So far, 546 amendments have been filed for the House version of the 2019 defense authorization bill.
Those amendments range from who can use military fitness centers to offshore drilling to military maternity leave.
Federal News Radio sorted through those amendments and found some that will matter the most to our readers.
Fitness centers for vets
Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) is proposing a way for veterans to use fitness centers operated by military bases. The amendment offers use of fitness centers operated off-base to military veterans.
The commanding officer of the base has a say in granting access. The officer will take into account the capacity of the center and make sure it does not impede readiness to let the veterans use the facility.
The commanding officer will also take into account what effect veterans will have on the operation and maintenance expenses of the center.
Women in the military
Women are becoming more and more of a crucial demographic for the military. A handful of amendments aim to better the recruitment and retention of women in the military.
Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) proposed the creation and use of exit surveys for women so the Defense Department can better understand why attrition rates for women are higher than men.
The Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services tagged the female attrition rate as a issue in their 2017 annual report.
“There is concern across all of the branches at mid-career retention for women versus men. All of the services in varying career fields, at varying points but still within that mid-range of a 20-year career, they are experiencing challenges with women leaving at higher rates,” said Janet Wolfenbarger, chairwoman of the committee, in March.
Wolfenbarger said DoD already began using the exit survey, but it is still not stipulated in law.
Meng also filed another amendment that would permit non-continuous maternity and paternity leave for service members. A similar amendment from Meng will remove marriage stipulations from parental leave policies.
A separate amendment would protect any service member from being deployed for one year after giving birth, unless requested.
Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) wants DoD to examine successful strategies of foreign militaries for recruiting and retaining women. She also filed an amendment requiring the defense secretary to review and enhance transition assistance programs to better meet the unique needs of women leaving the military.
There’s no more drama with the transgender ban in the bill this year. With the ban tied up in court, the administration must continue to let transgender people serve.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) is now challenging transgender training. His amendment would ensure no funds authorize enforcement of transgender sensitivity training.
Education savings accounts
A big battle is brewing over children’s education in the military. Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) wants to create education savings accounts so children of service members can join private schools instead of military schools.
Democrats are ardently opposed to the amendment as is the National Military Family Association.
“These education savings accounts would provide choices for a very unique population that literally is begging for it,” Banks said at an event sponsored by the Heritage Foundation. “The emotional stories that we’ve already heard since we’ve begun working on the bill, the stories that we’re accumulating of families who say, ‘This is the single reason we’ve been thinking about getting out of the military.’ That’s a profound impact of a piece of legislation like this that would serve.”
Eligible families would receive $2,500 or $4,500 per child annually through their ESAs, based on how many children from military families, as a percentage, are enrolled in the public school districts where they reside. The parents of more than 126,000 children would be eligible to receive ESA payments under the legislation.
However, opponents say the amendment takes money way from military schools.
“Proposals to divert Impact Aid from schools that educate concentrations of military-connected students are short sighted and will only reduce opportunities for all students in these school districts. We urge Congress to preserve Impact Aid and ensure it is fully funded,” the Military Child Education Coalition, the Military Officers Association of America, National Military Family Association, the National Association of Federally Impacted School and the Military Impacted Schools Association said in a joint statement.
National Security Adviser John Bolton shocked a lot of people eliminating the White House cybersecurity coordinator position.
Lawmakers like Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) called it a step in the wrong direction.
Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Beto O’Rourke (Texas) offered an amendment to prohibit the president from eliminating the position of cybersecurity coordinator from the National Security Council staff.
On the electronic front, DoD is battling security issues with Chinese manufacturers ZTE and Huawei Technologies Company. The Pentagon already pulled ZTE products from some of its on-base exchanges and told service members to be wary of using products made by the manufactures.
Rep. Mike Gallagher(R-Wis.) offered an amendment disallowing the entry of products from those companies into the U.S. until the director of national intelligence, the defense secretary and the secretary of homeland security certify the products do not pose a risk to national security.