Lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee’s special military quality of life panel hope to have a slate of recommendations on new housing, daycare and support programs by the start of February.

After that, it’ll be up to the rest of the committee to turn them into law.

The quality of life panel — led by Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., and Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa. — was formed in early 2023 as a way to evaluate military policies and shortfalls that may be discouraging individuals from reenlisting.

Over the last nine months, the panel held a host of roundtables with Pentagon leaders, military families and outside advocates on ways to address those concerns. That included a briefing in late November on base daycare options.

At a Nov. 15 event hosted by the political action group With Honor, Bacon and Houlahan said they are considering a host of proposals to add into next year’s defense authorization bill debate, including military sabbaticals for outside job opportunities or family care, more tax exemptions for military pay, and more flexibility for troops in their future duty assignments.

They also are upset over continued reports of housing problems at bases across the country. Bacon blamed some of the problems on a lack of accountability for the issue among senior leaders.

Just how many of those ideas can advance into actual legislation remains to be seen. Senior Republican leaders said the quality of life changes will be key in recruiting and retention efforts. But they also spent most of 2023 focused on social issues in the personnel section of the annual defense budget bill.

Bacon and Houlahan are likely to be key voices throughout the spring in hearings on the quality of life topics. A draft of the authorization bill — including any possible recommendations from the panel — is expected in May or June.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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