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Defense Authorization Bill Approved by Committee

The day after the subcommittees completed work on their portions of the FY2002 defense authorization bill (H.R. 2586), the House Armed Services Committee on August 1 approved the measure by a vote of 58-1.

In the interest of time, Members refrained from offering amendments at the Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel’s July 31 mark-up. The subcommittee approved its portion of the bill by voice vote.

During the subcommittee mark-up, Reps. Jim Ryan (R-KS) and Susan Davis (D-CA) commented on a provision included in the subcommittee’s mark that would allow pregnant women better access to obstetricians-gynecologists under TRICARE, the military’s health care system. Expressing his concern about the “future of military maternity care,” Rep. Ryun said that there was an inequity in maternity-related care under TRICARE. Rep. Davis agreed, “Too many women are denied access or are forced to jump through hoops before seeing their ob-gyn.”

During the full committee mark-up, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) offered an amendment that would have allowed military personnel and their dependents to use their own funds for abortion services in overseas military facilities. Under current law, the Department of Defense (DoD) covers abortions in domestic and military facilities only in cases of rape, incest, or if the life of the pregnant women is endangered. The amendment was defeated, 23-35.

Additionally, the bill would authorize $1.1 billion in FY2002 for the construction and improvement of military family housing units, $49 million more than the President’s request. The committee also authorized $36.2 million for child development centers, $10.7 million more than the President’s request. The funding will enable the operation of an additional six centers.

The bill also includes a provision that would direct the Secretary of Defense to help military spouses access financial, educational, and employment opportunities through DoD programs. A modification pertaining to the Domestic Violence Task Force, which was established by the 106th Congress to investigate domestic violence issues in the military, also was included in the measure. The bill would grant the task force an additional six months to report to Congress.

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