National Guard July 2012 : Page 12

WASHINGTON UPDATE The latest Capitol Hill news from the NGAUS legislative staff Waiting Game By Pete Duffy H Election-year posturing being what it is, don’t be surprised if lawmakers push final work on the defense budget until December. EADING INTO SUMMER, it’s not clear when the Senate version of the defense authorization bill will come to the floor for a vote or when and how the differences in the House and Senate ver-sions will be reconciled in joint conference where anything can happen. The top line is the major difference in the two bills, with the House version $4 billion above the president’s budget request. The Republican-led House, not anxious to be seen as soft on defense in this election year, agreed to the additional spending, while the Senate, which is in the hands of a Democratic majority, stayed within the president’s budget of $631.4 billion. This difference will be the key defense bill issue at the joint conference. Election-year posturing being what it is, don’t be surprised if lawmakers don’t push this final work on the defense budget until Decem-ber, after the national election. One provision found only in the Senate version of the authorization bill is language that would expand space-available travel for Guardsmen, Reservists and “gray area” retirees, as well as their dependents. This language was blocked in the House by active opposition from the Defense De-partment, which, through a staff attorney, cynically defended active-duty utilization of space-A flights as a “privilege,” while labeling similar Guard use as, excuse the expression, an “entitlement.” The attorney clearly knew how the cur-rent Congress shrinks in horror at the latter term. ( story, page 22 ) Keep in mind that the president histori-cally sets the budget agenda on Capitol Hill with a budget submitted to Congress usually in the first week of February. This becomes the benchmark Congress uses to determine earmarks, which describes any congres-sional funding of a state program that is not mentioned in the president’s budget. Any congressional funding of an existing federal program in excess of the president’s budget is not deemed an earmark. In other words, Congress allows itself to lavish ad-ditional money on federal programs while playing Scrooge to the states. For those of you who track the progress of lowering from 60 the eligibility age for members of the reserve component to draw retirement pay, NGAUS has sought for years legislation that would make retroac-tive to 9/11 the date after which the eligibil-ity age could be lowered by each increment of 90 days of cumulative service in support of a contingency operation. The association has also sought elimina-tion of the requirement that the 90 days of service occur in one fiscal year. Both measures are deemed entitlements with a 10-year estimated cost of $1.14 billion for retroactivity and $180 million for eliminat-ing the fiscal year requirement. Under the “pay go” law, Congress cannot add new entitlements without offsetting their cost by cutting from existing entitle-ment programs or funding the legislation as an emergency spending measure. This law has killed this legislative effort annually. Barring an emergency spending measure to fund lowering the retirement pay eligibil-ity age, “pay go” severely limits our chances of success in this area. Another issue this year has been the Pentagon’s proposed increases in TRICARE enrollment fees and deductibles for retirees. The House and Senate blocked the plan, at least for this year. But increases for prescrip-tion drugs obtained off base seem certain. The Senate has signaled that the Pen-tagon can use existing authority to raise co-pays on brand-name prescriptions filled through retail pharmacies or the TRICARE mail-order service. The House, meanwhile, voted to raise some drug co-pays effective Oct. 15. If the House defers to the Senate in conference, the Pentagon could implement most of the prescription drug increases it proposed in its five-year budget plan. The increases would be more modest if the House prevails. 12 | Na tional Guard

