WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, made the following remarks, as prepared for delivery, on the Subcommittee's markup of H.R. 2500 - National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020:
"I thank the Chairwoman and my fellow subcommittee members for the hard work that went into this mark.
"I am pleased that the subcommittee mark we are considering builds upon many of the important reforms established in the previous Congress. The mark includes vital provisions that support our war fighters, military families, and retirees and give them the care and support they need, deserve, and have earned.
"Specifically, this year's proposal would continue to rebuild and grow the armed forces, including increases in end-strength for the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps and an extension of special pay and bonuses for service members in high demand fields. Additionally, it would require the Department of Defense to establish a common, comprehensive service record for Reserve Component service members that will serve as definitive proof of service.
"The mark would also continue the committee’s considerable work over the past several years aimed at improving spouse employment and childcare access. The mark would increase the authorized reimbursement for spouse licensure from $500 to $1000 and would require the Department to analyze whether the license reimbursement rates are sufficient. It would also expand eligibility for the spousal tuition assistance through the My Career Advancement Program.
"The mark addresses the persistent issue of military childcare access by requiring the Department to conduct a comprehensive review of the adequacy of on-post childcare, including the waitlists at all military installations and whether additional financial assistance for childcare is required. It would also allow surviving spouses of fallen service members to receive a stipend for childcare expenses.
"Finally, the proposed mark would continue to build on critical reforms from the last Congress, including: refining sexual assault prevention and response programs; providing enhanced oversight of military health system reforms; and improving service member access to behavioral health.
"As we look forward to next week’s full committee markup, there are still several issues to be resolved, including the overall funding levels for the Department of Defense. As the Defense Department’s senior leaders have said repeatedly, a 3-5% real growth in the DOD budget is essential to maintain our competitive edge. Therefore, I remain concerned about the overall defense topline and the impact it may have on military personnel and other areas of the DOD budget.
"In conclusion, I want to thank Chairwoman Speier and my colleagues on the subcommittee for their considerable work on this mark and I yield back."