NDAA Update: Return to Joint Committee Setup Is Good News for MOAA Priorities

NDAA Update: Return to Joint Committee Setup Is Good News for MOAA Priorities
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The appointment of a joint conference committee to iron out differences in must-pass defense legislation will give MOAA members a chance to reach out to their lawmakers and make their voice heard on critical issues like TRICARE reforms, military housing benefits, and other important quality-of-life concerns.


Congress didn’t form a full-on conference committee for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last year, meaning decisions on the final bill were made behind the scenes, with limited chances for advocates to reach out to individual lawmakers and their staffs.


But the House of Representatives has named members (majority | minority) of the NDAA conference this year, and while the Senate has not formally done so, work is in progress on this annual legislation within the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC). The bill takes on an added sense of urgency with significant armed conflict in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, especially as operational tempo has increased to the same levels as the “surge” in Iraq and Afghanistan.


[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Lawmakers to Avoid a Government Shutdown and Finish the Appropriations Process]


Having Your Say

The conference committee gives MOAA and MOAA members a chance to make our case to committee members and other representatives on critical issues via our Legislative Action Center. We need your voice as a constituent to amplify our efforts; let your lawmakers know the importance of these issues to their constituents. If your House member or your senators are not involved in the NDAA, ask them to reach out to fellow members in support of programs addressing quality of life (QoL) concerns faced for our troops during our current recruiting crisis.


[TAKE ACTION: Contact Your Legislators and Urge Them to Improve the Quality of Life for Our Troops]


Congress will require discipline to focus on DoD personnel challenges this year – perhaps more than ever, as tone-deaf signals on the needs of those who serve have begun to emerge. These signals may convince lawmakers that the House NDAA proposal to boost pay for enlisted troops is not needed, and that systemic military housing/barracks mold problems found by the Government Accountability Office and addressed in part by Senate NDAA provisions are not necessary … and could be solved if servicemembers just clean harder.


“Funding for DoD is like pistons in an engine,” one senior DoD official said. “When one of the pistons – modernization, operations or personnel – moves up, the others move down.”


Addressing Housing

This annual legislation spans the entirety of DoD programs and priorities, but key among the work this year are plans to improve military housing of all types across all services.


[TAKE ACTION: Urge Your Legislators to Pay Full Housing Costs for Servicemembers]


Along with plans to address barracks issues raised in high-profile reports and hearings, MOAA backs House NDAA language that would raise the Basic Housing Allowance to 96% of local rental and utility costs – one percentage point above the current level, and progressing toward MOAA’s goal of restoring 100% BAH for servicemembers giving 100% to our nation.


We have supported this change via the BAH Restoration Act (H.R. 2537 and S. 1823) and will work toward its inclusion in the final NDAA legislation alongside other plans to address housing problems, such as:

  • A report on military housing waitlists during PCS moves.
  • A study on availability of housing and best practices for expanding affordable housing.
  • A pilot program on replacement of substandard enlisted barracks.
  • A maintenance work order management process for military unaccompanied housing.
  • An expansion of the Uniform Code Of Basic Standards for Military Housing to include military unaccompanied housing.
  • Implementation of comptroller general recommendations relating to strengthening oversight of privatized military housing.
  • Establishing a DoD Military Housing Readiness Council.
  • A report on how military construction affects quality of life.


[RELATED: Star Act Not Part of NDAA Despite Vast Support for Combat-Injured Veterans]


More NDAA Needs

The housing issue is not the only one of MOAA’s priorities which could be advanced via the NDAA. Members can reach out at the links below to ensure related language is included in the must-pass bill, and that their members show their support for the all-volunteer force on these issues by co-sponsoring related legislation.


TRICARE Pharmacy Cuts: Require a report on access of TRICARE beneficiaries to network retail pharmacies, especially as the network shrank by nearly 25% in the last 12 months.


Dental Care for Reservists: Establish zero out-of-pocket cost dental care for reserve component servicemembers.


Military Spouse Support: Require a report on portability of professional licenses of servicemembers and spouses, and expand eligibility for reimbursement of qualified licensure, certification, and business relocation costs incurred by military spouses.


‘180-Day Rule’: Repeal the mandatory six month cooling-off period for servicemembers to apply for DoD civilian positions and support DoD civilian talent management.


Arlington Eligibility: Require a joint DoD/VA report on the “next Arlington National Cemetery” that will afford military honors as it approaches capacity (in 40 years). This provision signals a significant change compared to previous proposals to reduce eligibility; your continued support to grow co-sponsors for H.R. 1413 is still needed to shape this and future NDAA legislation.


Maximize Your Impact

Thank you to all of you who have already supported these legislative efforts. If you’ve yet to take action, or if you’re looking to reengage with your lawmakers, consider these tips:

  • When using our Legislative Action Center, please customize the message with your personal story to add impact.
  • Share the link to your message with your network; you do not need to be a MOAA member to use the action center.
  • Amplify your message via MOAA’s toll-free hotline – 866-272-MOAA (6622) – which will let you contact your lawmakers directly. Ask to speak with their military legislative assistant or legislative director, and schedule a follow-up call if they are not available. These congressional staffers work hard for elected officials and need to hear your voice as a constituent.


Follow the latest on the NDAA and other key MOAA legislative priorities at MOAA’s Advocacy News page.


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About the Author

Lt. Col. Mark Belinsky, USA (Ret)
Lt. Col. Mark Belinsky, USA (Ret)

Belinsky retired in 2019 after serving 22 years, with overseas tours to Afghanistan, Iraq, the Republic of Korea, and Germany. He joined the MOAA team in 2019 as Director, Currently Serving and Retired Affairs.