National Guard April 2011 : Page 18

WASHINGTON UPDATE The latest Capitol Hill news from the NGAUS legislative staff By Richard M. Green Squeak Strongly who we are and all that we do. Lawmakers are bombarded by every side of every issue on why they should get a por-tion of shrinking federal resources. The squeaky wheel gets the grease in Washington and the Guard must squeak strongly to break through the crowd. The most effective way to do this is for the adjutant general and other senior leaders from a state’s Army and Air Guard units to pay a personal visit to their delegation in the nation’s capital. Let them hear it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. But a visit now and then is not enough. Guard leaders in every state must develop strong relationships with their elected representatives in Washington. They must separate themselves from the other folks asking for support. States that take that extra step ultimately will succeed. At a state conference I attended recently, it was gratifying to see the governor, a sena-tor and six members of the House of Repre-sentatives show up, along with a variety of local and state officials. But even better than their presence, it was clear that these officials knew many of the Guard leaders at the conference. They were friends and knew each other by name. And these elected officials knew the de-tails of the Guard’s needs in that state. There are other states who have worked just as hard on this kind of face-to-face recognition. They are the states that will do well when the budget battles begin. The Guard has a good argument to make in these troubled economic times. The Guard is efficient. It is cost effective. And it is vital to the nation’s security. If this argument can be won at the grass-roots level in states and territories, then the Guard’s future will be secure. Contact your senators and representative by phone, fax, letter, personal visit or by using our Write to Congress feature at www.ngaus.org. Let them know how a strong and ready Guard is “Right for America.” We must educate our representatives about who we are and all that we do. ITH UNITS IN more than 3,000 communities, the National Guard is directly connected to America. Guard soldiers and airmen reside in every ZIP code and work in just about any career or job you could name, in addition to being ready to defend freedom or provide assistance to their neighbors during natural disasters. You’ll even find Guardsmen in elected positions across the full spectrum of govern-ment, from city councils and state legisla-tures to the halls of Congress. Twenty former members of this country’s Guard or militia have even gone on to serve in the White House. Members of Congress appreciate the non-partisan aspect of the Guard. And it would be hard to find a lawmaker who wouldn’t stand up to praise its contributions and value. But even with all of these kind words and support, the Guard hasn’t always been provided with the resources it needed to perform its mission. That’s why NGAUS was established in 1878. Thanks in part to this association, the Guard today is in the best shape of its exis-tence. Equipment levels are high and much of our force is combat-tested. However, with high deficits and pressure to trim the budget, maintaining our current readiness will likely be a challenge. Given the respect the Guard currently enjoys and its presence in every corner of the country, some of you may ask why. The answer is, people can appreciate your work and even support you, without really knowing what you need to do your job. Lawmakers with Guard service are rare in Congress. Most of the rest sincerely support us, but many of them don’t fundamentally under-stand the unique aspects and requirements of our force. This means we must increase our efforts to educate our elected representatives about W 18 | Na tional Guard

