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Saturday, February 03, 2007

NGAUS Legislative Update: 2/2/2007

What’s Happening In Congress?

Guard Empowerment Legislation.
The House and Senate on Wednesday introduced the National Guard Empowerment Act of 2007, to the 110th Congress which would make the National Guard Bureau (NGB) chief a four-star general with statutory authority to speak for the Guard at the highest levels of the Defense Department.

Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Christopher “Kit” Bond, R-Mo., co-chairs of the Senate National Guard Caucus, reintroduced their bill, S.430, to help make the National Guard a stronger and more responsible defense agency, which will improve the nation’s defense and improve the military’s ability to support civilian authorities during domestic emergencies. Reps. Tom Davis, R-Va., and Gene Taylor, D-Miss., introduced an identical bill in the House, H.R.718.

The Senate passed a modified version of the bill last year, while the House took no action. But the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) directed the Commission on National Guard and Reserves to review and present an opinion on the legislation, which is due March 1.

Guard leaders and a growing number of lawmakers, however, think the matter requires no further assessment.

They believe their lack of input into final Pentagon decisions is responsible for the Guard’s chronic funding shortfalls and recent Army and Air Force proposals to cut Guard personnel and equipment.

The following is a summary of the provisions of S. 430 / H.R. 718:

Section 1: Title

National Guard Empowerment Act of 2007

Section 2: National Guard Chief Full General on Joint Staff

Elevates the Chief of the National Guard to the rank of full general and makes that officer a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, advising the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and, in turn, the Secretary of Defense and the President, on National Guard matters, particularly matters related to the Guard’s work to support civil authorities during domestic emergencies.

It also allows the Secretary of Defense to set the National Guard’s charter in consultation with the Army and Air Force secretaries, adding a responsibility to the National Guard Bureau to help coordinate the National Guard during domestic emergencies. The National Guard will work with the States to identify gaps between federal and state capabilities in responding to emergencies, and the National Guard will have the authority to set equipment requirements and procure equipment for this domestically oriented mission. Part of the annual defense budget shall go toward the National Guard’s military support to civilian authorities’ mission.

Section 3: Expanding the Pool of National Guard Generals

Expands the pool of available National Guard generals eligible for promotion to the rank of lieutenant general and higher. It expresses the sense of Congress that the Reserve Component major generals should be considered for promotion, and it requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a plan to increase these promotions, as well as a certification, when the Administration submits nominees, that Reserve Component officers have actually received consideration.

Section 4: Joint Credit and Promotion Report

Ensures that adjutants general receive so-called joint credit for serving as the adjutant general, and it requires the Secretary of the Army and the Air Force to submit a report for elevating more National Guard major generals to the rank of lieutenant general.

Section 5: United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) Deputy

Ensures that the Deputy Commander of United States Northern Command is drawn from the ranks of the National Guard.

Section 6: Annual Report on Military Response to National Disaster

Requires the Secretary of Defense to work with United States Northern Command and the National Guard to submit an annual report on the coordination of National Guard and active military forces during domestic emergencies, using various scenarios and planning constructs.

Section 7: Reporting on National Guard Equipment

Provides greater transparency of budgeting for the National Guard’s equipment.

Empowerment of National Guard leaders, which includes National Guard Bureau, adjutants general, and governors, is the prerequisite first step to ensuring the National Guard has the force structure, equipment, policies, and quality-of-life our units and members.

Empowerment is the #1 NGAUS legislative priority because it sets the stage for everything else we need in order to succeed on behalf of our members and the American public. With empowerment, our voice will be heard at the right time and place in the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Guard will be integrated into plans and programs from the outset, not as a response to an announcement of a program or strategy “after the fact.”

Clearly, there is opposition from the Administration and Pentagon to several provisions of the Empowerment Act as evidenced by testimony before the Commission on National Guard and Reserves (CNGR) by Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey, Chief of Staff of the Army General Peter Schoomaker, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Peter Pace.

Contact your members of Congress and urge them to sign on as a co-sponsor and support the National Guard Empowerment Act of 2007. Our future depends on it.

What’s Happening At NGAUS?

CACO Conference.
The National Guard Association of the United States’ 10th Annual Congressional Action Contact Officer Conference’s hotel reservation deadline is today. If you have registered for this event or are still planning on doing so, make sure to call the Phoenix Park Hotel at 1-800-824-5419 and mention group code number 9641. Make your room reservation today in order to ensure the discounted group rate. Also make sure to download and fill out the registration form found on the NGAUS website here and return to Emily Breitbach.

The dates for this event are March 5 to 6, with the events ending by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 6th. The agenda will be posted on the NGAUS website in the near future.

Legislative Objectives are on the Hill.

The NGAUS legislative team has been delivering the Fiscal Year 2008 Legislative Objectives Booklet to both the Senate offices and the House offices. Along with the Legislative Objectives booklets, offices also received the very first edition of NGAUS ISSUES. This is a monthly newsletter provided to members of Congress and their staff to keep them up-to-date on issues important to our associations 45,000 members.

What Can You Do?

Share Your Views on Reduced Retirement Age.
NGAUS has a broad resolution supporting reduction of the age at which members of the Guard and Reserve can begin to receive retired pay. Many pieces of legislation have been offered to address this issue.

NGAUS believes it would be helpful to convince various congressional sponsors to back a common bill. We will need to speak with one voice in adopting a resolution in San Juan that lays out our preference.

To assist the membership, we are posting an “issue block” on the NGAUS homepage that will provide background info and a bulletin board so that you can participate.

Casework in Congress.
One of the most important and rewarding duties of any member of Congress is constituent casework. Congressional members have the ability to act as a liaison between the federal government agencies and their individual constituents in their districts. It is often times a lot easier for a Congressional office to get information you may need. Getting in contact with the right person at agencies can often times be frustrating. If you have questions that your MPF is unable to answer or problems that are above their ability to solve, let your Representative help you out. Whether it be veteran’s benefits eligibility or claims inquiries, problems obtaining copies of your military records, making corrections to your military records, receiving reentry service waivers, or any other issue related to being in the military or not.

Visit http://www.house.gov/ and use your zip code to identify the correct Representative for your district. Due to the Privacy Act of 1974, you will also need to fill out a Privacy Release Form in order to give written consent for assistance. Your Congressional office will have this form available for you.

Published by the NGAUS Legislative Staff:
Brig Gen (ret) Richard M. Green, Director
Col (ret) Pete Duffy, Deputy Director
Chris DeBatt, Army Programs
Emily Breitbach, Air Programs
Bernie Phelps, Senior Legislative Analyst
For more information on NGAUS, check out our website: NGAUS.org.

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