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Posts Tagged ‘Congress/DOD’

Housing Allowance, Retirement Benefits Remain Sticking Points for Conferees

  • July 24, 2015
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A handful of outstanding issues are hindering progress by House and Senate conferees negotiating a final version of the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill, and almost certainly will prevent talks from finishing in time for the two chambers to clear a compromise measure before leaving Washington for August recess. Issues holding up the talks include service members’ housing and retirement benefits, along with language in the House version barring the Interior Department from listing the greater sage grouse as an endangered species. Members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees have met throughout the week, but differences over those issues and others make it doubtful they will meet their target date for agreeing to a conference report, reported CQ Roll Call. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the ranking member on House Armed Services, said committee leaders were not planning to meet Thursday, making it extremely unlikely that negotiations could be completed this week …

Conference Agreement on Defense Bill May Be Delayed

  • July 23, 2015
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Lawmakers’ goal to hash out a compromise version of the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill before Congress’ August recess may be in jeopardy, according to multiple sources on Capitol Hill. As recently as last Friday, the chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services committees were hoping to complete negotiations in time for the House to take up a conference report next week, with the Senate clearing it the following week. But even as talks among House-Senate conferees continue this week, several congressional staff members have told Inside Defense that lawmakers may not agree on compromise legislation until they return to Washington in September …

Democrats Step up Pressure to Negotiate Higher Spending Caps

  • July 22, 2015
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President Obama on Tuesday reiterated his call for Republicans to negotiate higher spending levels for domestic agencies as well as the Pentagon if he is to sign any fiscal 2016 appropriations bills. “I’m calling on Republican leaders in Congress to come to the table with Democrats, sit down, negotiate a budget that protects our national security and our economic security,” Obama said at a VFW convention in Pittsburgh. “I’ve said I will veto any budget that locks in the sequester. It is not good for our country,” he said …

House Republicans Continue Support for Base in Azores

  • July 22, 2015
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House Republicans are reviewing a DOD decision to build an intelligence center in the United Kingdom as part of an ongoing effort to maintain the U.S. presence at Lajes Air Force Base, located on the Portuguese island of Terceira in the Azores. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, requested DOD documents used in making the decision to build the intelligence center at Royal Air Force Base Croughton, located outside of London, to find out why the military chose the U.K. location over Lajes, a Portuguese Air Force installation …

Member-Led Efforts to Solve Sequestration Yield Little in Results

  • July 21, 2015
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Lawmakers regularly tout their participation in behind-the-scenes talks to produce a bipartisan plan to lift the statutory spending caps on defense and domestic spending, but the reality is very little progress has been made, reports CQ. A group led by Senate Armed Services Chair John McCain (R-Ariz.), for example, has been meeting since earlier this year to resolve what McCain said was his number one priority when he took the panel’s gavel in January. Beyond talking, it’s not clear if the group has made any headway. “It would be a good idea,” McCain said of completing a plan. “But first you’ve got to agree on what to put out there. That’s why these endless discussions go on …

Defense Bill Talks Slowed over Military Compensation Issues

  • July 19, 2015
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Progress by House and Senate conferees negotiating a compromise version of the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill slowed last week due to disagreements over service members’ benefits and other key issues. As a result, the target date for the House to vote on a conference report has slipped to the week of July 27, reported CQ Roll Call. If the conferees finish work on a final version of the defense policy bill in time for the House to take it up next week, the Senate still would have time to clear a conference report the following week before starting its August recess …

BRAC Coming Soon, Principi Says

  • July 17, 2015
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A new BRAC round is closer than ever, with Congress certain to approve the next round by 2019, Anthony Principi, chairman of the 2005 BRAC Commission, said Thursday. “If I was a betting man, between now and 2019, I’d say 100 percent,” Principi, chairman of the Principi Group, told the Tampa Tribune following the monthly meeting of the Florida Defense Support Task Force. The new round most likely would be conducted in 2019, he said, although there is a chance that a grand bargain between Congress and the White House could force a BRAC to be held in 2017 …

Legislation Easing Way for Veterans to Access Local Services Reintroduced in Senate

  • July 17, 2015
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Transitioning veterans could more easily gain access to services and benefits available in their communities, such as health care and housing, employment and education assistance, under bipartisan legislation introduced Thursday by Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Angus King (I-Maine) and John Boozman (R-Ark.). The Connect with Veterans Act, first introduced last year by Heitkamp, would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a voluntary national directory of veterans that would be available to communities and state veterans affairs departments. Currently there is no mechanism for local governments to contact veterans and transitioning service members who already reside there or plan to relocate to link them with support services …

McCain Worried about President’s Veto Threat on Policy Bill

  • July 16, 2015
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The fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill includes critical reforms to the military retirement system and DOD’s procurement process and will require drastic reductions in headquarters and management personnel, but it may not become law since President Obama has threatened to veto it, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said during remarks delivered at the Heritage Foundation on Wednesday. McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he received the most recent threat during a phone call with Defense Secretary Ash Carter, reported Stars and Stripes. “So, we just have a difference of opinion,” he said. “I am very concerned the president will veto it. It is a great concern to me …

Lawmakers Bicker over Housing Allowance Reforms during House-Senate Conference

  • July 15, 2015
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Lawmakers attempting to work out a compromise version of the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill on Tuesday largely focused on differences in how the House and Senate versions addressed DOD reforms intended to reduce the cost of the basic allowance for housing (BAH). House members criticized the Senate measure for embracing the changes proposed by the department, reported CQ Roll Call. DOD proposed slowing the rate of increase in the BAH over the next several years until rates cover only 95 percent of service members’ out-of-pocket costs. Last year, leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees reached a compromise allowing the BAH to cover only 99 percent of rental and utility costs …

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