US Senators have been busy lately as they worked to finalize their version of the fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill, which is formally known as the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA. The Act will set various spending targets and policy goals for the next fiscal year which begins on October 1st.
The panel voted 23-3 in favor of the legislation, which will authorize $602 billion for the Defense Department as well as funds certain national security programs within the Energy Department. The panel is headed by Sen. John McCain, Republican from Arizona. In a statement, McCain said: “This is a reform bill. The NDAA contains the most sweeping reforms of the organization of the Department of Defense in a generation.”
Small Pay Raise:
The Senate Armed Services Committee voted to approve a 1.6 percent pay raise for troops. This was less than what the House had requested (2.1 percent). Instead, the Senate panel supported the White House and Defense Department recommendation of 1.6 percent for next year. This amount is higher than what troops got this year (1.3 percent), but it is lower than the 2.1 percent raise called for under existing law to match private-sector wage growth. This is odd because, under existing law, and the Pentagon’s own budget documents, military pay raises are to equal the annual increase seen in wages and salaries for private industry employees. This amount is calculated by Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics and is known as the Employment Cost Index, or ECI.
Women, Draft, and Selective Service:
The panel also included legislation that would mandate that females register for the draft. This would begin on January 1, 2018. It also included wording to create a new commission to determine if the Selective Service program is even still needed. If approved, the female draft legislation would be added to the current Military Selective Service Act.
In a statement, the Senate panel said: “Because the Department of Defense has lifted the ban on women serving in ground combat units, the committee believes there is no further justification in limiting the duty to register under the Military Selective Service Act to men.”
It also addressed the existence of the draft when it announced that a new commission will look at whether or not Selective Service is the best way to bring in large numbers of troops who will have the needed skills to populate an effective fighting force of the future.
Military Health Care Reform:
The biggest news came out when the Senate panel agreed (in part) with the January 2015 report from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission that said that the military Tri-Care Program had become so poor in quality that it had become financially unsustainable.
This same 2015 commission recommended dumping all three Tri-Care Programs for military families, reservists and working-age retirees and putting into place a brand new health care program that would be similar to that which is being used for federal civilian employees. This new plan would let recipients choose from a list of available commercial health care plans.
For its part, the Senate bill would put into place “improved” Tri-Care Programs known as Prime, Choice, and Supplemental. It would replace existing cost-sharing for services with fixed co-payments intended to reduce the overall costs to beneficiaries. In addition, it wants to expand telephonic health services as well as make appointment-setting faster and easier.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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