3 things DoD wants in 2019 NDAA that could affect you and your pet seal

Every year, the Defense Department sends a stack of papers over to Congress and requests lawmakers change legislation.

This year is no different. As the House Armed Services Committee prepares to markup its 2019 defense authorization bill, it’s likely some representatives will try to add some legislative suggestions from DoD.

There’s also the possibility that the Senate Armed Services Committee will add some of the Pentagon’s suggestions into its version of the bill, which is set to come out later this month.

Federal News Radio compiled a list of the most important proposals to keep you up to date on some of the changes that could come to DoD and the military in 2019.

Promotion boards

DoD has been considering changes to promotion boards since Ash Carter served as defense secretary. The Pentagon realizes it is in a talent crisis and promotion boards are the basis for retention.

For the second year in a row, DoD wants to let some officers opt out of promotion boards. The proposal would allow the secretaries of the military services to remove an officer from consideration from a promotion board when deemed in his or her best interest.

“The Department would be able to provide an officer more flexibility in determining his or her own career path by allowing the officer to perform career broadening assignments that are in the best interests of the Service without the jeopardizing promotion consideration by allowing him or her to request to ‘opt out’ of consideration by a selection board for promotion to the next higher grade,” the proposal states.

But, the “up or out” mentality hasn’t always worked to the benefit of talented officers. Officers who take unusual career paths or pursue experiences tend to be forced out of the military, despite being exactly the kind of innovative thinkers the 21st century military is trying to recruit.

Promotion boards, at times, will end up picking someone with operational experience in Iraq over a Rhodes Scholar. That ends up going counter to DoD’s policy decisions to prepare for future conflicts in new domains against more sophisticated adversaries.

“Mattis is forward thinking in every way and so I’m not surprised he’s interested in it. It’s heartening to see their interest because of how important it is,” said Brad Carson, former Army Secretary and Force of the Future architect.

Center for a New American Security Research Associate Lauren Fish said the proposal is a great way to keep talent in the ranks.

“By allowing officers to extend their time in grade without penalty, more officers would be interested in career-broadening assignments or educational opportunities without the concern that they will be forgoing valuable time to ‘check the boxes’ that they need to for promotion,” Fish told Federal News Radio. “This reform would be a great first step toward increasing the flexibility in human capital management to both create more well-rounded officers with broad experience, as well as institute policies more consistent with civilian employment, where getting new experiences or education increase your saliency for promotion, rather hurt your chances of promotion tied to stringent timelines.”

Direct commissioning

The military is already tooling around with direct commissioning when it comes to cyber experts, but now it wants to expand who can be commissioned.

Direct commissioning allows the military to bring someone from the civilian world into the military as a rank colonel or below. It allows DoD to bring in talented people at higher pay grades and leadership positions without forcing them to go through the ranks from the beginning.

DoD suggests adding scientific career fields, technical fields and other “difficult-to-fill” fields for direct commissioning.

The Army’s first directly commissioned cyber officers are expected to go on duty this month.

Mammals

Bad news for marine mammals. DoD wants a five-year exemption from the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 when conducting readiness exercises.

The act makes it illegal to harass, feed, capture, collect or kill a marine mammal without a permit.

DoD claims it already has to comply with the act through other laws like the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

“Environmental planning documents must be prepared [and] oftentimes an environmental impact statement, regardless of whether the ESA or NEPA regulatory threshold for reinitiation or supplementation have been reached. The administrative cost for the Navy’s At-Sea environmental analysis for the years 2005 through 2017 was $362.5 million. The Navy would benefit from this legislation as this change will bring certainty to the Navy’s ability to conduct mission essential testing, training and research activities,” the proposal states.

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