Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement by Bipartisan Policy Center Senior Fellow Steve Bell and Director of National Security Blaise Misztal on the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act:
“Congress has opened the door for much needed military personnel reform. It is a welcome first step, but more must be done to ensure the military is able to attract the next generation of talented Americans to serve.
“Today’s release of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act conference report marks an important first step in transforming how the military manages its most critical resource—its people—in order to prepare for 21st century national security threats.
“The final bill language, agreed to by House and Senate negotiators, includes several important provisions that will help ensure the military remains attractive to talented men and women from across the whole spectrum of American society whom we need to serve to maintain our military superiority.
“On behalf of BPC’s Task Force on Defense Personnel, we want to commend the conference committee for including provisions that streamline military recruiting practices and improve the quality of the military health system. Specifically, section 527 requires the Secretary of the Army to consolidate the recruiting efforts of the Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard. Additionally, section 509 establishes a pilot program for granting direct commissions to much needed cyber professionals. These are key steps in creating a true “total force” capable of confronting future threats.
“We also commend the committee for including section 702, which will improve military health care by centralizing military health system administration formally under the Defense Health Agency. This will ensure that the military health system is able to efficiently deliver quality care to all service members and their families, while also preserving important gains made in areas like battlefield trauma care and mental health.
“While this bill does much to improve the conditions of military service, there is still much work to do. Several key provisions that would modify the long-standing up-or-out personnel system were not included in the final bill text. We are encouraged by the Joint Explanatory Statement accompanying the bill, which suggests that comprehensive personnel reform can help the military ‘quickly adapt to changing war fighting requirements.’ This statement clearly leaves the door open to further study of this important reform.
“BPC’s Task Force on Defense Personnel will release its own recommendations on this important topic in the coming months. We hope that Congress will seriously consider the recommendations included in the final report and continue its work to build a military that is capable of succeeding in an increasingly complex and unpredictable global security environment.”