December 12, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, the House of Representatives passed the bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY20 which included U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker’s (PA-11) amendment to permanently reauthorize the U.S. Department of Defense’s Mentor-Protégé program with some additional accountability measures, and an amendment to require the DOD to submit a report that details the exact shortage of mental health providers at the DOD no later than 180 days after enactment. 

In April, Rep. Smucker worked across the aisle with Rep. Xochitl Torres-Small (D-NM) to introduce a bipartisan bill to permanently reauthorize the U.S. Department of Defense’s Mentor-Protégé program with some additional accountability measures, the DoD’s Mentor-Protégé program expired last year despite successfully operating for nearly 30 years. Senator’s Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) lead the bill in the Senate. 

“Small businesses are playing a critical role in driving our current economic growth. Yet these businesses often lack the resources necessary to compete for federal government contracts,” Rep. Smucker said. “Permanently reauthorizing the Department of Defense’s Mentor-Protégé Program will give Pennsylvania’s small businesses a reliable pathway to navigate government red tape through collaborative partnerships with their peers.”

The bipartisan Defense Small Business Advancement Act (H.R. 2974) will help connect small businesses in Pennsylvania and across the country with DoD contracting opportunities that otherwise may have been out of their reach. This legislation reauthorizes and brings greater accountability to the DoD Mentor-Protégé Program (MPP), which expired last year. The MPP increases participation of small, disadvantaged businesses performing as suppliers to DoD, civilian agencies, and private industry by encouraging mentorships from established DoD contractors.

In March, U.S. Reps. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) and Salud Carbajal (D-CA) introduced a bipartisan bill to improve the Department of Defense mental health services provided to servicemembers.

“Our brave servicemen and women risk their lives for our freedom and some of the greatest wounds they experience are unseen,” Smucker said. “Too many of them return home with untreated symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions related to their service. I believe in honoring our service members and keeping our promises to them when they return home – and that includes giving them the care they need to live happy healthy lives.”

The Warrior Wellness Act would require the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress detailing the shortage of mental health providers no later than 180 days after enactment. It would also require the Secretary to submit a report on the Department’s efforts to review and monitor prescribing practices of its providers based on its guideline recommendations to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Veterans and servicemembers are significantly more susceptible to depression and other mental health problems. According to a study from JAMA Psychiatry, nearly one in four active-duty members showed signs of a mental health condition. Servicemembers’ diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is 15 times higher than the civilian population.

NDAA Highlights

The fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorizes $738 billion in defense funding, provides a 3.1% military pay-raise, and rejects restrictions on the president’s authorities to secure our borders. The bill also: 

  • Provides the resources to continue to rebuild readiness, advance modernization of the nuclear triad, develop emerging technologies, enhance missile defense, and confront our adversaries.  
  • Maintains long-standing prohibitions on transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay, constructing detention facilities in the U.S., and closing Guantanamo.
  • Provides an additional $5.3 billion in emergency funding for military installations damaged by natural disasters.
  • Establishes the United States Space Force as the sixth branch of the military.
  • Provides up to 12 weeks of Paid Parental Leave for the Defense Department, Intelligence Community, and across the federal government, a key administration priority.