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Quick Look at Authorization Act

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 1998 – A 3.6 percent military pay raise, a TRICARE demonstration project, revamping of the military pharmacy system and changes in reserve component benefits are just a few of the programs in the 1999 Strom Thurmond National Defense Authorization Act.

The act, named in honor of the 95-year-old South Carolinian who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, also authorizes $1.86 billion for fiscal 1999 Bosnia operations.

The pay raise was .5 percent more than President Clinton requested in his budget proposal. The raise matches that scheduled for federal civilian workers. President Clinton has already agreed to a 4.4 percent pay raise in fiscal 2000.

The act increases flight pay for enlisted members. E-7 to E-9 will receive $240 per month flight pay. E-6 personnel will receive $215; E-5s, $190; and E-4s, $165. The act will also allow members in Active Guard and Reserve status to receive selective re-enlistment bonuses.

The act authorizes special retention incentives for critically short military specialties. Incentives include family support and leave allowances, increased re-enlistment bonuses, government repayment of educational loans, priority for assignments, modified leave policies and special consideration for government housing. A military occupational specialty is considered critically short if its fiscal 1998 retention is less than 50 percent of the service's need.

Active duty end strength for DoD is set at 1,395,778, down about 35,000 from fiscal 1998. Army strength figures are set at 480,000; Navy at 372,696; Marines, 172,200; and Air Force, 370,882.

Reserve component end strength is set at 877,322, with 8,000 more in the Coast Guard Reserve. The total is down 8,000 from fiscal 1998. The Army Guard is set at 357,223, the Army Reserve at 208,003, Naval Reserve, 90,843; Marine Corps Reserve, 40,018; Air National Guard, 106,992; and Air Force Reserve, 74,243.

Reservists will be allowed to use the commissary and exchanges 24 times a year rather than the 12 previously authorized. Reservists who have to fly to get to drills will be allowed to get government rates when they buy their tickets.

The act also authorizes the president to call up to 200,000 reserve component members in the event of or threat of an attack by terrorists or rogue nations using weapons of mass destruction.

The act orders the department to provide separate and secure housing for male and female trainees during basic training. This must be in effect by April 15, 1999. Also in the legislation is a sense of the House provision saying male and female recruits should be assigned to separate flights, platoons or divisions during basic training. This provision does not have the force of law.

The act covers the defense health system. Health affairs will receive a total of $9.6 billion in fiscal 1999. The act calls on DoD to overhaul the military pharmacy system. The department must report its plans to Congress by March 1, 1999, and those plans must include private sector "best practices." DoD must report estimated redesign costs both to the government and to TRICARE beneficiaries, and it must assess customer satisfaction and any impact the pharmacy changes have on military readiness.

The legislation orders DoD to establish a system to monitor service members' access to the TRICARE system and the timeliness of appointments.

The legislation includes a three-year demonstration program to allow Medicare-eligible retirees and their families to enroll in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. The test will be run in six to 10 geographic locations and could cover up to 66,000 beneficiaries.

The legislation forbids the department from breaking up the Defense Commissary Agency and stops the department from consolidating the services' exchange systems. The commission studying exchange consolidation may continue its work, but legislation will be required to actually consolidate them.

Readiness was big in the budget. Operations and maintenance accounts were $17 billion for the Army, $21.5 billion for the Navy, $2.5 billion for the Marine Corps, and $18.7 billion for the Air Force. Defensewide activities came in at $10.5 billion.

The Army Reserve received $1.2 billion; the Naval Reserve, $921 million; Marine Corps Reserve, $118 million; Air Force Reserve, $1.7 billion; Army National Guard, $2.5 billion; and the Air National Guard, $3 billion.

The legislation gives DoD until Jan. 15, 2000, to put into place more accurate ways of tracking readiness across the services. The act also adds more money to advertising budgets

The legislation calls on the military to hold at least 25 major exercises through Sept. 1999, to test Year 2000 problem solutions. Each unified command must hold at least two exercises in a simulated Year 2000 environment.

Procurement funding went up for the first time since the drawdown began. Total fiscal 1999 procurement is set at $49.7 billion. Key procurements are in the Ballistic Missile Defense Office, which will receive $3.5 billion, and the National Missile Defense program, which will receive $950 million.

Military planners need to develop theater missile defense programs. The Navy's Theater Wide program received $310 million, more than the president requested. The Navy Area Defense and Army Patriot 3 programs were on the money, respectively at $289 million and $480 million. Congress responded to recent test failures in the Theater High Altitude Area Defense program by cutting its budget $294 million; funding for the troubled program is $527 million in fiscal 1999.

Aircraft programs include $2.9 billion for 30 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft. DoD will spend $742.8 million in fiscal 1999 for eight Marine Corps V-22 Osprey aircraft. The Army Comanche helicopter program received $392 million; this will allow the service to speed up research and possibly deploy the aircraft with the first digitized corps in 2004.

The legislation authorizes DoD to spend $934.5 million on the Joint Strike Fighter program, and $241.6 million for F-15 modifications and upgrades and 22 T-6A Texan trainer aircraft.

The act authorizes $124.5 million for advanced procurement of another aircraft carrier and $110 million for development of the next-generation carrier. The Navy will receive three new Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers and $85 million for a demonstration model of a proposed class of gun-armed, offshore- support destroyers. A total of $2 billion goes to the second new attack submarine.

The Army must report to Congress on the Crusader self-propelled howitzer program before it is allowed to spend the full $313 million authorized in fiscal 1999.

The act authorized DoD to spend $53 million for a next- generation Internet. Scientists expect the future Internet to work 100 to 1,000 times faster than today's. DoD's project partners are the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the National institute of Science and Technology and NASA. A total of $300 million will go to the project over the next three fiscal years.

Other authorizations include:

  • $725 million for drug interdiction and counterdrug programs.
  • $440 million for cooperative threat reduction efforts.
  • Funds for a DoD-Department of Veterans Affairs conference with veterans organizations to determine how to increase the availability of funeral honors for veterans.
  • Repeal of the land-mine moratorium that would have taken effect in February 1999.
  • A DoD review of the need for two new military decorations -- one for service members killed or wounded under noncombat conditions, and one to recognize U.S. civilian nationals killed or wounded while serving with the U.S. armed forces.
  • Payment by DoD for rental cars for individuals if their personal vehicles being shipped by the government are late.
  • Promotion of retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. to general.
  • Payment of advances to service members when they are moving.
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