National Guard September 2011 : Page 14

WASHINGTON UPDATE The latest Capitol Hill news from the NGAUS legislative staff Wrong Targets By Richard M. Green The Pentagon, when faced with fewer dollars, alwa y s looks to cut in two primary areas— people programs and the National Guard. UR ELECTED OFFICIALS were able to avert a fiscal default after much debate last month, but, as we have seen since, our nation’s fiscal problems are perhaps even more critical. The Pentagon is not immune to the im-pending budget cuts. Military leadership is exploring how to deal with a reduction that could be anywhere from $400 billion to $1 trillion over the next 10 years. As we have seen in the past, the Pen-tagon, when faced with fewer dollars to spend, always looks to cut in two primary areas—people programs and the National Guard. On the people front, the Defense Depart-ment seems to be targeting health care and retirement. It has pointed out that the price for TRI-CARE has gone from $19 billion 10 years ago to more than $50 billion today. That may be true, but I wonder if anyone has told the Pentagon that our nation has been at war over the last decade and that combat always results in physical and mental wounds that require extensive and expensive treatment. And the possibility of injury is just one reason it can be a tough sell to ask young Americans to sign up for military service. There is also the disruption to family life and a civilian career. Let’s face it, the offer of a secure retire-ment and health care at some point after 20 or more good years of service is an entice-ment necessary to fill the ranks. However, now that the budget numbers aren’t adding up, the Pentagon thinks the deal is just a bit too sweet. I don’t know about you, but this back-pedaling doesn’t sound fair to me. A deal is a deal. As far as the Guard is concerned, the na-tion has spent 20 years, with great backing from Congress, turning the force from a strategic reserve into an equal partner with its active-component brethren. But as budget drills commence in O Pentagon conference rooms, it’s a safe bet planners will focus, as they always have, on resourcing the active component at the expense of the Guard, which will reverse our hard-earned gains and provide minimal savings. According to the rumor mill, a significant number of Air Guard aircraft will either be retired early or transferred to active-compo-nent facilities. As many as 20,000 airmen could be cut in the process. We don’t yet know what the results will be, but we do know that the Pentagon has in the past, when the chips were down, viewed the Guard as a bill payer, not a partner. What can the Guard community do to effectively communicate the value of preserving—or even growing—its cost-effective force during this time of defense budget cuts? The answer is simple: Member involve-ment with our elected officials. Remember, Congress has the power of the purse. The Pentagon’s budget request is simply that—a request. Congress doesn’t have to sign on to whatever is put before it. Lawmakers have the ability—and even the requirement—to support a better way if one is presented. NGAUS has influence on Capitol Hill. Lots of it. But it only has influence when it has the backing of adjutants general, senior leaders, retirees and the rank-and-file Guardsmen. NGAUS works best when its members are involved. Your voice makes a difference, especially if it is joined by a chorus of other voices in the Guard community. Together, we can prevent a back-sliding none of us want and the nation can’t afford. Contact your senators and representative and let them know that by strengthening the National Guard, they will be strengthen-ing the nation. 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. 14 | Na tional Guard

