2019 $716B Defense Authorization Act signed into law

2019 $716B Defense Authorization Act signed into law

Thursday, August 30, 2018

For the first time since 1978, the defense policy bill cleared Congress and was signed into law before September.

The $716 billion John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 includes $616.9 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget, another $69 billion for the overseas contingency operations and $21.9 billion for nuclear weapons programs under the Energy Department.

In addition to increasing Regular Army troop numbers by 4,000 to a new end strength of 487,500, the bill authorized a 2.6 percent pay raise for members of the Armed Forces.

The pay raise will be the largest increase in nine years.

Modernizing officer personnel management – Lawmakers approved the most significant changes in nearly 40 years to military officer promotions and retention. The legislation:

  • Repeals the requirement that officers must be able to complete 20 years of service by age 62 as qualification for original appointment as a regular commissioned officer.
  • Enhances the availability of constructive service credit for private sector training or experience upon original appointment as a commissioned officer.
  • Authorizes officers in the grades of O2 – O5 to temporarily be promoted to the next rank/grade up to O-6 if serving in a specialty or skill deemed critical by the service secretary. Designates the number of officers who may serve in this capacity as follows: O-3 (120); O-4 (350); O-5 (200); O-6 (100).
  • Allows the Secretary of the military department concerned to re-order the promotion list accordingly.
  • Allows officers to opt out of promotion boards with the Secretary of a military department’s approval. The basis for the request must be to allow an officer to complete a broadening assignment, advanced education, another assignment of significant value to the Department, or a career progression requirement delayed by the assignment or education. Also, the officer cannot be previously passed over for selection for promotion to the grade for which the officer requests the exclusion from consideration.
  • Allows the Secretary of the military department to authorize an officer in a grade above grade O–2 to remain on active duty after the date otherwise provided for the retirement of the officer if the officer has a military occupational specialty, rating, or specialty code in a military specialty determined by that Secretary to be critical.
  • Provides the services with the authority to tailor promotion and service continuation standards to different competitive categories. Authorities include flexibilities in selection for promotion, eligibility for consideration for promotion, opportunities for consideration for promotion, failure for selection for promotion, retirement, early retirement, and continuation on active duty.
  • Authorizes service secretaries to defer promotion consideration for reserve component service members in a non-participatory, membership-only status.

Military Spouses – The legislation sought to address employment challenges faced by military spouses by enhancing the My Career Advancement program and requiring a report on the effect of frequent moves on spouses’ careers.

Military Health Care – Military health care will see an overhaul of the administration of the Defense Health Agency (DHA) and military medical treatment facilities.

By Sept. 30, 2021, DHA will have full command and control of the military health care system. In carrying out the transition, they will not be permitted to close or downsize any medical center, hospital or ambulatory care center until they gain permission from the defense oversight committees.

Not later than Sept. 30, 2022, lawmakers ordered DHA to establish: The Defense Health Agency Research and Development, comprised of the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and other medical research organizations the Secretary of Defense deems appropriate and The Defense Health Agency Public Health, comprised of the Army, Navy/Marine, and Air Force Public Health Commands.

DHA was also ordered to establish two defense health regions in CONUS and two in OCONUS to support the combatant commands in the region. The commander or director (a member of the armed forces serving in a grade not higher than major general or rear admiral) will be responsible for beneficiary health care services and the interoperability of health care delivery systems for the region in addition to supporting the combatant commands.

Army Modernization – Lawmakers authorized $225.3 million for Stryker A1 combat vehicles and showed their support for the Army’s efforts to modernize armored combat vehicles, which includes: 135 M1 Abrams tanks, 60 Bradley fighting vehicles, 197 armored multi-purpose vehicles, 38 improved recovery vehicles, and 3,390 joint light tactical vehicles.

Army aviation was authorized $1.2 billion to procure 66 AH-64E Apaches; $1.2 billion to procure 55 UH-60M Blackhawks; and, $124 million to procure 8 CH-47 Chinooks.

The bill was signed into law by President Trump on August 13.