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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

NGAUS Legislative Summary of FY 2007

NGAUS Legislative Summary of the FY 2007 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and Defense Appropriations Bills.
The FY2007 defense budget cycle recently culminated in Congress when both Chambers voted to approve the authorization and appropriations conference reports, and were then signed by the President.

The process begins in early February when the Presidents Budget (PB) is delivered to Congress, establishing the baseline from which NGAUS determines the resources and policies not included in the budget that our staff will lobby for on behalf of our members.

This year was unique because the PB implemented the strategy outlined in the 2005 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which was released during the same time period. However, the contents of the QDR, some of which had been leaked to the press, soon became the top priority for NGAUS because the Army was proposing to cut Army National Guard (ARNG) end strength by 17,000 positions and assign support missions to six of our brigade combat teams (BCT) - without the benefit of input or debate by National Guard leaders!

The battle was on when Brig. Gen. Steve Koper (Ret.), president of NGAUS, fired off letters to key members of Congress, adjutant’s generals, and others alerting them to this unwarranted attack on our force structure. During the months to follow, the Pentagon would do some serious back-peddling and eventually promise to fund 350,000 soldiers as long as the ARNG could recruit to that level.

As an adjunct to that uncoordinated maneuver by the Department and similar experiences such as the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), the Senate National Guard Caucus, led by Senator’s Bond and Leahy, introduced the National Defense Enhancement and National Guard Empowerment Act of 2006 to help bolster the influence of the National Guard in the Pentagon by obtaining a permanent "seat at the table" for Guard leadership.

NGAUS, along with the Adjutants General Association of the United States (AGAUS), National Governors Association (NGA), and allies from both the House and Senate worked diligently to pass this important legislation, while the Pentagon worked just as hard behind the scenes to ensure its defeat. Ultimately, the issue would be referred to the Commission of the National Guard and Reserves (CNGR) for further study and a report back date to Congress of March 2007.

Although ARNG force structure, Empowerment and TRICARE were in the spotlight this year, I can assure you that our staff vigorously pursued all of our legislative priorities.

Some of those priorities include Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA), reset funding for equipment, full time manning, tax breaks for employers, reduced age for retirement pay, bonuses, Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters, Bradley upgrades, Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) for C-130’s, Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar for F-15’s, Satellite Communications (SATCOM) for A-10’s, and much more.

We also coordinated our efforts with the NGA to oppose the proposed legislation that would allow the President to activate the National Guard during natural disasters "without" the consent of the governor.

And, although the final legislation did include changes to the Insurrection Act that would allow the President to activate the National Guard during a natural disaster, terrorist attack, epidemic or other public health emergency (without the consent of the governor), it is under the condition that the state is unable to maintain public order, and the violence obstructed the execution of the laws of the United States.

Additionally, the NGAUS staff attended almost half of the state association conferences, helped facilitate state delegation visits to the Hill, worked closely with the NGAUS task forces and resolutions committees, linked industry with state associations to formulate new resolutions, and improved our working relationship with the National Guard Bureau Legislative Liaison (NGB/LL) team, and our sister veterans associations. It was certainly a very busy year!

If you were in the audience for one of our legislative update briefings this year, you may be familiar with the following statement on the final slide…Our "future" is in the hands of all of us…working together to ensure a strong and viable National Guard. This statement is important, because the results of this legislative season were achieved by "all of us", NGAUS, EANGUS, AGAUS, NGA, state delegations, industry, individual members and so many more, working together to obtain the resources necessary for readiness and quality of life for our soldiers, airmen and their families.

Defense Appropriations:
The appropriations bill was signed into law by the President on 29 September 2006. The House and Senate conferees agreed that National Guard forces are integral to our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and play a critical role in our nation’s response to natural disasters. To that end, Congress provided $75M for the ARNG and $75M for the ANG to fund some of our top priorities such as: $8.25M for UH-60 A to UH-60 L Conversions, $2.6M for M915 Tractor Trucks, $6M for Mobile Approach Control Systems, $12M for Block 42 Engine Upgrades, $6M for C130 LAIRCM and a long list of other important equipment. In addition, $72M was provided for F-15C AESA radars.

The conferees also appropriated $72M in procurement funds for the Army’s Future Cargo Aircraft (FCA) (Title III), and $15.8M in RDT&E funds for the Air Force’s Light Cargo Aircraft (LCA) program (Title IV). And, $82.8M was appropriated for the ANG portion of Predator UAV funding (Title IX), and $95M for five ARNG UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters.

The conferees were very concerned about the Department’s proposal to reduce the number of ARNG brigade combat teams from 34 to 28 and strongly urge the Department of the Army to continue its examination of combat brigade requirements with the full participation and cooperation of both active and Guard officials at all levels. The conferee’s will closely monitor this issue over the coming months to ensure that sufficient funding is provided to field the number of Guard combat brigades necessary to meet its force generation and state security requirements.

The conferees fully funded the Army National Guard authorized end strength level of 350,000, and restored the bulk of funding cuts to the ARNG from PDM III. Title IX added Guard Manpower Buy Back funding in the amount of $251M in ARNG personnel and $220M in ARNG O&M.

A 2.2 percent across-the-board pay raise was approved for all military personnel, which matched the Presidents budget request.

