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The Senate version of the defense authorization bill is set to go to the floor on Thursday and it will take with it 93 new amendments that were folded into the original bill.
We already know the bill creates a space force, gives service members a 3.1 percent raise and authorizes $750 billion for the defense budget. But these amendments add fresh provisions that may affect your life or job.
We’ve compiled a handful of those amendments that stand out as the whole bill heads to the floor.
The Defense Department conducted its first audit in 2018, and obviously did not pass. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) wants to give Congress some teeth if the Pentagon is obviously wasting money.
Sanders’ provision states that after 2024, any part of DoD that has not achieved an unqualified opinion on its full financial statements will be penalized. An unqualified opinion is an opinion that financial statements are fairly and appropriately presented.
If the agency fails to meet that standard it will be penalized by one half a percent of its budget or $100 million, whichever is smaller.
The funds will be put into the Treasury for the purpose of deficit reduction.
Another provision, authored by Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), establishes a pilot program allowing federal agencies to partner with cybersecurity organizations to better cybersecurity threat sharing and to prevent malicious attacks.
The provision would allow information sharing regarding potential actions by the government against threats and facilitating action between federal and non-federal entities relating to threats.
One possible outcome of the information sharing is that the government could inform some companies or state governments of a coming cyber attack on another nation, so those non-federal organizations can bolster protection against that virus.
Education savings plan
One of the more controversial measures is a pilot program that allows military families to save money in an account so their children can attend a private school, online school or pay for tutoring.
Families could save up to $6,000 a year and unused money would roll over into the next year.
“Funds leftover after a student’s high school graduation can be used to finance attendance at an institution of higher education, costs associated with vocation programs and fees for state-recognized industry certification exams,” said a press release from Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who authored the amendment.
Sasse argues that the provision will help bring in and retain top performers.
“America fights to win. That takes top-notch talent. Recruitment and retainment are a real component to national security,” Sasse said. “If we’re going to face down global threats with the best and brightest, we need to make it easy for those moms and dads to take care of their families. Sadly, making the decision to defend our freedom sometimes means that service members’ kids miss out on the best education options available. That’s unacceptable. Our bill helps fix this by letting military families customize their kids’ education, and by empowering them to find the opportunities that best fit their needs. Members of our armed services deserve the best we’ve got, and so do their kids.”
The idea has long been pushed by the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Opponents of the provision say it takes funds away from the public school districts in which the children live.
It was a terrible year for military housing. Reports of lead paint, mold, mice and other substandard living conditions in privatized military housing surfaced.
Since then the military services and DoD have been scrambling to fix homes, work with property managers and investigate issues in the chain of command.
Sen. Kamala Harris’ (D-Calif.) provision designates the chief housing officer to investigate all reports of reprisal against service members who report issues with their homes
If reports of reprisal are substantiated, DoD can then consider the landlord in material breach of contract.
Many of the housing companies are in long-term contracts with DoD — some lasting 50 years. The provision gives DoD a chance to get away from companies not doing their jobs.