National Guard June 2011 : Page 14

WASHINGTON UPDATE The latest Capitol Hill news from the NGAUS legislative staff More Volume By Richard M. Green It’s time to grow the National Guard and shrink the active components. S CONGRESS DEBATES an afford-able federal budget for fiscal 2012, we believe lawmakers should look to the National Guard to provide flexible and a lower-cost combat and domestic response capability for our country. There’s no doubt the force is up to the challenge. In the nearly 10 years since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Guard has answered the call and demonstrated it can perform the same missions as the active components and with equal results. Plus, the Guard achieves those results for far less of the taxpayer’s hard-earned buck. Here’s how that works: Z The Guard has significantly less infra-structure to manage. No schools. No hospitals. No base housing. All of these are found on active-component bases. Z Its predominantly part-time force is on the payroll only when called for duty. Z This part-time status results in much lower medical and retirement costs. The Guard has been singing this song for a long time, but it has mostly fallen on deaf ears. So let me pump up the volume a bit and say quite clearly, it’s time to grow the Guard and shrink the active components. Our vision for America’s 21st century military forces includes a National Guard that is larger than the active-component Army and Air Force with stable missions that history would tell us will be necessary for the long haul. Some of the basics for establishing this foundation for a strong and affordable na-tional defense should consider the following: Z Any mission that could be in the Guard should be in the Guard. Z Missions assigned to the Guard should be stable, and not subject to frequent changes or redesign. Z It should be understood that the major-ity of missions assigned to the Guard can serve as dual use for both combat and homeland defense/disaster response, A which may require some specialized training for the unique aspects of the nonmilitary missions. Z The unique skills and greater experi-ence and maturity levels Guard men and women bring to the fight due to their civilian employment as farmers, police, doctors, computer programers, etc. should be included in the equation. Over the years, the Guard has taken an at-titude of “Put me in, coach” for new missions. While this is an admirable trait, it has often meant funding these missions with money planned for other uses. To correct this, the Guard should perform only the missions for which it is funded. In addition, since some of the missions the Guard will perform may fall under the Department of Homeland Defense or other government agencies, the Guard must insist that funding for those missions be provided by the owner of that mission. A larger, well-equipped and trained Guard represents an overall lower fixed cost for the enduring capabilities inherent in the Army and Air Guard, and a “win-win” for our country as the Guard provides units for both combat and homeland response opera-tions. Missions assigned to the active compo-nent should focus primarily on research and development, acquisition and more special-ized combat or changing missions that are not conducive to the Guard. A strong and affordable national defense based on a larger Guard will ensure that our country and its communities will be con-nected when their sons, daughters, friends, co-workers and neighbors go off to fight wars or respond to natural disasters. Contact your senators and representa-tives and let them know that by strengthen-ing and growing today’s trained and ready National Guard, our country can build a solid foundation for a strong and affordable national defense. Do this in any manner you choose: phone, fax, letter, personal visit or by using our Write to Congress feature at www.ngaus.org. 14 | Na tional Guard

Washington Update

Richard M. Green

The latest Capitol Hill news from the NGAUS legislative staff

More Volume

AS CONGRESS DEBATES an affordable federal budget for fiscal 2012, we believe lawmakers should look to the National Guard to provide flexible and a lower-cost combat and domestic response capability for our country.

There's no doubt the force is up to the challenge.

In the nearly 10 years since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Guard has answered the call and demonstrated it can perform the same missions as the active components and with equal results.

Plus, the Guard achieves those results for far less of the taxpayer's hard-earned buck.

Here's how that works:

The Guard has significantly less infrastructure to manage. No schools. No hospitals. No base housing. All of these are found on active-component bases.

Its predominantly part-time force is on the payroll only when called for duty.

This part-time status results in much lower medical and retirement costs.

The Guard has been singing this song for a long time, but it has mostly fallen on deaf ears.

So let me pump up the volume a bit and say quite clearly, it's time to grow the Guard and shrink the active components.

Our vision for America's 21st century military forces includes a National Guard that is larger than the active-component Army and Air Force with stable missions that history would tell us will be necessary for the long haul.

