The 2013 defense bill is one step closer to being signed by President Barack Obama, and if it becomes law it will offer some good news to troops at a time when the Pentagon budget has been at the front of the fiscal cliff talks. The legislation includes a number of provisions aimed at blocking some potentially damaging proposals, according to Military Times.
The $633.3 billion spending bill includes a number of important recommendations, but perhaps most significant is that it works to block raises to TRICARE drug co-pays, which were recently proposed by the Department of Defense (DOD). While it does not completely erase the potential of fee hikes, the new bill does drop them to a much lower level than what the DOD had originally suggested.
The bill avoided the hikes through a compromise. For example, a 90-day supply of mail-order prescriptions of generic drugs will have no co-pay. For brand name drugs, the cost will rise to $13, while drugs on the not-approved list will cost $44.
Avoiding potential cost increases was not the only important step forward made by the defense bill. The legislation also includes language that will help take the strides made since the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" to the next level. According to the publication, the bill mandates that same-sex marriages can be performed on bases located in states where it is legal for gay couples to marry.
The final product, which could be sent to Obama's desk soon, comes after significant compromises between the Pentagon and both chambers of Congress. Specifically, the new plan avoids needlessly spending around $74 billion over the next decade on unnecessary programs, according to Reuters. Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta seems pleased with the outcome.
"We must make every dollar count," Panetta told reporters recently. "We must continue to carefully manage the balance between sustaining current operations, being ready to respond to crisis and emerging threats, preparing for future operations and investing in capabilities for the future."
While a positive step forward, the benefits offered by the bill could be derailed should Congress not reach an agreement on avoiding the fiscal cliff, the series of automatic spending cuts and tax hikes that would go into effect in 2013. The Pentagon would take a large brunt of the budget reduction and would be forced to cut an additional $500 billion over the next 10 years.