Congress passed a defense authorization bill on Dec. 14 that funds the military and foreign aid, including large raises for members of the armed forces. But the bill has new limits on spending for inclusion, equity and diversity (IE&D) initiatives.
The $886 billion National Defense Authorization Act was approved by a 310-118 vote. The bill was sent to President Joe Biden for signature or veto.
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Pay Raise for Military Employees
The bill provides $844.3 billion for the Defense Department and $32.4 billion for national security programs within the Department of Energy. It includes the largest pay raise for military service members in more than two decades, as part of a wide range of provisions related to service member pay, benefits, housing and child care.
The final version of the legislation is more moderate than an earlier iteration that was approved largely along party lines in July. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., praised the bill’s inclusion of a 5.2 percent pay raise for U.S. military personnel.
The final version does not contain a ban on the Defense Department’s spending on abortion travel or gender-affirming medical care. It does include some provisions curtailing the Pentagon’s IE&D initiatives.
Curbing Pay for IE&D Facilitators
The bill caps base pay for Defense Department employees whose positions are primarily related to IE&D programs. It also provides aid to help Ukraine defend against Russia.
Expanding Paid Leave
The bill includes a provision expanding paid leave for veterans who transitioned from active-duty military to a job in the civilian federal workforce.
Currently, in order to gain access to 12 weeks of paid parental leave or paid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, a federal employee must have 12 months of service. But the law establishing those requirements lists only federal agencies, the U.S. Postal Service, Postal Regulatory Commission or an entity operating via a nonappropriated fund. The new bill would add honorable active service in one of the military branches to the list.
Waiting for Other Spending Bills
Congress has yet to pass bills to reauthorize spending not focused on defense. A federal government shutdown was averted this fall but still could happen if spending bills aren’t passed by Jan. 19. While federal workers and contractors have been spared being furloughed, agencies and employers should prepare to face another period of uncertainty and possible government closure. The Department of Labor, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the National Labor Relations Board all issued shutdown contingency plans this fall.
So far, House and Senate lawmakers are at an impasse.