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Rep. Chu Statement on National Defense Authorization Act

July 21, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6395, the William M. Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021. The NDAA authorizes $740.5 billion in defense spending at the Department of Defense and Department of Energy. This includes a 3% pay raise for members of the military, $5 million for research into extreme weather, and a $1 billion Pandemic Preparedness and Resilience National Security Fund . It also improves sexual assault prevention and response, prohibits any assistance to the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen without a new AUMF, omits language that would prevent the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and requires the DOD to change the names of all military bases named for Confederates. This bill also establishes an annual limit on military construction funding that a President can redirect in an emergency of $100 million for domestic projects and $500 billion for overseas projects, with the exception of projects necessary to support public health.

Also included in the bill is the text of H.R. 2215, the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act, introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27). The San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act would expand the borders of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument to include the western Angeles National Forest. It would also establish a National Recreation Area to enhance conservation, increase access for all communities by connecting park poor areas to open space, and improve the management of the area through improved resources, education, and public engagement. The 30,659 acres of new and expanded wilderness areas will benefit from the highest form of protection of any federal wildland. Rep. Chu voted for the bill and issued the following statement:

“Funding our military and providing for our national defense is one of the most important votes we take each year. But while I believe we must support the men and women in uniform, and while this bill makes some important changes to the military, the price tag is still staggeringly high. I supported an amendment to trim the fat in this bill and bring our military spending more in line with our domestic spending, and I will continue to do so. But one thing this bill – passed with bipartisan support – proves is that we have the means and the ability to quickly provide billions of dollars to the economy, something that I hope my colleagues keep in mind as we begin consideration of additional COVID-19 legislation.

“While I remain disappointed at the price tag of this legislation I am pleased that we were able to bring some necessary changes to the military. For starters, it provides a pay raise, which our troops deserve and need. It also helps undo the legacy of racism by requiring DOD to rename bases and infrastructure that had previously been named for Confederates. There are better ways to honor the service of our men and women in uniform than commemorating those who started a war in order to continue owning Black people as slaves. It also takes an important step toward closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and reiterates Congress’s opposition to the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen. This campaign has created a human rights disaster and the US should have no part in it, especially without authorization from Congress.

“This NDAA also blocks President Trump’s ability to steal defense funding meant for specific military construction projects to instead put toward a border wall. This will allow the military to build what it needs, but not waste money on unnecessary projects that inspire bigotry and put lives at risk.

“There are other positives in this bill as well, such as investments in climate research and resilience, and the improvements to how the military prevents and responds to sexual assault. I am particularly thrilled that my legislation to protect and preserve the San Gabriel Mountains was included. The pandemic has made access to outdoor spaces more important than ever. That’s why this legislation is so important to me. It will not only preserve this land for future generations, it will also create a National Recreation Area that will let even more Angelenos enjoy our mountains.

“While it is not a perfect bill, it is a necessary one that I know will lead to better policies while stopping some of the worst.”