National Guard March 2012 : Page 12

WASHINGTON UPDATE The latest Capitol Hill news from the NGAUS legislative staff Going Backwards By Richard M. Green Imagine the visual of C-27Js going straight from the assembly line to the “boneyard.” 60 Minutes would love it. HE AIR NATIONAL Guard is having a hard time swallowing its systematic dismantling in favor of the expensive active component. While the Air Force’s structure adjust-ments for fiscal 2013 appear to be spread like peanut butter across the force and many units are being promised follow-on missions, a closer look reveals a fundamen-tal shift backward. But I have to give Air Force leaders some credit. At least they don’t hide their agenda. They want to return to their good old days of the Cold War, and they admit it. In their Force Structure Changes roll-out document last month, they note, “In 1990, the Reserve Component represented 25 percent of the Total Force end strength; that percentage has increased to 35 percent today. Reserve Component aircraft owner-ship also increased from approximately 23 percent to 28 percent over the same period.” Despite the Total Air Force’s unprec-edented operational success since 1991, despite the need today for greater cost efficiencies, and despite the other services planning to rely less on their active forces, Air Force leaders actually want to rely more on the active component. The result—if Congress goes along—will be a less experienced and less capable force. And Air Force leaders want you and the rest of the country to believe the Air Guard is going along willingly with this scheme. Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, the chief of staff, wrote in an Air Force Times op-ed last month, that “[A]cross-the-board involve-ment by senior active, Guard and Reserve Air Force leaders and state adjutants gen-eral demonstrated everyone’s commitment to this important endeavor.” A more accurate portrayal would be the director of the Air Guard being dragged along kicking and screaming. Did some Guard leaders participate in the process? Yes. Were they full partners? Hardly. T All of us would love to believe Air Force leaders are sincere in their efforts to ensure the Air Guard is treated fairly and provided with a “concurrent and balanced” share of new aircraft. But given the Air Force’s history of keep-ing promises, why should they be believed? Remember the three A-10 fighter units that were supposed to have their aircraft until 2025? Or how about the brand-new C-27J program? The Air Force plan would send to the “boneyard” these perfectly good aircraft that can be maintained on the cheap by the Air Guard. Imagine the visual of C-27Js going straight from the assembly line to the aircraft graveyard in the Arizona desert. 60 Minutes would love it. Air Force leaders are offering the MC-12—a manned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft—to some units losing aircraft. But Guard units should be wary of this. Systems exclusive to the Guard soon end up on the retirement list. Promises from the Air Force are just that. Promises. Air Force leaders are also proposing to cut approximately 5,100 Guardsmen, most of whom are drilling Guardsmen. Remember, Guard airmen tend to be more experienced than their active-compo-nent counterparts and are a quarter of the cost to maintain. It’s time for the Air Force to go back to the drawing board and develop a plan that preserves the maximum amount of combat capability at the lowest cost. And to assure a strong and ready force, the Guard community should demand that follow-on missions be fully funded and in law before any iron is removed. Promises are nice, but the power of law and full funding is better. Contact your senators and representative and let them know that by strengthening and growing today’s National Guard, our country will have a strong and affordable national defense. 12 | Na tional Guard

Washington Update

The latest Capitol Hill news from the NGAUS legislative staff<br /> <br /> Going Backwards<br /> <br /> THE AIR NATIONAL Guard is having a hard time swallowing its systematic dismantling in favor of the expensive active component.<br /> <br /> While the Air Force’s structure adjustments for fiscal 2013 appear to be spread like peanut butter across the force and many units are being promised follow-on missions, a closer look reveals a fundamental shift backward.<br /> <br /> But I have to give Air Force leaders some credit. At least they don’t hide their agenda. They want to return to their good old days of the Cold War, and they admit it.<br /> <br /> In their Force Structure Changes roll-out document last month, they note, “In 1990, the Reserve Component represented 25 percent of the Total Force end strength; that percentage has increased to 35 percent today. Reserve Component aircraft ownership also increased from approximately 23 percent to 28 percent over the same period.” <br /> <br /> Despite the Total Air Force’s unprecedented operational success since 1991, despite the need today for greater cost efficiencies, and despite the other services planning to rely less on their active forces, Air Force leaders actually want to rely more on the active component.<br /> <br /> The result—if Congress goes along—will be a less experienced and less capable force.<br /> <br /> And Air Force leaders want you and the rest of the country to believe the Air Guard is going along willingly with this scheme.