Senate Passes Warnock-Led Provisions Benefiting Servicemembers, Military Families and Georgia Base Communities in Annual Defense Bill

The Senate recently passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2024(NDAA) 89-11

The defense policy package includes numerous priorities championed by Senator Reverend Warnock, including provisions protecting servicemembers from debt collector harassment, giving them a well-deserved pay raise, and improving base housing

A vocal advocate for Georgia’s veterans, military families and servicemembers, Senator Warnock has long worked to strengthen federal support for the state’s military communities

Senator Reverend Warnock: “By keeping the people centered in policymaking and gathering bipartisan support, we’ve strengthened vital resources, ensuring our servicemembers and their loved ones receive the support they deserve”

ICYMI: Senate Approves Reverend Warnock’s Bipartisan Amendment to Protect Servicemembers from Debt Collector Harassment; Provision Now Included in Annual Defense Bill—MORE HERE

Washington, D.C. – Last Thursday, U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) joined his Senate colleagues in passing the chamber’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2024 (NDAA), which included several priorities championed by the Senator, including critical wins for Georgia’s servicemembers, military families, and base communities. The legislation, which authorizes the country’s national security programs, will raise servicemember pay, create new financial safeguards to protect servicemembers from debt collector harassment, and expand benefits for survivors of deceased servicemembers. It also authorizes improvements to the quality and oversight of military housing, and improves the calculation of basic allowance for housing (BAH) rates for junior enlisted members. The priorities Senator Warnock secured in the NDAA ensure Georgia will continue playing a critical role in America’s national security for years to come. The legislation will next be reconciled with the House-passed version of the bill in a conference committee.

“Our servicemembers are the best among us, and it’s our duty as a nation to take care of them while they’re serving and beyond,” said Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock upon the bill’s passage. “I am proud to have secured these wins for Georgia’s servicemembers, military families and base communities, recognizing their sacrifices and dedication to protecting our freedoms. By centering people in our policymaking, we were able to gather bipartisan support to pass legislation that strengthens vital resources for our servicemembers and military families, ensuring our servicemembers and their loved ones receive the support they deserve.”

As the U.S. faces a growing set of national security challenges, our military must have the sufficient resources, training, and capabilities needed to keep our country safe. To that end, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorizes funding levels for critical military programs and provides authorities for the U.S. military and other critical defense priorities. A champion for Georgia’s veterans, military families and servicemembers, Senator Warnock has been active in the Senate working to strengthen federal support for Georgia’s military communities. Last year, Senator Warnock helped to pass the PACT Act, the largest expansion of veterans’ health benefits in decades. Additionally, this summer Senator Warnock introduced bipartisan legislation to bolster access to affordable and quality housing for servicemembers. 

See below key highlights of Georgia priorities Senator Warnock secured in the annual defense bill:

Servicemember Pay Raise:

  • The bill provides for a 5.2 percent pay raise for both military servicemembers and the Department of Defense (DOD) civilian workforce. 

Strengthening Georgia’s military installations and base communities:

The bill will authorize:

  • $49.5 million to support an electrical infrastructure project at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.
  • $73 million for the construction of a Cyber Instructional Facility at Fort Eisenhower (Gordon).
  • $90 million for acquisition of property as part of Fort Eisenhower’s Cyber Center of Excellence campus construction and renovation project.
  • $115 million for a project to build a combined battle management facility at Robins Air Force Base to support the new Air Battle Management System program.
  • Construction of a generator and microgrid at Fort Moore, Fort Stewart, and Hunter Army airfield, helping to increase the energy resilience of the installations.
  • A provision championed by Senator Warnock that requires the Air Force to maintain 153 A-10 aircraft in its inventory. This provision protects Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta from further A-10 divestments this year as the base prepares to receive a future F-35 mission that the Air Force recently announced. 

Protecting servicemembers from debt collection harassment:

  • Senator Warnock, chair of the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection, secured his Fair Debt Collection Practices for Servicemembers Act as an amendment to the legislation by roll call vote 95-2. 
  • Senator Warnock’s amendment, based on legislation he previously introduced, will put restrictions on the types of communications debt collectors are allowed to have when interacting with servicemembers, such as prohibiting debt collectors from making threats of rank reduction, revocation of security clearance, or military prosecution. Servicemembers report being harassed by debt collectors at a higher rate than the civilian population, and notably, many of the threats debt collectors make to servicemembers regarding their military service are beyond their purview and are simply used to pressure and harass servicemembers. This amendment would help alleviate servicemembers’ stress caused by aggressive debt collection tactics, and help Georgians and Americans in uniform focus on accomplishing their missions and caring for their families.

Improving Base Housing and Base Housing Access:

  • The legislation modifies and improves the calculation of basic allowance for housing rates for junior enlisted members.

  • The bill also authorizes improvements to the quality and oversight of military enlisted barracks, including replacing substandard barracks and requiring that enlisted housing meets the same basic standards as all other military housing. 

Expanding benefits for surviving spouses: 

  • The Senate adopted provisions from Senator Warnock’s bipartisan Love Lives On Act in the NDAA. The provision restores surviving spouse access to miliary bases, their commissaries, and their morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) retail stores for those who lost access due to remarriage. 

Cyber workforce development: 

  • Senator Warnock successfully secured an amendment which would authorize $10 million dollars to enhance cooperation between DOD and academic institutions to enhance the cyber workforce talent pipeline at DOD. This provision would bolster operations and talent at the Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Eisenhower (Gordon) and Augusta University.
  • Senator Warnock also secured language encouraging DOD to partner with universities near military installations for cyber workforce development and recruiting, again benefiting Fort Eisenhower (Gordon) and Augusta University. 

Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum Amendment:

  • Senator Warnock successfully included an amendment which will designate the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, located in Pooler Georgia, as federally recognized national museum. The Mighty Eighth Air Force was stationed in Savannah during World War II and suffered about 47,000 casualties. 

Investing in eco-friendly facilities: 

  • This bill authorizes a $20 million increase in DOD funds to ensure environmental stewardship of training facilities and to protect them from the consequences of climate change. This investment will benefit all of Georgia’s military installations.

Read a full summary of the 2024 NDAA HERE.