Inside the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. is where twenty-seven U.S. Senators from both sides of the aisle have spent the week deciding much of what’s in and what’s out of next year’s defense budget. It’s known as the National Defense Authorization Act.

“The Armed Services Committee is an authorizing committee. But, pretty much, the NDAA establishes the framework and the support and the direction.”

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) wants to make sure her state is covered. The military makes up nearly 10 percent of The Aloha State’s annual GDP, according to a 2018 report from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“We have about $224 million for military construction for Hawaii, which is a really good thing. It also reaffirms the importance of an Indo-Pacific command.”

Other senators are focused on not just what’s in the water or in the air. New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand is calling for the Senate Armed Services Committee – the group overseeing the NDAA – to address the increasing rates of sexual assault in the military, and to examine what’s called the “Military Justice Improvement Act.”

“(The Act would) take sexual assaults and other violent felonies out of the hands of commanders and allow trained military lawyers to make those legal decisions,” Gillibrand said during a subcommittee hearing this week.

She’s also pushing for servicemembers and civilian workers to receive a higher wage. Private sector wages jumped over 3 percent this year. By law, the civilian workforce is supposed to increase by 2.6 percent as well, Gillibrand said.

“We cannot hope to recruit and retain the nation’s best civilians if salaries don’t keep pace with inflation let alone private sector competition for the same talent,” she added.

This bill is just part of the larger picture for military spending. Both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate will also consider Defense Appropriations bills and more by the time the budget deadline comes in late September.