and a lack of U.S. consular presence has exacerbated the problem of identifying SIV eligible Afghans; this legislation helps address this issue.
Afghan War Commission Act – The Afghan War Commission Act led by FCC Members Reps. Peter Meijer and Seth Moulton, creates a non-partisan, independent commission that will conduct a comprehensive examination of the War in Afghanistan. Passed in the defense bill that President Biden should soon sign into law, the commission will be required to produce a public and unclassified report with actionable recommendations so the United States learns from our experience in Afghanistan and is prepared for future conflicts. As partisan recriminations have swirled in the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, no serious, objective examination of the nearly 20 year war has occurred; this Commission based off of the 9/11 Commission will fix that.
Securing America’s Technological Future in Artificial Intelligence and Cyber:
As two national commissions have demonstrated, there is strong bipartisan agreement that Congress needs to act to help the U.S. government understand and implement whole of government changes in the areas of artificial intelligence and cyber security. Passing into law and ensuring appropriate oversight of the recommendations from the The Cyber Solarium Commission (CSC) and the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) is a top short and long term priority of With Honor Action and the FCC. This year, the following 7 provisions passed in the defense bill that President Biden should soon sign into law.
Yearly Reports by the DOD on NSCAI Recommendations – Led by FCC Member Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, this provision requires that the DOD submit yearly reports on the status of recommendations from the NSCAI. This provision requires that the DOD develop a plan to implement all NSCAI recommendations specific to the DOD, or to brief Congress on their justifications for not implementing specific recommendations.
Development of a Digital Infrastructure Plan – This provision establishes a DOD working group and tasks them with developing a plan to establish a modern information technology infrastructure capable of incorporating state of the art tools including artificial intelligence.
Establishment of Digital Recruiting Offices – This provision establishes a chief digital recruiting officer within the office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, and it charges the officer with identifying DOD digital talent needs and skills gaps and recruiting individuals to address those gaps.
Updating Federal Occupation Series Fields – This provision directs the Director of the Office of Personnel Management to establish or update occupational series covering federal government positions in the fields of software development, software engineering, data science, and data management. The incorporation of new occupational career fields will help focus the development of personnel in these fields.
Integrate Emerging Technology into Professional Education – This provision establishes an executive education course within DOD on emerging technologies. The course for general officers and senior executive-level civilian leaders is to be designed specifically to prepare new general and senior executive-level civilian leaders on relevant technologies and how these technologies may be applied to military and business activities.
Assess the Feasibility of a National Cyber Academy – This provision requires the DOD to determine the overall workforce requirements for cyberspace and information warfare personnel across the active and reserve components of the Armed Forces. Additionally, it requires the DOD to determine and report whether the cyber mission requires a graduate level professional military education college similar to the war colleges for the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
National Defense Science and Technology Strategy – This provision tasks the DOD to develop a strategy articulating the science and technology priorities, goals, and investments of the DOD. Additionally, it requires the DOD to submit recommendations for future defense research, and to establish an integrated approach to the identification, prioritization, development, and fielding of emerging capabilities and technologies.
Modernizing the Department of Defense for Future Challenges:
With Honor Action believes that for the Department of Defense to remain the preeminent global defense organization, it must continually adapt and innovate. To that end, With Honor Action supported the following bipartisan legislation in 2021, all of which passed in the defense bill that President Biden should soon sign into law. The legislation reflects the diverse array of issues that troops and DOD civilians deal with each day.
Arctic Security Initiative Act – The Arctic Security Initiative Act led by FCC Members Reps. Mike Gallagher and Elaine Luria, requires the DOD to conduct a security assessment of the Arctic region and establish an Arctic Security Initiative with a five-year plan to fully resource the DOD and provide individual service-specific strategies for the Arctic.
Taiwan Partnership Act – The Taiwan Partnership Act was led by FCC Member Rep. Mike Gallagher, and critical provisions of the act were passed as part of the NDAA. The legislation requires the DOD conduct a yearly briefing on cooperation between the National Guard and Taiwan during the preceding year and an evaluation of how to improve future cooperation.
Establishment of a Casualty Assistance Program Working Group – Led by FCC Member Rep. Don Bacon, this provision improves the casualty affairs programs at the Department of Defense by creating a working group to standardize casualty assistance officer training across military departments. The legislation also develops an iterative process of assessment that will continue to improve the program.
