House-Passed Defense Policy Bill Includes Larsen Plans to Increase Access to Food Assistance, Fix TRICARE Loophole & Preserve Protections for LGBTQ Contractors

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, the U.S. House voted 354–34 to approve the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017 – legislation shaped by Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02) to include important priorities for Northwest Washington, including Larsen’s plan to clarify that Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food assistance programs can operate on all military bases throughout the country.

“No military family should have to go hungry,” said Larsen, who earlier this year won a victory with Senator Murray for military families by successfully pushing the Department of the Navy to reverse its decision to close the WIC office at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. “Under this bill, military families across the country will have the opportunity to access the same food assistance and nutrition programs that play such a critical role in my District.”   

In addition, Larsen successfully negotiated a key administrative fix to TRICARE for National Guard members and for the preservation of protections for LGBTQ federal contractors. The bill also authorizes $611.2 billion for national defense – $3.2 billion above levels set by sequestration.

“Our military must reflect the people it defends and match the threats our country faces,” said Larsen, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee. “By rejecting discrimination against LGBTQ contractors, increasing access to food assistance programs for military families and giving our servicemembers a raise and the tools they need succeed – this bill does just that.”

Larsen succeeded in removing section 1094 of the House version of the bill – also known as the “Russell amendment” – which would have rolled back civil rights for LGBT employees of federal contractors. In his efforts to shape the bill during the conference process, Larsen said the provision would “directly undermine protections for LGBT members of the workforce…it could legalize discrimination and should be rejected.”

Additionally, Larsen’s amendment to ensure continuous coverage for National Guard members who transition from full-time Federal Duty to State Active Duty status was included. During the response to the 2014 Oso mudslide, National Guard members who made such a transition were forced to temporarily switch to state health insurance – a process that was disruptive and inefficient for both the state and the federal government. Larsen’s amendment, modeled off of legislation from Rep. Suzan DelBene, will prevent these disruptions in coverage.

Larsen also secured $5 million for continued research into low enriched uranium for naval reactors. Advanced reactors could one day eliminate the need for highly enriched uranium on Navy ships without sacrificing performance – thereby achieving both nonproliferation and financial goals by reducing the security needs associated with manufacture, transport, and storage of naval reactor fuel.

Other provisions in the bill include:

  • 2.1% increase in military pay;
  • $76 million for a Growler maintenance hangar and Triton mission control facility at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island;
  • $1.2 billion for counter-ISIL programs, and;
  • $2.88 billion for 15 KC-46A tanker aircraft.

A summary of the bill is available here.

The bill now moves to the Senate for a vote.