Representative Denny Heck secures South Sound priorities in defense bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today U.S. Representative Denny Heck (WA-10) released a statement regarding the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (H.R. 5515) in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill includes $717 billion for the next year’s defense spending and included important initiatives for the South Sound proposed by Congressman Heck.
“This significant piece of legislation makes great strides toward improving readiness, safeguarding our nation, and taking care of our servicemembers,” Heck said. “The investments in Joint Base Lewis-McChord total nearly $50 million in infrastructure projects at the base and training areas, and includes an important section which, for the first time, acknowledges that the community surrounding a military installation is an integral part of our national security posture.
“I’m also thrilled to have supported measures that directly help our troops, including a 2.6% pay increase. This is the largest since I have come to Congress. I was also able to get language included to allow servicemembers to qualify for interest rate protections on student loans and mortgages, and an amendment to create more transparency in how housing allowances are set and better inform recipients on the best usage.”
In partnership with local stakeholders, Rep. Heck introduced the COMMUTE Act in 2014 to make federal funds available for infrastructure projects, such as interstate improvement and traffic reduction, outside of military bases. The House passed defense bill included similar language in the Defense Community Infrastructure Program, which makes part of the 10th District eligible for a share of $100 million in federal grants to improve transportation, schools, wastewater or telecommunications.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act sets reasonable limits on finance rates charged against those serving in uniform. However, numerous reports have surfaced that these laws were not being enforced because of administrative errors. In response to constituent outreach on fiscal abuse of servicemembers, Rep. Heck introduced the Servicemembers HONR (Help Obtaining Negotiated Rates) Act last Congress. That bill would close the loophole and get servicemembers the protection they have earned. This year the Servicemembers HONR Act was included as part of the NDAA. Watch Rep. Heck testify in front of the House Veterans Affairs Committee on this amendment here.
Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH, is an entitlement allotted for servicemembers when on base housing is at capacity. Those assigned to a military base are given BAH to find housing in the private market but are given little to no explanation on how to best use that allowance to provide for their families, nor does the Department of Defense explain where their figures come from. Rep. Heck is asking the DOD to show their work. His amendment would provide transparency to the BAH process and set soldiers and airmen up for success when renting or buying a home.
The National Defense Authorization Act passed the House with a vote of 351 to 66. It will now need to be approved by the Senate and signed by the President before becoming law.
Representative Heck is a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence where he receives regular national security updates. He is also a member of the House Financial Services Committee and co-chair of the New Democrat Housing Task Force, where he focuses on stability and affordability in the housing market.