National Guard March 2011 : Page 12

WASHINGTON UPDATE The latest Capitol Hill news from the NGAUS legislative staff By Richard M. Green Wrong Villains Guard and Reserves Equipment Account— about 18.5 percent—than the Air Guard, which received 14 percent. NGREA is a funding source the chief of the National Guard Bureau can use for high-priority, dual-use equipment and other modernization programs not specifically in the Defense Department budget. Other programs funded through ear-marks include the Guard’s counterdrug operations. From 2005 to 2009, the coun-terdrug program received $98.5 million in the general state plans and another $161 million for “state specific” requests. Without that $260 million, it’s doubtful that the program, which provides irreplace-able assistance to state and local law enforce-ment agencies, would be as effective as it is. In fact, it might not even exist. Earmarks get a lot of bad press, and certainly some of the projects for which they are used justify that. But earmarks and the lawmakers who’ve used them have been overly vilified. The $16 billion spent last year on 9,413 ear-marks is less than 2 percent of the overall spending appropriated by Congress. Furthermore, earmarks have been critical to enhancing Guard readiness. They have helped ensure that we have what we need to answer the call, whether for combat over-seas or to help battle natural disasters here at home. The federal deficit is a real problem. And the defense budget shouldn’t be immune to cuts. But, earmarks—or something like them—should continue as a way to fund adequate Guard personnel, equipment, facilities and training until the Defense Department assures our force’s readiness by providing full funding in the base budget. Contact your senators and representatives by phone, fax, letter, personal visit or by using our Write to Congress feature found at www.ngaus.org. Tell them earmarks for the Guard are investments in our readiness. And let them know how a strong and ready National Guard is “Right for America!” Earmarks get a lot of bad press, but they’ve also been critical to National Guard readiness . HE FIRST EARMARK appeared in the late 16th century. It was a distinctive notch in an animal’s ear that farmers used to mark livestock as their property. The term has evolved until today it is, depending on your perspective, one of two vastly different things. It could be an egregious example of waste-ful government spending for such things as the infamous “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska. Or, as we in the National Guard prefer to say, an earmark is Congress correctly providing for the nation’s common defense by funding critical Guard training or equip-ment not included in the president’s budget. Although the talk on Capitol Hill is definitely anti-earmark with a bent to-ward eliminating them, some members of Congress aren’t quite ready to abandon their constitutional authority to execute the “power of the purse.” And since bringing home the bacon also represents jobs and a wide variety of other projects for constituents back home, we might just see earmarks take some new form with a new name. The bottom line here is that they prob-ably won’t disappear. And that’s good news for those of us who care about the Guard. Earmarks have contributed greatly to the force’s improved readiness over the past 20 years. During that time, the Army and Air Guard received everything from trucks and airplanes to funding for new facilities and missions that didn’t make the Pentagon’s budget cut. In fact, without earmarks, the Guard probably would have been unable to provide the vital help active-component forces have needed over the last 10 years. A look at defense spending over the past five years shows where many earmarks have gone. The Air Guard received roughly 12 percent of its overall equipment fund-ing from earmarks to active-component accounts. The Army Guard received only about 1 percent. But the Army Guard received a higher portion in congressionally funded National T 12 | Na tional Guard

Washington Update

The latest Capitol Hill news from the NGAUS legislative staff<br /> <br /> Wrong Villains<br /> <br /> By Richard M. Green<br /> <br /> THE FIRST EARMARK appeared in the late 16th century. It was a distinctive notch in an animal's ear that farmers used to mark livestock as their property.<br /> <br /> The term has evolved until today it is, depending on your perspective, one of two vastly different things.<br /> <br /> It could be an egregious example of wasteful government spending for such things as the infamous "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska.<br /> <br /> Or, as we in the National Guard prefer to say, an earmark is Congress correctly providing for the nation's common defense by funding critical Guard training or equipment not included in the president's budget.<br /> <br /> Although the talk on Capitol Hill is definitely anti-earmark with a bent toward eliminating them, some members of Congress aren't quite ready to abandon their constitutional authority to execute the "power of the purse."<br /> <br /> And since bringing home the bacon also represents jobs and a wide variety of other projects for constituents back home, we might just see earmarks take some new form with a new name.<br /> <br /> The bottom line here is that they probably won't disappear. And that's good news for those of us who care about the Guard. Earmarks have contributed greatly to the force's improved readiness over the past 20 years.