Straight from the CEO – Defense Authorization Conference

After months of negotiations, Senate lawmakers on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve its version (S.3254) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. The next step: a joint conference between the Senate and the House to address issues passed by one chamber or the other or on issues where the two chambers’ approaches clash. Two areas where the House and Senate appear to be in agreement on are prohibiting transfers of Guantanamo detainees and blocking retirements of Air National Guard and Reserve aircraft. The Senate also purportedly agrees with the House on curtailing DoD plans to raise TRICARE pharmacy co-pays but language restricting future co-pay increases exists in the House bill only. As reported yesterday evening by AFSA, the Senate did not include a similar provision in its bill.

The Administration strongly disagrees with the congressional Congress position on each of these issues as evidenced by a November 29 Statement of Administration Policy. It states that “if the [final] bill is presented to the President for approval in its current form, the President’s senior advisers would recommend that the President veto the bill.”

In closing, the Senate bill provides a 1.7 percent pay raise for active service members, extends many special pays and bonuses, strengthens DoD’s anti-sexual assault programs and improves the mental health care of wounded warriors. It also requires DoD to provide TRICARE coverage/necessary behavioral health services for military children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities. Other provisions include: allowing “gray area” retires and un-remarried surviving spouses to fly on military aircraft Space A; correcting an error in the statutory Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) language that resulted in denial of the benefit to some combat-disabled retirees; requiring a DoD report on the future availability of TRICARE Prime; and making it a crime for individuals to profit from lies about military service or the receipt of high military honors.

AFSA and its Coalition partners are still doing their best to influence the decisions of the conference committee which is comprised of House and Senate lawmakers who serve on their respective Armed Services Committees. As a reminder, up till now, much of the work on the NDAA has been conducted publically whereas the impending conference will be behind closed doors. Now, more than ever, your input on key legislative issues matters. Watch for updates to CapWiz and special alerts for you to take action – your voice IS a factor!

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