April 22, 2016
On April 20, the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee approved its version of the FY 2017 defense authorization bill (H.R. 4909).
The Subcommittee's mark differs significantly from DoD's FY 2017 defense budget proposal, and provides some early optimism on the 2017 pay raise and commissary issues.
Here's how the bill addresses several issues of MOAA interest:
Force Levels: increases force levels above the DoD budget request by 20,000 for the Army; 15,000 for Army National Guard; 10,000 for Army Reserve; 4,000 for the Air Force; and 3,000 for the Marine Corps. Approves the DoD request to reduce Navy forces by 6,300.
Active Duty Pay Raise: rejects the administration's proposal to cap the 2017 pay raise at 1.6 percent, and instead would provide servicemembers the same 2.1 percent pay raise experienced by the average American (as measured by the Employment Cost Index).
Commissary: allows DoD to implement variable pricing strategies and “house brand” products at commissaries nationwide, but specifies current patron savings and satisfaction must be maintained, benchmarks for those measures must be established, and quarterly reports must be provided to track progress. MOAA appreciates the Subcommittee's extra efforts to preserve benefit value for patrons while pursuing system efficiencies.
Military Retirement: adopts a DoD proposal for flexibility in paying a continuation bonus between eight and 12 years of service for members under the new blended retirement system (taking effect in 2018), but does not include other DoD proposals to delay the onset of government Thrift Savings Plan matching until five years of service, increase the maximum government match, and extend matching beyond 26 years of service.
Uniform Code of Military Justice: adopts a long list of changes, including establishing new offenses involving use of government computers and credit card fraud, extending the statute of limitations for child abuse, and improving transparency of court records.
Impact Aid: provides $30 million in assistance for local schools serving significant numbers of military children.
The Subcommittee bill did not address military health care or extension of authority to pay a Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) to survivors affected by the military “widows tax.” Subcommittee Chair Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) said both of those issues would be addressed next week during action on the bill by the full Armed Services Committee.
The full committee is set to take up the defense bill next Wednesday, and action by the Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to begin May 10.
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