National Guard August 2011 : Page 18

WASHINGTON UPDATE The latest Capitol Hill news from the NGAUS legislative staff Push Back By Richard M. Green Has the Pentagon taken a position counter to the commander in chief? HE LEGISLATIVE EFFORT to estab-lish a permanent seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the chief of the Na-tional Guard Bureau is gaining momentum everywhere except the Pentagon. Basically, the justification coming from leaders on the other side of the Potomac for why they would deny the Guard this de-served position is … they just don’t want to. This seems at odds with the opinions of both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. They both backed the idea during their campaign in 2008. On page 54 of Blueprint for Change: Barack Obama’s Plan for America is a com-mitment to “make the head of the National Guard a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to ensure concerns of our citizen soldiers reach the level they mandate.” That was three years ago. Has the ad-ministration changed its mind? Or has the Pentagon taken a position counter to the commander in chief? There has been nothing from the White House that suggests an about-face. Yet, in a May letter to the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Elizabeth King, the assistant secretary of defense for legisla-tive affairs, said the Defense Department opposes the effort. She said adding the NGB chief to the Joint Chiefs “would introduce inconsisten-cies among its members and create the un-helpful impression that the National Guard is a separate Military Service.” Certainly, it’s hard to imagine someone believing the Guard is anything other than what it is—a reserve component that sup-ports both the Army and the Air Force—just because the NGB chief would sit closer to the conversation and have a vote. But while it is not a separate military service, the Guard does have separate roles and missions that warrant greater respect in the Pentagon hierarchy. Senior active-component leaders certainly understand the multitude of issues related T to preparing and putting forces into battle overseas. But few of them have any familiar-ity with the unique challenges of homeland security or domestic response. It’s simply not their core competency. This is where the NGB chief could be a real asset to the Joint Chiefs and those who depend on their advice. The chief would fill the homeland security void with expertise on the employment of the Guard for myriad domestic purposes, the Guard’s unique ca-pabilities to respond to a terrorist attack and the importance of interagency collaboration down to the local level. When the chief was given a fourth star and designated an advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, it was a signifi-cant step in providing the Guard a voice at the top of the Pentagon. But common sense demands that the per-son dispensing the advice be an equal with those who seek it. Such status would go a long way toward ensuring the Guard is trained and equipped for its increasingly important homeland mis-sion, as well as its mission overseas. The House recently passed legislation in its version of the fiscal 2012 National Defense Authorization Act to create that per-manent seat on the Joint Chiefs for the NGB chief. Now it’s up to the Senate to include the same language in its version of the NDAA when it convenes after the August recess. This legislation has the potential to be one of the most significant achievements in the Guard’s 375-year history, and we need the help of all members of the Guard to guarantee their senators support it. More than 40 senators by near the end of last month had already signed on. Contact your senators and let them know that by supporting Guard empowerment legislation, they can help ensure the Guard is fully represented at the highest levels of the U.S. military. You can do this in any manner you choose: phone, fax, letter, personal visit or by using our Write to Congress feature at www.ngaus.org. 18 | Na tional Guard

