Legislative Newsletter Update 22 June 2009 

6/22/2009 

Legislative News is AUSA Government Affairs Directorate's 
weekly electronic newsletter, and is published 
every Monday when Congress is in session. 


      
 

In this issue

  • AUSA President to Congress: Increase the Army's End Strength
  • AUSA Government Affairs Team meets with Speaker of the House
  • Army Budget Topic at ILW Breakfast



AUSA President to Congress: Increase the Army's End Strength!


AUSA President, Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., sent a strongly worded letter to the House and Senate leadership as well as the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees and Defense Appropriations Subcommittees urging them "to increase the authorized end strength of the Army by at least 30,000 with funding for the increase in the base budget."

Gen. Sullivan told the leadership that such action must be taken, "Because more troops are headed to Afghanistan and troop strength in Iraq has yet to decline significantly, the number of deployed soldiers will increase into next year.  Defense Department leaders have testified in Congress that it will be difficult to increase dwell time at home over the next 18 to 24 months and rotational requirements will continue for the next 10 to 15 years. Also, there are at least 30,000 soldiers who are on the rolls but not deployable due to injury or duty manning the Wounded Warrior units."

He reminded Congressional leaders that "Recruiting new personnel clearly is not a problem – the Army’s next budget reduces recruiting funds because the Army has reached its authorized end strength and has no “legal” room for thousands of high quality, patriotic Americans who want to serve.
Further, retention of currently serving troops has exceeded Army expectations. The problem appears to be the willingness to pay for more troops, not any difficulty in recruiting or retaining them."

He concluded by saying, "We say that we want to ease the stress and strain on soldiers and their families – well, now is the time to do the one thing that will provide immediate relief. Allow the Army to increase its size and give it the money to pay for it."
 
You can add your voice to Gen. Sullivan's on this crucial issue by visiting www.ausa.org and clicking on the “Contact Congress” icon.  Put your zip code in the box titled “Elected Officials” and then send the letter titled “Increase Army End Strength”.

 

AUSA Government Affairs Team meets with Speaker of the House


AUSA’s Government Affairs team, along with other members of the Military Coalition, discussed issues important to the Assocation and its members at a roundtable meeting held last week with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and 24 other members of the House of Representatives including top House committee chairs.

The group discussed the successes of the newly-passed Defense supplemental spending bill and the full committee mark-ups of the defense authorization and Military Construction appropriation bills.  Other topics included the 3.4% pay raise (.5% above the budget request) included in the authorization bill; advanced appropriations for VA health care; new GI Bill benefits for children of military personnel who die on active duty; monthly payments for military personnel serving under stop-loss orders; additional money for family advocacy programs; TBI/PTSD and rehab equipment.

Coalition members stressed the need for an end to the concurrent receipt offset for Chapter 61 and longevity retirees and the need to end the SBP/DIC offset for survivors.   Speaker Pelosi responded, "We aren’t finished with those issues."  Earlier in the discussion, Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., expressed "major disappointment" that his efforts to work with other committees failed to identify offsets to pay for these critical programs.  However, he also said there could be "some light at the end of the tunnel" in anticipation of House action on the defense authorization bill this week.

The Coalition also strongly urged the leadership to ensure that the unique identity and role of the military TRICARE and VA health delivery systems are preserved under any national health plan they may develop.

The group will meet again next quarter.

 
Army Budget Topic at ILW Breakfast


AUSA hosted numerous key congressional staff members at a recent Institute of Land Warfare Breakfast.  LTG Edgar Stanton, the Army's senior budget official, was the featured speaker.

LTG Stanton said that with the intense concentration on preparing the fiscal 2010 Army spending plan in the wake of the cancellation of the manned vehicle portion of the Future Combat Systems, military personnel and modernization accounts all will have to be adjusted in the coming year.  In answer to a question, Stanton said to [expect] some tension between personnel accounts and investment accounts as future budgets are developed.

This will be particularly true for fiscal 2011, he said, since the Quadrennial Defense Review will be completed by then and the Army will have met its projected end-strength goals for all components two years ahead of schedule.  Also in the budget mix for that fiscal year will be the completion of the Base Realignment and Closure process.

Looking at the Army's $142 billion budget request, Stanton said the military personnel account of $58 billion is now fully funded in the base budget request and that the account grew by $6 billion to cover the increase in end strength.  Operations and maintenance accounts of $40 billion and procurement of $21 billion were either down a little or were flat from last year's request.

Stanton reminded the more than 200 attendees that the Army budget was being created in a time of financial crisis, the collapse of the housing market, rising unemployment and deepening recession when a new administration was taking office.

Of particular interest was Stanton's response to a question regarding TRICARE fee increases.  He told the group that he did not foresee dramatic increases in TRICARE co-payments and fees while military operations are continuing in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

The monthly Institute of Land Warfare breakfasts give congressional staffers the opportunity to hear the Army's story and provides them with unique insight on a variety of subjects.