Monday, December 17, 2007

Senator Claire McCaskill outlines highlights of Defense Bill

December 14, 2007 -- WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today applauded the final passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, the bill that authorizes funding for the U.S. Department of Defense and includes key provisions sponsored by McCaskill. The legislation passed the Senate with a 90 – 3 vote.
“This bill is key in the fight against government waste as it relates to the Defense Department, and is vital in ensuring that our military service members have the care they deserve,” McCaskill said today. “This bill and the amendments we were able to add represent real progress, and it will be a proud day for me when it is signed into law.”
During both the committee markup and the debate on the Senate floor, the Senate accepted several amendments offered by McCaskill, including provisions that will help reduce fraud, waste, and abuse by bringing greater accountability to defense contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. McCaskill is a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, which has jurisdiction over all legislation related to the Department of Defense.
McCaskill also played a key role in developing legislative language to guarantee that troops returning from war receive the high-quality care they deserve. McCaskill, along with Senator Barack Obama, led the Senate in introducing legislation after poor conditions were exposed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where injured troops receive care. Many of the provisions originally included in their Wounded Warrior bill were adopted in the defense authorization bill.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 included the following provisions sponsored by McCaskill:
– An amendment sponsored with Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) to establish an independent, bipartisan Commission to investigate U.S. wartime contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The commission is modeled after a committee created by Harry Truman as a Senate freshman.
– A measure to study the Pentagon's use of personality disorder discharges for those service members who have served in combat to determine if the discharges are being improperly utilized. McCaskill introduced the amendment with Senators Barack Obama (D-IL), Christopher Bond (R-MO), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), and Patty Murray (D-WA).
– An amendment sponsored with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) providing whistleblower protections for employees of Defense Department contractors and grantees. The amendment provides for expanded contractor accountability and is an improvement over current law.
– A provision requiring the Department of Defense to write new, more stringent regulations for major service contracts utilized by the Pentagon (contracts with companies that provide food service, maintenance, security and other duties for the military).
– An amendment that would tighten restrictions on "undefinitized" contracting – contracts in which the terms of the contract were unsettled when it was entered into by the Department of Defense.
– A measure requiring the Department of Defense to develop a policy for providing training for military personnel who work with contracts and contractors on a regular basis but who are not part of the military acquisition workforce. McCaskill introduced the amendment with Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE).
– A provision requiring a study of the credentials, preparation and training of individuals practicing as licensed mental health counselors and requiring the Secretary of Defense to establish criteria that licensed or certified mental health counselors would have to meet in order to be able to independently provide care for TRICARE beneficiaries.
– A requirement for a study of the physical and mental health and readjustment needs of returning war vets and their families, who face a unique set of needs due to multiple redeployments. This study is modeled after the landmark readjustment study conducted for Vietnam veterans.
– A requirement to study strategic airlift needs of the U.S. military, including a study of the optimal mix of C-5 and C-17 aircraft and the cost-effectiveness of the aircraft.
Following today’s vote, Congress will send the legislation to President Bush for his signature. The president is expected to sign the bill into law before the end of the year.
Source: Senator Claire McCaskill

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: