National Guard December 2011 : Page 12

WASHINGTON UPDATE The latest Capitol Hill news from the NGAUS legislative staff Lessons Learned By Richard M. Green The effort to put the NGB chief on the Joint Chiefs points out how valuable it is for Guard officers to be aware of the legislative process. y the time you read this, the out-come of our efforts to add the chief of the National Guard Bureau to the Joint Chiefs of Staff may be in the books. Win or lose—and, certainly, a victory is our great expectation—it was an amazing effort by Guard stakeholders from all corners of our constituency. NGAUS members sent more than 15,000 e-mails to their members of Congress. Sup-port and involvement also came from the ad-jutants general, former NGB chiefs, state and territory associations, the enlisted association, our industry partners and countless others. each and every input to the senators con-tributed to the effort, which became our focus after the house of Representatives unani-mously passed the provisions in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act. With the house vote and 69 committed senators, along with endorsements from the National Governors Association, the VFW , the American Legion and others, the will of so many was clear. But the obstacles before us were formi-dable. the Joint Chiefs wield power that far exceeds their numbers, and, no surprise, they were intent on preserving the status quo and their exclusive active-component inner circle. We certainly wouldn’t want to call them disingenuous, but the objections they pre-sented during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee last month ( story, page 16 ) were off-target. it appeared that the bottom line for the Joint Chiefs was that they simply didn’t want this to happen. they were grasping at straws to justify foregone conclusions. it should be noted also that their predeces-sors just as adamantly opposed adding the marine Corps to the table in 1978 and the creation of the position of vice chairman in 1986. Change is hard for the Pentagon. But there are lessons for us in this enter-prise, no matter how it turned out. For one, if you think our Defense Depart-ment is unequivocally committed to the total B Force, you better rethink that opinion. Clearly, the DoD loves the Guard when it needs us. But under that false cloak of patronizing appreciation, the service chiefs will always revert to their active-component orientation when it comes to making the tough decisions on resources. Also, this effort points out how valuable it is for Guard officers to be aware of the legisla-tive process. We must continue to work with the Pentagon, but our true support resides in Congress. ensuring every Guard officer is legisla-tively savvy should be a top priority of senior officers as they mentor junior officers. And they should know how to develop relationships with their elected officials to educate them on the value of the Guard. We may never be able to convince the leadership in the Pentagon that the Guard is the cost-effective force envisioned by our founding fathers, but we must be able to make that case to Congress, which has ulti-mate responsibility, as the Constitution states, to “raise and support Armies.” Guard officers should also be aware, too, of the value of professional associations like NGAUS. it’s not about promoting member-ship, although that’s always a good thing. it’s about ensuring our officers know how the game is played so they can determine for themselves how associations like NGAUS can positively affect the outcome on Capitol hill. Whether we have won or lost regarding the elevated status of the NGB chief, we know we had the attention of the decision makers in Congress and the Pentagon. every voice does make a difference, and the larger the chorus, the stronger the voice and the more influence we have. Contact your senators and representative. Let them know that by strengthening and growing today’s trained and ready National Guard, our country will have both a strong and affordable national defense. 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. 12 | National Guard

