Top Armed Services Republican unveils proposals on military families, acquisition reform

Top Armed Services Republican unveils proposals on military families, acquisition reform
© Greg Nash

The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee unveiled a pair of proposals Thursday on military family readiness and acquisition reform he is hoping to include in this year’s annual defense policy bill.

The proposed legislation was in the works before the coronavirus crisis, but Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryBoosting military deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region Overnight Defense: Pentagon memo warns pandemic could go until summer 2021 | Watchdog finds Taliban violence is high despite US deal | Progressive Dems demand defense cuts Progressives demand defense budget cuts amid coronavirus pandemic MORE (R-Texas) argued Thursday the pandemic underscores the need to better care for military families and streamline the Pentagon’s purchasing process.

“Both of these things were in the works long before COVID-19, but if you look at many of the implications for the military, whether it's how does this affect our service members and their families, or how does this affect the industrial base, I think it's even more important that we look at specific things that may be related to those topics,” he said on a conference call with reporters.

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“Now, I'm not pretending that either of these things fix the challenges and the stresses that are caused by COVID-19,” he added. “But if we can put some ideas out there and maybe other ideas will follow, then hopefully that's a good thing for getting a better bill.”

For the past several years, Thornberry has put forth discussion drafts of acquisition reform legislation a month or so ahead of the committee’s markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

This year’s proposal would require two assessments of the Pentagon’s process for identifying weapons systems’ requirements, a comprehensive sustainment strategy for weapons systems and quarterly briefings on addressing gaps and vulnerabilities in the defense industrial base.

Thornberry is also proposing a military family readiness bill alongside Rep. Trent KellyJohn (Trent) Trent KellyHouse GOP lawmakers urge Senate to confirm Vought Top Armed Services Republican unveils proposals on military families, acquisition reform Bipartisan Armed Services leaders tear into Pentagon over use of .8B for border wall MORE (Miss.), the top Republican on the panel's military personnel subcommittee.

The family readiness proposal would require 24-hour child care at certain locations, make the Pentagon develop a policy and tracking mechanism for the overprescription of opioids and standardize the process for identifying and enrolling participants of a program for families with special needs called the Exceptional Family Member Program.

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The coronavirus crisis has complicated consideration of this year’s NDAA. Earlier this week, committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithBoosting military deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region House chairmen demand explanation on Trump's 'illegal' withdrawal from Open Skies Treaty Overnight Defense: Trump to withdraw US from Open Skies Treaty | Pentagon drops ban on recruits who had virus | FBI says Corpus Christi shooting terror-related MORE (D-Wash.) said the planned April 30 markup would be postponed.

In a letter to committee members this week, Smith and Thornberry said they hope to have the bill ready for consideration by May 1 and that they will reschedule the markup when the House calendar becomes clearer.

In light of not being able to have formal hearings, the pair told committee members they hope to have some “informal events” this month through video or teleconferencing.

“I completely agree with Adam’s approach that obviously we had to postpone, but we want to be ready to go with our committee markup as soon as Congress is able to reassemble,” Thornberry said Thursday, adding that staff continues to work on steps such as assembling a database of member proposals for the bill. “And so that's part of the reason I wanted to go ahead and get these bills out there.”