U.S. Rep. Ron Barber today joined a strong bipartisan majority of the House in voting to authorize Department of Defense programs and funding that strengthens sexual assault protections for service members, supports security efforts along the Southwest border, provides a pay raise for members of the military and includes robust funding for the Southern Arizona aerospace and defense industries.
“This legislation will ensure that our nation’s defense remains strong and that the men and women who serve our nation are better compensated,” Barber said today. “It also includes continued funding for the Southern Arizona companies that provide essential high-tech equipment to the Department of Defense.
“It was an honor to work with my colleagues on the Armed Services Committee crafting this legislation over the past few months,” Barber added. “The committee is very bipartisan and I am extremely pleased with what we were able to accomplish. This is a strong bill for Arizona and for our nation.”
The House voted today 315-to-108 to pass the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes funding for the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2014. The bill now goes to the Senate.
As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Barber ensured that the following priorities were included in the bill:
· Provisions to address the crisis of sexual assaults in the military, which Barber earlier this week called “deeply troubling” and “a deplorable situation.” The legislation takes away from commanding officers their unilateral authority to change or dismiss a court-martial conviction and requires that service members found guilty of sexual offenses be dismissed or dishonorably discharged. It also provides legal assistance to victims of sex-related offenses.
· Continued strong support for programs executed by Southern Arizona aerospace and defense companies, providing for the future weapon systems and platforms that will ensure our warfighters have what is needed in battle and the ability to defend the nation.
· Funding to continue operation of an airborne radar system that is essential to security of the nation’s southern border. Operation of the Tethered Aerostat Radar Systems will be transitioned from the Department of Defense to the Department of Homeland Security. Earlier this year, Barber persuaded the military to keep the system operating until DHS could take it over.
· Increased funding for the Iron Dome missile-defense system. The system has been developed by Israel with financial assistance from the United States. Barber successfully pushed for co-production of Iron Dome in both countries, which could lead to increased employment at Raytheon Missile System’s facility in Tucson.
· Funding for the Department of Defense tuition assistance program, which Barber strongly supported. Earlier this year, in a letter signed by 45 of his colleagues in Congress on both sides of the aisle, Barber called on the Pentagon to reinstate funding for the tuition assistance program after it was halted by sequestration budget cuts.
· A 1.8 percent pay raise for service members who put their lives on the line in defense of the country.
· Protection of TRICARE benefits and rejection of an administration proposal to increase enrollment fees. The bill also provides beneficiaries an opportunity to remain in TRICARE Prime after the Department of Defense reduces the availability of Prime to retired beneficiaries. This will help keep faith with our retirees and veterans.
· Full funding for defense research, including the Minerva Research Initiative, which helps our troops understand the cultural and political environments into which they deploy. This funding will benefit the University of Arizona where $16 million worth of defense research is performed.