11 March 2013 Legislative News Update 

3/11/2013 

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




In this issue:

  • Government Shutdown Averted?
  • New Medal Creates Controversy
  • 2014 Budgets On The Way

★★★
 

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN AVERTED?

A spending measure passed by the House on March 5 would take the threat of a government shutdown off the table while providing funding for the Defense Department and the VA for fiscal 2013.  The measure leaves the cuts imposed by sequestration in place, but will give the Pentagon and the VA greater flexibility on how their money can be spent. 

The bill did not offer that same flexibility to other government agencies.  They will continue to be funded at the current levels for the rest of the fiscal year.  

That is the sticking point for the Senate as the bill heads their way. The Democratic leadership in the Senate plans to move their own version of the spending package this week.  The main difference between the bills is that the Senate version will include new appropriations bills the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science and Homeland Security.  Beyond adding fiscal 2013 funding, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski said that the bill could expand reprogramming authorities for those agencies to soften sequestration cuts.  

Republicans appear willing to include the expanded package of bills provided it does not exceed $984 billion in discretionary spending, a figure matching the cap set under previous budget laws minus the automatic sequester cuts. 

Although we would like to see Congress return to a normal budget process, removing the threat of a government shutdown is welcome news.  

NEW MEDAL CREATES CONTROVERSY

Before he departed, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the creation of The Distinguished Warfare Medal which will be awarded to individuals for "extraordinary achievement" related to a military operation occurring after September 11, 2001.  It is intended to recognize military achievement in cyberwarfare or combat drone operations for actions that do not include valor in combat.  However, the medal's order of precedence is being widely criticized because it is rated above the Bronze Star for valor and the Purple Heart.  

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers have weighed in on the medal.  

Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., Tom Rooney, R-Fla., and Tim Murphy, R-Pa., introduced legislation that would prohibit the Defense Department from rating the Distinguished Warfare Medal equal to or higher than the Purple Heart. 

Rep. Murphy said, “A medal for someone who sits far from the battlefield and operates a remote control panel thousands of miles from the battlefield should not have that medal ranked above the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.  Literally, you could be sitting in a mock-up of an airplane thousands of miles away from battle and at the end of the day you go home.  It's not the same as being deployed to a war zone.”

Last week, Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., Dean Heller, R-Nev., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and John Boozman, R-Ark., followed the House lead and introduced a bill that mirrors the House version.    

The Defense Department has already signaled its unwillingness to change the medal’s order of precedence.  In response to a letter sent to the Pentagon by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that he was convinced the new Distinguished Warfare Medal was “properly ranked among other medals.”

2014 BUDGETS ON THE WAY

Although Congress and the White House are still working on the fiscal 2013 budget, they are also turning their focus to 2014.  It is anticipated that the President’s Budget will be submitted on April 8 while House and Senate Budget Committees are poised to release their budgets this week.

As this process starts, AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., has words of warning for the Obama Administration and Congress.  

In his latest President’s Corner, Sullivan says, “After World War I, known as the “War to End all Wars”, the idea abounded that another war was so remote a possibility that no large defense force was necessary.  Defense appropriations fell year after year, and the active Army and its reserve component charitably could be described as understrength, unbalanced and poorly trained and equipped – a hollow defense force.  So as enemies armed (and presumably saw a weakened American military), the public seemed unaware and uninterested, the Congress unconcerned and the President, still trying to rebuild a failed economy, unwilling to demand money for defense.

“Read that paragraph again – is there an echo of today in those words?  If so, a first reaction might be to urge military leaders to sound the alarm – ask for more funding where needed, explain the dangers of too small a force.  Again, history gives us examples – in 1925 an Army general, when asked why his service was not asking for more money than was in a proposed budget, reminded the Congress that legally he was bound to ask for no more than called for in the president’s – his Command in Chief’s – budget  He was correct.

“Almost 70 years later another Army general lamented the national tendency to use a resource-driven model to reduce defense spending for no strategic reason, solely to save money.  He wrote, “It frightens me when I hear someone propose a hundred-billion-dollar cut in our armed forces without any rationale other than that the money can be used elsewhere.”  The result then is military services pitted against one another, rather than considered as a unified part of a balanced strategy.  Such approaches have failed before and will fail again.

“There will be more wars, and they will require boots on the ground – they will not be won from a ship or a plane – manned or unmanned, but with the blood and sweat of Soldiers who must be properly trained and equipped.”