National Guard May 2012 : Page 12

WASHINGTON UPDATE The latest Capitol Hill news from the NGAUS legislative staff The Pen is Passed The NGAUS legislative staff bid farewell in March to Richard Green, who retired as the legislative director and returned to his home in Ohio, leaving behind a large legacy. During his tenure, NGAUS gained a fourth star and a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the National Guard Bureau chief, maintained robust Guard equipment and military-construction funding, fought off the grab of Air Guard C-130s by the Air Force, expanded coverage in the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, provided embedded mental health care providers in our armories during drill, made TRICARE available to gray-area retirees and broke ground in lowering the age for retirement pay. Our former boss leaves just as the huge budget challenges ahead make it difficult to further our priorities, particularly in the strategic battle against the cuts in equipment, personnel and missions planned willy-nilly by the Air Force. We will miss Rich Green, but will continue full speed ahead with the Washington Update pen now passed to me as acting legislative director. —By Pete Duffy NGAUS will be watching the progress of H.R. 4164 , which would expand full eligibility for space-available travel. Joint: TRICARE Fee Hike Key Issue For NGAUS to Fight on Capitol Hill The full House Armed Services Com-mittee has scheduled the markup of the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act for May 9. Once the committee has approved the bill, it will go to the House of Representatives where floor amendments may be offered. The full Senate Armed Ser-vices Committee will mark up its version of the NDAA later this month. TRICARE fees will be a key issue facing the committee. The president’s budget seeks to increase annual enrollment fees for TRICARE Prime and TRICARE for Life, impose enrollment fees and higher deduct-ibles for TRICARE Standard and Extra, and increase co-pays for pharmaceuticals. The proposed fee increases for these TRICARE programs would be indexed to medical inflation rates established by the National Health Expenditures Index irre-spective of any cost-of-living pay increases for serving or retired members. The Office of the Actuary, Centers for Medicare and Medical Services, projects national health expenditures to increase an average of 6.1 percent a year through 2019 and increase from $2.708 trillion in 2011 to $4.638 trillion in 2020. These possible cost increases on prom-ised medical benefits already paid for in full by our members’ past service are not sitting well with the military community. Space-A Travel: NGAUS will be watch-ing the progress of H.R. 4164, which would expand full space-available travel eligibility for our members, their families, gray-area retirees and widows of retirees. S. 2112 is the companion bill in the Senate. See the Legislative Alert distributed March 14 for a Write to Congress message on these bills. It can be found at www.ngaus.org. Mental health: NGAUS learned there is no funding in the president’s budget for the newly enacted program to embed mental health care providers in our armories. This leaves states to use their operations and maintenance accounts to fund the program. Joan Hunter, the National Guard Bureau director of psychological health, believes a supplemental fund of a modest $5 million in a separate program line at NGB would be adequate to supplement the 11 or 12 states that she perceives will be at risk. Besides, a $5 million request likely pales to the billions that the Defense Depart-ment will reportedly receive for family and mental health funding for the active ser-vices. The continuing high rate of National Guard suicides warrants the full attention of Congress in requiring DoD to share its vast store of mental health funding with the embed programs of the Guard. —By Pete Duffy, acting legislative director Army: More Guard Equipment Funding Needed to Erase Current Shortages The Army programs team at NGAUS has been pushing legislators for more National 12 | Na tional Guard