Washington Update

Richard M. Green

The latest Capitol Hill news from the NGAUS legislative staff<br /> <br /> Push Back<br /> <br /> THE LEGISLATIVE EFFORT to establish a permanent seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the chief of the National Guard Bureau is gaining momentum everywhere except the Pentagon.<br /> <br /> Basically, the justification coming from leaders on the other side of the Potomac for why they would deny the Guard this deserved position is . . . they just don't want to.<br /> <br /> This seems at odds with the opinions of both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. They both backed the idea during their campaign in 2008.<br /> <br /> On page 54 of Blueprint for Change: Barack Obama's Plan for America is a commitment to "make the head of the National Guard a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to ensure concerns of our citizen soldiers reach the level they mandate."<br /> <br /> That was three years ago. Has the administration changed its mind? Or has the Pentagon taken a position counter to the commander in chief?<br /> <br /> There has been nothing from the White House that suggests an about-face. Yet, in a May letter to the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Elizabeth King, the assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs, said the Defense Department opposes the effort.<br /> <br /> She said adding the NGB chief to the Joint Chiefs "would introduce inconsistencies among its members and create the unhelpful impression that the National Guard is a separate Military Service."<br /> <br /> Certainly, it's hard to imagine someone believing the Guard is anything other than what it is–a reserve component that supports both the Army and the Air Force–just because the NGB chief would sit closer to the conversation and have a vote.<br /> <br /> But while it is not a separate military service, the Guard does have separate roles and missions that warrant greater respect in the Pentagon hierarchy.<br /> <br /> Senior active-component leaders certainly understand the multitude of issues related to preparing and putting forces into battle overseas. But few of them have any familiarity with the unique challenges of homeland security or domestic response. It's simply not their core competency.<br /> <br /> This is where the NGB chief could be a real asset to the Joint Chiefs and those who depend on their advice. The chief would fill the homeland security void with expertise on the employment of the Guard for myriad domestic purposes, the Guard's unique capabilities to respond to a terrorist attack and the importance of interagency collaboration down to the local level.<br /> <br /> When the chief was given a fourth star and designated an advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, it was a significant step in providing the Guard a voice at the top of the Pentagon.<br /> <br /> But common sense demands that the person dispensing the advice be an equal with those who seek it.<br /> <br /> Such status would go a long way toward ensuring the Guard is trained and equipped for its increasingly important homeland mission, as well as its mission overseas.<br /> <br /> The House recently passed legislation in its version of the fiscal 2012 National Defense Authorization Act to create that permanent seat on the Joint Chiefs for the NGB chief. Now it's up to the Senate to include the same language in its version of the NDAA when it convenes after the August recess.<br /> <br /> This legislation has the potential to be one of the most significant achievements in the Guard's 375-year history, and we need the help of all members of the Guard to guarantee their senators support it.<br /> <br /> More than 40 senators by near the end of last month had already signed on.<br /> <br /> Contact your senators and let them know that by supporting Guard empowerment legislation, they can help ensure the Guard is fully represented at the highest levels of the U.S. military.<br /> <br /> You can do this in any manner you choose: phone, fax, letter, personal visit or by using our Write to Congress feature at www.ngaus.org.<br /> <br /> NGAUS President Tells Congress Guard is Nation's Economical Force<br /> <br /> Retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr., the NGAUS president, told a senate panel June 22 that the National Guard is one answer to the nation's fiscal challenges.<br /> <br /> Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on defense, he stressed the cost-effectiveness and the experience of the Guard.<br /> <br /> "I propose we give a hard look at how we could leverage the cost efficiencies inherent in the National Guard to reduce defense costs without reducing our nation's defense capabilities," Hargett said. "We have a battleproven, operational force, and it would be a disservice for our National Guard to revert to pre-9/11 levels of equipment, readiness and training."<br /> <br /> Hargett was invited to testify as part of the subcommittee's deliberations on the Defense Department's budget request for fiscal 2012.<br /> <br /> The NGAUS president told the lawmakers, "As America's first military organization, the National Guard has proven for 375 years that it is right for America. Drawing on the experience of 10 years at war and with the continued support of Congress, the National Guard will emerge as an even more cost-effective and mission-capable force in the future."<br /> <br /> NGAUS, Lawmakers Ask President To Elevate Status of NGB Chief<br /> <br /> NGAUS has taken its push for Guard Empowerment to the top of the chain of command.<br /> <br /> Retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr., the NGAUS president, sent a letter to the White House last month asking President Barack Obama to honor his campaign pledge to give the chief of the National Guard Bureau a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.<br /> <br /> Obama's 2008 Blueprint for Change endorsed the seat at the table.<br /> <br /> But he has been silent on the issue while Pentagon officials have expressed opposition to the move.<br /> <br /> "You had the foresight to recognize that the Guard Empowerment advances of 2008 did not go far enough to serve the type of Guard the nation needs for the 21st Century," Hargett wrote. "We know change often takes time, and we have waited patiently for Congress to develop and to send you the legislation required to make into reality our shared objective for the Guard."