Comparison of House and Senate Defense Bills

The House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, H.R. 1960) passed the House last Friday (315-108). The Senate version of the legislation (S. 1197) has been approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee and is awaiting consideration by the full Senate.

Neither bill authorizes the increases to TRICARE enrollment fees for military retirees (Prime, Standard and TRICARE-for-Life) that were requested in the Administration’s FY 2014 budget, and the bills differ on military pay – the House authorized a 1.8-percent pay hike, while the Senate capped the increase at 1.0 percent.  The House bill also requires the Defense Department (DoD) to make a one-time offer of continue coverage for TRICARE Prime beneficiaries who live in areas where the Prime option will be discontinued as of October 1, 2013. The House-approved version of the bill also authorizes “veteran status” for members of the Reserve Component who served 20 or more years. The Senate bill mandates the Military lending Act (MLA) be enforced by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and allows retirees participating in the Survivor Benefit Program (SBP) to designate that benefits go into a Special Needs Trust for disabled children.

Both versions have extensive, albeit different, provisions aimed at preventing sexual assault, improving prosecution of perpetrators and protecting victims of sexual assault. Currently both bills reduce overall military end strength by 40,000 (7,100 cut in Marine Corps manpower and 900 increase in Navy end strength.) and provide additional Impact Aid ($25 million) for public schools serving children of military personnel. Although the full Senate has yet to debate its version of the legislation and Senate floor amendments are yet to be filed, neither bill addresses improvements for concurrent receipt; repeal of SBP/DIC offset, reform of the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA) and other improvements the Association supports. And neither version accounts for FY 2014 DoD sequestration cuts of $52 billion that will take effect if alternative spending cuts are not approved prior to September 30, 2013.

Once both chambers approve their respective bills, a conference committee will reconcile the differences between the two measures.