<br /> <br /> During that time, the Army and Air Guard received everything from trucks and airplanes to funding for new facilities and missions that didn't make the Pentagon's budget cut.<br /> <br /> In fact, without earmarks, the Guard probably would have been unable to provide the vital help active-component forces have needed over the last 10 years.<br /> <br /> A look at defense spending over the past five years shows where many earmarks have gone. The Air Guard received roughly 12 percent of its overall equipment funding from earmarks to active-component accounts. The Army Guard received only about 1 percent.<br /> <br /> But the Army Guard received a higher portion in congressionally funded National Guard and Reserves Equipment Account– about 18.5 percent–than the Air Guard, which received 14 percent.<br /> <br /> NGREA is a funding source the chief of the National Guard Bureau can use for high-priority, dual-use equipment and other modernization programs not specifically in the Defense Department budget.<br /> <br /> Other programs funded through earmarks include the Guard's counterdrug operations. From 2005 to 2009, the counterdrug program received $98.5 million in the general state plans and another $161 million for "state specific" requests.<br /> <br /> Without that $260 million, it's doubtful that the program, which provides irreplaceable assistance to state and local law enforcement agencies, would be as effective as it is. In fact, it might not even exist.<br /> <br /> Earmarks get a lot of bad press, and certainly some of the projects for which they are used justify that.<br /> <br /> But earmarks and the lawmakers who've used them have been overly vilified. The $16 billion spent last year on 9,413 earmarks is less than 2 percent of the overall spending appropriated by Congress.<br /> <br /> Furthermore, earmarks have been critical to enhancing Guard readiness. They have helped ensure that we have what we need to answer the call, whether for combat overseas or to help battle natural disasters here at home.<br /> <br /> The federal deficit is a real problem. And the defense budget shouldn't be immune to cuts.<br /> <br /> But, earmarks–or something like them–should continue as a way to fund adequate Guard personnel, equipment, facilities and training until the Defense Department assures our force's readiness by providing full funding in the base budget.<br /> <br /> Contact your senators and representatives by phone, fax, letter, personal visit or by using our Write to Congress feature found at www.ngaus.org. Tell them earmarks for the Guard are investments in our readiness. And let them know how a strong and ready National Guard is "Right for America!"<br /> <br /> Senator Introduces Legislation To Boost Status of NGB Chief<br /> <br /> Sen. John D. Rockefeller, D-W.Va., introduced a bill last month that would elevate the chief of the National Guard Bureau to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.<br /> <br /> The bill, known as the Guardians of Freedom Act of 2011, has the support of NGAUS, which has pushed for a long time for the chief to have this status to more accurately reflect the current role of the National Guard. A companion bill in the House is expected soon.<br /> <br /> Co-sponsors are Sen. Olympia Snowe, RMaine, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.<br /> <br /> During his introduction of the bill, Rockefeller said, "This legislation will strengthen our national security both abroad and here at home."<br /> <br /> He said it provides a voice at the highest levels of government for the 20 percent of the military that is Guardsmen.<br /> <br /> As the former governor of West Virginia, Rockefeller is aware of the many roles played by the Guard for the state and the nation. He called it "unique" in that it serves both governors and the president.<br /> <br /> "By making the chief of the National Guard Bureau a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Guardians of Freedom Act of 2011 will guarantee that the National Guard is part of the discussion as the nation responds to threats both foreign and domestic," he said.<br /> <br /> Are You a Veteran? NGAUS Seeks Legislation Redefining Vet Status<br /> <br /> NGAUS expects sponsors to come forward in the House and the Senate to put forth once again bills that broaden the definition of "veteran."<br /> <br /> The Honor America's Guard and Reserve Retirees Act died in the Senate during the 111th Congress after passing the House. One senator held up the bill, which had been "hot lined" through the chamber's legislative process.<br /> <br /> The bill would have allowed anyone who served honorably for 20 years in the Guard or Reserve to be considered a veteran, something that current law denies unless the retiree has significant active-duty time.<br /> <br /> Although no additional benefits would come with the law and no money would be spent by the federal government, the idea had great support because of the honor and pride it brings to someone who can lawfully consider themselves a veteran.<br /> <br /> Currently, no similar legislation has been introduced in either chamber, but NGAUS is confident sponsors and co-sponsors can be found to put their names on legislation.<br /> <br /> President's 2012 Budget Request: Little Changes for National Guard<br /> <br /> President Barack Obama is prepared to provide the National Guard next year with about the same amount he requested in his budget request for fiscal 2011.