Improving the Lives of Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families:
As a veteran-led organization, With Honor Action recognizes that the strength of the U.S. military is not just its technology, but its people, so we worked tirelessly to ensure that service members, veterans, and their families were taken care of. With Honor Action’s efforts in this area were wide-ranging – spanning mental and postpartum health care legislation to improving work opportunities for spouses and ensuring a Global War on Terrorism Memorial would be built on the National Mall – in an area befit for America’s most recent veterans. With Honor Action’s 7 legislative victories on this front, all of which passed in the defense bill that President Biden should soon sign into law, are:
Global War on Terrorism Memorial Location Act – The Global War on Terrorism Memorial Location Act, led by FCC Members Reps. Jason Crow and Mike Gallagher and sponsored by every FCC Member, authorizes the establishment of the Global War on Terrorism Memorial on the National Mall. A Global War on Terrorism Memorial was authorized under a previous defense bill, but this act mandates that the Memorial be built on an area called ‘The Reserve’ in the National Mall – an area befitting America’s longest war and in-line with other memorials like the WWII and Vietnam War Memorials.
Brandon Act – The Brandon Act, led by FCC Members Reps. Seth Moulton and Mariannette Miller-Meeks, is named after United States Navy Petty Officer Third Class Brandon Caserta. It improves upon Department of Defense (DOD) mental health efforts by enabling service members to seek mental health services anonymously. The act also charges commanders and supervisors with ensuring warfighters obtain mental health services quickly.
Military Moms Matter Act – The Military Moms Matter Act, led by FCC Member Reps. Chrissy Houlahan, Don Bacon, Jared Golden, Kai Kahele, Seth Moulton, Jim Baird, and Van Taylor, improves postpartum care for service members and their families. Specifically, the act directs the DOD to establish clinical guidelines to ensure that postpartum care includes prompt mental health, pelvic health, and obstetric appointments. Additionally, the act tasks the DOD to develop a standardized policy on body composition and physical fitness tests to ensure that service members have adequate time for postpartum recovery before they are required to meet body composition and physical fitness standards.
Expansion of Support Programs for Special Operations Gold Star Families – Led by For Country Caucus Member Jimmy Panetta and passed as a provision in the NDAA, this legislation expands support programs and access for the surviving immediate family members of Special Operations troops killed in service to the nation. This important legislation ensures that the family members of America’s special operators killed in the line of duty have access to the services and support programs they deserve.
Military Hunger Prevention Act – The Military Hunger Prevention Act requires the DOD to pay a basic needs allowance to eligible low-income members of the Armed Forces. Specifically eligible are service members (with minor stipulations) that have a gross household income under 130% of the federal poverty guidelines of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The act provides that the DOD will pay service members a monthly allowance that brings their total yearly household income up to 130% of HHS poverty guidelines. The Military Hunger Prevention Act is likely to impact at least 20,000 military families, dramatically improving the lives of warfighters and their families.
Alexander Lofgren Veterans in Parks Act – The Alexander Lofgren Veterans in Parks Act was introduced by FCC Member Mariannette Miller-Meeks and sponsored by FCC Members Reps. Peter Meijer, Conor Lamb, Salud Carbajal, Jason Crow, Michael Waltz, Mikie Sherrill, Elaine Luria, Jack Bergman, Brian Mast, Adam Kinzinger, Greg Steube, Mike Garcia, Tony Gonzales, Scott Franklin, and James Baird. The act makes National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands passes available, without charge, to members of the Armed Forces, veterans, and Gold Star Families. The pass covers the entrance fee and standard amenity recreation fees for all federal recreational lands and waters.
Military Spouse Employment Assistance – This NDAA provision orders a DOD study on military spouse employment, including barriers to entry like state licensing requirements.
With Honor Action is a cross-partisan movement focused on supporting military veterans who want to work across the aisle and put principles before politics while serving again in Congress. With Honor Action’s advisory board includes post-9/11 veterans and Gold Star family members — Chris Howard, Ryan Manion, and Medal of Honor Recipient Florent Groberg — as well as prominent American leaders such as Secretary Robert Gates, Senator Tom Daschle, Admiral Michael Mullen, Gen. Nadja West, and David Gergen.
With Honor Action is a 501(c)(4), which serves as the organization’s policy and social-welfare arm. With Honor has an affiliated federally registered “super PAC” called With Honor Fund.