House Lawmakers Take Action in NDAA Markups to Fight Human Trafficking

It's not 'work that attracts most of the attention,' but it's 'vital'

Paul Ryan
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan / Getty Images
July 12, 2017

Republican and Democratic lawmakers are moving forward to adopt measures aimed at fighting human trafficking into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R, Wis.) commented at a press briefing Wednesday on the importance of the measure, and of the NDAA as a whole, in ensuring U.S. Armed Services have the resources they need to defeat terror around the world.

"It's not the kind of work that attracts most of the attention around here, but we think this work is vital and so we continue to work on our agenda," Ryan said on Wednesday.

"We want law enforcement to have every possible resource at their disposal to fight this growing problem," Ryan said. "That means protecting victims who really are and should be the focus of this work, and it also means going after the perpetrators to the fullest extent."

The Department of Defense plays a key roll in the federal government's efforts to fight human trafficking globally. The DoD's Combating Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) Program Office "ensures that the Services, Combatant Commands, and Defense Agencies have the necessary tools to prevent trafficking."

Rep. Chris Smith (R, N.J.) has been a leading voice in combating human trafficking and introduced one of the key bipartisan bills being adopted, the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2017.

The measure is named after the famous American abolitionist, and if adapted into the final NDAA for fiscal year 2018, it will "reauthorize $130 million in funding for the prevention of human trafficking, protection of victims, and prosecution of traffickers."

The measure's impact will ultimately reach beyond the Department of Defense. It includes directives affecting private industry, the Department of Labor, the Department of State, and additional U.S. government agencies.

Human trafficking has received increased attention recently after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson added China to the 2017 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report in June. The State Department said the decision was made based on information that China "does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so."

The House Armed Services Committee plans to complete full committee markups on the FY18 NDAA this week. Once completed, the bill will face a vote in the House before being taken up in the Senate.