Senate Sends Defense Bill to President: Pay Raise is In, TRICARE Fees Are Out

Senate Sends Defense Bill to President: Pay Raise is In, TRICARE Fees Are Out

Sgt. 1st Class Randall Pike / U.S. Army

On Wednesday, the Senate voted overwhelmingly 87 to 10 to pass the FY19 defense authorization bill. The bill now heads to President Donald Trump's desk for signature.

Once signed, it will become the 58th consecutive year the legislation will have become law.

MOAA President and CEO, Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, USAF (Ret) said of the bill's passage, “This has been an incredibly busy year for MOAA's advocacy mission on the Hill, and the final version of the NDAA shows evidence of the hard work from our team in Washington and tens of thousands of the MOAA members who took action in writing their legislators on a number of key issues. The inclusion of the 2.6 percent pay raise for the troops, and the exclusion of potential TRICARE fee increases are two big victories, as is the decision to maintain BAH at current levels. Thank you to the members of Congress and leaders who sat down with MOAA leadership in recent weeks to hear our concerns and ensure the NDAA includes fair and prudent measures that do not erode service members' hard-earned benefits.”

The last time Congress passed a defense bill this early was over 20 years ago with the FY 1997 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). To put that into context, a freshly minted second lieutenant or ensign entering service today has not had a defense bill passed on time in his or her entire life.

The last time a defense bill was enacted before September was in the FY 1978 NDAA.

For years, Congress has had to resort to using stopgap funding, known as continuing resolutions, when lawmakers were unable to pass a defense bill by the start of the fiscal year. The constant fits and spurts of funding has been a recurring source of headache for defense planners.

One reason the defense bill moved so quickly this year was due to the two-year budget deal lawmakers reached in February. Part of the deal lifted budget caps for defense spending. By having a set top-line number, lawmakers were able to work backwards to draft the legislation.

Another reason the Senate quickly passed the bill is so lawmakers can go home and stump for reelection. With so many vulnerable seats in play in the November midterms, lawmakers want to spend as much time in their home districts as possible. This also gives you, as MOAA members, an opportunity to meet with your elected officials during the August recess.

The Senate now moves to appropriating the funds for the defense bill. A defense appropriations deal will be wrapped into a package with funding for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.