June 22nd, 2023

by Alex Gault

WASHINGTON — The National Defense Authorization Act for 2024 has advanced out of the House Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Elise M. Stefanik said this year’s bill has some key provisions she said she’s proud to have fought to include.

The 2024 NDAA authorizes a defense budget for the next fiscal year of $886.3 billion, a $28 billion increase setting the U.S. up to break the record for largest national defense budget in history for another year. It’s also $44 billion more than President Joseph R. Biden requested for national defense in March.

Rep. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, who is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee that drafted the NDAA, said she is proud to see the money this defense budget has set aside for emergent technologies, secure supply chains for military materiel and investments in U.S. troops.

“The provisions in this NDAA invest in emerging technologies, secure supply chains of critical components for military platforms, and ensure our military readiness to meed the United States’ national security needs,” she said. “This is critical to promoting peace through strength in the face of the rapidly evolving military threats posed by China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.”

Rep. Stefanik said there are specific provisions included that will bear results in her home district, which contains Fort Drum, home of the 10th Mountain Division. A provision in the NDAA requires that the Department of Defense analyze how the unique geography of the north country can be better used to train military personnel. The congresswoman said special training could occur in the region on fighting in areas where the electromagnetic spectrum, where radio waves are transmitted, is contested and communications can be intercepted or interfered with by the enemy.

She said robust funding has been included for Department of Defense impact aid, which is provided to schools and community institutions that see increased use from nearby military sites. Both Indian River and Carthage schools collect impact aid due to the significant number of Fort Drum families they educate.

A provision to expand an in-home child care pilot program for rural areas would extend the program to Fort Drum, offering another child care option for service members and their families on post.

The 2024 NDAA would authorize $20 million for the Missile Defense Agency to plan and design a third missile defense site at Fort Drum, a project Rep. Stefanik has long advocated, and require the agency complete an updated assessment on constructing such a site.

It would also set Fort Drum to be eligible for cold weather location assignment pay for soldiers stationed there. Fort Drum has long been used for Arctic training for Army soldiers due to the cold and snowy winters in northern New York, but soldiers have not been eligible for the cold weather pay that is provided at other Arctic training bases, which experience colder weather year-round.

The NDAA would require an examination of the Army’s plan to field drone equipment to light infantry units like the 10th Mountain Division, and provides specific funding to the 10th Mountain Division Engineers for land survey equipment used in recon activities and construction management.

Rep. Stefanik said she is also proud of an inclusion in this year’s NDAA targeting military schools, which do not exist at Fort Drum but have been a key part of her wider messaging on education.

The congresswoman applauded the inclusion of a “Parents Bill of Rights” for service members with kids in DOD schools, which she argues is a way to combat the “radical gender ideologies” being advocated for by some in the DOD’s Education Activity schools.

Much the same as conservative leaders have been criticizing efforts made by public school districts to be more welcoming and inclusive to LGBTQ+ students, the congresswoman said DOD Education Activity schools have been advocating for pro-LGBTQ+ messaging that she says infringes on a parent’s right to know about their child and their education.

“America’s service members have the right to be informed and involved in their children’s education, and it is unbelievable that some DODEA educations do not trust with their own children the very men and women in uniform who keep our nation safe and secure,” she said.

Citing teachers suggesting not informing a child’s parents about their gender identity or sexuality when it may be unsafe, Rep. Stefanik said it’s critical that parents, especially service member parents, have access to their children’s educational materials and teachers.

The “Parent’s Bill of Rights” would provide soldiers with children in DOD schools with the right to review the school’s curriculum, be informed of any academic standard adjustments, meet with their child’s teacher twice a year or more, review the school’s budget and educational materials, including professional development materials for teachers, inspect a list of library and school-owned books, address the school board or school advisory committee in foreign countries, and learn of any discipline and violent activity at the school.

It would also require that schools notify parents of any medical examinations and obtain written permission for such an exam, and provide any medical information collected at that exam to the parents.

Much of this has already been policy across the public education system, including DOD schools.

“Parents absolutely have the right to determine if what their child is being taught is developmentally appropriate and aligned with high academic standards,” she said. “As our men and women in uniform are constantly looking out for our own safety, I will continue to stand up for them and ensure that servicemember parents have the right to be involved in their child’s education.”

The NDAA passed the House Armed Services Committee with votes from both Democrats and Republicans, and will now go through a long process of review and approval in both the House and Senate, which will most likely then need to workshop their bills to develop one uniform version before final passage. The NDAA is considered a “must-pass” bill, although partisan fights over the legislation have flared in recent years, with former President Donald J. Trump threatening to veto the 2021 NDAA in 2020.

Read the full story from NNY360 here.