Washington Update

Richard M. Green

Lessons Learned<br /> <br /> By the time you read this, the outcome of our efforts to add the chief of the National Guard Bureau to the Joint Chiefs of Staff may be in the books.<br /> <br /> Win or lose—and, certainly, a victory is our great expectation—it was an amazing effort by Guard stakeholders from all corners of our constituency.<br /> <br /> NGAUS members sent more than 15,000 e-mails to their members of Congress. Support and involvement also came from the adjutants general, former NGB chiefs, state and territory associations, the enlisted association, our industry partners and countless others.<br /> <br /> Each and every input to the senators contributed to the effort, which became our focus after the house of Representatives unanimously passed the provisions in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act.<br /> <br /> With the house vote and 69 committed senators, along with endorsements from the National Governors Association, the VFW, the American Legion and others, the will of so many was clear.<br /> <br /> But the obstacles before us were formidable. The Joint Chiefs wield power that far exceeds their numbers, and, no surprise, they were intent on preserving the status quo and their exclusive active-component inner circle.<br /> <br /> We certainly wouldn’t want to call them disingenuous, but the objections they presented during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee last month (story, page 16) were off-target.<br /> <br /> It appeared that the bottom line for the Joint Chiefs was that they simply didn’t want this to happen. They were grasping at straws to justify foregone conclusions.<br /> <br /> It should be noted also that their predecessors just as adamantly opposed adding the marine Corps to the table in 1978 and the creation of the position of vice chairman in 1986. Change is hard for the Pentagon.<br /> <br /> But there are lessons for us in this enterprise, no matter how it turned out.<br /> <br /> For one, if you think our Defense Department is unequivocally committed to the Total Force, you better rethink that opinion.<br /> <br /> Clearly, the Do loves the Guard when it needs us. But under that false cloak of patronizing appreciation, the service chiefs will always revert to their active-component orientation when it comes to making the tough decisions on resources.<br /> <br /> Also, this effort points out how valuable it is for Guard officers to be aware of the legislative process. We must continue to work with the Pentagon, but our true support resides in Congress.<br /> <br /> Ensuring every Guard officer is legislatively savvy should be a top priority of senior officers as they mentor junior officers.<br /> <br /> And they should know how to develop relationships with their elected officials to educate them on the value of the Guard.<br /> <br /> We may never be able to convince the leadership in the Pentagon that the Guard is the cost-effective force envisioned by our founding fathers, but we must be able to make that case to Congress, which has ultimate responsibility, as the Constitution states, to “raise and support Armies.”<br /> <br /> Guard officers should also be aware, too, of the value of professional associations like NGAUS. It’s not about promoting membership, although that’s always a good thing.<br /> <br /> It’s about ensuring our officers know how the game is played so they can determine for themselves how associations like NGAUS can positively affect the outcome on Capitol Hill.<br /> <br /> Whether we have won or lost regarding the elevated status of the NGB chief, we know we had the attention of the decision makers in Congress and the Pentagon.<br /> <br /> Every voice does make a difference, and the larger the chorus, the stronger the voice and the more influence we have.<br /> <br /> Contact your senators and representative. Let them know that by strengthening and growing today’s trained and ready National Guard, our country will have both a strong and affordable national defense.<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 Presents Harry Truman Award To Honor Senator’s Longtime Support <br /> <br /> Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawaii, received the 2011 Harry S. Truman Award, the association’s highest honor, last month during a reception at the National Guard Memorial, the NGAUS headquarters in Washington, D.C. <br /> <br /> The award is presented for sustained and exceptional contributions to national defense and security.<br /> <br /> The longstanding member of the Senate Armed Services and Veterans committees was honored specifically for his work helping to increase benefits, full-time manning and the availability of body armor.<br /> <br /> One of his recent achievements was rewriting the Post-9/11 GI Bill last year to include Guardsmen mobilized in a Title 32 (state) status.<br /> <br /> “I don’t know that our warriors, our veterans and our retirees have a better friend in Washington [than Senator Akaka],” said Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, the NGAUS chairman.<br /> <br /> ‘Soft Landing’ Bill Would Ease Burden On Guardsmen Returning from Combat <br /> <br /> Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., was not happy to learn in May 2010 that returning National Guardsmen were being given the bum’s rush regarding health care at Joint Base Lewis McChord following deployments.<br /> <br /> He managed to stop the uneven dual track for active and reserve troops and vowed to do something more permanent.<br /> <br /> Wyden introduced his “Soft Landing” legislation last month that would balance the post-deployment treatment of Guardsmen and Reservists with that of active-component troops. The bill has the strong backing of NGAUS.<br /> <br /> If passed, S. 1839 would provide reserve- component members returning from combat with the same pay and health care available to active-component troops during a 45-day grace period. They also would receive job-search assistance and time to access mental-health services.<br /> <br /> Bill Would Exempt National Guard Duty From USERRA’s Five-year Time Limit <br /> <br /> A bill introduced by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., last month would include full-time National Guard duty as a possible exemption from the five-year limit in the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act (USERRA).<br /> <br /> The current law provides military members such as Guardsmen with the right to return to their job after fulfilling military duty.<br /> <br /> However, the law places a cumulative five-year limit on the amount of time a military member can be away from his or her civilian job.<br /> <br /> The National Guard Employment Protection Act of 2011, S. 1823, would authorize the defense secretary to include full-time Guard duty for possible exemption from the limit.<br /> <br /> Blunt explained that Guardsmen today are being called to duty more often and for longer periods of time, doing work that often compels them to serve beyond the current five-year limit in the law: <br /> <br /> “When National Guardsmen and women are working side by side with their active duty counterparts supporting critical active duty missions, they should not be forced to decide between keeping their civilian jobs or supporting critical national security missions,” the congressman said.<br /> <br /> Legislation Would Make Headstones Available to More National Guardsmen <br /> <br /> A bill currently under consideration in the House would make special tombstone markers available to some Guardsmen and Reservists who are not officially considered veterans under current law.<br /> <br /> The Memorialize Our Guardsmen and Reservists Act, H.R. 2305, which was introduced by Rep. Nan Hayworth, R-N.Y., would make available for purchase a headstone for the grave of a reserve-component member otherwise ineligible due to gaps in the veteran’s status requirements.<br /> <br /> Hayworth wrote the bill after hearing a story from Charles Ricotta, a constituent whose son passed away after 10 years of service in the Navy Reserve with no official recognition of his service at his grave site.<br /> <br /> Ricotta’s son died from a heart attack between drill weekends and was ineligible for recognition.<br /> <br /> Only Guardsmen and Reservists entitled to retirement pay or who die while hospitalized at a U.S. military medical facility from disease or injury sustained during training are eligible to receive the headstones.

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