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Defense Authorization Makes Progress in House

On May 10, the House Armed Services Committee approved, 56-5, the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310). The Military Personnel Subcommittee approved its portion of the bill on April 26 (see The Source, 4/27/12); the Senate Armed Services Committee has yet to take up its version of the bill.

The bill would provide $554 billion in base defense spending in FY2013 and $88.5 billion for overseas contingency operations. According to the committee release, this amount is “nearly $4 billion more than the President’s budget request, but it is still less than last year’s request.”

The measure “reflects a bipartisan effort to provide significant new regulations and procedures for combating and prosecuting sexual assault within the military” and includes several provisions to address the issue. The bill would require the secretaries of the military branches to establish special victim teams for the investigation, prosecution, and victim support in connection with child abuse, serious domestic violence, or sexual offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Each secretary would determine the number of special victims teams and prescribe regulations for such teams. The secretaries also would be required to include additional data on their reports on sexual assault.

The legislation would require the secretary of Defense to continue its reports to Congress on the establishment of the Defense Incident-Based Reporting System and Defense Sexual Assault Incident Database until the secretary certifies that the programs are fully functional and operational.

Courts that issued temporary child custody orders based solely on the deployment or anticipated deployment of a parent-service member would be required to reinstate the custody order in effect immediately before the temporary custody order, unless doing so would not be in the best interest of the child.

The measure would extend the deadline for the comptroller general’s report on health care services for female members of the armed forces. In addition, transitional benefits and compensation available to victims of dependent abuse would be extended to “dependent children who were carried during pregnancy” at the time of the dependent abuse.

The legislation would require the secretary of Defense to submit to Congress a report on the feasibility of incorporating gender-neutral occupational standards for occupation specialties currently closed to female members of the armed forces.

During consideration of the bill, the committee approved, by voice vote, an en bloc amendment consisting of several amendments:

  • An amendment by Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) to require the Department of Defense (DoD) to include sexual harassment incidents in the annual DoD reports on sexual assault;
  • An amendment by Rep. Sanchez to include information on substantiated reports of sexual harassment in service members’ official service records;
  • An amendment by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) to require the Armed Forces Workplace and Gender Relations Study to be conducted annually, instead of every four years;
  • An amendment by Rep. Speier to require the secretary of Defense to review, and report to Congress, unrestricted reports of sexual assault and subsequent service member separations;
  • An amendment by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) regarding the collection and retention of records relating to sexual assault, enhanced sexual assault training, and limitations of release from and recall to active duty or the reserves for members who were victims of sexual assault;
  • An amendment by Rep. Larry Kissell (D-NC) to increase military leave available for the birth or adoption of a child; and
  • An amendment by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) to require the secretary to develop and implement a plan regarding diversity in military leadership.
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