US House unanimously approves González-Colón amendment to enhance U.S. Military readiness and help communities in need

by | Jun 18, 2019 | Congress | Comments

The United States House of Representatives approved a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (NPP, R) of Puerto Rico to increase funding for the US Department of Defense’s (DOD) Innovative Readiness Training program by an additional $4.356 million, bringing its total recommended funding level for FY 2020 to $30 million.  This program has had a significant impact in Puerto Rico, supporting DOD missions that provide health care and construction services to communities in need across the Island.

The Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) program is a DOD military training opportunity, exclusive to the United States and its territories, that delivers joint opportunities to increase and enhance deployment readiness for US military members.  Through this program, personnel from all branches of the military refine their engineering, health care, diving, and transportation skills by performing services and developing projects for American communities that otherwise would not have the resources to conduct them on their own.

Each year, IRT enhances deployment readiness for approximately 7,000 service members by providing hands-on, real-world training experience for mission-essential tasks, often in remote or underserved areas across the United States.  In 2018, 39 IRT missions were conducted across the Nation.

Communities in Puerto Rico are among those that have directly experienced the benefits and strengths of the IRT program.  Last year, over 200 service members participated in two IRT missions across the Island to provide medical and construction services to local residents at no cost.  Through the Ola de Esperanza Sanadora mission, military units assisted local authorities in providing medical, dental, and optometry care to over 3,800 patients.  Similarly, they partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build a triplex designed to resist hurricanes in the Quintana neighborhood of San Juan.

Last month, over 500 members from different DOD components participated in an IRT mission in Puerto Rico that provided medical services to over 9,000 patients, delivered over 2,000 eyeglasses, and completed over 10,000 medical procedures.  Soldiers performed this mission across six sites in Jayuya, Lares, Maricao, Mayagüez, Ponce, and Yauco.  Another IRT mission on the Island is expected to take place later this summer to help repair schools in Arecibo, Bayamón, Cayey, Mayagüez, and San Juan.

“IRT is a win-win for communities across the Nation and our military.  As we’ve seen in Puerto Rico, through this program participating service members increase their readiness and obtain valuable, hands-on training experience while helping thousands of their fellow Americans receive the care and services they need.  I thank my colleagues in the House for supporting my bipartisan amendment to increase funding for the IRT program and further strengthen US civil-military relations,” said Resident Commissioner González-Colón.

González-Colón’s amendment was included in the Fiscal Year 2020 Defense Appropriations Division within the minibus funding bill being considered by the House this week.  It was cosponsored by Delegate Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D) of the Northern Mariana Islands.