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Military Subcommittee Approves Portion of Defense Authorization

On April 30, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel approved, by voice vote, its portion of the FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4435).

According to the subcommittee summary, the bill would “continue robust oversight and reform of the military’s handling of sexual assault.” The bill includes a provision sponsored by Reps. Niki Tsongas (D-MA) and Mike Turner (R-OH) to include as part of commanders’ performance evaluations an assessment of the handling of sexual assault cases and how unit members treat those making sexual assault allegations.

The committee included a provision to require the Department of Defense (DoD) to brief Congress on the progress it has made toward implementing sexual assault provisions enacted in the FY2012, FY2013, and FY2014 Defense Authorization bills. The bill would clarify that the sexual assault prevention and response enhancements apply to all military service academies, including the Coast Guard. The bill also would require the secretary of Defense to develop a plan to manage the deficiencies in reporting incidents of domestic violence that involve members of the armed forces.

Expressing its confidence in the work of the Army’s Women’s Health Task Force, the committee would require the secretary of Defense to assess the gender-specific needs of women in deployed environments “to ensure standardization of education and training in women’s hygiene and gynecological management to enhance readiness for female members; ensure that women’s health issues are included in leadership training and educational programs; provide clinical practice guidelines to establish a standardized level of care in a deployed environment; and ensure that all services have the ability to provide a minimum level of education and training to address the specific gender health needs of women in a deployed environment…The assessment should also address the research gaps identified by the Women’s Health Research Interest Group, and what efforts have been undertaken to develop a repository of peer-reviewed research articles related to health issues for female service member, particularly those in a deployed environment.”

With regard to military family readiness, the measure would require courts that issued temporary child custody orders based solely on the deployment or anticipated deployment of a parent to reinstate the custody order that was in effect immediately before the temporary order, unless doing so would not be in the best interest of the child. Courts also would be prohibited from using deployments or possible deployments as the sole factor in determining the best interest of the child.

The legislation would continue $25 million in assistance to local education agencies that are impacted by the enrollment of dependent children of service members or civilian Department of Defense employees.

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