Clinton Signs Authorization Act, Pay, TRICARE Affected
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 31, 2000 A 3.7 percent military pay raise, TRICARE changes, military modernization and lifetime medical benefits are just some of the aspects of the Floyd D. Spence National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001 that President Clinton signed into law Oct. 30.
The act gives DoD permission to spend an authorized overall budget of $309.9 billion. The fiscal 2001 appropriations act signed in August actually provided the money.
The authorization act set total military fiscal 2001 end strength at 1,382,242. The Army's end strength is 480,000; the Navy's, 372,642; Air Force's, 357,000; and the Marines', 172,600. The Selected Reserve end strength is 874,664 with the Army National Guard's at 350,526, the Army Reserve's 205,300 and the Naval Reserve's at 88,900. The Marine Corps Reserve will have 39,558 members, the Air National Guard is set at 108,022; the Air Force Reserve at 74,358; and the Coast Guard Reserve, 8,000.
End strength is down 3,190 from fiscal 2000 for the active force and up by 4,366 for the Selected Reserve.
Service members did particularly well in quality of life expenditures. In addition to the 3.7 percent across-the- board pay raise that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2001, service members in pay grades E-5 to E-7 will receive a targeted, one-time monthly raise of $32 to $59 starting July 1, 2001.
Congress has added funds to the Basic Allowance for Housing to reduce out-of-pocket expenses service members must pay if they live off base. Currently, service members living off base pay an average of 19 percent of their housing costs out-of-pocket. The money will bring that average to 15 percent in fiscal 2001. The legislation authorizes the defense secretary to raise BAH rates to eliminate out-of- pocket expenses by fiscal 2005.
The act extends the military housing privatization program. The program allows commercial firms to build and run military family housing areas.
Another pay action calls for active and reserve military personnel to be able to use the Thrift Savings Plan. The plan, long a part of the Federal Employees Retirement System, would allow military personnel to invest a percentage of their pre-tax pay toward retirement. Taxes on participants' investments and earnings are deferred while in the plan. Details remain to be worked out, but the act calls for the system to be up and running 360 days after the president signs the legislation.
The budget changes the TRICARE military medical system in several ways. For active duty personnel, TRICARE Prime Remote now covers family members as well as active duty personnel. The act also eliminates co-payments for active duty family members enrolled in TRICARE Prime. It also allows travel reimbursements to those who must go more than 100 miles to see a TRICARE health-care provider.
The biggest TRICARE change, however, covers Medicare- eligible retirees. The act restructures TRICARE to allow Medicare-eligible military retirees and their family members to continue their coverage beginning in fiscal 2002. Under the plan, Medicare-eligible beneficiaries would pay no co-pays, deductibles or TRICARE enrollment fees or premiums. Retirees can receive care under Medicare; also, any medical expense not covered by Medicare will be paid by TRICARE.
The act also expands the mail-order pharmacy service to cover all beneficiaries, including Medicare-eligible retirees.
The act authorizes $63.2 billion in procurement. The account, also called modernization, hits the $60 billion number Defense Secretary William S. Cohen called for in 1997.
Big ticket items in procurement include $4 billion for a Nimitz-class carrier, $2.7 billion for three Arleigh Burke- class destroyers, $1.2 billion for a Virginia-class attack submarine and $1.5 billion for two San Antonio-class amphibious ships. The act also funds 16 MV-22 Osprey tilt- rotor aircraft, 12 C-17 strategic airlift jets and 10 F-22 Raptor stealth aircraft.
The act funds Army transformation efforts to the tune of $1.3 billion in fiscal 2001. These efforts will result in a more mobile and more lethal force able to cover the range of operations the Army may face in the future. The act calls on the Army secretary to report to the Senate and House armed services committees with a "road map" charting the progress of the Army through 2012. The act authorizes the Army to procure medium-weight armored vehicles to test them against the transformation concept.
The act provides $2.1 billion for the National Missile Defense program and $2.7 billion for Theater Missile Defense. TMD breaks down to $550 million for the Theater High-Altitude Missile Defense program, $462.7 million for the Navy Theater-Wide program, $274.2 million for the Navy Area Defense program, and $365.5 million to procure additional Patriot-3 missiles.
The Joint Strike Fighter is the next generation ground attack aircraft. The mammoth program will provide single- engine attack aircraft to the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. Congress is concerned the services are rushing the program. The total authorization for JSF in fiscal 2001 is $688.6 million. In the act, Congress called on the defense secretary to report on the criteria before the JSF enters the engineering, manufacturing and development phase of the procurement. DoD cannot enter this phase until the defense secretary certifies the key technologies in the craft are "sufficiently mature."
Other procurement actions include:
- $244.2 million for Joint Direct Attack Munitions. These precision-guided weapons proved their worth over Yugoslavia and are the focus of NATO's Defense Capabilities Initiative.
- $109.2 million for Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles, the "UAV of the future." The act also provides $32.1 million to upgrade the current Predator UAV.
- $149.8 million for two F-15E Eagle all-weather air-to- surface aircraft.
- $46 million for a 16th E-8C Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System aircraft.
- $614 million for the Army Comanche helicopter engineering, manufacturing and development program phases. There are two prototypes. Initial operating capability is set for fiscal 2006.
- $206 million for 18 Black Hawk helicopters for the Army National Guard -- 16 regular and two air ambulances.
- $39.9 billion for fiscal 2001 research and development, including $85 million for the Air Force Airborne Laser program, $24.4 million for chemical and biological protection R&D, $30 million for high-energy laser research, $274 million for R&D for the Navy's 21st century aircraft carrier, and $539.8 million for R&D of the Navy's future Zumwalt-class destroyers.
- $109.7 billion in operations and maintenance funds.