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Houlahan’s Legislation Secured as Core of Annual Defense Bill

Annual defense bill also includes Houlahan’s amendment to save Phoenixville JROTC program and similar programs across the country

  • Houlahan and Bacon present Quality of Life Report
As Ranking Member of the military Quality of Life Panel, Houlahan’s work will help address compensation, housing, spousal employment, child care, and health care issues impacting service members

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), a member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) and the Ranking Member of HASC’s military Quality of Life Panel, celebrated the inclusion of her Quality of Life report recommendations and additional amendments in the annual defense bill markup. Traditionally referred to as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), this year’s annual defense bill was appropriately named the Servicemember Quality of Life Improvement and National Defense Authorization Act due to its large focus on quality of life issues such as compensation, housing, spousal employment, child care, and health care.


At a critical time for our national security, Rep. Houlahan, alongside Rep. Bacon (R-NE), led the first-of-its-kind military Quality of Life Panel. The Panel’s work was captured in a 42-page report, which outlined 31 recommendations.


“As a third-generation veteran and proud Pennsylvanian, I championed these priorities for every military family I’ve spoken with across the Commonwealth, country, and globe,” said Houlahan. “Our men and women in uniform sacrifice so much for our nation – and they do so proudly, patriotically, and often without concern for their own wellbeing. That doesn’t mean, however, that they are invincible. Our military is strong because of our people, and we need to take care of them and their loved ones. This legislation further demonstrates our appreciation for their service and will strengthen our national security.”


The annual defense bill passed out of committee by a 57-1 vote, continuing the more than six-decade tradition of bipartisan cooperation. During the 10-hour long markup, Houlahan successfully advanced her legislation in both the original bill as well as through amendments.


The original bill included the entirety of the Quality of Life Panel’s recommendations. 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.


In the original bill, Houlahan secured additional priorities including:


·         Preserving JROTC Program Act: Amending the federal statue for JROTC program enrollment requirements. This legislation would help save the Phoenixville Air Force JROTC program, which was at risk of closure. Read more.

·         Menopause Research for Servicewomen and Veterans: Requiring DoD and VA to research impact of service on perimenopause and menopause.

·         Perinatal Mental Health Pilot: Establishing a pilot program to assess the impact of perinatal mental health programs for servicewomen after a GAO report showed an alarming statistic – women in the military are far more likely (1 in 3) than their civilian counterparts (1 in 5) to experience maternal mental health conditions such as post-partum depression. This legislation is based off Houlahan’s bipartisan Maintaining Our Obligation to Moms (MOMS) Who Serve Act.

·         Domestic Sourcing of Critical Materials through the National Defense Stockpile: Directing National Defense Stockpile Manager to brief committee on FY24-FY27 plans to source critical materials domestically to the maximum extent practicable. The National Defense Stockpile (NDS) contains critical materials that could be needed by the Department of Defense (DoD) in times of war or other national emergencies.

·         Military Service to Public Service Pipeline: Ensuring that when military branches turn away a recruit for medical reasons, that they provide information on other opportunities for national service, such as AmeriCorps.


“I want to thank the students, parents, and administrators who brought the concern about the Phoenixville Air Force JROTC program to my attention,” said Houlahan. “Sitting down with many of those individuals earlier this month, I heard their passion and commitment to public service. My office worked quickly with Rep. Waltz, a fellow veteran, to make sure that our JROTC programs across the country can continue to serve their communities.”


During the markup, more than 600 amendments were considered. Rep. Houlahan continued her tradition of passing a high number of bipartisan provisions again this year, totaling 14.


Houlahan’s amendments passed in the markup include:


·         Allowing for remote work for spouses of servicemembers who are federal employees, based off of the READINESS Act.

·         Requiring DoD to provide a briefing on supply chain and domestic production issues related to electrical transformers and critical grid components.

·         Requiring DoD installations to have 100% of energy load requirements for critical mission by FY2030.

·         Requiring DoD to continue reporting its energy vulnerabilities on military installations through 2032 instead of 2027.

·         Increasing the number of military training days for federal employees in the Reserve/National Guard from 15 to 20 days.

·         Making selective service registration automatic for eligible men, cutting through red tape and saving taxpayer dollars.

·         Directing DoD to provide a briefing on how its improving indoor environment conditions in military housing and buildings, including air, water, and lighting quality.

·         Directing DoD to provide a briefing on its capabilities and needs to protect DoD installations from drone threats.

·         Directing DoD to brief how DoD will ease regulatory hurdles in drone testing.

·         Establishing a pilot project that will use AI and machine learning to look at mental health analytics of service members to find precursors of suicide.

·         Streamlining contracting for DoD, specifically for the intelligence community.

·         Directing the Chief of Space Operations to report on the future of the Space Force Acquisition Workforce plan, ensuring junior service members have opportunities to learn about the acquisition process early in their careers.

·         Eliminating the one-year requirement of active duty needed to apply to be a warrant officer in the U.S. Air Force.

·         Requesting an immediate report from CYBERCOM on future cyber force capabilities, addressing the rapidly changing cyber landscape.

Houlahan added: "I want to thank Chairman Mike Rogers and Ranking Member Adam Smith for their strong bipartisan commitment. Tonight's final markup is a testament to their leadership on behalf of our military personnel and their families. I look forward to working with them as we get this bill to the House floor, through the Senate, and ultimately to the President's desk for signature."

Watch the entirety of the markup 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.