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Congress Approves Defense Authorization Bill

The conference report for the FY2002 defense authorization bill (H.R. 2586/S. 1438) was approved, 382-40, by the House on December 13. The same day, the Senate approved it 96-2.

The final bill maintains current law with respect to abortion policy. Under current law, the Department of Defense (DoD) covers abortions in domestic and overseas military facilities only if the life of the pregnant woman is endangered. Military personnel and their dependents serving abroad are prohibited from obtaining privately funded abortions at military facilities except in cases of rape or incest.

The final bill also extends the Domestic Violence Task Force until April 24, 2003. The defense authorization bill includes a Senate-passed provision requiring the Comptroller General to study the adequacy and quality of health care, including reproductive health care services, for women in the military. It also extends the DoD Mentor-Protègè Program until September 30, 2005. This program provides incentives for DoD contractors to give assistance to small businesses so that they are able to perform as subcontractors. Small businesses eligible for the program include disadvantaged small businesses and women-owned or controlled small businesses. The Senate bill would have made the program permanent. A House-passed provision allowing pregnant women better access to obstetricians-gynecologists under TRICARE, the military’s health care system, was included in the final bill. Also included is a House-passed provision that would direct the Secretary of Defense to help military spouses access financial, educational, and employment opportunities through DoD programs. Additionally, the bill requires the DoD to notify Congress 30 days before changing the ground combat exclusion policy. The House bill would have required 60-day notification.

A House-passed provision that would have required the DoD to develop a database for tracking contract awards that result in the displacement of two or more small businesses as prime contractors was not included in the conference report.

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