Washington Update

Pete Duffy

Waiting Game<br /> <br /> Election-year posturing being what it is, don’t be surprised if lawmakers push final work on the defense budget until December.<br /> <br /> HEADING INTO SUMMER, it’s not clear when the Senate version of the defense authorization bill will come to the floor for a vote or when and how the differences in the House and Senate versions will be reconciled in joint conference where anything can happen.<br /> <br /> The top line is the major difference in the two bills, with the House version $4 billion above the president’s budget request.<br /> <br /> The Republican-led House, not anxious to be seen as soft on defense in this election year, agreed to the additional spending, while the Senate, which is in the hands of a Democratic majority, stayed within the president’s budget of $631.4 billion.<br /> <br /> This difference will be the key defense bill issue at the joint conference. Electionyear posturing being what it is, don’t be surprised if lawmakers don’t push this final work on the defense budget until December, after the national election.<br /> <br /> One provision found only in the Senate version of the authorization bill is language that would expand space-available travel for Guardsmen, Reservists and “gray area” retirees, as well as their dependents.<br /> <br /> This language was blocked in the House by active opposition from the Defense Department, which, through a staff attorney, cynically defended active-duty utilization of space-A flights as a “privilege,” while labeling similar Guard use as, excuse the expression, an “entitlement.” <br /> <br /> The attorney clearly knew how the current Congress shrinks in horror at the latter term. (story, page 22) <br /> <br /> Keep in mind that the president historically sets the budget agenda on Capitol Hill with a budget submitted to Congress usually in the first week of February. This becomes the benchmark Congress uses to determine earmarks, which describes any congressional funding of a state program that is not mentioned in the president’s budget.<br /> <br /> Any congressional funding of an existing federal program in excess of the president’s budget is not deemed an earmark. In other words, Congress allows itself to lavish additional money on federal programs while playing Scrooge to the states.<br /> <br /> For those of you who track the progress of lowering from 60 the eligibility age for members of the reserve component to draw retirement pay, NGAUS has sought for years legislation that would make retroactive to 9/11 the date after which the eligibility age could be lowered by each increment of 90 days of cumulative service in support of a contingency operation.<br /> <br /> The association has also sought elimination of the requirement that the 90 days of service occur in one fiscal year. Both measures are deemed entitlements with a 10-year estimated cost of $1.14 billion for retroactivity and $180 million for eliminating the fiscal year requirement.<br /> <br /> Under the “pay go” law, Congress cannot add new entitlements without offsetting their cost by cutting from existing entitlement programs or funding the legislation as an emergency spending measure. This law has killed this legislative effort annually.<br /> <br /> Barring an emergency spending measure to fund lowering the retirement pay eligibility age, “pay go” severely limits our chances of success in this area.<br /> <br /> Another issue this year has been the Pentagon’s proposed increases in TRICARE enrollment fees and deductibles for retirees.<br /> <br /> The House and Senate blocked the plan, at least for this year. But increases for prescription drugs obtained off base seem certain.<br /> <br /> The Senate has signaled that the Pentagon can use existing authority to raise co-pays on brand-name prescriptions filled through retail pharmacies or the TRICARE mail-order service.<br /> <br /> The House, meanwhile, voted to raise some drug co-pays effective Oct. 15.<br /> <br /> If the House defers to the Senate in conference, the Pentagon could implement most of the prescription drug increases it proposed in its five-year budget plan.<br /> <br /> The increases would be more modest if the House prevails.<br /> <br /> Congress continues to take steps to reaffirm the Guard as a mission-focused, cost-effective force.<br /> <br /> Bill Boosts Reproductive Measures For Women Injured in War Zones <br /> <br /> Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the chairwoman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, has introduced legislation that would allow in vitro fertilization for veterans when injuries suffered in the wars prevent other means of conception.<br /> <br /> Currently, such health services are banned by the Department of Veterans Affairs.<br /> <br /> A press release from Murray’s office notes that more than 600 service members suffered reproductive and urinary tract trauma between 2003 and 2011.<br /> <br /> “Reproductive injuries are some of the most impactful and serious wounds of these wars,” Murray said when introducing the Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act of 2012 last month. “VA has an obligation to care for the combat wounded. For those with such catastrophic injuries, that includes access to the fertility care they need.<br /> <br /> “Veterans and their spouses are specifically barred from accessing in vitro fertilization services at the VA and often times have to spend tens of thousands of dollars in the private sector to get the advanced reproductive treatments they need to start a family.” <br /> <br /> Murray noted that in vitro fertilization is provided by the Defense Department to severely wounded service members under TRICARE. This bill would extend the same access to veterans.<br /> <br /> The prevalence of improvised explosive devices as a weapon directed at coalition troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan has caused the high number of injuries of this type, the press release noted.<br /> <br /> Concurrent Resolution Goal: Maintain National Guard as Operational Reserve <br /> <br /> Members of the House and Senate introduced a concurrent resolution recognizing the National Guard’s 375 years of service and affirming support for it as a permanent operational reserve of the U.S. armed forces.<br /> <br /> Sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., co-chairs of the Senate National Guard Caucus, and in the House by Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., both versions—S. Con. Res. 48 and H. Con. Res. 129—gained immediate support.<br /> <br /> Acknowledging the longstanding history of the Guard, from the opening salvoes at Lexington and Concord in 1775 to rotations overseas after 9/11 and involvement in countless domestic response missions, the concurrent resolution recognizes the critical importance of the operational reserve as a dual-status, state-federal Guard, “the cornerstone of the Operational Reserve and our military manpower in the years and budgets to come.” <br /> <br /> In light of the Air Force’s attempt in its fiscal 2013 budget request to retire or transfer Guard aircraft and the consequent fallout with Congress over lack of justifications by the Air Force, this concurrent resolution goes one step further than proposed legislation supported by congressional defense committees in both chambers.<br /> <br /> It repudiates proposals to “return the Reserve Component to a diminished or purely strategic role in our national security.” <br /> <br /> In a letter circulated to members of Congress, the original co-sponsors agreed that Congress must find savings throughout the budget, but stated clearly they believed the Air Force was “looking at the wrong part of its budget to find those savings.” <br /> <br /> With the Senate poised to finalize its version of the fiscal 2013 defense authorization, Congress continues to take steps to reaffirm the Guard as a mission-focused and cost-effective force, representing the “volunteerism which is the heart of modern U.S. military service.” <br /> <br /> NGAUS hopes this concurrent resolution will be voted on and passed in both chambers ensuring the men and women of our operational reserve continue to play a key role for years to come.<br /> <br /> Legislation 101<br /> <br /> Concurrent resolution: This legislative measure, designated “S. Con. Res.” and numbered consecutively upon introduction, is generally employed to address the sentiments of both chambers, to deal with issues or matters affecting both houses, such as a concurrent budget resolution, or to create a temporary joint committee. Concurrent resolutions are not submitted to the president and thus do not have the force of law.

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