By Col. Mike Barron, USA (Ret)
The recently released final report on the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) released by Congress yesterday was a major win for MOAA's advocacy efforts across the board.
The bill is on track to be signed before the start of the fiscal year. This is a major achievement, especially considering the last time this happened was over 20 years ago in the FY 1997 NDAA, according to Politico's Morning Defense briefing July 24. Early passage of the bill would also prevent the need for another continuing resolution and provide much needed stability to DoD; defense leaders have been asking for this for years.
Some wins in the final defense legislation that align directly with MOAA's key legislative goals are:
- A full 2.6-percent military pay raise, which matches the administration's request. The raise is the largest in eight years and is consistent with private sector wage growth, as determined by the Employment Cost Index, which is in accordance with the law. This raise only keeps pace with current wage increases and leaves those who are currently serving with a residual pay-raise gap of another 2.6 percent left over from reduced pay raises in FYs 2011, 2012, and 2013.
- Increased end-strengths for the armed services over FY 2018 levels. This will put the armed services and the nation in a better position to deal with ever changing and challenging global mission requirements as outlined in the new defense strategy. Authorized new end strengths are 487,500 in the Army; 335,400 in the Navy; 186,100 in the Marine Corps; and 329,100 in the Air Force.
- No reduction in Basic Allowance for Housing.
- No new TRICARE fees.
MOAA's success at achieving these important goals in the final legislation came from working closely with congressional leadership and staffs, support at the grass roots level from our membership in answering our calls to action, and a concerted effort with our partners in The Military Coalition.
As House Armed Services Committee Chair Rep. Mac Thornberry first stated back in May, “Restoring readiness while increasing the capability and capacity of our armed forces is a key focus of this year's defense policy bill.”
Likewise, members of Congress consistently emphasized readiness and increasing capacity throughout their preparation of this year's defense authorization bill. They kept as their focal point our nation's new defense strategy released under Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis back in January.
MOAA joins with our coalition partners to thank the leadership of the armed services committees and their staffs in Congress for their hard work on behalf of our servicemembers and veterans and their families.