Defense bill to add 17,000 soldiers

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By Rebecca Khell, The Hill

The House Armed Services Committee would add 17,000 soldiers to the Army in its annual defense policy bill, committee aides told reporters Tuesday.

The soldiers were not included in President Trump’s budget request, but were part of the unfunded requirements the Army sent to Congress.

Additionally, the Military Personnel Subcommittee recommends a 2.4 percent pay raise for troops. The president’s budget called for a 2.1 percent pay raise.

The inclusion of the extra soldiers and higher pay raise is another indication that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will go above the Trump administration’s budget request.

The Trump administration proposed a $603 billion base defense budget. But committee chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) has consistently called for a $640 billion budget.

The extra soldiers would be broken down into 10,000 for active duty, 4,000 for Army National Guard and 3,000 for reserve.

The Army’s unfunded requirement list estimated it would cost $3.1 billion for training, sustaining, housing and equipping the extra soldiers.

Aides on Tuesday would not say whether the NDAA will match that $3.1 billion, saying that will be released in the full bill.

On other military branches, the bill would follow the president’s request. That means the Navy would add 4,000 active duty sailors and 1,000 reserves, and the Air Force would add 4,100 active duty airmen, 900 Air National Guard and 800 reserves. The Marine Corps would be flat.

The bill also seeks to address the “Marines United” scandal by folding in the House-passed bill that makes revenge porn a military crime.

The NDAA would also expand special victims counsel training so that counselors have more training specifically on male victims of sexual assault.

And the bill seeks to improve the process for consideration of discharge upgrade requests by requiring boards to consider non-military medical evidence and give liberal consideration of evidence relating to post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.

The bill would also formalize Pentagon policy on athletes at service academies who want to play professional sports. Athletes would have to serve the whole five years on active duty they committed to when they enrolled at a service academy.