Most of the major military policy changes to be passed by Congress this year will be unveiled over the next two weeks, as House and Senate lawmakers offer up their first drafts of the annual defense authorization bill.
The House Armed Services Committee will release their draft first, starting with seven subcommittee markups on Tuesday and Wednesday. Next week, the committee and its counterpart in the Senate are scheduled to finalize those proposals, sending them to the full chamber membership for votes later this summer.
The work typically takes place in May, but was delayed by a month because of the debt limit fight among lawmakers. The negotiated deal to raise the country’s borrowing powers included plans for $886 billion in defense spending next year, a figure that should serve as the baseline for the policy debates in the next few days.
The authorization bill is a massive defense policy measure, dictating outlines for military spending and service policy changes. This year’s versions are expected to focus heavily on recruiting and retention issues, given the struggles that military officials have reported in meeting personnel levels over the last two years.
The measure is one of the few pieces of legislation to pass annually, even amid the partisan strife on Capitol Hill. Congress has advanced the defense authorization bill to the president’s desk for 62 consecutive years, making it a reliable and attractive vehicle for a host of veteran and military policy changes over the years.
Along with the military annual pay raise and targets for service end strength, the legislation in recent years has also included mandates to drop the names of Confederate fighters from military bases, a repeal of military COVID-19 vaccine requirements, and numerous reforms to military and veterans benefits.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.
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