Earlier this week the House Armed Services Committee voted unanimously to pass its defense authorization bill. The marathon markup lasted almost until midnight, and a lot of extra provisions made it into the bill.
We’ve compiled a handful of some of the more important amendments that will go into the House version of this year’s policy bill.
A pass on marijuana
The Defense Department has been trying to retain the pool of talented people in the military. Currently, getting caught with marijuana while not in uniform can keep you from reenlisting again. But as the nation’s views on marijuana are changing, so are some lawmakers’ thoughts on the issue.
A provision submitted by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) allows the leaders of the military services to grant a reenlistment waiver to people who have left the military, gotten a misdemeanor cannabis charge, and want to come back in.
The waiver can be granted if the military official thinks the person is vital to the national interest.
Slap on the wrist
Congress is trying to keep the defense secretary from traveling too much unless he starts reporting top-line troop numbers again.
An amendment, introduced by Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), is in response to former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ policy of stopping the routine policy of reporting how many troops are deployed to certain countries.
The provision holds 25% of the defense secretary’s travel funds until top-line numbers are made available again.
Thinking about cuts
Over the years, Congress has asked the Defense Department and military services to cut down on some headquarters staff. That includes civilian employees.
But now, the House wants to make sure those cuts aren’t made without some thought. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan’s (D-Penn.) amendment requires DoD to conduct “an appropriate analysis of the impacts of reductions on workload, military force structure, lethality, readiness, operational effectiveness, stress on the military force, and fully burdened costs” when reducing the civilian workforce.
Privatized military housing
Congress is still working on holding private companies responsible for service member houses that were neglected and filled with mold and pests.
Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.) sponsored a lengthy amendment that standardizes mitigation efforts in privatized housing. Her amendment requires DoD to provide guidance on displaced families returning to their homes and the availability of reimbursement. The bill also establishes a working group to create policy for making a determination for when there is mold in a house and a family should be relocated.
The amendment creates a liaison for exceptional military families, and requires DoD to report on criteria and metrics used to evaluate the performance of landlords who receive incentive fees.
Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) has been trying to get answers on the impact of climate change to military facilities for a long time. His bipartisan efforts have produced reports from DoD, but none of them have been up to snuff in his and other lawmakers’ opinions.
This year he’s asking DoD to update its 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap to include “an outline of the strategy and implementation plan to address the current and foreseeable effects of climate change on the mission of the Department of Defense.”
The strategy is supposed to include an overarching approach to climate change, a discussion of current and foreseeable effects on plans, geopolitical stability, operating environment in the Arctic and demand for support to civil authorities.
The strategy would also address effects on investments, availability of materials and effects on military bases.