Report on Military Personnel Issues before Congress

September 23, 2020 8:48 AM

The following is the Sept. 18, 2020 Congressional Research Service report, FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act: Selected Military Personnel Issues.

From the report

Each year, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provides authorization of appropriations for a range of Department of Defense (DOD) and national security programs and related activities. New or clarified defense policies, organizational reform, and directed reports to Congress are often included. For FY2020, the NDAA (P.L. 116-92) addresses or attempts to resolve high-profile military personnel issues. Some are required annual authorizations (e.g., end-strengths); some are updates or modifications to existing programs; and some are issues identified in certain military personnel programs.

In the FY2020 NDAA, Congress authorized end-strengths identical to the Administration’s FY2020 budget proposal. The authorized active duty end-strength increased by about 1% to 1,339,500. The authorized Selected Reserves end-strength decreased by about 2% to 807,800. A 3.1% increase in basic military pay took effect on January 1, 2020. This increase is identical to the Administration’s FY2020 budget proposal and equal to the automatic annual adjustment amount directed by statutory formula (37 U.S.C. §1009).

Congress also directed modifications to several existing personnel programs, including

  • extension of DOD Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) privileges to Foreign Service Officers on mandatory home leave;
  • repeal of the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) and Veterans Affairs’ Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) offset requirement (i.e., the widows’ tax);
  • modification of DOD workplace and command climate surveys to include questions relating to experiences with supremacist activity, extremist activity, or racism;
  • expansion of Special Victim Counsel services for victims of domestic violence;
  • prohibition of gender-segregated Marine Corps recruit training;
  • expansion of spouse employment and education programs, including reimbursement for relicensing costs associated with military relocations;
  • clarified roles and responsibilities for senior military medical leaders assigned to the Defense Health Agency or a service medical department; and
  • medical documentation and tracking requirements for servicemembers or family members exposed to certain environmental or occupational hazards (e.g., lead, open air burn pits, blast pressure).

As part of the oversight process, several provisions address selected congressional items of interest, including

  • DOD review of service records of certain World War I veterans for potential eligibility for a posthumously awarded Medal of Honor;
  • a process for former servicemembers to appeal decisions issued by a Board of Correction of Military Records or a Discharge Review Board;
  • a feasibility study on the creation of a database to track domestic violence military protective orders and reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System;
  • transparency on military medical malpractice, including the ability for servicemembers to file administrative claims against the United States; and
  • limitations on the reduction of military medical personnel.

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