House Armed Services panel takes on racism, pandemics

Provisions from Military Personnel Subcommittee spurred by recent headlines

California Rep. Jackie Speier leads the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, which votes Tuesday on its part of the fiscal 2021 defense policy bill.  (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
California Rep. Jackie Speier leads the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, which votes Tuesday on its part of the fiscal 2021 defense policy bill. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted June 22, 2020 at 2:07pm

A House Armed Services subcommittee has put forth a number of provisions spurred by recent headlines — from ensuring the law requires the military to protect troops during pandemics to exploring the demographics of military officers to tracking extremism, including racist violence, in the ranks.

The panel is scheduled to vote Tuesday on its part of the fiscal 2021 defense authorization bill.

The Military Personnel panel’s mark, obtained by CQ Roll Call ahead of its public release, would add a new statutory duty to the Defense secretary’s list: protection of the armed forces from infectious diseases and making certain the industrial base can provide the drugs, medical supplies and protective equipment troops need to achieve their missions in the face of disease outbreaks. 

The House panel, led by California Democrat Jackie Speier, would also require a report on the demographic makeup of U.S. military officers, amid concerns that there are not enough Black or other minority officers in the upper ranks. 

The measure also would add a question about racist or other forms of violent extremism to a Defense Department workplace survey. 

The subcommittee would require a system for tracking violations of a Defense Department prohibition against supremacist, extremist and criminal gang activity. 

The House panel’s provision is aimed at better monitoring of such offenses — and reporting them to law enforcement authorities — after some current and former military personnel have been involved in violence tinged with racial overtones. For example, an active duty U.S. airman was charged with killing a California sheriff’s deputy during recent protests in Oakland. The suspect reportedly referenced the antigovernment “boogaloo” movement during his arrest. 

The subcommittee would require the Defense secretary to write regulations that would provide limited immunity for alleged victims of sexual assault from minor collateral misconduct, absent an aggravating circumstance, if the misconduct is said to have occurred during the assault or was discovered while investigating the attack.

On other matters, the bill would approve the administration’s request for a 3 percent across-the-board pay raise for uniformed personnel. 

And it would slightly increase U.S. military end strength — adding 12,000 to the 1,351,500 request. This is a net increase resulting from a modest boost to the size of the Army, Navy and Space Force and a minimal reduction in the number of active duty Marine Corps and Air Force personnel. 

Loading the player...