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Senate Begins Debate on Defense Authorization Bill

This week, the Senate began its consideration of H.R. 1735, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its version (S. 1376) on May 14; the House approved its version of the bill on May 15 (see The Source, 5/15/15).

According to the committee report, the bill would authorize $604.1 billion in discretionary funds for the Department of Defense (DoD), national security programs at the Department of Energy (DoE), and overseas contingency operations (OCO). Specifically, the measure would authorize $496.5 billion for DoD, $18.7 billion for DoE, and $88.9 billion for OCO. The bill includes $135.5 billion for military personnel and $32.2 billion for the Defense Health Program.

The report also includes several recommendations to improve the Armed Forces prevention of, and response to, military sexual assault (pp. 120-122). Specifically, the bill would provide for the timely disclosure to the victim of materials and information in connection with prosecution, permit the representation and assistance of special victims’ counsel when victims are questioned during military criminal investigations, and enhance confidentiality of restricted reporting of sexual assault incidents. Among several other provisions, the bill would authorize special victims’ counsel to provide legal consultation and assistance to victims during certain government proceedings.

The bill would ensure that female service members have access to comprehensive contraception before and during deployment and throughout their military careers (p. 153).

The report includes a sense of the Senate that the development of gender-neutral standards for occupational assignments are “vital” in determining such standards for all members of the Armed Forces and that they should be developed in a manner that does not “result in unnecessary barriers to service,” are “based on objective analysis,” and do “not negatively impact combat effectiveness” (p. 117).

The committee also would direct DoD to “to review its newborn infant screening program to ensure military families have access to specialized follow-up treatment and management of newborn infants with rare genetic conditions” (p. 160).

The measure would continue assistance to local education agencies (LEAs) that enroll large numbers of children of service members and to LEAs that serve children with severe disabilities (p. 123).

The Senate is expected to complete its consideration of the NDAA next week.

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