Lawmakers address transition, NDAA in letters

Lawmakers broke out their stationery yesterday, writing two letters that may have impacts on the immediate future of the Defense Department.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) directly addressed Defense Secretary Ash Carter in his letter, asking him to refrain from implementing any “midnight policies.”

Additionally, House Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee Chairman Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) joined 21 other members of the House in urging Congress to stay in session until it passed the 2017 defense authorization bill.

McCain’s letter asks Carter not to move forward with the implementation of any new rules or regulations that would change long-standing policy during the presidential transition and the lame-duck session of Congress.

“Many of the Department’s recent actions in this regard have been questionable and misguided, and any effort to continue in that direction during a presidential transition and lame-duck session of Congress would be inappropriate,” McCain wrote in the letter.

He added that military personnel policy will continue to be a priority for the defense committees during the next Congress.

McCain was critical of Carter’s Force of the Future initiative, which reformed personnel policy to attract more talent to the military.

The reforms included increasing maternity leave, extending daycare hours and extending combat roles to women.

“Many of these Force of the Future proposals appear to be solutions in search of a problem,” McCain said during a February hearing. “I find it deeply disturbing that you are proposing to add expensive fringe benefits allegedly aimed at retention during a time when we are asking 3,000 excellent Army captains to leave the service who would have otherwise chosen to remain on active duty. From my perspective, this initiative has been an outrageous waste of official time and resources during a period of severe fiscal constraints. It illustrates the worst aspects of a bloated and inefficient defense organization.”

Resisting adjournment before passage of NDAA

Wilson’s letter asks House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to “resist any proposed adjournment” before it passes this year’s defense authorization bill.

The House is back in session on Nov. 28, but no votes are scheduled until 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 29. The House will adjourn for the year on Dec. 16.

The NDAA is a rare bill in that it has been signed into law for 54 consecutive years.

“This year’s NDAA includes vital provisions to restore readiness, reform military health care, extend counterterrorism authorities and provided needed pay raises for our troops. We must pass this critical legislation that supports our troops, veterans and military families,” the letter stated.

The House and Senate are still in conference trying to hammer out their difference on the NDAA.

Even if Congress can pass the bill before it leaves for the year, there is no guarantee it will make it into law.

The White House made it clear this summer it would veto the Senate and House versions of the bill.

The Obama administration balked at the House’s rearranging of contingency funds to pay for an increased military pay raise and higher force structure.

Basically, the House version forces Congress to pass a supplemental in April to continue funding the wars overseas. The White House called the move irresponsible.

The executive branch objected to military health care reforms, acquisition policy changes and personnel tweaks in the Senate bill.

What comes out of the conference is still yet to be determined and it is possible the two houses may water down the bill language to ensure passage.

Read the latest news about the incoming administration on our Tracking the Transition page.

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