<br /> <br /> Also, three lawmakers from West Virginia wrote a letter last month asking the same thing. Rep. Nick Rahall II, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV and Sen. Joe Manchin, all Democrats, wrote the letter asking the president to recognize "the evolution of the National Guard's mission in America's military forces."<br /> <br /> The effort to give the Guard a seat at the table has already passed the House. NGAUS has secured more than 40 senators who support the measure in the upper chamber. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., included the measure in the National Guard Empowerment and State- National Defense Integration Act, which also creates a three-star position for a vice chief of the bureau.<br /> <br /> Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, the NGAUS chairman, said in a press release that the current make-up of the Joint Chiefs does not include the important role played only by the Guard–that of domestic response to emergencies.<br /> <br /> A Legislative Alert sent last month asking NGAUS members to contact the White House and ask the president to live up to his campaign pledge generated more than 1,500 responses in the first 48 hours.<br /> <br /> Home Foreclosure Woes Widespread; Lawmakers Ask for Public Inquiry<br /> <br /> The problem of home foreclosures on service members may be more widespread than is understood, two lawmakers said last month.<br /> <br /> Sen. John D. Rockefeller, D-W. Va., and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., want the issue aired on Capitol Hill so they and the country can uncover the problem's breadth, according to a report from Fox Business Network.<br /> <br /> "Although it is now clear that illegal actions against service members are much more widespread than originally believed, their full scope is not yet known," they said in a statement.<br /> <br /> They asked Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight Committee, to take up the issue, but he declined.<br /> <br /> "We have no idea how far these problems extend," said Cummings, the oversight panel's top Democrat.<br /> <br /> Three banks, Bank of America Corp., Morgan Stanley and J.P. Morgan Chase and Co., have acknowledged violations of federal law.<br /> <br /> The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act bans foreclosures on service members on active duty without a court order. It also limits the amount of interest that can be charged.<br /> <br /> A Texas National Guardsman has sued Citigroup Inc. for foreclosing on his home and auctioning it off while he was training for a deployment to Iraq.<br /> <br /> Legislation Expands Veteran Outreach With More Personal Service, Contact<br /> <br /> Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., wants all veterans returning from war to have what those in Vermont have.<br /> <br /> He has introduced the National Guard Outreach Act, which would capitalize on the success of a program in Vermont that contacts returning Guardsmen and provides a high level of personal service.<br /> <br /> "This legislation takes a good Vermont idea to the rest of the country," Welch said last month when announcing the bill at a Veterans Outreach and Family Resource Center in Bennington, Vt.<br /> <br /> "It is effective because Guard members do not have to seek out help. Help is offered to them by trained veterans who know their struggles."<br /> <br /> The program in Vermont was started in 2006 with the help of federal grants. Vermont lawmakers have ensured the program's funding since then.<br /> <br /> The program sends outreach specialists to a Guardsman's door and provides Guardsmen and their families with access to health care services, marriage and financial counseling, substance abuse treatment and other services important to soldiers and airmen returning from a deployment.<br /> <br /> The outreach specialists are veterans who have been through the reintegration process.<br /> <br /> Senate Committee Seeks Savings By Making Changes to Combat Pay<br /> <br /> A service member would have to spend an entire month in a combat zone to receive a full month of combat pay under a version of the fiscal 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.<br /> <br /> The Senate Armed Services Committee last month completed its markup of the bill and approved a change to prorate combat pay based on days in a combat zone. The attempt is to save $30 million per year and is not in the House bill.<br /> <br /> The change was explained in a Military Update column written by Tom Philpott and published in Stars and Stripes.<br /> <br /> Currently, a military member who spends only one day, or even a few hours, in a combat zone qualifies for the entire $225 monthly imminent danger pay.<br /> <br /> The Senate panel was told of military personnel who fly into a combat zone to attend a change-of-command ceremony scheduled for the first day of a month, but arrive one day early and collect two months of imminent danger pay for spending 48 hours or so in the area designated for the pay.<br /> <br /> Philpott explains that the measure is aimed at temporary-duty personnel, but would impact people on full deployment. He notes that someone who arrives in the middle of the month would receive combat pay only for the second half of that month, not the full month's payment as it is now.<br /> <br /> Also, someone who redeploys in the middle of the month would lose out on combat pay for the rest of that month.<br /> <br /> Change to Post-9/11 GI Bill Recognizes Needs of Disabled, Injured Veterans<br /> <br /> Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, wants to give disabled and injured veterans more time to transfer their education benefits to a family member.<br /> <br /> The Post-9/11 GI Bill, which allows veterans to give their benefits to a family member rather than use it themselves, requires the transfer to be made before they retire. But medically retired veterans are often out of the service before they have the chance to complete the benefit transfer.<br /> <br /> Chaffetz introduced a bill to provide those veterans with 36 months after their release from the military to complete the transfer.<br /> <br /> In a press release, Chaffetz called it a "gross oversight" in the original law.<br /> <br /> NGAUS supports the legislation, as it did the original Post-9/11 GI Bill.<br /> <br /> Has the Pentagon taken a position counter to the commander in chief?<br /> <br /> The effort to give the Guard a seat at the table has already passed the House.<br /> <br /> Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., wants all veterans returning from war to have what those in Vermont have. <br />

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