House Committee's Defense Bill Markup Prioritizes Pay, Readiness
(Sgt. 1st Class Randall Pike/Army)
May 16, 2018
HASC FY 2019 Defense Bill Markup Supports Many of MOAA's Key Priorities
The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) took the first major step toward solidifying the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), releasing H.R. 5515 after a marathon markup session that started the morning of May 9 and lasted into the early morning hours of the next day.
The full House is set to take up debate on the bill the week of May 21, while the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) is scheduled to markup up its version of the legislation the same week.
Focus on readiness
In a press release made before the start of the full committee's formal markup session, HASC Chair Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), said: “Restoring readiness while also increasing the capability and capacity of our Armed forces is a key focus of this year's defense policy bill. Continuing to reform the Pentagon to help speed decision-making and get the right tools in the hands of our warfighters faster is also a major priority. Together, these improvements support and strengthen our most valuable asset, which is America's troops.”
The HASC legislation supports a base budget of $639.1 billion and $69 billion in overseas contingency (war) funding. With an additional $8.9 billion in mandatory spending, the final fiscal topline in the legislation comes to $717 billion.
MOAA Priorities Addressed
The HASC defense legislation addresses a number of MOAA's FY 2019 priorities, including:
- increasing the end-strengths for the armed services, which will put them and the nation in a better position to deal with global mission requirements;
- fully funding a 2.6-percent pay raise - the highest increase in nine years - to support MOAA's enhanced goal of providing the competitive pay and benefits necessary to recruit and retain the best talent for the all-volunteer force;
- not raising TRICARE fees;
- not reducing the basic allowance for housing;
- ensuring no military medical treatment facility will be closed or downgraded until all facilities are transitioned and certified to the Defense Health Agency;
- providing for a comprehensive review by DoD of both wounded warrior care and mental health services to ensure servicemembers receive the best treatment;
- directing DoD to do a report to look at the unique challenges facing military families wishing to adopt or foster children;
- permitting those National Guard officers to receive back pay beginning from the date their promotion was approved by the state;
- prohibiting further actions by DoD without directions from Congress regarding military resale entities consolidation until DoD completes a feasibility study; and
- extending the life of Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) by requiring the Army, the executive agency for ANC, to look at proposals to meet this goal through expansion opportunities as well as adjustments to eligibility requirements. MOAA's ANC position supports pursuing all potential expansion options onto both adjacent properties and elsewhere around the country rather than significantly restricting eligibility to the retiree and veteran populations.
Another item of interest from the recent markup: The HASC did not authorize another base realignment and closure (BRAC) round in its markup and DoD did not ask for one. Instead, in recognizing DoD has more infrastructure than it needs, the HASC authorized language that would allow DoD to close smaller installations without going through a formal BRAC process. Highlighted in this change is the involvement of state governors in this more truncated process.
MOAA priorities not addressed
The markup did not contain an amendment or language to expand concurrent receipt. In April, MOAA members from across the country participated in MOAA's annual Storming the Hill event on Capitol Hill to tell Congress to end the deduction of service-earned retirement pay from VA disability compensation. MOAA will continue to push this issue with Congress, as it remains one of our top legislative goals.
In addition, lawmakers did not include language or an amendment to eliminate the “widows tax,” the dollar-for-dollar deduction of DoD's Survivor Benefit Plan from the VA's Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. MOAA also will continue to push this issue with Congress as a top legislative goal.
We need your continued engagement with your elected representatives on these top MOAA goals as we push forward.Looking ahead
MOAA will address other aspects of the NDAA - such as the career intermission program, which the legislation makes permanent - as the bill moves through the legislative process.
The Senate will begin its work on the defense bill the week of May 21.
With the fall mid-term elections rapidly approaching, lawmakers are moving more aggressively to ensure the FY 2019 NDAA is completed and signed by the president before voters hit polling stations Nov. 6.
Visit MOAA.org for the latest information and updates on the FY 2019 NDAA.