<br /> <br /> His budget request released last month would provide roughly $24.8 billion for the Guard as part of his $671 billion request for the entire Defense Department, including $553 for discretionary spending and $118 billion for overseas contingency operations.<br /> <br /> The Guard portion is roughly the same as last year's budget request.<br /> <br /> Congress had not passed a spending bill for fiscal 2011 when the fiscal 2012 budget was created, so it is not possible to compare the final approved budget with the recent request.<br /> <br /> The president requests about $15.6 billion for the Army Guard and $9.2 billion for the Air Guard.<br /> <br /> An analysis by NGAUS of the Guard's portion of the president's budget can be found on the association's website at www.ngaus.org/budgetFY12.<br /> <br /> New Coalition Attempts to Stop Removal of C-23s from Guard<br /> <br /> The National Guard Coalition's first cooperative effort is its attempt to prevent the Army from removing much of the fixed wing aviation in the Army National Guard.<br /> <br /> In a letter signed by representatives of NGAUS, EANGUS and AGAUS, the coalition, which was formalized last month (Chairman's Message, page 10), asks defense leadership in the House and Senate to demand further study and stop any ongoing effort to remove the Army Guard's 42 C-23 Sherpas.<br /> <br /> The letter writers note that the "shortsighted decision" to remove fixed wing aircraft from the force does not consider the Guard's "critical dual mission of national security and response to civil authorities during domestic emergencies."<br /> <br /> "Divesting these assets without a comprehensive study of critical National Guard aviation requirements during emergencies demonstrates a lack of responsibility and is ill advised," the letter states.<br /> <br /> The letter, which is available for viewing at www.ngaus.org/fixedwingltr, was signed by Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, the NGAUS chairman, Maj. Gen. Michael Dubie, the president of AGAUS, and retired Chief Master Sgt. Roger A. Hagan, the president of EANGUS.<br /> <br /> Pentagon Budget Plan Boosts TRICARE Rates for Many Retirees<br /> <br /> In an attempt to get health care costs under control, the Pentagon has proposed an increase in TRICARE rates for workingage retirees of about 13 percent.<br /> <br /> Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' plans to cut $7 billion in health care costs from the defense budget over the next five years.<br /> <br /> The annual premium for an individual would jump from $230 to $260 with the $2.50 monthly increase.<br /> <br /> The premium for a family plan would go up $5 per month, raising the annual rate from $460 to $520.<br /> <br /> This does not impact retirees over the age of 65 or anyone currently serving.<br /> <br /> Information from the Defense Department notes that the department's health system budget has more than doubled since 2001.<br /> <br /> The current budget proposal includes $52.5 billion for that purpose.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, TRICARE rates for retirees have not increased since 1996. In an earlier discussion about health care, Gates noted that health care coverage for a federal worker with a family is about $5,000.<br /> <br /> He said many working retirees forego the coverage provided by their employers to remain on TRICARE.<br /> <br /> Raising rates has been put forward in the past, but did not find support in Congress. This idea, too, faces a stiff test in Congress.<br /> <br /> For example, Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., called lifetime health care for a career military member "a moral contract."<br /> <br /> Senate Adds Seven New Members To Armed Services Committee<br /> <br /> Senate Armed Service Committee assignments for the 112th Congress include four new Democrats and three new Republicans to the 26-member committee that oversees legislation related to the military and national defense.<br /> <br /> New Democrat committee members are Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and freshmen Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.<br /> <br /> They will join fellow Democratic senators Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee chairman, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Jim Webb of Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Mark Udall of Colorado, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Begich of Alaska. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, is also on the panel.<br /> <br /> Republicans joining the 12-member minority include Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, and freshmen Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Rob Portman of Ohio.<br /> <br /> They join current Republican senators John McCain of Arizona, the ranking member, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, David Vitter of Louisiana, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.<br /> <br /> VA Survey of Homeless: 76,000 Veterans Homeless on Any Night<br /> <br /> Although veterans are 10 percent of the population, they make up 12 percent of the nation's homeless population.<br /> <br /> That's the result of a survey released last month by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.<br /> <br /> It showed that more than 3,000 cities and counties reported 75,609 homeless veterans on a single night in January 2009. Most were in a shelter, but 43 percent were unsheltered.<br /> <br /> During 2009, an estimated 136,000 veterans, or about one in 168, spent at least one night in an emergency shelter.

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