WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec. 8, 2016) — The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted 92-7 to pass the Conference Report on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017.
The U.S. House of Representatives previously passed the Conference Report by a vote of 375-34 on Dec. 2, 2016, and it now heads to President Obama’s desk. The final Conference Report, which was negotiated between House and Senate conferees, authorizes approximately $611.2 billion in funding for the Department of Defense (DOD) and other related agencies, programs, and operations for the Fiscal Year 2017.
The legislation also includes provisions authored by Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) that will benefit the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. These provision include language to address military hazing in our ranks and provisions to provide reparations for Guam residents who suffered harm during World War II and to conduct a review of AAPI veterans of the Korean War and Vietnam War who may be eligible for the Medal of Honor.
CAPAC Chair Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27) said that despite budget gimmicks that jeopardize this critical funding bill, she is pleased that this annual defense authorization bill includes important provisions that help the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, including my language on military hazing.
“The inclusion of language on military hazing is historic — it requires, for the first time, annual reports from the Department of Defense on anti-hazing policies and progress on its implementation,” Chu said. “This provision provides for the greater transparency we need around this important issue, which will help save lives and ensure a stronger military.”
Chu said she is also pleased to see other critical provisions included in final conference report. These provisions include recognizing the residents of Guam that suffered great harm during World War II, as well as authorizing the review of certain AAPI veterans who may be eligible to receive the Medal of Honor.
“These provisions are important wins for the AAPI community and demonstrate that our demands to address the needs of our diverse constituencies are being heard,” Chu said.
In 2011, Rep. Chu’s nephew, Lance Corporal Harry Lew, committed suicide while stationed in Afghanistan after extreme and prolonged hazing by his fellow Marines. Since his death, Rep. Chu has fought to eradicate hazing in the military.
During the 112th Congress, Rep. Chu introduced the Harry Lew Military Hazing Accountability and Prevention Act, which would require DOD to develop a comprehensive plan to address hazing within the ranks. In the FY2013 NDAA, Rep. Chu secured language that required reports from each branch of the military to report on hazing policies and incident data to Congress.
Finding that these results were inconsistent and indicated substandard tracking results in unreliable data, Rep. Chu successfully amended the FY 2015 NDAA to require GAO to provide an objective analysis about the current status of hazing in the military. In March 2016, Rep. Chu testified before the House Armed Services Committee to urge the adoption of the GAO’s recommendations in the FY 2017 NDAA.
Rep. Chu’s amendment, which was offered during the House Armed Services Committee’s markup of NDAA in April, would do the following:
• Require DOD to submit an annual report to Congress to ensure anti-hazing policies are implemented consistently.
• Require DOD to improve existing training to help servicemembers better identify and respond to hazing at all command levels.
• Mandate that DOD issue a department-wide guidance on a comprehensive and consistent data collection system that includes information on protected classes such as race and religion.
• Evaluate the prevalence of hazing through department-wide surveys.
Recognizing Harm Suffered by Guam Residents During World War II
This provision, led by Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo (GU), authorizes claims for living survivors of the occupation of Guam or the descendants of those who died in the occupation during World War II. It recognizes the sacrifice of the people of Guam and establishes a special claims fund to compensate eligible Guam survivors or descendants.
In addition to these reparations, this provision also establishes a grant program for research, educational, and media activities to highlight and uplift the stories of the occupation of Guam during World War II.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Medal of Honor Review
Congressmembers Madeleine Bordallo (GU), Ranking Member Adam Smith (WA-09), and the late Congressman Mark Takai (HI-01) pushed for a provision to authorize a review of service records for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) who served during the Korean War and Vietnam War and earned the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, or the Air Force Cross, to see if they are eligible for the Medal of Honor. This follows the FY02 NDAA that authorized a similar review for Jewish American and Hispanic American war veterans, and ensures that AAPIs are included in the review process.
The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) is comprised of Members of Congress of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and Members who have a strong dedication to promoting the well-being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Currently chaired by Congresswoman Judy Chu, CAPAC has been addressing the needs of the AAPI community in all areas of American life since it was founded in 1994.