Washington Update

Richard M. Green

The latest Capitol Hill news from the NGAUS legislative staff<br /> <br /> Wrong Targets<br /> <br /> OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS were able to avert a fiscal default after much debate last month, but, as we have seen since, our nation's fiscal problems are perhaps even more critical.<br /> <br /> The Pentagon is not immune to the impending budget cuts. Military leadership is exploring how to deal with a reduction that could be anywhere from $400 billion to $1 trillion over the next 10 years. <br /> <br /> As we have seen in the past, the Pentagon, when faced with fewer dollars to spend, always looks to cut in two primary areas–people programs and the National Guard.<br /> <br /> On the people front, the Defense Department seems to be targeting health care and retirement.<br /> <br /> It has pointed out that the price for TRICARE has gone from $19 billion 10 years ago to more than $50 billion today.<br /> <br /> That may be true, but I wonder if anyone has told the Pentagon that our nation has been at war over the last decade and that combat always results in physical and mental wounds that require extensive and expensive treatment.<br /> <br /> And the possibility of injury is just one reason it can be a tough sell to ask young Americans to sign up for military service. There is also the disruption to family life and a civilian career.<br /> <br /> Let's face it, the offer of a secure retirement and health care at some point after 20 or more good years of service is an enticement necessary to fill the ranks.<br /> <br /> However, now that the budget numbers aren't adding up, the Pentagon thinks the deal is just a bit too sweet.<br /> <br /> I don't know about you, but this backpedaling doesn't sound fair to me.<br /> <br /> A deal is a deal.<br /> <br /> As far as the Guard is concerned, the nation has spent 20 years, with great backing from Congress, turning the force from a strategic reserve into an equal partner with its active-component brethren.<br /> <br /> But as budget drills commence in Pentagon conference rooms, it's a safe bet planners will focus, as they always have, on resourcing the active component at the expense of the Guard, which will reverse our hard-earned gains and provide minimal savings.<br /> <br /> According to the rumor mill, a significant number of Air Guard aircraft will either be retired early or transferred to active-component facilities.<br /> <br /> As many as 20,000 airmen could be cut in the process.<br /> <br /> We don't yet know what the results will be, but we do know that the Pentagon has in the past, when the chips were down, viewed the Guard as a bill payer, not a partner.<br /> <br /> What can the Guard community do to effectively communicate the value of preserving–or even growing–its cost-effective force during this time of defense budget cuts?<br /> <br /> The answer is simple: Member involvement with our elected officials.<br /> <br /> Remember, Congress has the power of the purse. The Pentagon's budget request is simply that–a request.<br /> <br /> Congress doesn't have to sign on to whatever is put before it. Lawmakers have the ability–and even the requirement–to support a better way if one is presented.<br /> <br /> NGAUS has influence on Capitol Hill. Lots of it.<br /> <br /> But it only has influence when it has the backing of adjutants general, senior leaders, retirees and the rank-and-file Guardsmen. NGAUS works best when its members are involved.<br /> <br /> Your voice makes a difference, especially if it is joined by a chorus of other voices in the Guard community.<br /> <br /> Together, we can prevent a back-sliding none of us want and the nation can't afford. Contact your senators and representative and let them know that by strengthening the National Guard, they will be strengthening the nation.<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 /> The Pentagon, when faced with fewer dollars, always looks to cut in two primary areas– people programs and the National Guard.<br /> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------<br /> VFW Supports Joint Chiefs Status For National Guard Bureau Chief<br /> <br /> One of the nation's largest veterans' organizations in America has endorsed legislation that would elevate the National Guard Bureau chief to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.<br /> <br /> The Veterans of Foreign Wars wrote a letter last month to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the co-chair of the Senate National Guard Caucus and author of S. 1025, the National Guard Empowerment and State-National Defense Integration Act of 2011.<br /> <br /> "On behalf of the more than 2 million members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) and our Auxiliaries, I am pleased to offer our support," wrote Raymond C. Kelley, the director of the VFW National Legislative Service.<br /> <br /> He noted that the bill "will strengthen our national defense through the empowerment of the [National Guard], the only component of the U.S. military with a state and federal mission."<br /> <br /> Kelly called the elevation of the chief "a much-needed change reflecting the realities of rotation deployments overseas in our post-9/11 world and [ensuring] that Title 32 forces so often involved in homeland defense and disaster relief missions have an appropriate role in the Pentagon's policymaking process."<br /> <br /> He said the bill's passage "will not in any way harm or interfere with the unity of the military services, but rather foster greater cooperation at a time when joint interoperability is so critical to mission success."<br /> <br /> NGAUS has pushed hard for passage of Leahy's bill, which was also sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. It has secured the support of 46 senators with promises from three more once Congress returned from its August recess. The House has already approved boosting the chief.<br /> <br /> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------<br /> VA Notes Changes to Post-9/11 GI Bill Include On-the-job Training, Housing<br /> <br /> Actions by Congress have resulted in changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has compiled those changes that are now in effect and those that will take effect later.<br /> <br /> Changes that became effective Aug. 1 include paying the actual net cost of all public in-state tuition and fees, rather than basing payments upon the highest in-state tuition and fee rates for every state; capping private and foreign tuition at $17,500 per academic year; and ending payments during certain school breaks to preserve veterans' entitlement for future academic semesters.<br /> <br /> Also, certain students attending private schools in select states can now continue to receive benefits at the same rate payable during the previous academic year.<br /> <br /> Beginning Oct. 1, eligible individuals will be able to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill for programs such as noncollege degrees, on-the-job training and correspondence courses, and they will be eligible to receive a portion of the national monthly housing allowance rate when enrolled only in distance-learning courses.<br /> <br /> VA is implementing the latest round of changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill and has begun processing fall 2011 enrollment certifications.<br /> <br /> Complete information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill is available at www.gibill.va.gov.<br /> <br /> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------<br /> National Guard Leadership Reminds Lawmakers of Force's Efficiency<br /> <br /> Maj. Gen. Raymond W. Carpenter, the acting director of the Army National Guard, and Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt, the director of the Air National Guard, touted their forces' efficiency last month in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee's subcommittee on military personnel.<br /> <br /> "I believe the Army National Guard is the best value for America," said Carpenter. "Force structure and military power can be sustained in the ARNG as an operational force for a fraction of the regular cost.<br /> <br /> "Supporting capability in the Army National Guard . . . makes good business sense, and is a twofer–that means that the same force is available to the governor of the state, territory and district . . . as well as the president of the United States."<br /> <br /> "Congress had the wisdom to provide the funding and the authorities needed to create and sustain an Air National Guard," said Wyatt, "a Guard that is capable of functioning as an operational force, augmenting the active duty's . . . day-to-day operations . . . allowing the Total Force to rapidly expand its capability and capacity to meet threats to our national security."<br /> <br /> VA is implementing the latest round of changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

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