Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Votes Against Defense Bill That Keeps U.S. Troops in Afghanistan & Continues the New Cold War

July 21, 2020
Press Release
Rep. Gabbard Warns of New Cold War, Nuclear Tensions During Debate on FY2021 NDAA Amendments
Washington, DC—Today, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) voted against the annual national defense bill. While she successfully included several provisions of importance to Hawai‘i and the country’s security, the positive elements of the bill were outweighed by overarching concerns the Congresswoman had with the massive bill.
“As a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, I fought hard to get many provisions in this year's defense bill to protect Hawai‘i and our country, improve the lives of servicemembers and military families, provide transparency of the devastating humanitarian impact of U.S. sanctions, and address environmental threats. But at a time when many Americans are struggling and suffering, the massive cost of this defense bill at $740.1 billion disproportionately benefits the military industrial complex, continues to escalate the new Cold War and nuclear arms race, and needlessly puts more of our troops’ lives at risk by continuing our decades-long war in Afghanistan. I could not in good conscience vote to pass it,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
The bill was passed by a vote of 295-125 and now heads to the Senate for consideration.
Rep. Gabbard was able to secure provisions that:
  • Promote peace worldwide by ensuring the defense bill is not misused as an authorization for war, preventing the U.S. from directly or indirectly arming terrorists, requiring assessment and reports on the humanitarian impact of U.S. sanctions, prohibiting U.S. forces from being used to extract, take, or sell oil from Syria, and prohibiting funds for new nuclear arms testing. 
  • Protect Hawai‘i from nuclear threats by funding a crucial missile defense radar in the state and repairs to military installations in the state
  • Preserve Hawai‘i’s environment by overseeing the Navy’s efforts to safely use and maintain the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility to protect Oahu’s drinking water supply, exploring ocean-based energy sources for military installations, and increasing funds to clean up and replace PFAS (also known as “forever chemicals”) which have polluted drinking water supplies on and around bases across the country.
  • Help military families by improving housing, federally-impacted schools, child care centers, and other facilities important to their quality of life as well as reducing paperwork on public health research beneficial to military families
  • Investigates the impact of sexual assault and related trauma on “bad paper” discharges
  • Decriminalizes the possession, use, or consumption of hemp products by servicemembers
Background: After weeks of work behind the scenes as well as House Armed Services Committee (HASC) subcommittee votes last month, HASC released its full draft of the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) at the beginning of July and it was passed by the full committee. The Congresswoman had concerns with the bill but sought to improve it through additional amendments. The full House of Representatives considered additional amendments and debated the bill over the past several days and voted on it today.
As a senior member of the Committee, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard worked with HASC and Rules Committee leadership make sure the FY 2021 NDAA:
  • Authorizes $130 million for Homeland Defense Radar-Hawai‘i, a ballistic missile defense installation and program vital to the safety of Hawai‘i, U.S. Territories in the Pacific, Alaska and the U.S. west coast from emerging threats — including in North Korea.
  • Continues Rep. Gabbard’s work to prevent nuclear war by including provisions she authored that require the Administration to brief Congress on its efforts related to the extension of the New START Treaty as well as two other amendments that were adopted and that she supported preventing nuclear weapons testing that produced a nuclear yield and criticizing the Trump Administration for withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty.
  • Requires the Department of Defense (DOD) to certify to Congress that U.S. military forces are not being used to extract, transport, transfer, or sell oil from Syria.
  • Builds on Rep. Gabbard’s Stop Arming Terrorists Act by eliminating the remaining loopholes to guidelines prohibiting the provision of weapons or any form of support to al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Jabhat Fateh al Sham, Hamas, Hizballah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, al-Shabaab, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or any individual or group associated with these organization.
  • Establishes that this bill may not be interpreted as an authorization for the use of military force.
  • Continues to address the environmental concerns at the Red Hill fuel facility by requiring the DOD to conduct 5-year reviews of the best available technologies for containment at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility and requiring a briefing on the work to date on the geological and hydrological mechanisms that impact how a release of fuel from the Red Hill facility would impact the drinking water supply — including any areas requiring further study and the Navy’s plan to ensure subsequent studies address those areas.
  • Decriminalizes the possession, use, or consumption — in compliance with applicable Federal, State, and local law — of hemp products by servicemembers for hemp that meets the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 definition and as amended by the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018.
  • Helps clean the environment and invest in green energy solutions by authorizing an additional $159 million for research and development related to PFAS remediation and disposal technologies and replace aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) currently used for fire-fighting needs as well as requires a report on ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) and seawater air conditioning (SWAC) systems to determine the feasibility of these technologies for use at military installations.
  • Improves the lives of our military families by authorizing an additional $135 million for the oversight, maintenance, and management of privatized and government-owned military family housing as well as permanently establishing the Office of Economic Adjustment which provides funding for schools and programs used by military families, requiring a report on the implementation and application of the Integrated Disability Evaluation System and requires a report by the Treasury to examine the role high interest rates play on readiness and servicemember retention. It also provides funding to extend the AMBER Alert system to U.S. Territories to ensure all American children, regardless of location, are protected from harm. The bill also requires a study on the costs and benefits of allowing veterans to make contributions to a health savings account, in order to study if this would reduce healthcare costs.
