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US SENATE PASSES DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION BILL

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton recently announced, that the Senate has passed the FY 2005 Department of Defense (DOD) Authorization bill which includes legislation that She and Senator Jim Talent (R-MO) sponsored to establish a new tracking system that would require regular health screening for active duty military personal and reservists. The bill also includes an amendment sponsored by Senator Clinton to require a GAO study of the policies of the policy and criteria utilized by the Department, regarding the closure of DOD schools and commissaries.

Both of pieces of legislation sponsored by Senator Clinton were incorporated as amendments to the Defense Authorization bill approved by the Senate.

Under the Schools /commissaries amendment introduced by Senator Clinton, the GAO will conduct and assessment of the Department of Defense’s policy and criteria are consistent with Department policies and procedures on the preservation of the quality of life of members of the Armed Forces. The GAO would also assess any on-going studies or assessments by DOD of schools at West Point and five commissaries at Fort Drum, Scotia, Fort Hamilton, West Point and Mitchell Field. Senator Clinton, along with Senators Kennedy and Leahy introduced the Military Family Morale and Welfare Protection Act of 2003 which would prohibit the Secretary of Defense from closing any DOD schools or commissaries without authorization from Congress.

Under the health tracking and readiness amendment introduced by Senator Clinton and Senator James Talent (R-MO), the Pentagon would be required to establish a new tracking system that would provide active duty military personnel and Reservists with regular health screening.

Medical Tracking
The Armed Forces Personnel Medical Readiness and Tracking Act of 2004 would establish procedures to ensure that information about soldiers’ health is systematically collected so that if a group of soldiers begins to exhibit symptoms consistent with exposure to some hazard, there will be adequate information to help identify the cause. The bill establishes a program for collecting baseline medical data for recruits and establishes an Advisory Working Group to improve the medical tracking system for members deployed overseas. It also requires a report on Department of Defense responses to concerns raised by members of the Armed Forces regarding exposure to environmental hazards. Current law requires that information about the health of soldiers returning from deployment be collected but it appears that these provisions are not being enforced. This legislation establishes audits of the blood serum collection program as well as the pre-deployment and post-deployment a health assessment database that DOD maintains.

Medical Readiness of Guard and Reservists
The Armed Forces Personnel Medical Readiness and Tracking Act of 2004 also focuses on another problem that came to light with the unprecedented demands being placed on our National Guard members and reservists. Many of the Guard members and reservists units activated are not at full strength because of a lack of medical or dental readiness. It requires a GAO study of health of reserve components ordered to active duty for Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom . . The legislation would also require DOD to prescribe a policy that specifies (1) the circumstances under which treatment for medical conditions may be deferred to be provided in the theater of operations in order to prevent disruption to a deployment; and (2) the circumstances under which medical conditions are to be treated before deployment to the theater



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