(July 11) The House this week will discuss the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that includes a National Guard-friendly change to a controversial mobilization status. Under 12304b, Guardsmen and Reservists can be mobilized for certain duty, but receive less compensation than active-component troops on the same operation.
The House version of the NDAA would correct some of that inequality by providing pre-mobilization and transitional TRICARE health care for affected reserve-component members, a benefit now missing.
Another provision in the massive defense bill would limit to 10 percent the number of Guard military technicians who could be converted from Title 32 to Title 5, making them federal employees. The current requirement is 20 percent. It also extends the date of the completion of the conversion by one year to Oct. 1, 2018.
The bill authorizes $688.23 billion in total defense spending, about $29 billion more than the president’s request. It includes a pay raise of 2.4 percent.
Operation and maintenance funding for the Army Guard is $7.4 billion, a hike of $527 million. The Air Guard operation and maintenance funding in the bill is $7.1 billion, an increase of $251 billion.
The action this week is preliminary. Much remains to be done before a defense budget is complete, including approval by both the House and Senate of defense appropriations. Congress likely will grapple with spending caps, also.
Other Guard-related details include an increase in Army Guard end-strength from 343,000 to 347,000 and bumps Air Guard end-strength by 900 airmen to 106,600.
The bill decreases by nearly $34 million military construction for the Army Guard from the previous year to almost $267 million. The Air Guard would receive $203.4 million for military construction, a boost of more than $48 million.
The House version of the bill would provide $500 million for the Guard in the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account. It would also authorize $1.5 million for the National Guard Youth Challenge Program and $20 million for STARBASE, which exposes young people to technology education.
House lawmakers will be discussing amendments this week. Included are a few that affect the Guard, including a boost of $25 million for the Youth Challenge program. Another would allow members of the Guard and Reserve to seek treatment for sexual trauma at a Department of Veterans Affairs facility regardless of their duty status. Another amendment adds $10 million to the Guard’s effort to combat illegal drugs.
A NGAUS analysis of the fiscal 2018 NDAA will be available on the NGAUS website at the end of the week.