<br /> <br /> Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, the chief of staff, wrote in an Air Force Times op-ed last month, that “[A]cross-the-board involvement by senior active, Guard and Reserve Air Force leaders and state adjutants general demonstrated everyone’s commitment to this important endeavor.”<br /> <br /> A more accurate portrayal would be the director of the Air Guard being dragged along kicking and screaming.<br /> <br /> Did some Guard leaders participate in the process? Yes. Were they full partners? Hardly.<br /> <br /> All of us would love to believe Air Force leaders are sincere in their efforts to ensure the Air Guard is treated fairly and provided with a “concurrent and balanced” share of new aircraft.<br /> <br /> But given the Air Force’s history of keeping promises, why should they be believed?<br /> <br /> Remember the three A-10 fighter units that were supposed to have their aircraft until 2025? Or how about the brand-new C-27J program? The Air Force plan would send to the “boneyard” these perfectly good aircraft that can be maintained on the cheap by the Air Guard.<br /> <br /> Imagine the visual of C-27Js going straight from the assembly line to the aircraft graveyard in the Arizona desert. 60 Minutes would love it.<br /> <br /> Air Force leaders are offering the MC- 12—a manned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft—to some units losing aircraft.<br /> <br /> But Guard units should be wary of this. Systems exclusive to the Guard soon end up on the retirement list.<br /> <br /> Promises from the Air Force are just that. Promises.<br /> <br /> Air Force leaders are also proposing to cut approximately 5,100 Guardsmen, most of whom are drilling Guardsmen.<br /> <br /> Remember, Guard airmen tend to be more experienced than their active-component counterparts and are a quarter of the cost to maintain.<br /> <br /> It’s time for the Air Force to go back to the drawing board and develop a plan that preserves the maximum amount of combat capability at the lowest cost.<br /> <br /> And to assure a strong and ready force, the Guard community should demand that follow-on missions be fully funded and in law before any iron is removed.<br /> <br /> Promises are nice, but the power of law and full funding is better.<br /> <br /> Contact your senators and representative and let them know that by strengthening and growing today’s National Guard, our country will have a strong and affordable national defense.<br /> <br /> Defense Budget Plan Increases Health Care Fees for Retirees <br /> <br /> The budget for the Pentagon released last month by the administration of President Barack Obama hits working retirees with a fee hike for their TRICARE health insurance.<br /> <br /> It could nearly quadruple current fees for some retirees as Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta calls skyrocketing personnel costs “unsustainable.”<br /> <br /> The family health insurance fee will rise based on a retiree’s retirement income. It will go from $520 per year now to as much as $820 next year, but will rise each year until it reaches as much as $2,048 for those receiving the most retirement pay in 2017.<br /> <br /> The same tiered approach will impact the TRICARE For Life annual enrollment fee for retirees age 65 and older. It would reach $475 by 2017.<br /> <br /> NGAUS will not accept the new costs without a fight.<br /> <br /> “While the Defense Department continues to talk about not breaching faith with military retirees, this proposal appears to be a serious breach of faith to so many who have given so much to our country,” said retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr., the association president. “Of biggest concern are the steady increases after fiscal 2013, which will far exceed cost-of-living increases our retirees can expect.” <br /> <br /> At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee to discuss the budget, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked if he was willing to pay more.<br /> <br /> “I am, sir,” he replied.<br /> <br /> Army Times pointed out that Dempsey’s retirement pay for his 38 years of service would be around $219,000 per year.<br /> <br /> Congressman Pushes Secretary To Assess Afghanistan Strategy<br /> <br /> Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., is asking Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta to create a panel to study the overall U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.<br /> <br /> In a letter to Panetta last month, Wolf said he was troubled by a report filed by an Army officer after being deployed to Afghanistan for a year in 2010 and 2011, according to Army Times.<br /> <br /> Lt. Col. Daniel Davis wrote, “What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground.”<br /> <br /> His comments were published online by Armed Forces Journal in a piece called “Truth, Lies and Afghanistan.” He also released an unclassified report of his observations to members of Congress.<br /> <br /> Wolf was able to get $1 million in the 2012 defense appropriations bill to create a panel to review U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. He wrote to Panetta last month urging the secretary to create an Afghanistan/Pakistan Study Group.<br /> <br /> His letter said, “I believe any objective observer would agree we need fresh eyes on the target.”<br /> <br /> BRAC Battle Likely in Congress As DoD Seeks Base Closures <br /> <br /> The Pentagon wants to establish a commission to study base closures in the United States.<br /> <br /> But a powerful lawmaker has already deemed the idea dead on arrival when it gets to Congress.