WASHINGTON — Florida Congressman Vern Buchanan announced Wednesday a series of new military training reforms were included in the final version of the House-passed defense bill, dubbed the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA.
This legislation requires the Pentagon to add more "realistic" training practices while also creating more strict enforcement standards to prevent future military training accidents and deaths, a news release from Buchanan's office explains.
Buchanan has been a leading advocate in Congress for training procedure reforms and emergency response improvements after Army Specialist Nicholas Panipnto was killed in a training accident in 2019.
The 20-year-old soldier from Bradenton was killed during a U.S. Army training exercise in South Korea when the military unit overturned at Camp Humphreys.
“Improving tactical vehicle safety and military training capabilities will reduce future accidents and help save lives,” Buchanan wrote in a statement.
“After the heartbreaking death of my constituent, Nicholas Panipnto, preventing these accidents has become one of my top priorities."
But getting these new military training reforms to be included in the final version took some time to happen.
In June 2020, Buchanan wrote a letter to then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper to request "much-needed reforms to prevent tragedies like the death of PC Panipinto." A month later, Buchanan introduced an amendment to the national defense bill that would require the Pentagon to examine emergency response capabilities and services at U.S. military bases worldwide.
After the U.S. House and Senate ironed out differences between their own versions of the defense bill, Buchanan's reform measure remained intact in the final version sent to then-President Donald Trump in December 2020.
But Trump vetoed it, objecting over several provisions, including one to remove the names of Confederate leaders from military bases. He, too, demanded a repeal of Section 230 -- a sort of legal shield for social media companies.
The NDAA carried large bipartisan support and was able to become law following an 81-13 override vote in the Senate and a 322-87 override vote in the House.
Fast forward to July 2021, a report released from the federal government's top watchdog found "a lack of driver training and failures to properly oversee and implement key safety procedures were largely to blame for several fatal training accidents."
“The serious deficiencies and failures in tactical vehicle training required immediate action,” Buchanan wrote in a statement. “The loss of a single American soldier is tragic and the continued loss of service members in training accidents is completely unacceptable.”
Also, according to a 2019 report from the Congressional Research Service, between 2006 to 2018, nearly 32 percent of all soldiers killed overseas died from training accidents.
"I am pleased to see the House take action on this bipartisan legislation and look forward to the president signing it into law," Buchanan wrote.