CAPAC on Passage of Key Asian American and Pacific Islander Amendments in FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act

May 19, 2016 Issues: Veterans and Armed Services

Washington, DC – Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 277-174 to pass H.R. 4909, the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This bill authorizes funding for the Department of Defense (DOD) and includes key provisions authored by Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) that will benefit the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, including addressing military hazing in our ranks; providing reparations for Guam residents who suffered harm during World War II; providing a demographic report of each service academy; and reviewing the eligibility of certain Asian American, Native American and Pacific Islander war veterans for the Medal of Honor. CAPAC Members released the following statements:

Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), CAPAC Chair:

“The annual defense authorization bill is one of our most important pieces of legislation, providing the support and resources our men and women in uniform need to keep us safe. I am very pleased that the House bill includes provisions that will help the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, including my language to hold the military accountable on cases of hazing.  This language is a necessary response to this year’s independent report detailing the military’s failure to fully understand the problem of hazing in the military. In order to move forward with actual changes, we need regular reports to bring transparency and help Congress ensure accountability. The inclusion of this amendment in the defense authorization bill will help save lives, support our troops, and ensure a stronger military.

Despite these achievements, the NDAA also includes budgetary gimmicks as well as concerning language that fails to recognize the basic civil rights of all Americans, including an amendment that would make it permissible for government contractors to fire employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This bill should not be an excuse to enshrine prejudice in our laws, nor should we ask taxpayers to support such discrimination.

“As we move forward with the NDAA, I hope that we can preserve the positive language that we were able to incorporate for the AAPI community, eliminate political amendments and tricks, and return to the bipartisan approach that has been used in the past.”

Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo (GU), CAPAC Vice Chair:

“The House of Representatives took another important step towards recognizing the people of Guam who suffered horrible atrocities during World War II. My amendment authorizes claims for the living survivors of the occupation and the descendants of those who died during the occupation, and it does not add any new federal spending. I strongly believe that Congress has the moral obligation to resolve this issue, and I have never stopped advocating to give our survivors the recognition they deserve. I thank Chairwoman Chu and my colleagues in CAPAC for their support of war claims legislation over the years. I will work with the Senate to keep this provision in the final defense bill when we meet in Conference later this year.” 

Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-06):

“I’m extremely pleased that the House included my provision in the NDAA. My amendment would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report on admissions practices and demographic composition of military service academies. The measure seeks to ensure that the composition of our country’s service academies is reflective of America so that all Americans – including the AAPI community – have an equal shot at attending these prestigious institutions, and in-turn serving at the highest levels of our military. I look forward to the legislation moving through the Senate.”

Congressman Mark Takai (HI-01):

“I am pleased that in the NDAA that was passed yesterday, there was a provision included that would require the DoD to review the records of brave Asian American and Pacific Islanders who received the Distinguished-Service Cross to establish if they should have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Our brave veterans who went above and beyond their call of duty should be recognized even if it is years later. Racial discrimination is never acceptable and we must work to fix the mistakes of the past.”

Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14):

“As a representative for the Bay Area, which is home to many proud Asian-American veterans, I am gratified to have had the opportunity to work on this important piece of legislation. My amendment to strengthen the Defense Department’s tracking and treatment of military hazing is an important step forward in addressing our nation’s shameful lack of support for the men and women who protect and serve our nation. Losing our military service members on the battlefield is a tragic but unfortunate reality we all must face and accept. Losing our military service members to the mental and physical turmoil of hazing is unacceptable. That is why I introduced this provision, and support many others that seek to redress and honor our Asian-American service members.”

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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.