Stripes.com Article – Military Pay Raise, 15,000 New Troops, Promotion Reforms: 5 Key Aspects of the 2019 Defense Budget

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Here’s a link to the article, and here’s the most relevant sections for us:

With a 2.6 percent pay raise in place, which is slated to go into effect Jan. 1, servicemembers will see their wages increase at its highest level in nine years.

Servicemembers should see the increases in their first paychecks of the new year on Jan. 15, 2019.

“It clearly signals that Congress wants military pay to be competitive,” said Mark Cancian, a senior adviser with the Washington think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The pay increases still aren’t as high as ones in 2008, 2009 and 2010, when servicemembers saw hikes of 3.4 percent or more. Also, servicemembers’ pay raises will compete against rises in inflation. On Friday, the Department of Labor reported the cost of living rose 2.9 percent for the year ending in June 2018.

“Always tough to get it right, because we will not know the inflation rate for calendar year 2019 until January 2020,” said Andrew Sherbo, a University of Denver finance professor who has tracked government and defense budget issues.

Under the plan, an E-5 with 8 years of service could see their monthly basic pay rise $80.81 a month from $3,126.16 in 2018 to $3,206.97 in 2019, or an annual gain of $969.72, Sherbo estimated.

The legislation also directs benefit improvements and personnel reforms. For example, it enhances reforms of the Military Health System and installs the most widespread changes to the Defense Officer Personnel Management Act since it was enacted in 1980.

DOPMA, which standardized military promotions across the armed forces, will now let the services use civilian experience to establish new ranks for entering servicemembers, let certain officers promote faster and the expectation of retirement if a servicemember fails to promote twice could be removed.

In addition, servicemembers could also see higher per diem reimbursements in cases where they travel more than 30 days under the NDAA’s changes.

Officer Promotions and the NDAA 19

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Physicians are always interested in promotions, and the proposed NDAA 19 makes a number of changes to officer promotions. If you want the scoop, first I’d read this article from Military Times:

Congress is Giving the Officer Promotion System a Massive Overhaul

In addition, here are the relevant changes I pulled out of an article from the DHA Early Bird a few days ago:

  • Officers will continue to be considered for promotion as part of the same year group in which they were promoted to their current rank.
  • Congress is required to annually authorize the number of officers allowed to serve in the ranks of O­4 through O­6 across all the services.
  • It repeals a requirement that candidates for regular commissions not be older than 42, or at least have enough service years to complete 20 years by age 62.
  • ­It enhances the services’ authority to award constructive service credit for special private sector training or experience to allow active or reserve officer appointments up to the rank of O6 in critically ­needed fields.
  • Authorizing each service to award temporary promotions to the ranks O­3 through O­6 for specified positions. Only Navy has such authority today so this change would standardize it across all branches.
  • Authorizing promotion boards to recommend that “officers of particular merit” be placed higher on promotion lists than peers.
  • Allowing officers, when deemed in the best interest of the service, to have their names removed from consideration by a selection board for promotion to the next higher grade, and authorizing officers in certain military specialties to remain on active duty until reaching 40 years active service.
  • Authorizing use of an alternative promotion processes for officers in certain secretary­ designated competitive categories, to include a term­ based continuation process when certain officers are not selected for promotion. This would selectively end the traditional up ­or ­out requirement for officer management.

The devil’s in the details, and the Military Times article states that the changes are not mandatory for the services, so we’ll have to see how it all plays out over the next few years.


NDAA 2019 Update

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On Monday the House and Senate came out of committee having reconciled their two versions of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA 19) into a combined bill that will be voted on. Oh, and if I got any of that wrong so be it. It’s been a while since my last social studies or civics class, but that is basically what happened.

What emerged and is now contained in the NDAA 19? Here are the highlights, which can be found in the FY19 NDAA Conference Summary (Note that I highlighted the parts that were relevant to my readership):

  • A 2.6% pay raise, the highest in nine years.
  • It makes the Career Intermission Program permanent.
  • No medical treatment facilities are allowed to be closed or downgraded until they are all transitioned to the Defense Health Agency.
  • Mandates retention of a Navy hospital ship capability.

Whether you knew it or not, prior to this committee work there were provisions that would have:

  • Disestablished BUMED (and the equivalent Army and Air Force medical commands).
  • Changed service obligations for training, requiring them to be served consecutively rather than concurrently.

These things were removed and are not in the unified version that emerged from committee. That’s probably a good thing since the last one probably would not have improved morale, accession, or retention (other than forced retention).

If you’re really interested, here are some other very long PDFs that tell you everything that was debated and the result:

Joint Explanatory Statement (651 pages long)

Conference Report to Accompany H.R. 5515 (2552 pages long)

Searching for “medicine” or “medical” will probably get you to the most relevant medical portions. There are also some significant changes to promotions that I have not had the time to deep dive on. You can find them by searching for “promotion.”

Senate Version of FY19 Defense Authorization Bill Disestablishes BUMED

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Here is the Senate’s version of the FY 2019 defense authorization bill (S. 2987). If you’re curious like me, you take a document like this and search for key words that might affect your life. Take the word “medicine” for instance…

On page 304 of the document you find this:

(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than the date on which the Secretary of Defense establishes an operational medical force readiness organization within a military department pursuant to subsection (f), the Secretary of Defense shall, acting through the Secretary of such military department concerned, disestablish the following:
(A) In the case of the Army, the Army Medical Command, and any associated subordinate command or organization.
(B) In the case of the Navy, the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery of the Navy, and any associated subordinate command or organization.
(C) In the case of the Air Force, the Air Force Medical Service, and any associated subordinate command or organization.

Disestablish BUMED, the Army Medical Command, and Air Force Medical Service? Now that’s interesting.

This would occur:

Not later than the date on which the Secretary of Defense establishes an operational medical force readiness organization within a military department

What would happen to us?

(2) TRANSFER OF PERSONNEL AUTHORIZATIONS.—Any personnel authorization of a command or organization disestablished pursuant to paragraph (1) as of the date of disestablishment may be transferred by the Secretary to the Defense Health Agency or any other organization of the Department of Defense considered appropriate by the Secretary, including an operational medical force readiness organization under subsection (f).

This is simply the Senate version and has to be reconciled with the House version. What’s the likelihood that something like this actually becomes law and happens? I have no idea, but the fact that they are thinking about it is certainly something of interest to all of us.

Here’s another article that discusses the medical impacts of the Senate’s proposal:

Senate’s NDAA admonishes DoD for failure to obey prior health reform mandates


Did Senate Panel Go Too Far on Officer Management Reforms?

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This is certainly an interesting read by the Military Officers Association of America:

Did Senate Panel Go Too Far on Officer Management Reforms?