Friday, June 6, 2008

NGAUS Legislative Update June 6, 2008

Below is the Legislative News from the NGAUS (National Guard). These are men who have retired, I think, that are trying to watch out for the warriors that have picked up where they left off. I will not give an opinion on what they are seeking except to say they are politically attuded. lol. Go ahead. Check it out. Remember to take some time today to remember D-Day. Thank you, and have a nice weekend.


Empowerment

Empowerment of the National Guard will help ensure that Guard leaders are able to actively participate in Defense Department decisions that will enhance the functions of the National Guard Bureau (NGB) and improve Federal-State military coordination during domestic response operations.

Empowerment legislation adopted in the FY2008 National Defense Authorization Act was a positive step forward. But, there is still work to be done.“Empowerment II” will continue to build on those historic improvements by

* Designating NGB, not DHS, the lead agency to develop civil support requirements
* Renaming the directors, Army and Air Guard to Vice Chief’s of NGB
* Providing adjutants general (TAG) joint duty credit for their experience in position
* Requiring DOD to report on joint duty credit for National Guard officers and enlisted members serving in Joint Force Headquarters (JFHQ)
* Requiring a summary of joint duty courses available for reserve officers
* Establishing NORTHCOM and PACOM as responsible commands for military support to civilian authorities (MSCA)
* Requires a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with NGB within six months of enactment
* Direction to the DOD to establish procedures for the nation’s governors to have “tactical control” (defined as command authority over assigned or attached forces or commands…that is limited to the detailed direction and control of movements or maneuvers within the operational area necessary to accomplish the mission) over the military forces , including Title 10 active forces, operating in their state during an emergency (exercised through the JFHQ)
* Designates that a National Guard officer will remain commander of Air Force North; while Guard officers shall become the Commander Army North, Commander or Deputy Commander of Joint Task Force (JTF) Alaska, JTF Civil Support, and JTF North.

The National Guard Empowerment and State-National Defense Integration Act of 2008 is the next logical step to ensure the National Guard fully develops its capabilities as first “military” responders during disasters such as the terrorist attacks of September 11, or Hurricane Katrina.

Contact your Senators and urge them to support the provisions of Empowerment (S.2760) for inclusion in the FY 2009 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
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Retirement.

The House and Senate failed to include language in their respective NDAAs that would have retroactively applied to 9/11 the historic Reserve retirement pay eligibility language of the NDAA for 2008 (HR 5658, S. 2836). This means those deployed for service prior to January 28, 2008 will not benefit from new rules that became effective then, reducing the 60 year retirement pay eligibility age three months for each aggregate of 90 days of deployed service in support of a contingency operation.

If you want to change this, you must contact your representatives to insist that they act in your behalf. NGAUS supports the retroactivity efforts of HR 5658 and S. 2836.
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Gray Area Retiree TRICARE.

HR1685, introduced by Representative Robert Latta (R-OH) on June 4, 2008, would authorize all Gray Area Retirees and their families eligible to receive Reserve Retirement Pay at age 60 to purchase TRICARE Standard insurance (TRS) no later than October 1, 2009 at a premium equal to the full cost of coverage to DoD, to be determined by the Secretary of Defense on an actuarial basis.

Currently, the premium is calculated by a review of the Government Accounting Office (GAO) Report of December 2007, which reported that DoD is currently overcharging TRS beneficiaries 72% for individual plans and 45% for family plans. As the excessive premiums charged by DoD do not accurately reflect the actual cost of coverage, GAO recommended an Executive Order to correct the overcharging, which has not yet occurred. The House version of the NDAA proposes that TRS premiums be based on actual costs.

By statute, the premium DoD charges TRS beneficiaries is supposed to cover 28% of the actual cost of coverage incurred by DoD . Unfortunately, DoD in setting the premiums for TRS overestimated the actual cost of the coverage. If DoD had based the premium on actual costs, individuals would have been paying $566 a year or 47.17 a month for TRS instead of the $972 a year or $81.00 a month currently being charged. Families would have been paying $2,099 a year or $174.91 a month and not the $3,036 a year or $253 a month they currently are currently paying.

Under the Latta Bill, the Gray Area retirees would be paying the full cost of coverage incurred by DoD, not 28% of the cost that TRS beneficiaries and their families will continue to pay. If the bill passes and DoD accurately billed the Gray Area retirees the full current cost of coverage, this would translate to charges of $2,021.42 a year or $168.45 a month for individuals and $4,372.92 a year or $364.40 a month for families. NGAUS supports the Latta Bill, which directly addresses a prioritized resolution.
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GI Bill.

Virginia Senator Webb’s new GI Bill , S. 22, and its companion bill in the House, HR 5740, sponsored by Arizona Representative Mitchell, passed in both the House and Senate versions of the War Supplemental. The Webb bill would create a new education benefits program for post 9/11 combat veterans that would include both tuition assistance and monthly stipends. It would also provide National Guard and Reserve veterans with an aggregate 36 months of qualifying deployed service with educational benefits equal to those of active force veterans.

The Senate version of the War Supplemental had $10 billion of additional domestic spending, which the President promises to veto if it stays in the final version passed by Congress. NGAUS supports S. 22 and HR 5740.

It is important to note that the programs proposed by S.22 and HR 5740 would be in addition to the current Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). In its recent mark, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs approved a proposal that would transfer administration of the MGIB to Title 38 from Title 10, something long sought by NGAUS. There are numerous other bills that would expand benefits under the existing MGIB,the most prominent of which is S. 2938 sponsored by Senators McCain, Graham, and Burr. In addition to increasing monthly benefit amounts, S.2938 would allow transferability of the benefits to dependents.
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Pre-Mob Dental and Medical.

