Congressman DeSaulnier Comments on Passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2017

May 19, 2016
Press Release
Successfully Includes Amendments on Port Chicago and Veterans Disability

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) made the following statement on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2017 which passed the U.S House of Representatives by a vote of 277 to 147.

“Ensuring the safety and security of our country and our troops should be Congress’s top priority. During a time of such international volatility, providing our military with the resources they need to fight traditional and nontraditional threats is imperative.

This year's NDAA is a missed opportunity to strengthen our military’s position as a force of peace and freedom in the world. This bill diminishes not only our military readiness, but also our international reputation. Among its problematic provisions are budgeting gimmicks to mask funding cuts, weakening worker protections, further discriminating against LGBT individuals in the armed forces, and restricting closure of perhaps the ugliest mark on our national record: Guantanamo Bay. For these reasons, I voted against the bill.

Although the bill was not strong enough to support, I am pleased to have included a provision that would require the Navy to investigate the treatment of the Port Chicago 50. While the past cannot be erased, these brave men deserve to have their records corrected and justice served on their behalf. For those who are separating from the military, I also included a measure to provide servicemembers the information they need to make informed financial decisions when reentering civilian life.”

 The following DeSaulnier amendments were passed as part of the NDAA:

  • A provision that would require the U.S. Navy to investigate whether racial bias was experienced by the African American sailors convicted of mutiny at Port Chicago, and to report its findings to Congress. After a devastating explosion at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine in 1944 that killed and injured more than 700 servicemembers and civilians, 50 sailors were unjustly convicted of mutiny as they fought for the training and recognition necessary to ensure their safety on the job. 
  • A bipartisan measure offered with Republican Walter Jones (NC-3) that would provide financial transparency for servicemembers separating from the Armed Services. Servicemembers leaving the military often receive separation pay to facilitate their reentrance into civilian life. However, many veterans discover too late that their disability benefits can be reduced or withheld by the federal government until the full amount of their separation payment is recouped; preventing them from properly planning for the future. Over the last five years, the Department of Veterans Affairs withheld disability compensation from almost 25,000 separating veterans. This amendment simply requires that each separating servicemember is informed of the possibility of the conflict between separation and disability pay.