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Defense authorization measures enacted

On Jan. 2, President Obama signed Public Law 112-239, the fiscal year (FY) 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. This measure sets this year’s budget for the Department of Defense (DoD) and includes a large number of policy decisions. Provisions, that The American Legion finds of great interest, include:

Authorization. The budget allows $552.2 billion for base national defense and $88.5 billion for overseas contingencies operations. This is $1.7 billion above the president’s budget request, and is an incremental step to addressing the $46 billion decrease.

Pay increases. The budget authorizes a 1.7 percent pay increase and extends bonuses and special pay for our U.S. military personnel.

TRICARE. The authorization includes a modest increase in TRICARE pharmacy co-pays in 2013 and a cap on pharmacy co-pays beginning in 2014 that would allow fees to raise no more than the annual retiree cost-of-living adjustment. This is offset by a five-year pilot program that requires TRICARE for Life recipients to obtain refills of maintenance drugs through the TRICARE mail-order program. The American Legion’s Resolution 24 opposes increases in any TRICARE program.

Conscience clause. This clause requires the U.S. military to accommodate the moral principles and religious beliefs of servicemembers and chaplains, and restricts adverse personnel actions because of those beliefs.

Credentialing and certification. The bill expands a DoD pilot program that helps servicemembers in certain military occupational skills obtain civilian credentials and certificates to make a smooth transition into the civilian workforce.

Sexual assault. The law requires new commanders to assess the climate of their organizations with regard to sexual assaults after assuming command. It also requires DoD to make resources available on how to report and respond to sexual assaults, and each military service to establish a special victims capability for investigation, prosecution and victim support in connection with sexual assaults.

Post-traumatic stress disorder. The law improves the availability of mental health professionals to address pre-separation PTSD screenings and peer-support programs.

Suicide prevention. Under the provisions of the bill, DoD is required to develop a comprehensive policy on the prevention of suicide among servicemembers. The DoD secretary will establish a position within the Office of the Secretary of Defense that would be responsible for overseeing all DoD and military service suicide prevention and resilience programs.

Guantanamo Bay. The law prohibits transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States.

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