Lawmakers Reach Compromise on Defense Bill

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Legislation includes reform of military justice, but lawmakers drop proposal to register women for selective service

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This year lawmakers agreed to make major changes to the military justice system, but scrapped plans to enroll women for the draft. The bill increases military spending by about 5% compared to last year’s budget, exceeding Biden’s $752.9 billion request for national security programs from the Defense and Energy Departments.

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The House is expected to vote on NDAA as soon as Tuesday night. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., NY) said he expects the Senate to pass it without amendment, sending it to the president’s desk for his signature.

The legislation would establish a 16-member, bipartisan commission to study US involvement in Afghanistan from 2001-2021. Commissioners will be required to report to Congress annually on their progress, and three years after the panel’s first meeting, a report will be required to submit detailed findings, recommendations and lessons learned. Since January 3, 2001, current and former members of Congress have been barred from serving on the commission, as have former cabinet members, four-star flag officers and senior Defense and State Department officials who have had a direct bearing on US operations in Afghanistan. was involved with.

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The bill would also authorize the National Global War on Terrorism Memorial on the National Mall.

A provision requiring women to register for the draft for the first time in American history did not make it into the settlement text, when senior Republican lawmakers included it in closed-door talks between the House and Senate, familiar allies. The talks said.

The draft ended about 50 years ago. The US now has an all-volunteer force, but when men turn 18, they are still required to register for Selective Service to be eligible for potential enlistment in case of a national emergency.

Versions of the NDAA that passed the full House and Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this year expanded registration for selective service to include young women alongside young men.

Some Republicans opposed the registration requirement for women because they saw it as an erosion of traditional gender roles and family values. Other Republicans and Democrats supported it as a way to promote gender equality and bolster national security.

Jim Inhofe (R, Okla.), an Army veteran and the top-ranked Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Pennsylvania Democrat and Air Force veteran Representative Chrissy Houlahan, who pushed for a registration provision to join the NDAA, pointed to the findings of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, which mandated that all U.S. citizens Qualifying for the Selective Service System would help maintain it as a viable national security institution.

“She shares the dismay of many of her colleagues on both sides of the aisle, in the House and Senate, who have worked together in good faith to deliver this overdue change to bolster our national security,” said one of Ms. Houlahan. Spokesperson said. ,

Another proposal in the bill would change the military justice system by creating an office of Special Trial Counsel within each service that reports directly to that service’s secretary.

As defined in the bill, offenses over which a Special Trial Counsel will have jurisdiction include rape and sexual assault, domestic violence, murder, murder and kidnapping. The assistants said the special trial counsel would have the power to decide whether such cases should be referred to court-martial.

Victims’ advocates expressed concern that the bill would leave commanders with the right to personally select a jury and decide whether accused soldiers could withdraw from military service rather than face a court martial. Don Christensen, a retired Air Force colonel and judge advocate general, president of Protect Our Defenders, said the right to grant immunity to commanders and approve expert witnesses at government expense will also remain intact.

Supporters of the law in written counter that giving this power to prosecutors would violate the due process rights in the Constitution.

“My conclusion is that this is still a major reform in the military justice system. In my opinion, it is the most important reform in the history of our country,” said Mr. Christensen. “But it missed an opportunity to completely revamp the process by removing the command effect from the prosecution’s decision.”

Kirsten Gillibrand (d., NY) complained that the chairmen of the House and Senate armed-services committees had succumbed to pressure from the Pentagon. Ms Gillibrand is advocating for much more sweeping changes that would strip commanders the right to decide whether to prosecute all felony-level crimes.

“This bill represents a major setback, especially on the part of service members, women and survivors,” Ms Gillibrand said on Tuesday. She said she would continue to press for a separate up or down vote on her proposal.

write to Lindsay Wise lindsay.wise[email protected] . Feather

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