Congress is working to complete action on several legislative items before adjourning for mid-term elections. Of importance to the Guard--the fate of the FY07 Defense Authorization and FY07 Defense Appropriations bill. Both the House and Senate are making plans to adjourn on September 29, to allow members of both chambers to return home for the final critical weeks before the November 7th elections.
Defense Authorization Update
Both the House and Senate are in final negotiations trying to find compromises on the differences included within each report. One difference includes language contained in the House report that would allow military chaplains to end their prayers with the phrase "in Jesus’ name." In an effort to avoid legal entanglements, some military commanders are allowing only non-secular prayers to be used at military functions. Final agreements on the conference report are expected next week. Included within the Defense Authorization bill are provisions important to the National Guard. They include:
National Defense Enhancement and National Guard Empowerment Act of 2006 (Alert #06-21)
Within the Senate version of the Authorization bill, legislation is included that would elevate the Chief of the Guard Bureau to a four-star position, would designate the Deputy Commander at NORTHCOM a Guard member, and establishes Guard service as a “joint.” These provisions were added as an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill, which is currently in conference between the House and Senate. Contact your member of Congress and ask that this legislation be included in the final version of the Authorization Bill.
TRICARE (Alert #06-16)
The House version of the Authorization bill contains a measure that would provide TRICARE access to all members of the National Guard. The provision would set a Guard member’s premium cost-share of 28 percent while the Department of Defense would pay 72 percent of the premium regardless of duty status. Urge your Senator to support this language and keep it in the final bill.
Section 511 of the Defense Authorization Bill (Alert #06-13)
Another item included within H.R. 5122, the House version of the defense authorization bill, is a provision that would allow the President to federalize National Guard members during a “serious natural or man-made disaster, accident or catastrophe that occurs in the United States, its territories and possessions, or Puerto Rico,” without prior consultation with the governor. This would allow the federal government to control National Guard members during times when governors will need those troops the most, thereby negating the inherent line of authority from governor to adjutant general to individual Army and Air National Guard units. The National Guard Association of the United States strongly opposes Section 511 of H.R. 5122. Conference committee members should be made aware of the dangerous precedent set by this proposal.
Joint Cargo Aircraft (Alert #06-19)
The House version of the Authorization bill includes funding for the Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) program while the Senate does not. NGAUS supports the House language to fund JCA. As you know, the Army National Guard is scheduled to field the JCA to replace aging and lesser performing C-23 and C-26 aircraft. The National Guard Bureau is also promoting the JCA as a follow-on mission for Air National Guard wings that will lose aircraft as a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). When not deployed in support of the Global War on Terror or other contingencies, these aircraft will be available for state missions such as disaster response and homeland security. Write your member of Congress to urge their support for this important issue.
Defense Appropriations Update
Both chambers are in negotiations to finalize the FY07 Defense Appropriations bill before adjourning next Friday. At issue are the differing funding allocations between the two bills. The Senate would reduce the President’s request by $9 billion while the House cuts $4.1 billion. The final measure includes $70 billion in emergency funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and includes funding for equipment lost or damaged while overseas. One issue of particular concern to the future of the Air National Guard was funding for the C-17 Globemaster which is included in the Defense Appropriations conference report. Both the House and Senate supported funds that would continue the aircraft’s production for future procurement, but purchasing 10 more aircraft. NGAUS supports Congress’ efforts to keep the line open in the hopes that additional future C-17s will be assigned to the Air Guard.
The 128th General Conference wrapped up on Monday of this week in Albuquerque, New Mexico. During the conference, a total of 57 resolutions were passed by the membership. These resolutions and their related issues will be prioritized to form our legislative agenda before being presented to Congress as part of NGAUS 2007 lobbying efforts. The NGAUS task forces will be working to prioritize the resolutions; if you are interested in participating--contact the Task Force Chairs listed on the NGAUS website.
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