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House Subcommittee Marks Up Defense Authorization Bill

On May 7, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel approved, by voice vote, its portion of the FY2009 defense authorization bill (H.R. 5658). The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its version of the measure (as-yet-unnumbered) on April 30 (see The Source, 5/2/08).

The bill would authorize $678.579 million for improved and new Army family housing units; $382.778 million and $395.879 million would be authorized for Navy and Air Force family housing units, respectively.

According to a statement by Chair Susan Davis (D-CA), the bill would authorize a 3.9 percent pay increase for military personnel, which is identical to the Senate bill and .5 percent higher than the president requested in his FY2009 budget. Like the Senate version, H.R. 5658 would reject the president’s proposal to increase TRICARE fees and drug co-payments by $1.2 billion.

Rep. Davis said that the bill would establish “a tuition assistance program for eligible military spouses to develop careers that are portable as they move with their servicemember from base to base.” She added, “The committee hopes that this program will encourage military spouses to seek careers that could also benefit our armed forces, such as psychologists, nurses, mental health providers, and case managers.”

The measure also would establish a career intermission pilot program that would release active duty members for up to three years to “meet personal or professional needs.” In her statement, Rep. Davis noted that, “[t]he Navy found that a number of female junior officers were leaving the services for family reasons; while they wanted to make the Navy a career, the current system does not easily accommodate a break in service. This pilot program will allow us to test the concept of allowing individuals to temporarily leave service and return without hurting an individual’s career.” Program participants would be classified as reservists during their break in service and would be required to report once a month for duty.

Ranking Member John McHugh (R-NY) said, “Madam Chairwoman, the recommendations contained in your mark are the product of an open, bipartisan process. Furthermore, those recommendations represent significant policy and funding initiatives that address important issues of military personnel and quality of life…Overall, this is an excellent mark and I intend to support it.”

All of the House Armed Services subcommittees approved their portions of the FY2009 defense authorization bill earlier this week; the full committee is expected to consider the bill next week. The Senate is expected to consider the measure by the end of the month.

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