National Guard April 2011 : Page 51

nationwide sharing their stories with their elected representatives. This grassroots lobbying effort is central to the NGAUS approach on Capitol Hill, and Guard leaders and most association members understand its strength. So do key members of Congress. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the co-chairman of the Senate Guard Cau-cus used a box analogy to describe the impact of the NGAUS approach in an interview in the January National Guard magazine. “NGAUS hits way above its weight, he said. “It has the ability to take core issues and spread the need for those programs on Capitol Hill more effec-tively than any other body that I can think of because NGAUS is a grass-roots organization.” To understand how grassroots lob-bying is important to the association, one must understand the legislative process in Congress. In general, members of Congress introduce bills on the floors of the House and Senate when they see a need that legislation could resolve. If the bill is something NGAUS supports, it sends its legislative teams to the offices of other members of Congress to solicit their support for the measure. At this point, the voices of con-cerned constituents across the land pushing for the bill’s support augment the efforts of NGAUS at the seat of government. Citizens who communicate their opinions to their elected officials can often turn the tide in a bill’s favor or get important amendments added to improve the legislation. “Sometimes it only takes the con-certed effort of three or four people to get something in a bill,” says Pete Duffy, the NGAUS deputy director of legislative affairs. Members of the National Guard live and vote in every congressional district. So every lawmaker has con-stituents who are Guardsmen. This is what makes NGAUS one of the widest reaching lobbying organi-zations in the United States. And that broad membership is powerful, too. NGAUS and the state associations have been using that power for years to influence the work of Congress. Each state approaches grassroots lobbying in its own way. The National Guard Association of Tennessee, for example, puts together binders of information about Guard personnel and installations, along with the levels of associated spend-ing in each congressional district, and provides them to members of Con-gress. This helps the members connect with the Guard, says retired Col. Larry McKnight, the executive director of the NGATN, and reminds them how “meaningful the Guard is . . . not only from the amount of expenditures, but also the number of members that are in that [congressman’s district].” Once the relationships are estab-lished with members of Congress, the state association is more able to mobilize its own membership around issues. The adjutant general and wing and brigade commanders throughout the state are involved with the state association and their leadership is important in motivating association members to contact Congress. When action is needed on a bill or legislative issue on Capitol Hill, NGAUS distributes a Legislative Alert that explains to members why their involvement is important. State associations, too, receive the alerts, which prompt McKnight and many of his peers nationwide to mobilize their association members. McKnight says he gets a 20 to 35 percent response rate whenever he distributes a NGAUS Legislative Alert to his membership. The Ohio National Guard Associa-tion does the same thing. In the Buck-NGAUS Top Legislative Priorities Early Retireme Retirement Credit for Guardsmen Z Retroactivity for deployment-based program back to Sept. 11, 2001 Z One year earlier retirement for two years served beyond 20 Personnel Initiatives Z Embedded behavioral health care providers at drills Z “Soft landing” for post-deployment Z  Veteran status for all retired members Z Worldwide space-available travel benefits Z Employer authorization to pay TRICARE Reserve Select with pre-tax dollars Fully Equip and Modernize the Army National Guard Z  Funds for Army Guard equipment and the National Guard and Reserves Equipment Account for critical dual-use equipment Recapitalize the Air National Guard Z Concurrent and balanced Total Force procurement policy Z Service Life Extension Program for aging Air Guard F-16s Modernize National Guard Facilities Z Functional training and mobilization facilities Z Guard and Reserve Initiative funds for critical infrastructure projects Empowerment Z Seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the chief of the National Guard Bureau Z Three-star vice chief of the National Guard Bureau April 2011 | 51

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