Washington Update

Richard M. Green

We must educate our representatives about who we are and all that we do.<br /> <br /> The latest Capitol Hill news from the NGAUS legislative staff<br /> <br /> Squeak Strongly<br /> <br /> WITH UNITS IN more than 3,000 communities, the National Guard is directly connected to America. Guard soldiers and airmen reside in every ZIP code and work in just about any career or job you could name, in addition to being ready to defend freedom or provide assistance to their neighbors during natural disasters.<br /> <br /> You'll even find Guardsmen in elected positions across the full spectrum of government, from city councils and state legislatures to the halls of Congress.<br /> <br /> Twenty former members of this country's Guard or militia have even gone on to serve in the White House.<br /> <br /> Members of Congress appreciate the nonpartisan aspect of the Guard. And it would be hard to find a lawmaker who wouldn't stand up to praise its contributions and value.<br /> <br /> But even with all of these kind words and support, the Guard hasn't always been provided with the resources it needed to perform its mission. That's why NGAUS was established in 1878.<br /> <br /> Thanks in part to this association, the Guard today is in the best shape of its existence.<br /> <br /> Equipment levels are high and much of our force is combat-tested.<br /> <br /> However, with high deficits and pressure to trim the budget, maintaining our current readiness will likely be a challenge.<br /> <br /> Given the respect the Guard currently enjoys and its presence in every corner of the country, some of you may ask why.<br /> <br /> The answer is, people can appreciate your work and even support you, without really knowing what you need to do your job.<br /> <br /> Lawmakers with Guard service are rare in Congress.<br /> <br /> Most of the rest sincerely support us, but many of them don't fundamentally understand the unique aspects and requirements of our force.<br /> <br /> This means we must increase our efforts to educate our elected representatives about who we are and all that we do.<br /> <br /> Lawmakers are bombarded by every side of every issue on why they should get a portion of shrinking federal resources.<br /> <br /> The squeaky wheel gets the grease in Washington and the Guard must squeak strongly to break through the crowd.<br /> <br /> The most effective way to do this is for the adjutant general and other senior leaders from a state's Army and Air Guard units to pay a personal visit to their delegation in the nation's capital.<br /> <br /> Let them hear it from the horse's mouth, so to speak.<br /> <br /> But a visit now and then is not enough. Guard leaders in every state must develop strong relationships with their elected representatives in Washington. They must separate themselves from the other folks asking for support.<br /> <br /> States that take that extra step ultimately will succeed.<br /> <br /> At a state conference I attended recently, it was gratifying to see the governor, a senator and six members of the House of Representatives show up, along with a variety of local and state officials.<br /> <br /> But even better than their presence, it was clear that these officials knew many of the Guard leaders at the conference. They were friends and knew each other by name.<br /> <br /> And these elected officials knew the details of the Guard's needs in that state.<br /> <br /> There are other states who have worked just as hard on this kind of face-to-face recognition. They are the states that will do well when the budget battles begin.<br /> <br /> The Guard has a good argument to make in these troubled economic times. The Guard is efficient. It is cost effective. And it is vital to the nation's security.<br /> <br /> If this argument can be won at the grassroots level in states and territories, then the Guard's future will be secure.<br /> --------------------------------------------------------------------------------<br /> <br /> Contact your senators and representative by phone, fax, letter, personal visit or by using our Write to Congress feature at www.ngaus.org. Let them know how a strong and ready Guard is "Right for America."<br /> <br /> The Pentagon is requiring that deployed time toward early retirement fall within a single fiscal year.<br /> <br /> Air Force Seeks to Ground F-16s At Six Air National Guard Wings<br /> <br /> The Air Force plans to remove 18 F-16s from the Air National Guard fleet in a move NGAUS sees as a further effort to chip away at the Guard's flying mission.<br /> <br /> The president's budget proposal for fiscal 2012 (story, page 38) outlines the grounding of three aircraft each at six wings, including three that fly the air sovereignty alert mission, leaving each wing with 15 primary assigned aircraft.<br /> <br /> The wings are the 187th Fighter Wing in Alabama, the 140th Wing in Colorado, the 114th Fighter Wing in South Dakota, the 132nd Fighter Wing in Iowa, the 158th Fighter Wing in Vermont and the 115th Fighter Wing in Wisconsin.<br /> <br /> Loss of the aircraft will result in a loss of seven full-time and 76 part-time personnel from each affected wing, as well.<br /> <br /> NGAUS considers the loss of aircraft further evidence of the Air Force's effort to slowly diminish the Air Guard's fleet, which would limit the use of the Air Force's mostexperienced air crews and maintainers.<br /> <br /> The association would prefer to see a "roadmap" of the Air Force's long-term plan for the fighter force structure and how the active and reserve components are mixed in that plan.<br /> --------------------------------------------------------------------------------<br /> <br /> Lawmakers Seek Support to Fix Guard Early Retirement Program<br /> <br /> Two congressmen are seeking support from their colleagues to fix the law providing some retired National Guardsmen and Reservists with earlier retirement benefits.<br /> <br /> Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, and Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla., sent a letter last month to their House colleagues asking for their help in repairing the National Guard and Reserve Retirement Modernization Act.<br /> <br /> The law provides retired Guardsmen and Reservists with retirement pay three months earlier than age 60 for every 90 days they spend deployed.<br /> <br /> But the Pentagon is requiring the 90 days of active duty to fall within a single fiscal year–Oct. 1 to Sept. 30–to qualify for the benefit, according to an Associated Press story.<br /> <br /> For example, if a Guardsman's deployment began in September, the initial 90 days would not count because that period would fall within two fiscal years.