Some of the basics for establishing this foundation for a strong and affordable national defense should consider the following:

Any mission that could be in the Guard should be in the Guard. Missions assigned to the Guard should be stable, and not subject to frequent changes or redesign.

It should be understood that the majority of missions assigned to the Guard can serve as dual use for both combat and homeland defense/disaster response, which may require some specialized training for the unique aspects of the nonmilitary missions.

The unique skills and greater experience and maturity levels Guard men and women bring to the fight due to their civilian employment as farmers, police, doctors, computer programers, etc. should be included in the equation.

Over the years, the Guard has taken an attitude of "Put me in, coach" for new missions.

While this is an admirable trait, it has often meant funding these missions with money planned for other uses. To correct this, the Guard should perform only the missions for which it is funded.

In addition, since some of the missions the Guard will perform may fall under the Department of Homeland Defense or other government agencies, the Guard must insist that funding for those missions be provided by the owner of that mission.

A larger, well-equipped and trained Guard represents an overall lower fixed cost for the enduring capabilities inherent in the Army and Air Guard, and a "win-win" for our country as the Guard provides units for both combat and homeland response operations.

Missions assigned to the active component should focus primarily on research and development, acquisition and more specialized combat or changing missions that are not conducive to the Guard.

A strong and affordable national defense based on a larger Guard will ensure that our country and its communities will be connected when their sons, daughters, friends, co-workers and neighbors go off to fight wars or respond to natural disasters.

Contact your senators and representatives and let them know that by strengthening and growing today's trained and ready National Guard, our country can build a solid foundation for a strong and affordable national defense.

Do this in any manner you choose: phone, fax, letter, personal visit or by using our Write to Congress feature at www.ngaus.org.

Leahy, Graham Introduce Bill to Advance Guard Empowerment

The co-chairs of the Senate National Guard Caucus introduced legislation May 19 aimed to further empower the Guard.

The National Guard Empowerment and State-National Defense Integration Act of 2011, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., would add the chief of the National Guard Bureau to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A formal say for the Guard in final resource decisions at the Pentagon has long been a goal of the Senate Guard caucus and NGAUS. Their efforts three years ago led to the elevation of the NGB chief from a threeto a four-star general with a statutory role as advisor to the secretary of defense.

The NGB chief now works with the Joints Chiefs; however, he does not have a vote in final decisions. Nor can he nominate Guard officers for positions that require Senate confirmation.

S. 1025 also would stabilize funding for Guard domestic missions, provide more transparency in equipment procurement and require the Pentagon to assess the cost savings and feasibility of shifting more defense responsibility to the Guard and Reserve.

Other provisions would create additional advancement opportunities for senior Guard officers, including a new three-star-general position of NGB vice chief and a requirement that the commanders of Army North and Air Force North be filled from the Guard.

In addition, the bill would provide steady appropriations for the State Partnership Program and establish a framework for the states and U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Pacific Command to formalize their operational procedures for domestic missions.

"This is the boldest, most far-reaching agenda for the Guard that I've ever seen in Congress," Graham said at a Capitol Hill press conference announcing the legislation.

Leahy said that while the legislation is comprehensive, its goals are simple.

"We want to make sure that every soldier and airman in the Guard has the training, equipment and leadership he or she needs to accomplish the mission," he said.

More information on the bill is available in the Legislative Action Center at www. ngaus.org.

The bill is the second in less than a year that would elevate the NGB chief to the Joint Chiefs. The Guardians of Freedom Act of 2010, introduced in October by Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Rep. Nick Rahall, both D-W. Va., restarted the conversation on Capitol Hill and had gained some co-sponsors.

NGAUS expects the new legislation to supersede the earlier bill.

Murray's Bill Provides Boost To Veterans Looking for Work

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., thinks the government can do more to help veterans find work and reduce the 27 percent unemployment rate for veterans ages 20 to 24.

Unemployment for all Afghanistan-era veterans is above the national rate, but not as high as that for younger veterans, according to news reports.

The Hiring Heroes Act of 2011 introduced by Murray last month would require veterans to attend transition assistance courses and receive an assessment of the types of jobs that best suit his or her education and experience.

