While the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) contains many of MOAA’s top legislative priorities, it's the appropriations bills that secure the critical funding needed to implement these priorities, and others, to Congress’ fullest intent.
Each chamber’s appropriations committee holds 12 subcommittees, all allocating funding for programs and projects within their jurisdiction. Here’s a look at recent work from the House subcommittees that control funding in areas affecting military families: the Defense subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over military personnel programs, and the Military Construction and Veteran Affairs (MilconVA) subcommittee, which determines funding for military housing and other construction projects that affect military personnel and their families, such as DoD-run schools and child care facilities.
The House Appropriations Committee passed its version of the Defense Appropriations bill July 14. The legislation is expected to be voted on by the full House as part of a minibus bill, H.R. 7617, this week.
The committee highlighted areas of concern and backed its worries up with additional funding for DoD to use in addressing these areas.
For example, for the past two years, DoD’s budget request included reductions to funding for certain quality-of-life programs. The House subcommittee did not go easy on DoD, directly criticizing the department for an all-talk, no-action approach to supporting military families.
The committee condemned the department’s inaction on past reports requested by the committee, and on proposed reductions to funding for child care services and staffing for adequate teacher-student ratios at Department of Defense Educational Activity (DoDEA) schools. The committee report emphasized that “[W]ithin the immense budget of the department, quality of life programs must not be the bill payers for modernization.”
In addition to report language to provide better oversight and better funding for programs such as DoDEA schools, military moves and child care, the bill proposes:
- $270 million above the request to address public school infrastructure requirements on DoD installations.
- An additional $116 million for upgrades to child care facilities, and report language directing the services to present innovative ideas to assist servicemembers with this quality-of0life issue.
- $40 million for Impact Aid, and an additional $10 million for Impact Aid for those with disabilities.
Military Construction and Veteran Affairs Appropriations (MilconVA)
- Full funding of the budget request for DoDEA school construction projects.
- $135 million in additional funding (above budget request) to address environmental hazards in military family housing.
- $152 million for construction of three additional Army child development centers (CDCs).
- Continued funding for VA to provide child care through the Veterans Access To Childcare Demonstration Program.
In addition to the proposed funding, the MilconVA subcommittee requests reports back from DoD on the number of child care centers by location, the quality of these centers, and the length of time families must wait to enroll their child. This report will help the subcommittee ensure appropriate funding for building of future CDCs.
The subcommittee also is requesting a report from DoD on access to high quality broadband in and around military installations, as this issue becomes more important with the transition to virtual platforms for work, education, and medical appointments in a COVID-19 environment.
The MilconVA appropriations bill is expected to be voted on by the full House of Representatives this week in a separate minibus package, H.R. 7608.
After the full House approves the spending bills, the Senate will continue its work to complete their versions of the spending bills. Using the NDAA as a sneak peek into the Senate’s priorities, we can expect the Senate appropriations bills also will focus on child care, children’s education, and military housing. MOAA will continue to advocate on the Senate side to ensure full funding of military family quality-of-life programs.