In a NGAUS led effort, the Senate included a provision in Section 711 that would authorize each service secretary to provide full active duty medical and dental coverage for deploying members of the National Guard and Reserve, if the Secretary determines that it is necessary to ensure that the member meets applicable standards of readiness. This would statutorily authorize full pre-deployment medical and dental coverage to begin whenever the Secretary deemed necessary in advance of the currently authorized 90 day pre-deployment period for such coverage.
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Mental Health Outreach.

The House has passed a mental health care outreach bill, HR 2874, that would expand peer-to-peer programs, and authorize the Veterans Administration to treat members in rural areas isolated from VA facilities by contracting with local Community Mental Health Centers. The Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs has passed S.2162, which would authorizes similar rural outreach treatment programs found in HR 2874, but would limit their scope to piloted programs in selected Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs). S.2162 would authorize Vet Centers to assist family members. S.38, which stalled in the Senate, is nearly identical to HR 2874 but would further authorize the VA to contract nationwide with Community Mental Health Centers to treat our members and their families for three years post deployment.

Please contact your Senators to voice your support for expanded mental health care outreach for our members and their families. NGAUS will continue to strongly support inclusion of the mental health outreach provisions of S.38 in any rural veterans’ mental health bill that Congress may pass this session.
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ANG Programs.

F-22

Both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have included funds for advanced procurement even though the President’s Budget did not request the money. The Senate version allows the President to choose between using the funds to continue the F-22 production or shut the line down. NGAUS supports using these authorized funds to purchase additional F-22 aircraft and to field them to the Air National Guard in order to continue support of the Air Sovereignty Alert mission. Without a replacement for our aging fighter fleet the Air National Guard will face a degraded capability to protect our homeland from air attacks in the future.
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Maintenance Restructuring.

The FY2009 HASC Authorization bill includes language that prohibits the Air Force from consolidating Air National Guard with the Active Duty maintenance facilities without first obtaining consent from the National Guard Bureau. NGAUS supports this language and will urge the Conferees to include this language in the final National Defense Authorization Bill for FY 2010.
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Air Sovereignty Alert.

The FY2009 HASC Authorization bill includes an additional $34 million for the Air Sovereignty Alert mission above the President’s request, and language which would require the Secretary of Defense to provide an annual report on funding for all programs and activities for the ASA mission. In addition to this directive language, the bill also expresses a sense that the ASA mission should receive sufficient funding.

NGAUS strongly supports the House version of the ASA language and will continue to recommend that Congress include this language in the final National Defense Authorization Bill for FY 2010.
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ARNG Programs.

Full-Time Support

The Senate version of NDAA increases the number of ARNG AGR positions to 32,060 and MilTechs to 28,380, both 73% of the validated requirement using supplemental funding. In the House version, only the AGR positions have been increased, but the funds are provided in the base budget.
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NGREA.

The Senate did not authorize any funds for the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account, but did put $391 million into the Army’s procurement accounts and specified it for ARNG equipment items. The House chose to authorize $800 million in the NGREA for Army Guard and Army Reserve equipment.
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Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA).

The Senate provided full funding in both Army and Air Force accounts for costs related to the Joint Cargo Aircraft. However, the House version of the bill supports the Army’s requirement for fixed-wing time-sensitive lift while directing the Air Force to re-examine putting C-130s into units currently designated to receive C-27s.
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C-17.

The FY2009 HASC Authorization has marked for 15 C-17s at a cost of $3.9B to fulfill the unfunded requirement on the Air Force’s list. The Senate Authorization bill does not include funding for additional C-17s. NGAUS supports the House version of the C-17 language and will ask the Conferees to cede to that language in order to continue the C-17 line and bring the new airlifters into the Air National Guard to replace older retiring aircraft in the inventory.
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War Supplemental.

The much anticipated and much needed war spending bill is still missing in action. The Senate passed its version last week but the House has not passed an equivalent. In the Senate bill, there is an additional $675M for ARNG NGREA as well as over $685M in O&M and over $1.36B for Personnel. The ANG also received $287M for O&M in addition to $72M for radio and targeting pod upgrades and $34M for AESA radars.

The main sticking point in the House is that the cost of increasing veterans’ education benefits is not offset by spending cuts elsewhere, something that concerns a group of balanced-budget Democrats. The current effort is to remove much of the domestic spending included in the House version in an attempt to avoid President Bush vetoing the legislation, but no progress has been made.
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We Goofed!
Write To Congress Update
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The legislative staff would like to apologize for the discrepancy in reporting the number of letters sent to Congress by our top states. The mistake has been corrected, and we are striving to provide all of our members with current, up-to-date numbers. Again, please accept our apologies and as always, your letters to Congress are essential in NAGUS’ mission to represent the National Guard and Reserves.

Messages sent:

This Year — 21,242
This Week — 438

Top 5 States:

1. Tennessee — 4,510
2. Georgia — 4,326
3. Mississippi — 1,199
4. Texas — 938
5. Oklahoma — 662

Our 2008 Goal: 54,000 messages. Only 32,758 messages to go!
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Legislative Staff
Richard Green, Legislative Director
Pete Duffy, Deputy Director
Chris DeBatt, Army Programs
Emily Breitbach, Air Programs
Bernie Phelps, Senior Analyst
Dixie Ross, Legislative Analyst

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