Congress has been moving full steam ahead to get the military construction and veterans affairs (MilCon/VA) appropriations bill through the House and make its next stop at the Senate. Now that the full House Appropriations Committee has passed the spending bill, it will move to the full House for a vote before it moves on to the Senate.
MOAA is working to ensure these three important items are preserved during Senate reconciliation of the bill:
Senior military leaders emphasized the importance of child care to military readiness before the House Appropriations Committee at a hearing on military family readiness in February. As Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith pointed out, “One common thread I hear at every fleet visit among sailors in all pay grades is accessibility and affordability of quality child care.”
Other leaders pointed out a lack of sufficient facilities for Child Development Centers (CDCs) and School Age Care (SAC) programs as part of the problem in providing adequate child care.
The House Appropriations Committee agreed with military leaders on the importance of adequate child care for military families. The committee report included language directing the services to submit a report to Congress identifying all installations that have CDCs and SAC facilities, the condition of these facilities, and the wait time for families to enroll children.
Additionally, $11 million was added to the military construction funds during the amendment process in order to plan and build new child care facilities. DoD will have to report on the use of these funds within 90 days of enactment of the legislation.
Congress has expressed concern over water contamination on military installations. Specifically, there has been mounting concern over Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) in water, which stems from the presence of these chemicals in fire-fighting foam used for decades.
The committee encouraged DoD to work closely with the communities affected by this contamination and the Environmental Protection Agency to address this issue. Furthermore, the committee provided $60 million above the budget request to address cleanup of PFAS/PFOA contamination.
Congress has been vigilant in its approach to addressing the lack of oversight of health and safety hazards in military housing. Hearings have been held and legislation has been introduced on both the House and Senate side.
While the overall family housing budget is lower than FY 2019, the House Appropriations Committee increased this budget to $1.5 billion – $140 million more than the administration requested. This additional money will not go to the private companies to fix the problems they are expected to resolve; instead, it is meant to be used to provide additional oversight, management, and staffing for military family housing offices.
The committee requested a number of reports on family housing, including how the services plan to provide oversight of privatized facilities, potential upgrades to improve transparency, and a quarterly report updating Congress on the status of tenant contracts and overall implementation measures taken to improve housing.