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Friday, June 15, 2007

What’s Happening In Congress?

Details of Senate NDAA Made Public
The Senate report on S.1547, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of FY 08, was released this week, providing further insight as to the status of such issues as empowerment, retirement, and the Insurrection Act. Included in the bill are several provisions that translate into progress for the Guard and our legislative goals. These include:

* Requiring the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of the Air Force, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to prescribe a charter for the National Guard Bureau.

* Increasing the grade of the Chief of the National Guard Bureau from lieutenant general to general.

* Reducing the age at which a member of the Ready Reserve could draw retired pay below the age of 60 by 3 months for every aggregate 90 days of active duty performed under certain mobilization authorities during a fiscal year.

* Repealing section 1076 (relating to the Insurrection Act) of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 and reviving the provisions amended by that section as they were in effect prior to the effective date of that act.

One major concern with the retirement provision is that it did not make the qualifying active duty retroactive to September 11, 2001 as provided for in Senator Chambliss’ bill (S. 648). Because the House Armed Services Committee rejected the House version of the Chambliss bill (H.R. 1428), in its markup, the retirement provision will face a major challenge should it clear the Senate and move to conference.

Senate Appropriations Committee Approves MILCON-VA Spending
The Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday approved a $109.2 billion spending bill for military construction and veterans’ affairs. The bill includes $4 billion more than the President requested, with the bulk of the increase slated for use on veterans’ health care with a particular focus on traumatic brain injuries and stress disorders. Military construction accounts were appropriated $21.6 billion, $400 million more than the President’s budget request, an increase driven the results of the 2005 BRAC process. The House bill had been held up by a party dispute over earmarks (special member projects) and although House Democratic leaders say they will include earmarks in the measure, they will not disclose them for several weeks. The White House issued a statement Wednesday that lawmakers must find offsets in other spending bills if they seek more than the amount requested by the President or else face a veto of the other bills. It is not known when the Senate will debate the military construction and veterans’ spending bill but the House is expected to consider their version on Friday.

JCA Selection
The Army and Air Force Wednesday announced their selection of the C-27J Spartan cargo aircraft as the vehicle of choice for the Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) program. The JCA contract, worth up to $7 billion, was awarded to L3 Communications Integrated Systems - Alenia North American team, which also includes U. S. partner Boeing.

Ken Krieg, the Pentagon’s head weapons buyer, approved a request by the Army and Air Force to move forward in a “low rate initial production” capacity. The services received approval to buy 78 planes over the next six years, with 54 going to the Army and 24 to the Air Force. Also approved was funding to cover the first round of low rate initial production, which is expected to deliver 13 planes.

National Governors Association Holds Forum on the FY08 NDAA
On Thursday, 14 June, the National Governors Association (NGA) hosted a panel discussion on the provisions of the FY08 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) pertaining to the National Guard. NGAUS joined participants in the forum, including Military Legislative Assistants (MLA) from the offices of Rep. Tom Davis and Senators Bond and Leahy. Representatives from the National Guard Bureau’s Legislative Liaison office (NGB/LL), Major General Frank Vavala, TAG-Delaware and President of AGAUS, as well as Major General Fred Rees, TAG-Oregon, and Major General Bill Libby, TAG-Maine. The topics discussed included a review of the Senate and House versions of the bill, the impact of included provisions, and upcoming action on the bills.

What’s Happening at NGAUS?
NGAUS has continued to aggressively lobby Congress for support to reduce the age in which National Guard members begin to receive retirement pay. The “Pay-Go” rules requiring an “offset” are a major barrier to the adoption of this provision. However, the Senate version does contain provisions as described earlier in this newsletter. We need your help to move this through conference and into the final defense authorization bill. Visit our web site to learn more about this issue and then contact your representatives to express your concerns and solicit their support. The best way to do this is by using our Write to Congress feature found on our web site, but any form of communication will help (phone, fax, letter, personal visit, etc.).

What Can You Do?

Capwiz Update
17,360 messages sent this year.
295 messages sent this week.
3593 messages on Guard Empowerment.
4326 messages on TRICARE fee increases.
7771 messages on retirement.
929 messages on JCA

Top 5 States:
1. Georgia – 2342 messages
2. Tennessee – 2162 messages
3. Mississippi – 1188 messages
4. Ohio – 674 messages
5. Indiana 570 messages

Our Goal for 2007: 54,000 messages - Only 36,640 messages to go!

Rich Green, Director
Pete Duffy, Deputy Director
Chris DeBatt, Army Programs
Emily Breitbach, Air Programs
Bernie Phelps, Senior Legislative Analyst
Gareth Vaughan, Legislative Analyst


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

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