December 13, 2023

Van Hollen Secures Key Provisions in Annual Defense Bill Passed by Senate

Legislation supports military members, Maryland installations

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) voted to pass the final fiscal year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in the Senate, which includes critical investments and legislative priorities the Senator worked to secure. The legislation provides more than $1 billion to Maryland military installations as well as a 5.2 percent pay raise for military and Department of Defense (DoD) civilian employees.
“In the face of evolving threats around the world, this year’s defense bill helps keep Americans safe by investing in the resources necessary to counter challenges from our adversaries, advance our development of key emerging technologies, and strengthen our international security partnerships with our allies. With our state playing a key role in these national security missions, I’m pleased that this bill provides over $1 billion for military assets based in Maryland, boosts pay and benefits for our service members, and includes measures to improve the quality of life of our foreign service professionals. This bill is not perfect – and I believe we must continue to look at how we prioritize defense spending. However, on balance, this legislation positions us well to confront the security challenges our nation faces and contains many provisions that are critical to our state and our nation,” said Senator Van Hollen.
Having passed the Senate, the FY24 NDAA now advances to the House of Representatives where it is expected to be considered this week. The bill must pass the House and be signed by the President before becoming law.

Within the FY24 NDAA, Senator Van Hollen fought to include the following provisions:

  • Public access protection for the Greenbury Point Conservation Area at Naval Support Activity Annapolis (NSA Annapolis). Senator Van Hollen, alongside Senator Ben Cardin and Congressman John Sarbanes (all D-Md.), included language to prevent the U.S. Navy from unilaterally curbing access to the Conservation Area.


  • Senator Van Hollen’s GRATEFUL Act. This legislation, co-led by Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) ensures that foreign U.S. government employees who have provided exceptional service to our nation abroad over a long career have a secure and efficient path to immigrate to the United States, along with their families.


  • Ending China’s unfair international advantages in global trade and diplomacy. The FY24 NDAA includes the bipartisan Ending China’s Developing Nation Status Act, legislation led by Senators Van Hollen, Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and others, which establishes U.S. policy to oppose the granting of “developing nation” status to China in future treaties and international organizations. It also directs the Secretary of State to pursue changing the status of China to “developed nation” in treaties or organizations where a mechanism for change exists.


  • Funding authorization for critical military construction projects in Maryland, including:
    • $885 million for joint military construction on Fort Meade, including, among other projects:
      • $380 million for expansion and renovation of the National Security Agency campus
      • $105 million for mission operations and records center at the National Security Agency campus
      • $60.5 million for a cybersecurity operations facility
    • $101.8 million for the Bethesda Naval Hospital
    • $58 million for aircraft development and maintenance facilities at Naval Air Station, Patuxent River
    • $38 million for the hydrant fueling system at Joint Base Andrews

The FY24 NDAA also includes the Department of State Authorization Act, bipartisan legislation to support America’s diplomatic corps and advance U.S. diplomacy around the world. Senator Van Hollen fought to include the following provisions:

  • Educational allowance for State Department employees in U.S. territories. This provision authorizes State Department employees to receive an educational allowance for their dependents to attend private schools while employed in U.S. territories in cases when there is no U.S. equivalent available.


  • Authorization for a U.S.-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Center. This center will provide grants for research to support and elevate the importance of the U.S.-ASEAN partnership; trainings to both U.S. citizens and citizens of ASEAN states that improve people-to-people ties; and efforts to increase educational awareness for both the U.S. and ASEAN states on the importance of U.S.-ASEAN relations.


  • Cyber Protection Support of Personal Accounts for Vulnerable Employees. There are currently no protections for the personal accounts of State Department employees, which are vulnerable to cyber-attacks and hostile information collection. This provision enables the State Department to provide cyber protection support for the personal technology devices and personal accounts of employees considered vulnerable, based on their geographic location or position in the State Department.


  • Addressing long wait times for Office of Authentication requests. The Office of Authentications provides signed certificates of authenticity for a variety of documents to individuals, institutions, and government agencies to be used abroad. Senator Van Hollen’s office has received a significant number of complaints about wait times repeatedly ballooning for requested documents without warning, which interrupts international transactions for constituents and Maryland businesses. The language that Senator Van Hollen secured requires the State Department to issue a report that shows how wait times fluctuate and authorizes the Office to hire additional permanent staff to accommodate requests.


  • Internet access as a utility for hardship overseas posts. Many Foreign Service employees and their family members now routinely conduct work from their homes, often as part of evening and weekend work. This language requires the State Department to consider internet access as a utility for officers in posts involving significant hardship and danger – ensuring secure consistent service so they can remain connected with their families.


Additional Provisions to Support Servicemembers and their families:

  • An increase of $70.0 million in Impact Aid ($50.0 million for supplemental Impact Aid, and $20.0 million for Impact Aid for military children with severe disabilities)
  • Modification of the calculation of basic allowance for housing (BAH) rates with respect to junior enlisted members by delinking that calculation from specific housing types and provides additional flexibility to ensure equitable housing rates can be calculated in markets with limited housing inventory
  • Authorization of reserve component members without dependents who would normally have to permanently change station for attendance at a school for a duration between 140 and 365 days to be paid basic allowance for housing at both the location of the school as well as their permanent residence if they are returning to that residence after completion of the training
  • Expansion of parental leave for certain members of the reserve components of the Armed Forces
  • Requirement for members of the reserve component to receive special and incentive pay in the same monthly amount that is paid to a member in the regular component for the purpose of maintaining a skill certification or proficiency, or for exposure to hazards or risks that are identical to those that regular component members are exposed
  • Requirement of a pilot program to assess the effectiveness of increasing compensation for employees of Department of Defense Child Development Centers in improving the ability to recruit and retain providers
  • Recommendation of a comprehensive review of the Navy’s efforts to prevent and respond to incidents of death by suicide, suicide attempts, and suicidal ideation in commands and organizations within the Navy that have not been reviewed by other studies
  • Authorization of cost-sharing requirements to be waived for the first three outpatient mental health visits each year for beneficiaries in the active-duty family member category and in the TRICARE Young Adult program