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What is up with these NDAAs?

Every fiscal year, Congress must complete a specific congressional bill and have it approved by the President. This bill is referred to as the National Defense Authorization Act, NDAA for short. This bill essentially is to approve appropriations in funding for the Department of Defense, and Veterans Affairs. 

The most recent NDAA to be approved, Senate bill 1605, was signed into law by the President on December 27, 2021, and some really big legislative policy was attached on this one Act. 

The most spotlighted aspects were the changes to the military justice system, where the Commander has been removed from the decision-making process in prosecuting alleged personnel. Some advocates are not satisfied with these policy changes because while Commanders do not have the authority to decide on these crimes, they still have the authority to grant immunity, separation conditions, and jury selection. 

The loudest voice on this subject is that of a main elected official who has been pushing for this change, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. For those from that team, there are more issues to improve regarding protecting victims of military sexual violence, domestic violence, and child molestation. 

But there are more positive aspects to this NDAA. 

The first one to note is the change toward parental rights of cadets and midshipmen. Currently cadets and midshipmen must relinquish their parental rights to their own children while attending the service academies. Section 559A, Regulations on Certain Parental Guardianship Rights of Cadets and Midshipmen, allows cadets and midshipmen the option to maintain their guardianship no later than one year after the date of the enactment of this act. 

The second positive change within the NDAA was the extension of paid parental leave within Section 621. Within the next year, a member of the armed forces can be allowed up to 12 weeks of parental leave following the birth or adoption of a child or the placement of a minor child with the member for adoption or long-term foster care. 

Some organizations like the Heritage Foundation oppose this portion of the NDAA. Their concern is that it would be difficult to maintain readiness with the increased amount of leave. 

Personally, I find this frustrating because it seems that those opposed did not perform the math to back up their claims. By their claim, 100,000 children are born to military families from active duty, reserve, and guard members. This means that approximately 76,153 active-duty fathers have children every year. 

In comparison toward total active-duty membership, only 4.3 percent of the entire force would be using this 12-week leave across the fiscal year. If they cannot operate with 96.7 percent of the force, they are already in trouble. 

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