Plus, it would require the Department of Labor to periodically contact veterans and offer assistance if needed.

Programs exist to help those leaving the military, but they are voluntary and only about one third of veterans use them.

Tester Legislation Corrects Early Retirement Interpretation

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., introduced a bill last month designed to more fairly interpret a law that provides National Guard and Reserve veterans with a chance to receive retirement pay before the age of 60.

The current law allows veterans to receive retirement pay three months before the age of 60 for every 90 days they were on active duty. But the law is being interpreted to require all 90 days of credited active-duty service to fall within one fiscal year.

If those 90 days fall across two fiscal years, they don't count toward retirement.

Tester's Reserve Retirement Deployment Credit Correction Act would give credit for the 90 days of active-duty service no matter when they took place.

Tester said, "This legislation will make sure that these brave men and women get the benefits they've earned."

House Bill Would Close Loophole In Guard Re-employment Rights

New legislation introduced in the House last month by Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., would close a loophole that leaves a small number of National Guardsmen without reemployment protection.

Although most service is protected by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), the National Guard Employment Protection Act, or, remedies a problem that can leave some Guardsmen performing Title 32 service unprotected.

Under the current law, protection for Title 32 Guardsmen is limited to five years of cumulative service.

H.R. 1811 would end that limitation.

VA: Change to Post 9/11 GI Bill May Overwhelm Claims System

The more Congress tries to fix the Post- 9/11 GI Bill, the more problems arise, it seems.

An effort ongoing now to bring some additional fairness to veterans already using the benefit could create major problems for everybody, according to a Department of Veterans Affairs official in charge of the agency's education services.

In fact, Keith Wilson says benefits to veterans enrolled in colleges this year could be jeopardized if the proposal becomes law.

The original Post-9/11 GI Bill provided college tuition payments equal to those of the most expensive public university in the veteran's state, even if the veteran went to a private school or a public school in another state.

This led to cries of unfairness as tuitions differ widely from state to state. For example, a student from Texas could get more than $47,000, while payment for a student from Arkansas peaked at about $7,000.

The law was changed to cap payments at $17,500 to diminish the disparity, but this, too, was deemed unfair to some students already using the benefit to attend an expensive school. For them, tuition payments would be reduced, perhaps dramatically.

H.R. 1383, also called the Restoring GI Bill Fairness Act of 2011 and introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, would grandfather in affected students and allow them to maintain current tuition rates.

But it also would create chaos in the VA's automated claims system, Wilson told members of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee last month.

In a statement to Stars and Stripes newspaper, Wilson said, "This will negatively impact our ability to deliver timely benefits during the crucial fall enrollment period."

Wilson wants the proposed change delayed for one year to give the VA time to adjust the automated claims system, something lawmakers seem reluctant to do.

Guard Investment Paying Off, NGB Officials Tell Congress

The National Guard has successfully transformed into an operational force, the top National Guard leader told a key congressional committee May 11.

This transformation would be impossible without the investments made in the Guard, said Gen. Craig R. McKinley, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing.

The Guard must remain operational so "this significant investment is not squandered," McKinley said.

"Through a number of National Guard-specific missions," he said, "we've demonstrated the unique capabilities of our citizen-soldiers, who bring a unique blend of civilian skills.

"These missions include our support to the combatant commanders around the world, to the State Partnership Program . . . the agribusiness development teams in Afghanistan, and as a critical partner in the Department of Defense chemical, biological, radiological and high-yield explosive enterprise," McKinley added.

These missions would not have been possible without the men and women of the National Guard, he said, but the transformation to an operational force has increased the stress on families.

"That is why it is critical that family programs in the [fiscal 2012] request are fully funded," McKinley said.

It's time to grow the National Guard and shrink the active components.

"This is the boldest, most far-reaching agenda for the Guard that I've ever seen in Congress." –Sen. Lindsey Graham Co-chair, Senate National Guard Caucus

The more Congress tries to fix the Post- 9/11 GI Bill, the more problems arise.

Read the full article at http://www.nationalguardmagazine.com/article/Washington+Update/754939/72536/article.html.

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