Washington Update

The latest Capitol Hill news from the NGAUS legislative staff<br /> <br /> NGAUS will be watching the progress of H.R. 4164, which would expand full eligibility for space-available travel.<br /> <br /> The Pen is Passed <br /> <br /> The NGAUS legislative staff bid farewell in March to Richard Green, who retired as the legislative director and returned to his home in Ohio, leaving behind a large legacy.<br /> <br /> During his tenure, NGAUS gained a fourth star and a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the National Guard Bureau chief, maintained robust Guard equipment and militaryconstruction funding, fought off the grab of Air Guard C-130s by the Air Force, expanded coverage in the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, provided embedded mental health care providers in our armories during drill, made TRICARE available to gray-area retirees and broke ground in lowering the age for retirement pay.<br /> <br /> Our former boss leaves just as the huge budget challenges ahead make it difficult to further our priorities, particularly in the strategic battle against the cuts in equipment, personnel and missions planned willy-nilly by the Air Force.<br /> <br /> We will miss Rich Green, but will continue full speed ahead with the Washington Update pen now passed to me as acting legislative director.<br /> <br /> Joint: TRICARE Fee Hike Key Issue For NGAUS to Fight on Capitol Hill <br /> <br /> The full House Armed Services Committee has scheduled the markup of the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act for May 9. Once the committee has approved the bill, it will go to the House of Representatives where floor amendments may be offered. The full Senate Armed Services Committee will mark up its version of the NDAA later this month.<br /> <br /> TRICARE fees will be a key issue facing the committee. The president’s budget seeks to increase annual enrollment fees for TRICARE Prime and TRICARE for Life, impose enrollment fees and higher deductibles for TRICARE Standard and Extra, and increase co-pays for pharmaceuticals.<br /> <br /> The proposed fee increases for these TRICARE programs would be indexed to medical inflation rates established by the National Health Expenditures Index irrespective of any cost-of-living pay increases for serving or retired members.<br /> <br /> The Office of the Actuary, Centers for Medicare and Medical Services, projects national health expenditures to increase an average of 6.1 percent a year through 2019 and increase from $2.708 trillion in 2011 to $4.638 trillion in 2020.<br /> <br /> These possible cost increases on promised medical benefits already paid for in full by our members’ past service are not sitting well with the military community.<br /> <br /> Space-A Travel: NGAUS will be watching the progress of H.R. 4164, which would expand full space-available travel eligibility for our members, their families, gray-area retirees and widows of retirees. S. 2112 is the companion bill in the Senate. See the Legislative Alert distributed March 14 for a Write to Congress message on these bills. It can be found at www.ngaus.org. <br /> <br /> Mental health: NGAUS learned there is no funding in the president’s budget for the newly enacted program to embed mental health care providers in our armories. This leaves states to use their operations and maintenance accounts to fund the program.<br /> <br /> Joan Hunter, the National Guard Bureau director of psychological health, believes a supplemental fund of a modest $5 million in a separate program line at NGB would be adequate to supplement the 11 or 12 states that she perceives will be at risk.<br /> <br /> Besides, a $5 million request likely pales to the billions that the Defense Department will reportedly receive for family and mental health funding for the active services. The continuing high rate of National Guard suicides warrants the full attention of Congress in requiring DoD to share its vast store of mental health funding with the embed programs of the Guard.<br /> <br /> Army: More Guard Equipment Funding Needed to Erase Current Shortages <br /> <br /> The Army programs team at NGAUS has been pushing legislators for more National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account funds to modernize and fill shortages in Army Guard equipment levels.<br /> <br /> While the overall Army procurement funding is up, Army Guard procurement funding is down. The Army Guard share was 15 percent last year, but is 10 percent this year, dropping from $2.9 billion to $1.7 billion.<br /> <br /> Army Guard aircraft procurement is also down, from 14 percent of the request last year to 4 percent for fiscal 2013.<br /> <br /> For example, there are currently 448 “A” model Black Hawk helicopters in the Guard fleet, which are nearing 30 years old. The fiscal 2013 budget request provides funds for 59 “M” models for the active component, but none for the Guard <br /> <br /> Similarly, there is no funding for new Chinooks for the Army Guard.<br /> <br /> In answers to questions from lawmakers during several appearances before congressional defense committees, Army Secretary John McHugh and Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army chief of staff, have seemingly affirmed their commitment to an operational reserve and to properly equipping the Army Guard.<br /> <br /> Odierno told the House Armed Services Committee, “As we move forward, we will ensure our National Guard and Army Reserves remain resourced at an appropriate level to build on the competencies and experiences that have been gained over the past several years. We are committed to maintaining an operational reserve to meet future security requirements. We will adapt our progressive readiness model to do that.” <br /> <br /> McHugh told a Senate Armed Services Committee panel, “The challenge for us now is to retain the incredible skill that . Both the Guard and the Reserve have accrued over the last 10 years and not squander it.” <br /> <br /> —By Kevin McColaugh, senior legislative affairs manager <br /> <br /> Air: Congress Dislikes Air Force Plan To Reduce Guard Aircraft, Personnel <br /> <br /> A sense of distrust and deception has plagued the Air Force’s reputation on Capitol Hill.<br /> <br /> The NGAUS legislative staff has held more than 100 meetings with personal and professional staff this year, with most of them focusing on the draconian cuts proposed in the Air Force’s fiscal 2013 budget.<br /> <br /> That proposal, largely panned across much of Congress, would reduce the Air National Guard by 5,100 airmen and cut the fleet by about 180 aircraft.<br /> <br /> Questions have been asked in hearings about strategy and cost analysis with either silence from the Air Force leadership or an answer that was quickly found to be incorrect.<br /> <br /> The Council of Governor’s counter proposal has been a hot topic. The CoG put together alternate options only to have them shot down by the Air Force staff for various reasons, most without sound logic and some even questioned by Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff.<br /> <br /> Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Adm. James Winnefeld, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, took over negotiations with the governors in late March after talks with the Air Force bogged down.<br /> <br /> After three weeks of no discussion, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta proposed restoring 24 C-130s and approximately 2,000 airmen to the Guard, but this was nothing more than the recycling of an earlier Air Force offer the CoG rejected.<br /> <br /> It’s time for the Hill to make its mark and insert language to protect the Air Guard from the proposed cuts. House members have been considering language submitted by NGAUS to halt the cuts across the board and insert floors to National Guard personnel levels.<br /> <br /> The Senate National Guard Caucus has drafted language to be included in the final version of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.<br /> <br /> Of course, the Air Force still has time to come to the table with the Air Guard to participate in a compromise somewhere in the middle.<br /> <br /> —By Emily Sass, senior legislative affairs manager <br /> <br /> Legislation 101 <br /> <br /> The legislative process, which turns a bill into a law, can be dynamic and complex. But for our democratic system to prosper, it’s vital that its citizens understand the process. Legislation 101 will explain key terms to help you better understand the process.<br /> <br /> Markup: The process by which congressional committees and subcommittees debate, amend and rewrite proposed legislation.

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