June 15, 2022

VIDEO: Hirono Highlights Progress on Red Hill Closure, Efforts to Support Servicemembers in NDAA Subcommittee Markups

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, delivered remarks in two subcommittee markups for the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) reiterating her support for the closure of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility on Oahu, and highlighting the need to support servicemembers. Specifically, she highlighted efforts to combat military sexual harassment, protect servicemembers’ access to abortion, and provide fertility preservation services to servicemembers.

Senator Hirono delivered remarks in the Readiness Subcommittee markup on the progress being made toward beginning the defueling and permanent closure of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.

“Red Hill has played an important role in our nation’s defense for decades—it’s a World War II facility, a massive facility,” said Senator Hirono. “But it is clear that it is no longer the most strategic option for fuel storage in the pacific, and its ongoing operation poses a very real threat to the health and safety of communities in Hawaii. Earlier this year, Secretary Austin announced the Defense Department’s decision to permanently defuel and close Red Hill, a decision I strongly support, not to mention the people of Hawaii support. I’m proud that, with this NDAA, and the work of this Committee, we are authorizing that closure and giving DOD additional authorities to protect the health and safety of Hawaii families, while continuing to defend our state and our nation.”

In the Personnel Subcommittee markup, Senator Hirono discussed her efforts to support servicemembers, stating, “I want to express my dismay with attempts by members of this Committee to use this NDAA to make it even harder for our female servicemembers to access abortion care. The Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate the constitutional right to an abortion. This would be devastating for women across the country, including female servicemembers, who already face barriers to accessing abortions. This committee is responsible for considering the real-life impact that state laws banning abortion could have on servicemembers stationed in states that ban abortion.”

Following the Subcommittee markups, the full Armed Services Committee will markup the NDAA, which sets Defense Department policy and funding levels for the coming year.

Video of Senator Hirono’s entire Readiness statement can be found here and her Personnel statement can be found here. Transcripts of both are below.

 

Senator Mazie Hirono Readiness Subcommittee Remarks

Thank you very much. I’d like to submit a statement on the work on this Committee. Over the last year, we have seen the Navy contaminate the drinking water of thousands of families, impacting also so many businesses, on Oahu due to leaks at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility under the Navy’s control.

For months, nearly 4,000 families were forced out of their homes, living in hotels, living with family and friends, for months. And as I mentioned, businesses on and around base, were forced to close due to the water contamination. I’ve met and talked with many of the impacted people.

The Navy’s initial handling of this crisis led to executive orders, lawsuits, and questioning of the Navy’s commitment to the health and safety of Hawaii’s people.

Red Hill has played an important role in our nation’s defense for decades—it’s a World War II facility, a massive facility. But it is clear that it is no longer the most strategic option for fuel storage in the pacific, and its ongoing operation poses a very real threat to the health and safety of communities in Hawaii.

Earlier this year, Secretary Austin announced the Defense Department’s decision to permanently defuel and close Red Hill, a decision I strongly support, not to mention the people of Hawaii support.

And in March, the President released his Fiscal Year 2023 budget, which includes $1 billion in funding for the safe closure of Red Hill.

I’m proud that, with this NDAA, and the work of this Committee, we are authorizing that closure and giving DOD additional authorities to protect the health and safety of Hawaii families, while continuing to defend our state and our nation.

I thank you Mr. Chairman, and of course I thank Chairman Reed for his partnership for the decision that was made which is a really big deal because the discussion about what to do regarding Red Hill was not going to come to any kind of a decision until a time frame much, much later than today. In fact, I think 2045. So this is a decision that we are very grateful for. So I thank everyone, thank you and your committee members for helping us through this really important process.

 

Senator Mazie Hirono Personnel Subcommittee Remarks

Madam Chair, our servicemembers are the foundation of our armed forces and we have a responsibility to support and protect them.

Tragically, far too many servicemembers, particularly women, experience sexual assault and harassment while serving this country. No one protecting this country should have to worry about protecting themselves from violence and harassment from within the ranks.

Last year’s NDAA took important steps by making historic changes to the way the military prosecutes allegations of sexual assault. It moved prosecution of sexual assault cases out of the chain of command and under a newly created Special Trial Counsel. The range of behaviors that results in military sexual trauma continues, so there is still more work to be done.

I’ve introduced legislation to build on the progress we’ve made regarding sexual assault by placing sexual harassment under the special trial counsel as well, and ensuring independent professionals are investigating allegations of sexual harassment.

But ensuring our servicemembers are safe, respected, and supported in our military requires a more holistic approach. Which is why I’m offering amendments to provide fertility preservation—or cryopreservation—services to help our servicemembers plan for their futures.

One of the top reasons servicemembers – especially women – choose to leave our military is because of the difficulties involved in starting a family while serving. But if women had the option to freeze their eggs, it would allow them to continue their career in the military, while also protecting their ability to have children in the future.  And it would give servicemembers—and their partners—the peace of mind ahead of combat deployments, all the while, enabling our military to better retain servicemembers. 

This is not something new—the British Armed Forces already offer fertility preservation benefits. I’ve introduced an amendment to direct the DoD to assess servicemembers’ interest in access to fertility preservation, and the cost of offering fertility preservation to military personnel, and another to establish a pilot program under TRICARE to offer fertility preservation to active duty servicemembers who are interested. Servicemembers shouldn’t have to decide between continuing their career in the military and starting a family—and these amendments will help make that a reality.

There’s a lot more that needs to be done to ensure our servicemembers are fully supported—but another health issue I’d like to mention is improving our coverage of autism treatment services. We secured a provision in last year’s NDAA to improve the collection and analysis of data on participants in the DoD’s Autism Care Demonstration. I look forward to seeing this improved data in the coming year so that we can better ensure all military families can access the care they need.

And lastly, I want to express my dismay with attempts by members of this Committee to use this NDAA to make it even harder for our female servicemembers to access abortion care. The Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate the constitutional right to an abortion. This would be devastating for women across the country, including female servicemembers, who already face barriers to accessing abortions.

This committee is responsible for considering the real-life impact that state laws banning abortion could have on servicemembers stationed in states that ban abortion.

These impacts are no longer hypothetical, and raise serious questions, including: Will the possibility of being stationed in a state that restricts abortion access drive servicemembers out of the military, or will servicemembers be prosecuted for seeking a safe abortion for themselves or their loved ones? Will victims of military sexual assault be forced to give birth?

Servicemembers have the right to control their own bodies, no matter where they are stationed. It is this Committee’s responsibility to protect that right, which is why I joined Sen. Gillibrand in introducing the MARCH Act. Our bill would allow military medical treatment facilities to provide abortion services, regardless of the circumstances, in order to address post-Roe impacts.

It’s more important to protect servicemembers bodily autonomy than to perpetuate a right-wing political ideology.

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