• The San Juan Daily Star

US House-approved defense bill includes funds for PR sought by resident commissioner

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón

By The Star Staff

The U.S. House of Representatives this week approved an agreement on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2022 that includes all the funds that Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón had asked the Armed Forces committees of both the Senate and the House to allocate for military infrastructure.

The funding line includes $84 million for the former Ramey Base school in Aguadilla, $12.19 million for microgrids at Fort Allen, $10.12 million for microgrids at the old Ramey base in Aguadilla and $14 million for a family home replacement unit at Fort Buchanan.

Before the conference committee was formed to reconcile the House and Senate proposals on the NDAA, González Colón on Nov. 19 sent letters to the chairpersons and minority leaders in the Armed Forces committees of both chambers requesting the funds.

Another initiative that the commissioner supported as co-chair of the Women’s Caucus is the “I Am Vanessa Guillen Act,” co-authored by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and González Colón. The measure was included in the conference report and seeks to improve the response of the armed forces to claims of sexual harassment and assault against women. It also would provide compensation to victims of sexual violence caused by the negligence of the armed forces.

“Harassment and sexual assault, as well as gender-based violence, are problems that have been identified among members of the armed forces for years, and it is not acceptable that they continue to occur,” the resident commissioner said in a statement. “As co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues, and a member of the Women Veterans Task Force and the Bipartisan Task Force to End Domestic Violence, this is a top priority. I am pleased with the approval of the measure in the [lower] Chamber incorporated into the Defense law and I hope that it will also be approved in the Senate and become a reality.”

Additionally, the conference report includes language based on an amendment previously submitted by González Colón which seeks to secure space for arms training. The secretary of the Army is urged to present to the Armed Services Committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives, no later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of the law, a report on the current availability of training within Puerto Rico for “Level 1 Warrior Skills” among Army reservists and where the feasibility of expanding small arms training sites in Puerto Rico is identified.

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