The Senate Armed Services Committee will mark up its annual defense policy bill later this month, with most of the meetings closed to the public, the committee announced Thursday.
The series of markups, set for the week of July 19, means the Senate panel is poised to finish its work on the massive fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act ahead of House Armed Services, which has set subcommittee markups later in July and a markup on the full bill after the August recess.
The Senate starts July 19 with the Strategic Forces and Cybersecurity subcommittees. Both of those hearings are closed to the public.
On July 20, the Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee and the Personnel Subcommittee will hold markups in open session. The same day, the remaining three subcommittees will hold closed markups: Airland, Emerging Threats and Capabilities, and Seapower.
On July 21, the full committee will take up the entire bill in closed session.
This year, there is a slugfest brewing over how to handle prosecutions of sexual assault cases and other felonies within the military. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who chairs the Armed Services Committee's Personnel panel, has spearheaded legislation that would take decisions on whether to prosecute serious cases, not just those involving sexual assault, out of the chain of command, with the exception of military-unique felonies such as desertion.
Her proposal is backed by a filibuster-proof majority of senators but has yet to gain the support of Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the full committee.
Gillibrand has repeatedly asked for unanimous consent to advance her legislation, only to be blocked by Reed, who wants the issue folded into the NDAA.
Pentagon leadership has generally supported removing authority to make prosecution decisions on sexual assault cases and related crimes, such as domestic abuse, from military commanders but has stopped short of supporting moving other types of cases out of commanders' hands.
House starts later
The House Armed Services Committee already had announced that its subcommittees will take up the NDAA on July 28 and 29. The full panel will consider the bill on Sept. 1.
Unlike most of their Senate counterparts, the House panels tend to conduct their markups in open session. However, most of the issues likely to attract disagreement and debate are left for the full committee to consider.
That makes for smooth subcommittee markups, which tend to last only a few minutes. But it forces the committee to resolve all its disputes in one sitting, and tempers can fray during the marathon session.
On most issues, however, there is broad bipartisan support, and the NDAA has been signed into law for 60 consecutive years.