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CNN: Houlahan, Bacon Lead House Panel Report on Improving Military Quality of Life

The comprehensive report unveiled this week offers dozens of recommendations covering service member pay, spouse employment, child care, housing, and health care

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Representatives Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) and Don Bacon (R-NE), Ranking Member and Chairman respectively of the House Armed Services Quality of Life Panel, joined John Berman on CNN News Central to discuss the Panel’s report unveiled this week.


Below are transcribed excerpts from the interview.


ANCHOR, JOHN BERMAN: On the subject of maybe getting what they deserve… This morning, some U.S. service members and their families could get a pay raise and other new benefits. A bipartisan House panel just put out its report with a recommendation after looking at the quality of life in the military. This came out after concerns about recruitment. That panel from the House Armed Services Committee is led by the Subcommittee Chair, Don Bacon of Nebraska, and the Ranking Member, Chrissy Houlahan, from Pennsylvania. They are both with me now, and I'm not going to lie, anytime we can speak to a Democrat and a Republican at the same time, I feel like an angel gets its wings. So, we're excited about this. Representative Houlahan, let me just start with you. You called this one of the most exciting days of the 118th Congress. That might not be such a high bar, but be that as it may, why are you so excited? What's in this?


HOULAHAN: Well, we have to celebrate this. This is, as you mentioned, an example of us at our best, working together, Democrats and Republicans, to help the very people who serve us and who are willing to die for us, those men and women who are in uniform. And this is a really exciting culmination of nine months’ worth of work together. A report that is expansive. You mentioned pay, but it also is spousal employment, it's also child care, it's health care, it's housing access. All of those things that allow for us to honor correctly those who serve us every day in uniform. And I'm very, very excited about the opportunities to follow through on this now.


ANCHOR: Chairman Bacon, what else is in this and when do you think it can get passed through?


BACON: Well, first of all, we had to identify a problem. We have a lot of our enlisted folks are on SNAP, rely on food banks. The barracks and the dormitories are getting failing grades. Our spouses are the leading demographic in America for being unemployed. I can just go on and on. So what we recommended was a 15% pay raise for E-1 through E-4, significant pay raise that will get them above that threshold, so they won't have to rely on SNAP or food banks. We're going to put a lot of money into dormitories and barracks, the military has been subtracting 5% from their housing allowance. I don't think that's right. We authorized or allowed it to happen. We're going to shut the door on that and make sure that people are getting 100% of their housing allowance. We're going to work on daycare to try to get more workers there so we can have 100% occupancy there. Right now, we're limited by how many people are working. We're going to work on health care. People shouldn't have to wait two months to get specialty care, for example. And we're going to continue working with our Chambers of Commerce to help get our spouses employed for those who want to be right when they do a new move. So there's a lot of things in this report, and I'm excited to be a part of it. By the way, I want to praise my co-leader here, Chrissy Houlahan has done a fantastic job. It was a total bipartisan effort, and we're very proud of it.


ANCHOR: So, I mean, I can think of a day not long ago where you guys would come on this morning, and it would be a sure thing that this would get passed through. I don’t know what a sure thing is anymore, necessarily, in Congress. So, Representative Houlahan, how confident are you that you can get all these measures through?


HOULAHAN: Pretty darn confident and let me tell you why. The NDAA, which is the annual [National] Defense Authorization Act, has happened consistently for more than six decades, and that's one of the very few. I can't even name another piece of legislation where that is the case. And so, I have hope going in that we have opportunities, but also our Chairman and our Ranking Member, both Democrats and Republicans, have supported the work of this Panel and have committed that it will go in basically as the founding body or the grounding work of this year's NDAA. And that's a huge commitment. I got a chance to present it to our caucus yesterday. The preliminary findings of it, and I think it was very well received. When you're talking about people who are on SNAP benefits as, as Don mentioned, who are unemployed at the rate of 20 something percent, I think it really resonates with people, particularly at this time when we are in peril, I think, from a national security standpoint.


Watch the full interview here.




This week, U.S. Representatives Don Bacon (R-NE) and Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Quality of Life Panel, released the Panel’s report. Reps. Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Adam Smith (D-WA), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, applauded the Panel’s work. The report, which represents the culmination of the Panel’s work over the past year, includes bipartisan policy recommendations from the Panel for the Fiscal Year 2025 (FY25) National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).


Some highlights of the 31 recommendations in the report include:


  • PAY: Increasing basic pay 15% across the board for junior enlisted service members (E-1s to E-4s). Additionally, an increase to the Regular Military Compensation (RMC) benchmarks for enlisted and officer pay to the 80th percentile and the 75th percentile respectively, of comparable civilian compensation. They are both currently set at the 70th percentile.
  • HOUSING: Requiring the Department of Defense to reverse the five percent reduction in basic allowance for housing (BAH) and ensure BAH covers 100 percent of the calculated rate for the military housing area (MHA).
  • CHILD CARE: Requiring all military services cover 100 percent of child care fees for the first child of staff enrolled in a Department of Defense Child Development Program (CDP) and authorize the military services to cover up to 100 percent of child care fees for any additional child/children of such staff in order to incentivize and retain child care personnel.
  • CHILD CARE: Requiring the Department of Defense, in coordination with the military services, to provide a report on partnerships and/or programs within their local civilian communities designed to increase child care availability for military members.
  • HOUSING: Directing the military services to track and report the total facilities sustainment restoration and modernization (FSRM) funding requirement, particularly for unaccompanied housing (UH) facilities commonly known as single-occupancy barracks. The military services routinely request funding for FSRM accounts that does not meet 100 percent of their facility maintenance and modernization requirements.
  • HOUSING: Requiring each military service to conduct a feasibility study for the provision of free wireless internet access to service member private living areas in all UH facilities. This study should provide a detailed overview of existing wireless internet services in UH facilities, investigate funding mechanisms or authorities capable of supporting service wide implementation of free Wi-Fi, and examine potential alternatives to conventional wireless internet.
  • HEALTH CARE: Expanding direct access to military personnel without a referral for either in person or telemedicine appointments in the following specialties: physical therapy; nutrition; audiology; optometry; podiatry; and women’s health.
  • CHILD CARE/MILITARY SPOUSE EMPLOYMENT: Expanding eligibility for Department of Defense Child Development Programs—both on and off installation—for unemployed military spouses who are actively seeking employment from 90-days to 180-days.
  • MILITARY SPOUSE EMPLOYMENT: Permanently authorizing the Military Spouse Career Accelerator Pilot (MSCAP), which launched in 2023 as a three-year pilot program. This program provides employment support to military spouses through paid fellowships with employers across various industries. MSCAP is facilitated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program.


One pagers can be found here.


The full report can be found here.


Houlahan is an Air Force veteran, an engineer, a serial entrepreneur, an educator, and a nonprofit leader. She represents Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District, which encompasses Chester County and southern Berks County. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. She is the recipient of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Abraham Lincoln Leadership for America Award which “recognizes members who demonstrate the bipartisan leadership and constructive governing necessary to move our country forward” and the Congressional Management Foundation’s 2022 Democracy Award for best Constituent Services in Congress.