On November 25, 2015, The President of the United States signed the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law. This is an annual policy bill that marries with the defense appropriations bill (not yet signed) to provide policy guidance and funding for the Armed Forces.
One provision of this policy bill requires the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) to establish a process by which installation commanders may allow military members to carry weapons if deemed necessary for personal or force protection purposes. It remains to be seen how this policy will take shape and how many installation commanders will actually decide to allow it.
Here is the text from the Act:
Not later than December 31, 2015, the Secretary of Defense, taking into consideration the views of senior leadership of military installations in the United States, shall establish and implement a process by which the commanders of military installations in the United States, or other military commanders designated by the Secretary of Defense for military reserve centers, Armed Services recruiting centers, and such other defense facilities as the Secretary may prescribe, may authorize a member of the Armed Forces who is assigned to duty at the installation, center or facility to carry an appropriate firearm on the installation, center, or facility if the commander determines that carrying such a firearm is necessary as a personal- or force-protection measure.
In all likelihood, the SECDEF’s process will require compliance with all local carry laws. In many states, military members are unable to obtain a firearm carry license due to either (1) restrictive “may issue” policies that essentially prohibit most citizens from obtaining a license, or (2) discriminatory policies against nonresidents. For example, Illinois will not issue a license to residents of most other states, does not recognize or offer reciprocity with anyone, and offers no exceptions for their nonresident military guests.
Unfortunately, this places the personal- and force-protection options available to military installation commanders at the mercy of the host state.