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McCaskill Amendments to Defense Authorization Bill Protect Troops

June 24, 2009
WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a week long mark-up of the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill aggressively pursued and ultimately won passage of a series of amendments aimed at helping troops and advancing the F/A-18 fighter jet program.  Specifically, McCaskill’s amendments provide for an overhaul of the military’s substance abuse treatment programs, require face to face mental health screenings for troops returning from combat and add strong language in favor of a multi-year procurement deal for the F/A-18 fighter jets.  McCaskill also fought for the restoration of nine F/A-18 aircraft that had been cut from the budget by the Department of Defense, thereby increasing the authorization for F/A-18 purchases from 31 to 40.  She was able to get this increase included in the base text of the bill.
 
“Supporting our men and women in uniform is one of the most important things we do around here. That’s why I introduced amendments to help servicemembers get the help they need for substance abuse problems and to receive better mental health care. It is our responsibility to ensure they have the best equipment and care we can provide them,” McCaskill said.
 
The NDAA, which sets spending guidelines for the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2010, covers all defense related programs, including healthcare for active military members, housing and other services for military families, acquisition of weapons systems, oversight, emerging threats and military capabilities, and management of the Department of Defense (DoD). The amendments McCaskill introduced this week are all related to issues McCaskill has been fighting for during her time in Washington.
 
Specifically, McCaskill’s amendments:

- Require the DoD to overhaul the alcohol and drug abuse treatment programs for the armed forces. McCaskill has been active on this issue following problems that were brought to her attention at Fort Leonard Wood Army Base in Missouri.

  • The amendment requires a comprehensive review, report and plan on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of substance abuse disorders in the military.
  • The amendment also requires an independent review of the Defense Department’s substance use disorder treatment programs by the Institute of Medicine.
  • In the past several decades there has been a significant rise in drug and alcohol abuse in the military, which is directly related to rates of divorce, suicide, crime and domestic violence, and potentially aggravating combat induced disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental and health issues.
- Require In-Person Post Deployment Mental Health Assessments so service members would receive a face-to-face mental health screening before they deploy to combat, after they return home and every six months for the next two years.
  • The Department of Defense currently only provides written surveys as a screening method for post deployment mental health issues.  There has been a longstanding and extensive effort to require in person screening sessions.  
- Ensure parity for military officers enrolled at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) with other military officers.
  • The amendment would ensure these future doctors in the military receive promotions for their time in service just like other military officers. Further, once the students become doctors, the amendment allows them to receive credit for their time at the University for pay purposes.
  • Currently, officers at USUHS are not eligible for promotion while in medical school and receive no benefit for pay purposes for that time. The disparities at the USUHS have made it harder to attract and retain aspiring doctors to military service at a time when life saving physicians are needed more than ever for the troops.
- Include strong language highlighting the need for DoD to enter into a multi-year procurement deal on the F/A-18 fighter jet and encouraging them to take the steps to do so.
  • The F/A-18 is made by Boeing in St. Louis, which provides thousands of jobs in Missouri and provides affordable, high-value capability for our troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world.
  • A multi-year procurement deal, if entered into, would save the taxpayers nearly $1.1 billion in costs as compared to single year procurements and address a dangerous projected shortfall in the nation’s aircraft carrier based fighter jet fleet.
- Provide ongoing support, including an additional year of tenure, funding and coordination authority, to the Commission on Wartime Contracting, which is an eight-member bipartisan commission mandated by Congress to investigate federal agency contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Senator McCaskill, along with Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), introduced the bill to create the commission in 2008.
  • The extended mandate would provide the commission with more time to conduct original investigative work and hold public hearings on key contracting issues.
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