Hurry Up and Wait: Process to Pass the NDAA

Race to Capitol

We are continuing to watch closely as the House and Senate go through the long process of passing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the massive legislation that will fund the Department of Defense (DoD) for Fiscal Year 2015. Since the Administration released its budget in March, the Senate and House Armed Services Committees have been studying the proposals. Each Armed Services Committee has several subcommittees tasked with reviewing specific areas of the Defense budget, such as personnel and compensation. Each subcommittee presents its section of the bill to the full Armed Services Committee, where it is voted on before being sent to the House or Senate floor. 

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) passed its version of the NDAA, H.R. 4435, on May 15. We were pleased that it did not include many of the most damaging provisions in the Administration’s budget proposal. The House bill rejects proposals to eliminate most TRICARE plans, reduce housing allowances and cut commissary benefits. It also included a requirement for outside experts to review and assess the commissary program to identify efficiencies that could lead to cost savings without reducing military family benefits. The bill has gone to the House floor, where it must be voted on by the full House.

On the Senate side, the Personnel Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) released its mark on May 21. We are pleased the Senate mark provides authority for provisional TRICARE coverage for emerging health care products and services, including certain lab fees. We fought to have coverage for lab fees reinstated. We were disappointed to see  the subcommittee accepted the Administration’s proposals to cap pay raises for service members at 1 percent and gradually reduce Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rates.  However, like their counterparts in the House, Senators rejected the Administration proposals to slash commissary funding and increase TRICARE fees.

It is important to remember  there is still a long way to go before the NDAA is finalized. On the Senate side, the full Armed Services committee must approve the Personnel subcommittee’s mark before it can be added to the NDAA, which then must be voted on by the full Senate. Members of both the House and the Senate will have the opportunity to offer amendments to their respective versions of the bill. After the House and Senate have each passed their versions of the legislation, they will have to meet in conference to resolve any differences in the bills, and the revised bill will  be voted on again by the House and Senate. Finally, the completed bill will go to the President for his signature. 

We will continue to update military families as the legislation moves through Congress. Remember, it’s not too late to make your voice heard! Contact your Representative or Senators and let them know how you feel about proposed cuts to compensation and benefits, or share your comments below.

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