NDAA Update: What’s in the House and Senate Bills, and What Happens Next

NDAA Update: What’s in the House and Senate Bills, and What Happens Next
Photo by Andrey Denisyuk/Getty Images

By MOAA Government Relations Staff


From the topline figure to key details on pay and benefits, including TRICARE coverage, the versions of the FY 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by the House and Senate have significant differences to resolve when lawmakers from both chambers return to Washington, D.C., in September.


MOAA will continue to engage with Congress, the executive branch, and other important stakeholders as the FY 2024 NDAA makes its way through the legislative process to ensure the issues most important to the uniformed services community remains at the forefront of this year’s bill. You can help by lending your voice to our cause by signing up at our Legislative Action Center.


Here’s what you should know about the contents of the House version (H.R. 2670), which passed on July 14, and the Senate version, (S. 2226), which passed July 27.


[TAKE ACTION: Urge Your Legislators to Support the All-Volunteer Force]


Topline Authorization

The Senate FY24 NDAA calls for $886 billion in accordance with a debt ceiling deal, while the house version calls for $875 billion. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers painfully acknowledge DoD has not passed an audit and are committed to ensuring an audit is completed for improved oversight of spending taxpayers’ dollars. A tough negotiation is expected in the conference given the lower topline number in the House NDAA.


Pay, Benefits, and Quality of Life

  • 5.2% Pay Raise. While you won’t find it in the legislative text of either the House or Senate version, Congress supported the pay raise by keeping it tied to the Employment Cost Index – a key MOAA priority. The defense appropriations bill may seek to address pay table reform.


[RELATED: MOAA President Outlines Key Priorities for New House Quality of Life Panel | Full MOAA Testimony]

  • Basic Needs Allowance (BNA). MOAA prefers the House language, which removes the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) from BNA eligibility calculations to ensure families struggling with food insecurity have access to this needed benefit. The Senate bill extends the authority of service secretaries to determine high-cost areas or “a demonstrated need” in the implementation of the BNA.

  • CONUS COLA. The Senate included a provision to increase access to the CONUS cost-of-living allowance (COLA) for servicemembers stationed in high-cost areas. Currently, the rate is paid when a servicemember or their family is in an area where non-housing expenses are 8% over the national average. The Senate language would reduce it to 5%.

  • Family Separation Allowance. The House bill contains a provision increasing Family Separation Allowance II (FSA-II) from $250 per month to $400 per month. FSA-II was raised to $250 in 2004 and hasn’t been adjusted since. This payment provides a vital source of income to help families offset additional costs when their servicemember is away.

  • Housing. The House version would authorize $200 million more than requested by the administration to improve housing and barracks. Both chambers included the establishment of a Military Housing Readiness Council to provide enhanced oversight and more consistent engagement with stakeholders.

Urge Your Legislators to Pay Full Housing Costs for Servicemembers]

  • Child Care. DoD, like the nation, is experiencing a significant shortage of child care providers. In an effort to address the shortage, the House NDAA includes a standardized program to provide discounted child care for DoD child care employees, starting with no fee for the first child and no more than 50% for the second child. Both NDAA versions address the need to focus on recruitment and retention of employees for child development programs. The House version also requires DoD to conduct a recurring review and revision of pay for child care staff.

  • Spouse Employment. The House version expands the military spouse licensing and business costs reimbursement program to include more transitioning spouses. It also provides a modest amount of student loan deferment for dislocated military spouses. Both the Senate and House bills contain provisions that would provide military spouses with assistance in obtaining doula certifications.


[TAKE ACTION: Urge Your Legislators to Support the Military Spouse Hiring Act]


Military Health Care

  • Pharmacy Network Cuts. Both the House and Senate responded to MOAA’s call for a report on how TRICARE pharmacy network cuts have impacted beneficiary access to prescription drugs. The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) included directive report language for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) evaluation on beneficiary access in their committee report. The House bill includes a provision for DoD reporting on access changes resulting from the narrowed network.


[TAKE ACTION: Help MOAA Fight Cuts to the TRICARE Pharmacy Network]

  • Military Health System Reform Oversight. The SASC report includes a directive for a GAO assessment of military medical staffing at military treatment facilities (MTFs) to address reported challenges with competing priorities between the services and the Defense Health Agency (DHA). The SASC also requires a DoD brief on military personnel staffing of MTFs and the management structure for DHA’s authority, direction, and control of those facilities.


Arlington National Cemetery

A provision in the House version of the NDAA signals lawmakers’ intent to protect burial with military honors and prevent a reduction in service-earned benefits. The House version contains language from the Expanding America’s National Cemetery Act (H.R. 1413) requiring a joint report from DoD and the VA with “a proposal to increase national cemetery capacity through the expansion or modification of a national cemetery that has, or will have, the capacity to provide full military honors.”


[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your House Member to Support the Expanding America's National Cemetery Act]


This is an important signal from the House on the importance of continuing military funerals with honors and keeping our nation’s promise to our military community – a signal that runs counter to a previous proposal in the federal rulemaking process to dramatically reduce eligibility for Arlington National Cemetery based on awards.  

Arlington National Cemetery Information Paper]


The report requirement is missing from the Senate version of the NDAA. While your lawmakers are home for their August recess, consider calling their office and ask to speak with their military legislative assistant to secure co-sponsorship H.R. 1413 and keep the report language in the NDAA through the conference process. Use MOAA’s toll free Capitol Hotline – 866-272-MOAA (6622) – and share with your network.  


Star Act Missing From NDAA

It is very disappointing that the text of the Major Richard Star Act (S. 344/H.R. 1282) – which would authorize receipt of earned DoD retirement pay, without an offset, for those injured in combat and forced to medically retire – has not been included in this year’s NDAA. Over two-thirds of Congress co-sponsored this legislation, with 327 in the House  and 71 in the Senate. Unfortunately, House and Senate leaders have not allowed a floor vote because they are concerned over cost.  


[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Lawmakers to Support the Major Richard Star Act]


To stay up-to-date on the latest news, check out MOAA’s Advocacy News page and read the weekly MOAA newsletter (subscribe at this link).


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