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House Clears Defense Authorization Conference Report

On October 1, the House approved, 270-156, the conference report for the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (H.R. 1735). The Senate approved its version of the legislation on June 18 (see The Source, 6/19/15), while the House approved its version on May 15 (see The Source, 5/15/15). The conference report resolves differences between the Senate- and House-passed versions.

According to the report, the bill would allocate $611.94 billion in budget authority for the Department of Defense (DOD) and for defense-related programs at the Department of Energy, as well as $89.24 billion for overseas contingency operations. This total is $4.518 million below President Obama’s FY2016 request for such programs. Military personnel programs would be authorized at $135.712 billion, $1.022 billion less than the president requested. Military construction, which includes family housing, would be authorized at $8.078 billion, $228 million less than the administration’s request. The measure would authorize $31.543 billion for the Defense Health Program, which is $700.194 million less than the president requested.

The legislation contains several provisions to address military sexual assault. Specifically, the bill seeks to improve the Special Victims’ Counsel program by, among other provisions, prohibiting special victims’ counsel from receiving less-favorable ratings because of their representation of victims, assessing the feasibility of providing special victims’ counsel to civilian survivors who are not otherwise eligible for military legal assistance, and establishing minimum training standards for special victims’ counsels.

Among other provisions, the bill would require the establishment of the Defense Advisory Committee on Investigation, Prosecution, and Defense of Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces, as well as the development of a plan to address sexual assault of male victims.

The measure includes $25 million for assistance to local education agencies that benefit dependents of members of the Armed Forces and DOD civilian employees, also known as impact aid.

It is unclear whether the NDAA will be enacted. President Obama has threatened to veto the legislation because the OCO funding exceeds the spending caps mandated by the Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25). The Senate is schedule to consider the legislation during the week of October 5.

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