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Important Military Personnel Reforms on the Table in NDAA Negotiations

After several weeks away from Washington to focus their attentions on activities in their home states, members of both the House of Representatives and Senate are back in session this week. Between now and the conclusion of the 114th Congress at the end of the year, there is a long list of potential pieces of legislation that lawmakers could tackle. One of these is the annual bill that lays out policy for the Department of Defense (DOD), the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Earlier this year, both the House and Senate passed their own versions of the fiscal year (FY) 2017 NDAA. Currently, members and staff from both chambers are working together to address the differences between the two bills and produce a final version to send on to President Obama.

Among other things, the legislation contains provisions designed to modernize several long-standing defense personnel policies, an effort the Bipartisan Policy Center strongly supports. BPC’s Task Force on Defense Personnel, co-chaired by Gen. Jim Jones, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, former Sen. Jim Talent, and Blue Star Families’ CEO Kathy Roth-Douquet, was launched this year to address the strategic and personnel challenges currently facing the DOD.

The legislation contains provisions designed to modernize several long-standing defense personnel policies, an effort BPC strongly supports.

Earlier this month, on behalf of the task force, BPC Senior Fellow Steve Bell and National Security Director Blaise Misztal sent a letter to the chair and ranking member of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, the two committees primarily tasked with negotiating a final NDAA bill, supporting the advancement of several provisions related to personnel reform in the legislation.

Specifically, BPC supports:

  • 503 of the Senate bill, which temporarily suspends field grade officer strength tables, thereby allowing modifications to the “up-or-out” promotion process.
  • 505 and 509 of the Senate bill, which impart additional flexibility into the officer promotion process by allowing promotion priority based on exceptional performance.
  • 527 of the House bill, which establishes a pilot program for consolidated army recruiting.

These provisions will provide the Pentagon with the statutory relief needed to test new ideas for managing military personnel while also modernizing long outdated personnel policies. We encourage the conferees to adopt these important measures in the final FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

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