U.S. troops are all but guaranteed a 3% pay raise next year under legislation that passed the Senate Thursday.
The Senate passed its version of the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act Thursday. The $740 billion bill contains numerous personnel initiatives, including the second consecutive 3% pay raise for service members, and hazardous duty pay for troops responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If signed into the law, the legislation would also make changes designed to standardize the military services' Exceptional Family Member Programs, improve housing for military families and halt a planned reduction of teachers within Department of Defense Education Activity schools.
The measure also includes incentive pay to retain military health officers, increases funding for child care facilities, adds money for research on industrial chemicals used in firefighting foam and packaging and expands the list of diseases linked to Agent Orange exposure.
"The NDAA gives our military the personnel, equipment, training and organization needed to implement the National Defense Strategy and thwart any adversary who would try to do us harm," said Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the committee's ranking Democrat, called the bill an "important step" toward wise investment for the future.
"Mindful of new risks, as well as unfolding and unprecedented unemployment and budget challenges, Congress must wisely invest every defense dollar in a cost-effective and forward-looking manner," he said.
The bill would create a commission to study removing Confederate names from Defense Department assets within three years -- a measure that will need to be sorted out when the House and Senate meet to develop the final version of the bill that will go to President Donald Trump for a signature.
The House bill would force the military to take action to change the names of bases and facilities named after Confederates within a year. The Senate version of the bill incorporates similar provisions to remove Confederate names from bases over three years.
Trump has threatened to veto any measure to remove the name of Confederate leaders from Army installations. On Tuesday, the White House released a statement listing the items Trump finds objectionable in the House's bill, saying it is "part of a sustained effort to erase from the history of the nation those who do not meet an ever-shifting standard of conduct."
Other items that pertain to personnel policy in the bill include:
- Mandating that DoD develop and field body armor that properly fits female soldiers
- Providing additional ways for service members to report sexual assault
- Requiring DoD to better track and respond to incidents of child abuse on military installations.
The vote was 86-14. The two chambers will next name a committee of members to develop a compromise bill. The House approved its version of the fiscal 2021 authorization bill Tuesday.
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