4 NDAA amendments to watch as Senate takes up bill

Financial literacy, parental leave and contracting issues are all being addressed by amendments to the 2018 defense authorization bill.

The Senate is likely voting on the 2018 defense authorization bill sometime this week or next and with it are nearly 400 amendments.

Those amendments have the potential to add important provisions to the bill that affect personnel, strategy and policy.

While all of them won’t pass, ones that fail can still be used to gauge support on an issue depending on how many votes it gets.

Federal News Radio put together a list of important amendments for you to watch as the Senate decides which amendments make it to the floor and possibly into the bill.

Parental leave

When former Defense Secretary Ash Carter was in office during the end of the Obama administration, he made a big push to make the military more conducive to family life.

Carter expanded maternity leave to 12 weeks and paternity leave from 10 to 14 days.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) wants to solidify Carter’s policy into law and expand paternity leave even farther.

Her amendment gives service members 12 weeks or 84 days of parental leave regardless of sex or marital status.

The leave must coincide with the birth of a child, the adoption of a child or the placement of a child in foster care with the service member.

Duckworth is a veteran herself. She lost both of her legs and damaged her right arm in a helicopter crash while serving in the Iraq War.

Duckworth had her first child in 2014.

Cybersecurity training

The military is constantly trying to recruit people with cyber skills. The Defense Department is setting up its Cyber Mission Forces, a group of 133 teams to defend DoD networks, defend the homeland and work in contingency operations.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) wants to start training cyber service members at an even younger age.

His amendment sets up a cybersecurity training program for the Army Senior Reserve Officers Training Corps called Army Cyber ROTC.

The program will expend military science instruction in ROTC to include coursework and summer training opportunities for students on cybersecurity. It will also establish criteria for the selection of cyber operations officers when students graduate from ROTC.

The amendment requires the program to go into effect during the 2018-2019 academic year at no fewer than five civilian educational institutions.

Bad contractors beware

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) wants to hold contractors accountable for their past transgressions. She’s introducing two amendments that will penalize contractors who discriminate against their employees.

Murray’s amendment bars DoD from entering into a contract with a person or business that discriminated against employees on the basis of sex through payment.

Businesses that have violated the law in the past three years will be unable to enter in a contract with DoD that is more than $500,000.

Murray’s other amendment keeps DoD from entering in contracts with businesses that owe employees or former employees more than a cumulative $100,000 in unpaid wages and associated damages resulting from violations of the law.

Financial Literacy

Murray is also looking out for the troops when it comes to spending wages wisely. Murray introduced an amendment requiring the Defense Secretary to develop programs of financial literacy to assist service members in understanding retirement options and planning for retirement.

DoD has made a few past efforts to better the financial literacy of its employees.

Celebrity financial planner Suze Orman offers her online finance courses for free to the military after partnering with the Army.

Military families are struggling with financial literacy.

The 2015 First Command Financial Behaviors Index found more than half of service members failed a financial literacy test. Middle class military families averaged a grade of 69 on the test.

The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission came to similar conclusions in its 2015 report.

“This shortfall in financial literacy training has been a long-standing issue,” the report stated. “Existing financial literacy programs do not adequately educate Service members and their families on financial matters. … Weaknesses in financial literacy are adversely affecting Service members and their families. A bad credit report, a debt-collection action, or other financial problems can be devastating for a Service member’s career and can affect the mission readiness of a unit, which often cannot use a Service member who has lost a security clearance due to financial problems.”

The commission recommended increasing financial literacy training, enhancing the content and hiring professional training firms to provide the training.

It also wanted the Defense secretary and other top Defense Department officials to reinforce the importance of financial literacy.

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