<br /> <br /> “Kill it,” is what Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said when asked what he would do with the request.<br /> <br /> Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told McKeon’s committee that a formal request for a base realignment and closure (BRAC) commission for fiscal 2013 and fiscal 2015 will happen this month.<br /> <br /> Panetta, a former congressman, spoke from personal experience at the hearing.<br /> <br /> “As somebody who went through the BRAC process in my own district, I recognize how controversial this process is for members and for constituencies,” he said. “And yet, it is the only effective way to achieve infrastructure savings.”<br /> <br /> The most recent BRAC in 2005 caused much distress in the National Guard, which saw it not so much as a way to realign infrastructure, but a backdoor way to eliminate units and personnel from the Guard.<br /> <br /> Not everyone in Congress is against BRAC. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said all measures to cut costs should be on the table.<br /> <br /> “We’re willing to negotiate on something like that,” he said.<br /> <br /> Miller: Exempt Veteran Care From Automatic Budget Cuts<br /> <br /> Health care for veterans would not be part of automatic budget cuts if a bill introduced last month by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., becomes law.<br /> <br /> The Protect VA Healthcare Act of 2012 would do exactly what its title implies. It would exempt health care programs for veterans from the sequestration cuts—the automatic budget cuts required under the 2011 Budget Control Act.<br /> <br /> That act requires cuts to the federal budget of $1.2 trillion as part of a deal reached to raise the debt ceiling last year. This includes nearly $500 billion over 10 years to cut from defense spending, which is likely to include reductions in spending on health care for veterans.<br /> <br /> “Due to a conflict in the law, the Department of Veterans Affairs may be subject to a 2 percent cut in medical care—a cut that would significantly impact the care provided to America’s veterans,” Miller said in a statement when he introduced his bill.<br /> <br /> Miller is chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.<br /> <br /> Guardsmen Face Employer Bias, House Subcommittee Members Told<br /> <br /> Nearly two out of three employers will not hire a member of the National Guard because of the possibility of missed work due to deployment, a congressional panel was told last month.<br /> <br /> Ted Daywalt, the chief executive officer and president of VetJobs, said studies by the Society of Human Resource Management and Workforce Management indicate 65 percent of employers steer clear of hiring Guardsmen.<br /> <br /> He was speaking Feb. 2 before the House Committee on Veteran Affairs subcommittee on economic opportunity. The topic was “Lowering the Rate of Unemployment for the National Guard.”<br /> <br /> Two adjutants general also gave testimony, along with other Guard officials.<br /> <br /> “The call-up policy which has resulted in multiple call ups for many reserve-component members has caused employers to not want to hire members of the National Guard … which has led to the high unemployment rate in young veterans,” Daywalt said.<br /> <br /> He testified that the jobless rate in December 2011 for all veterans aged 18 to 24 was 31 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.<br /> <br /> For all veterans of all ages the rate was less than 8 percent, indicating that young veterans are particularly hard hit by unemployment.<br /> <br /> Also speaking at the hearing was Maj. Gen. Terry M. Haston, the Tennessee adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Timothy Orr, the Iowa adjutant general, Brig. Gen. Margaret Washburn, the Indiana assistant adjutant general, and Brig. Gen. Marianne Watson, the director of manpower and personnel at the National Guard Bureau.<br /> <br /> The adjutants general noted that their troops suffer a higher unemployment rate than the general population, but getting an accurate accounting is difficult because some are in college and others are fresh out of high school, for example.<br /> <br /> Witness statements and testimony can be read at http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/ lowering-the-rate-of-unemployment-for-thenational- guard.<br /> <br /> Montana Lawmaker Establishes Caucus to Focus on Vet Jobs<br /> <br /> Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., has created a group in the Senate to focus on the unemployment problems facing veterans, especially new veterans.<br /> <br /> He is the founding member of the Senate Veterans Jobs Caucus and expects the group to use many ideas found in the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, the only jobs bill passed by Congress last year.<br /> <br /> That law streamlines the transition between military service and civilian life by expanding training opportunities and providing tax incentives to businesses for hiring veterans.<br /> <br /> “I expect this group to build on last year’s veterans’ jobs bill and create good job opportunities that honor the service of our men and women in uniform,” Tester said.<br /> <br /> Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., will join the caucus, which will hold monthly events to share information on veteran employment initiatives, monitor veteran employment issues and develop initiatives that allow employers that hire veterans to highlight that fact.

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