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Friday, December 22, 2006

NGAUS Legislative Update: 12/22/2006

What’s Happening In Congress?

New Defense Secretary Sworn In
On Monday morning, Robert Gates was officially sworn in as the new Secretary of Defense, replacing Donald Rumsfeld who announced his resignation one day after democrats won control of Congress in the midterm elections. Secretary Gates hit the ground running by making an unscheduled visit to Iraq on Dec. 19, and is sure to be facing Congressional committees in the near future.

Read AGAUS President’s Testimony.
Major General Roger Lempke, Adjutants General Association of the United States (AGAUS) president was unable to testify at Commission on the National Guard and Reserves hearings last week. MG Francis Vavala, AGAUS vice president and the adjutant general of Delaware, testified on behalf of Maj. Gen. Lempke and presented his written statement which clearly supported proposals included in House and Senate bills to empower the National Guard. To read Maj. Gen. Lempke’s complete statement and the statements from MG R. Martin Umbarger and MG Raymond F. Rees visit the NGAUS homepage and click on CNGR found on the right hand side. (www.ngaus.org)

Managine War Contractors.
An investigative report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to evaluate the unparalleled number of defense contractors currently in Iraq and Afghanistan was released on Dec. 19.

According to the report, more than 60,000 contractors have supported the Army in the Southwest Asia region, which includes Iraq. This is more than six times the number of contractors that supported the military during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. After reviewing the GAO’s findings, the Pentagon has agreed to implement a database of contractors and appoint a senior-level office dedicated to improving contractor management.

Wrapping Up Work.
When lawmakers adjourned on December 9th only two of the eleven FY07 appropriations bills were cleared. While it has become common for spending bills to not be complete on time, this will be the first time in nearly twenty years that Congress will use a stop-gap measure, known as a continuing resolution, to finance most of the government’s activities for the entire fiscal year. The last time all spending bills were completed by the start of the new fiscal year was 1996. Democratic appropriators decided to enact a continuing resolution because it will be the most expeditious way to wrap up the unfinished work from the 109th Congress.

This stop-gap spending measure will not include any earmarks for FY07. The incoming Appropriations Chairmen, Rep. David Obey, D-Wisc. and Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va. vowed to place a standstill on earmarks “until a reformed process is put in place.”

The White House had not received prior notice of this spending plan. In an Immediate Release statement from OMB, Director Rob Portman expressed interest in completing each spending bill separately rather than passing a year long continuing resolution. While both parties are in disagreement over how the spending lag should be pursued, the administration will “work with the agencies and Congress to ensure there are no major disruptions to essential government services.”

What’s Happening At NGAUS?
Task Force on Mental Health

The DoD Task Force on Mental Health is a congressionally mandated Federal Advisory Committee which has been directed to make an assessment of and recommendations on the mental health services provided by the Department of Defense to members of the Armed Forces and their families. The Task Force met on Dec. 20 to listen to statements from the public including a large number of organizations. Emily Breitbach of the NGAUS legislative staff attended the meeting. There are currently two resolutions passed at the 128th NGAUS General Conference relating to mental health issues; Joint emergency resolutions A-ER-4 and A-ER- 8.

What Can You Do?
Learn Some Key Congressional Terms

Authorization Act- Authorizes a program specifies it general aims, and generally sets a ceiling on the monies that can be used to finance it.

Appropriation Act- Grants the actual money to be spent, usually after the adoption of an authorization act.

Supplemental Appropriation Act- Legislation that adds money to an appropriation act previously passed by Congress.

Direct Spending- Budget Authority provided in an authorization; or entitlement authority (including mandatory spending contained in appropriation acts).

Discretionary Spending- Spending for programs whose funding levels are determined through the appropriations process.

Entitlements- Programs that make payments to any person, business, or unit of government that seeks the payments and meets the criteria of law. Congress controls these programs indirectly by defining eligibility and setting the benefit or payment rules.

Correction from Dec. 15 LEGIT.
MG Umbarger, MG Vavala, and MG Rees provided expert testimony and made recommendations that would ensure the best future for the National Guard and the nation’s security at the Commission of the National Guard and Reserves hearing last week.

Published by the NGAUS Legislative Staff:
Brig Gen (ret) Richard M. Green, Director
Chris DeBatt, Army Programs
Bernie Phelps, Senior Legislative Analyst
Emily Breitbach, Legislative Analyst

For more information on NGAUS, check out our website: NGAUS.org.
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