Finally, to accomplish reset as quickly as possible and ensure military readiness, the conferees directed $2,940,000,000 for Title IX procurement funds to be available for the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, and that $500,000,000 of those funds shall be available for the purposes identified in the House Report 109-504 under the heading "National Guard and Reserve Equipment" to fund the National Guard’s "Essential 10 Equipment Requirements." The Chief of the National Guard Bureau is also directed to submit a report specifying the items to be procured with this funding, and a fielding plan not later than 60 days after enactment of the Act. The Department of Defense is directed to submit to the Congressional defense committees not later than nine months after enactment of the Act (i.e., 29 June 2007) a report on how the Department has obligated funds and provided the equipment designated for the National Guard in the budget submission and accompanying justification materials.

A more detailed analysis of the appropriations act will be posted on the NGAUS web site for your review.

National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):
The 2007 NDAA contained some good news for the National Guard and put off some important legislative action for a later date.

The good news is a final victory with the authorization of expanded eligibility of selected reserve members under the TRICARE Standard program.

The bill provides coverage under the TRICARE Standard program to all members of the Selected Reserves and their families while in a non-active duty status. Participants would be required to pay a premium that would be 28 percent of the total amount determined by the Secretary of Defense as being reasonable for the TRICARE coverage. This section does not extend TRICARE eligibility to reservists who were also federal employees entitled to Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan coverage under title 5, United States Code. Further, this section repeals the three tiered cost share TRICARE program for reserves established by the fiscal year 2006 National Defense Authorization Act and will be effective 1 October 2007.

NGAUS owes a great deal to the Senate and House champions who did so much to bring about this stunning accomplishment on behalf of the members of the Guard and Reserve. We would like to salute, from the House, Mr. Taylor, Mr. Tom Davis, Mr. Wilson, Mr. Turner, Mr. Latham and Mr. Tim Ryan along with all of their colleagues. In the Senate we acknowledge the leadership of Mr. Graham, Mr. Leahy, Mr. DeWine, Mrs. Clinton and the whole host of senators past and present who worked to bring about this legislation. NGAUS and the Adjutants General Association thank you for seven years of unrelenting effort.

On the other hand, it was very disappointing to learn that the conferees deferred the National Guard Empowerment Act to the Commission of National Guard and Reserves for their recommendation and report back NLT 1 March 2007. NGAUS, AGAUS and our friends in Congress worked tirelessly to promote this legislation that would have elevated the Chief of NGB to four stars, designated the three-star Deputy of U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) as a National Guard officer, and several other actions that would help ensure the Guard is "at the table." NGAUS will continue to lead the way on this issue because it is vitally important to our future as an institution.

The Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) program combines the initiative to procure Future Cargo Aircraft (FCA) for the Army National Guard to replace aging C-23’s, C-26, and a portion of the C-12 fleet to relieve excessive demands on the CH-47 for intra-theater lift, and the interest by the Air Force to use the Light Cargo Aircraft (LCA) for its intra-theater airlift and provide new missions for ANG units that lost aircraft due to BRAC. Although the initial budget request earmarked $109.2M for the Army to procure three FCA, and $15.8M for the Air Force to establish a program, the conferees agreed that, although the Army initiated the program, the $109.2M would be authorized for the Air Force since the Army and Air Force signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to merge the two programs and that the Air Force is conducting an F-series (functional analysis) study to define the broader requirement for the aircraft which would provide intra-theater airlift mission support for U. S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM). The conferees also indicated that it would be premature to procure aircraft until appropriate intra-theater lift studies are complete.

Another initiative of great interest to our members is the reduction of age to receive retirement pay. Last year, Senator Chambliss introduced legislation that would have reduced the age to receive retirement pay by three months for every 90 days a member of the National Guard or Reserves served in combat. NGAUS supported that initiative with a clear caveat that we did not think it appropriate to create different "classes" of Guard members (those who are called to federal service vs. those who have not yet been called), and that every member of the National Guard was doing their part to support the war effort and homeland defense. That legislation was eliminated during conference negotiations.

The conferees expanded the Presidential Reserve Call-Up Authority from 270 to 365 days. And with respect to the balance of equipment, the bill requires the SECDEF to submit a report NLT 1 April 2007 regarding the priority distribution strategy for replacing National Guard equipment, and requires the Chief of NGB to comment on the Secretary of the Army report to congress on Army progress in budgeting for repair and replacement of equipment used in the GWOT as well as equipment for transformation/modularity and to replenish preposition stocks.

With respect to compensation and personnel benefits, the bill authorizes Service Secretaries to pay a second monthly BAH in lieu of per diem to reserve component members without dependents mobilized in support of contingency operations, and extends a wide variety of RC bonuses and special pay.

This year, our staff negotiated with several members of Congress for their support to introduce legislation that would reduce the age to receive retirement pay, with the preferred method being a one year reduction for every two years served beyond twenty. However, despite our input, Senator Chambliss’ language, as described earlier, prevailed. Unfortunately, that legislation was eliminated during conference as well. Our staff will continue to vigorously pursue this issue.

More detailed information regarding these pieces of legislation can be found on our web site at NGAUS.org.

"We Serve"

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