<br /> <br /> Latham and Boren want to fix this interpretation of the law with the Reserve Retirement Deployment Credit Correction Act, which they plan to introduce.<br /> --------------------------------------------------------------------------------<br /> <br /> NGAUS Supports Bill Pushing Mental-Health Treatment Access<br /> <br /> NGAUS is supporting legislation introduced in the Senate and House that would give National Guardsmen and Reservists greater access to mental-health-care providers during drills.<br /> <br /> The Senate bill, known as the Mental Health Providers for Reserves Act, was introduced by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. In the House, the cause is championed by Rep. David Loebsack, D-Iowa.<br /> <br /> This is a welcome bit of legislation, according to Pete Duffy, the NGAUS deputy director of legislative programs. The National Guard, especially, he said, has been woefully underfunded in this area and he doesn't expect that to change without action from Congress.<br /> <br /> Duffy said it is "doubtful" that any of the $677 million in the president's fiscal 2012 budget proposal for traumatic brain injury and psychological health care will reach the Guard.<br /> <br /> "The National Guard was not allowed to share in the $600 million given to the Defense Department in 2008 for mental-health care," he pointed out.<br /> <br /> Duffy noted that the Guard is suffering the highest rate of suicide in the armed forces and is shouldering 40 percent of the overseas combat load, making access to mental-health care a priority for the nation's community-based force.<br /> --------------------------------------------------------------------------------<br /> <br /> Back Again: Senator Introduces Second Try to Define 'Veteran'<br /> <br /> Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., is taking another shot at better defining who can legally call themselves a veteran. An attempt at this during the previous Congress died when one senator blocked action.<br /> <br /> Pryor introduced a bill last month that has the full support of NGAUS.<br /> <br /> Current law requires someone to have served a certain period on federal status to qualify for full standing as a veteran. Someone who served 20 years in the National Guard or Reserve without that qualifying period is a military retiree, but not a veteran.<br /> <br /> Pryor's bill, S. 491, has been referred to the Committee on Veterans Affairs.<br /> <br /> Although it will not add any benefits and, therefore, has no cost to the government, the bill would allow someone who serves honorably for 20 years in the Guard or Reserve the simple privilege of legally being a veteran.<br /> <br /> Technically, a person who is not a legal veteran is not supposed to wear medals on Veterans Day, for example, or salute the playing of the national anthem, although this happens frequently, of course.<br /> <br /> Pryor has introduced two other bills that will help Guardsmen. The Patriot Express Authorization Act would expedite and prioritize small business loans to members of the military seeking to start, resume or expand a business, according to the senator's office.<br /> <br /> Also, his Strengthening Community Safety Act would reimburse police and fire departments, as well as ambulance services, for extraordinary costs incurred when one of their Guardsmen or Reservists deployed overseas.<br /> <br /> The Department of Homeland Security would provide grants reimbursing the agencies for the salary of a person hired to replace the missing member or the overtime pay needed to cover the deployed person's work.<br /> --------------------------------------------------------------------------------<br /> <br /> Defense Department to Survey Employers of Guard, Reserve<br /> <br /> The Defense Department is surveying 80,000 employers of National Guard and Reserve members to learn the benefits and challenges of having reserve-component service members on a payroll.<br /> <br /> The surveys were sent last month to employers of every size and industry all across the country. They were selected randomly and will receive a letter telling them how to complete the survey online. They are asked to complete the survey within eight weeks.<br /> <br /> Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is encouraging employers to take part in the survey and calling them "critical partners in our national defense."<br /> <br /> "Your feedback will allow us to build on the success of the past and chart a mutually beneficial course for the future," he said.<br /> <br /> Dennis McCarthy, the assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, said, "Our goal for this survey is to identify best practices in support of employers of Guard and Reserve members and evaluate the effectiveness of Department of Defense programs."<br /> <br /> The Defense Department National Survey of Employers is the largest study of its kind since the U.S. entered sustained military operations nearly 10 years ago. Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Defense Department agency, is administering the survey.<br /> --------------------------------------------------------------------------------<br /> <br /> Suicide Prevention Program Introduced Third Time on Hill<br /> <br /> Lawmakers from New Jersey are trying once again to get a suicide prevention program championed in their state to become the national norm.<br /> <br /> Rep. Rush Holt and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, both Democrats, introduced legislation last month that would require the Defense Department to provide professional mental-health counseling at least once every 90 days to members of the Inactive National Guard, the Individual Ready Reserve or Individual Mobilization Augmentees.<br /> <br /> Called the Sergeant Coleman S. Bean Reserve Component Suicide Prevention Act, the bill has been introduced twice before, but was blocked by Senate Republicans each time.<br /> <br /> A New Jersey resident, Bean was a member of the Individual Ready Reserve who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after two tours in Iraq. He killed himself in September 2008.<br /> <br /> The bill would provide the same access to professionally trained counselors that active-component members have by virtue of being assigned to a base and that reserve-component troops can access during drill. It is patterned after a program used in New Jersey called Vet2Vet that is credited with preventing suicides among the state's Guard troops who have served in war zones.<br /> <br /> A Senate bill would reimburse police and fire departments for costs incurred when their Guardsmen deploy. <br />

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