Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith, a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, today voted for the Fiscal Year 2000 Defense Authorization bill, which passed.
"The Department of Defense Authorization bill will go a long way towards meeting our defense needs," Smith said. "Perhaps most importantly, it provides a much-needed pay raise for the men an women serving our country, reforms the military retirement structure called REDUX, and increases funding for military housing and installations."
The bill includes a 4.8 percent pay increase for military personnel for next year. The increase is .5 percent above the Employment Cost Index (ECI), an index used by the private sector to calculate wage increases. The bill requires that future military raises be calculated using the full ECI.
"From the moment this bill was introduced, throughout the Armed Services Committee process and up until it passed on the floor, I adamantly supported the 4.8 percent pay increase," Smith explained. "If we want to have a first-class military, we need to make the military a good career choice by providing competitive pay and good benefits. This pay raise is a step in the right direction to taking better care of our troops."
Not only does the legislation provide a pay raise for personnel, it reforms the Military Retirement Reform Act, commonly known as "Redux." Under Redux, service members who entered the military after 1986 and retired at 20 years of service would receive retirement pay equal to approximately one-fourth of their total pay and allowances (or 40 percent of their basic pay) compared to approximately one-third of total pay and allowances (or 50 percent of basic pay) before 1986.
To encourage mid-career service members to continue serving their country for twenty years or more, the bill changes current law by allowing personnel covered by Redux to choose between the following:
• Retiring under the pre-1986 military retirement plan at 2.5 percent of basic pay per year of service over 20 years (up to a maximum of 75 percent of basic pay); or
• Accepting a one-time $30,000 bonus after 15 years of service and remaining under the Redux retirement plan that reduces the percentage of base pay paid to retirees before age 62 by 1 percent for each year the member retires with less than 30 years of service. Servicemembers accepting the bonus would be obligated to serve the remaining five years to become eligible for retirement.
The legislation also includes an increase in funding to accelerate implementation of the Basic Allowance for Housing, which provides housing allowances for military families in high cost areas; provisions to encourage re-enlistment; and increases in special pay and bonuses, including aviation career incentive pay, hazardous duty pay, and foreign language proficiency pay.
The bill also makes key investments in tomorrow's technology, to ensure that our military has the best available equipment.
"We need to make smart investments in military technology," said Smith. "Now is the time to modernize our forces to make sure our soldiers have the equipment and training necessary to do their job, and funding new tactical air power programs, such as the F-22 and Joint Strike Fighter, is key to preparing our forces for tomorrow's fight."
Both the F-22 and the Joint Strike Fighter received funding in the Defense Authorization bill. The F-22, which is partially produced in Tukwila, received $1.6 billion for funding at the Joint Strike Fighter, another Boeing project, received a total of $301 million for the Air Force and Navy Joint Strike Fighters. Other Boeing projects include the Airborne Laser, which is a high-powered laser carried aboard an aircraft that is meant to destroy ballistic missiles in their launch phase, funded at $309 billion.
The bill also authorizes $3.7 billion for ballistic missile defense, including $852 million for national missile defense and $473 million for the Theater High Altitude Air Defense system (THAAD) for the missiles that will succeed the Patriot missiles. "The Gulf War demonstrated the dire need for a proven theater missile defense systems to protect American troops and ally civilians," noted Smith.
Smith also voted for an amendment, which passed, to incorporate recommendations contained in the Cox-Dicks report on security breaches on U.S. nuclear labs.
"Clearly, the Cox-Dicks report illustrated that we had inexcusable blunders in counter-intelligence at our nuclear labs," Smith said. "The amendment I voted for will implement the changes needed to ensure that such security breaches do not happen again."
The amendment establishes new procedures to increase security at Energy Department weapons facilities and national labs, requires the President to submit numerous reports to Congress on Chinese espionage and military activities, and institutes new guidelines to prevent the illegal transfer of technology to a foreign country during satellite launches.
Smith, who has been a ardent supporter of funding for Hanford Nuclear Site cleanup funding and limiting overhead costs and waste, also succeeded in including a General Accounting Office (GAO) report to investigate allegations of $85 million in overbilling by key Hanford cleanup contractors.