  • Requires report related to sexual assault by the Department of Defense to Congress providing an accounting and demographics of individuals receiving “bad paper” (i.e. dishonorable, bad conduct, or other than honorable) discharge or dismissal from the Armed Forces in which there is evidence that the individual discharged suffered symptoms of sexual trauma or filed a complaint with the chain of command regarding sexual assault and related discrimination, fraud, waste, or abuse.
  • Exempts the Uniformed Services University (USU) from the Paperwork Reduction Act which removes an unintended barrier and accelerates the USU’s vital research into public health, especially for our military families.
  • Invests in Hawai‘i’s military facilities by authorizing $268.9 million in appropriations for military construction projects which include $26 million for a Child Development Center for School-Aged children at Fort Shafter, $39 million for a Child Development Center at Schofield Barracks, $89 million for an Aircraft Maintenance Hangar at Wheeler Army Airfield, $48.99 million for Waterfront Improvements Wharves S1, S11-13, S20-21 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, and $65.91 million for Waterfront Improvement Wharves S8-S10 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
  • Extends DOD Youth Program to residents of the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa. The Science and Technology Academies Reinforcing Basic Aviation and Space Exploration (STARBASE) Department of Defense Youth Program is an educational program for students (grades K-12) that provides them with real-world applications of math and science.
  • Honors the legacy of Corporal Ramiro Olivo with the Distinguished Service Cross. CPL Olivo died in the line of duty on May 9, 1968 during the Vietnam War. On that day his unit was ambushed by the North Vietnamese Army and his unit sustained heavy casualties. CPL Olivo gave his life laying down suppressing fire and holding off the enemy assault, refusing medical attention and fighting to his death. His courageous actions saved numerous American lives, including one who is a resident of Hawai‘i today.
Last year, Rep. Gabbard secured a provision in the 2020 NDAA to prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to provide weapons or any form of support to al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Jabhat Fateh al Sham, any individual or group associated with these organizations, or any entity the Secretary of Defense determines may trade or sell arms to terrorist organizations.
Rep. Gabbard introduced H.Con.Res.77 to require the withdrawal of U.S. troops who were based in Syria at President Trump’s directive to secure Syrian oil fields — without Congressional authorization as required by the Constitution.
Rep. Gabbard has been consistent in calling for a focus on the current and emerging threats in the Asia Pacific, including the threat of North Korea, and increasing the U.S.’s commitment to missile defense for Hawaiʻi and our homeland. After the false missile report in Hawai‘i, she released a statement calling on the State to immediately address the failures that led to the false missile alert and correct them and pointed to decades of regime change policies that led North Korea to strengthen its nuclear program, and undermined the credibility of the U.S. After North Korea’s successful Intercontinental Ballistic Missile test in 2017, she released a statement noting that the test further demonstrates the extremely dangerous and growing threat that the North Korea ballistic missile program poses to Hawai‘i and the U.S. She worked to secure provisions in the 2017 and 2016 NDAA to increase missile defense capabilities in Hawaiʻi in order to address the ongoing threat of North Korea and keep focus on Hawai‘i priorities. 
Rep. Gabbard has been a consistent champion for military families. She and Rep. Andy Kim (NJ-03) introduced H.R.4917, the Survey our Military Impacted Schools Act, which would require an evaluation of the unmet renovation, repair, and expansion needs of elementary and secondary schools across the country that serve children of U.S. military personnel and federal government employees. She called out administrators regarding the quality of military housing. In April, she hosted a telephone town hall with base commanders from Hawai‘i to address the concerns of military families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has closely monitored developments at Red Hill since 2014 when 27,000 gallons of jet fuel leaked out of one of the historic underground fuel tanks. As a result, an Administrative Order of Consent (AOC) bound the U.S. Navy and its Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) along with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Hawai‘i’s Department of Health to research and propose options to either upgrade or remove the fuel tanks. 
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has advanced legislation requiring improvements at the facility, called out authorities regarding ongoing concerns and problems that must be addressed, emphasized the need for transparency and inter-agency communication, fought for funding needed to help eliminate any threat to the water supply, and met with federal officials to discuss progress made. She secured a provision in the 2020 NDAA that required the Navy to hold quarterly public meetings for five years unless the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility ceases operation.
Rep. Gabbard worked to clean up and eliminate the use of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and voted to pass H.R.535, the PFAS Action Act, to bar the manufacturing of new PFAS and direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish drinking water standards for them as well as Superfund cleanup designation. PFAS are also known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment.
Last month, she and over 100 bipartisan Members of the U.S. House sent a letter to the House Armed Services Committee Chairman, Rep. Adam Smith (WA-09), and Ranking Member, Rep. Mac Thornberry (TX-13), calling for the inclusion of necessary and comprehensive cleanup provisions to the NDAA.
Last year, Rep. Gabbard and Rep. Ed Case (HI-01) introduced H.R.5375, the E. Cooper Brown Ocean Clean Energy Act, to provide a 15% investment tax credit for Sea Water Air Conditioning (SWAC) and resume the investment tax credit for Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC).
About Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is serving her fourth term in the United States House representing Hawai‘i’s Second District, and serves on the House Armed Services and Financial Services Committees. She previously served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Homeland Security Committee. She was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 2010, and prior to that at age 21, was elected to the Hawaiʻi State Legislature in 2002, becoming the youngest person ever elected in the state. Tulsi Gabbard has served in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard for over 17 years, is a veteran of two Middle East deployments, and continues to serve as a Major. Learn more about Rep. Tulsi Gabbard...
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