18 February 2013 Legislative News Update 

2/18/2013 

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




In this issue:

  • The Lights Are On, But No One Is Home
  • AUSA On The Hill

★★★
 

THE LIGHTS ARE ON, BUT NO ONE IS HOME

SEQUESTRATION:  se·ques·tra·tion

The employment of automatic, across-the-board spending cuts in the face of annual budget deficits.


We hope Hill staff members are working behind the scenes this week to find an alternative to sequestration which starts on March 1.  We know members of Congress aren’t because they are out of town for a week-long recess.  

Unbelievably,  it seems that only after sequestration kicks in, will both sides of the aisle stop blaming each other and actually work together to find a solution.  Before they left town, Senate Democrats released preliminary details of a bill they say will avert the sequestration.  The plan would save $110 billion, half of which would come by increasing revenue and the other half by cutting defense and domestic programs equally.  The $25.7 billion in defense cuts would be phased in over nine years as opposed to the $48 billion that would be cut in the remainder of this year.  Republicans have already said that they will oppose it because of the tax hikes. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that the Senate will vote on the plan when they return from recess and would also vote on an alternate plan the GOP will unveil.  We have no details on the GOP plan.

Meanwhile, part two of the fiscal perfect storm is the likelihood that the government will continue to be funded under a continuing resolution for the remaining six months of the fiscal year.  The outlook on that front became a bit rosier when House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., announced that he intends to include fiscal 2013 spending bills for the Departments of Defense and Veterans’ Affairs in the package.  

Rogers said that it would give the Pentagon and VA “some flexibility to manage their business.”  It would be welcome news if Rogers’ plan succeeds.  

Every year, those of us who follow Congress closely express optimism that they will go back to business as usual.  Budgets delivered on time, authorization and appropriations bills approved and signed into law before the beginning of the next fiscal year seem like a distant memory.  All it seems that we do now is wring our hands while we lurch from one fiscal crisis to another.  What we find so appalling about the “new normal” is the fact that our service members continue to do their jobs superbly while being used as pawns in the fiscal mess. Not only are the tools that are critical to their continued success on the line, those benefits that they earn because of their arduous service are also targeted as ways out of this mess.  Please be assured that we will defend those who currently serve, their families, and those who have already served against these endless attacks.   

AUSA ON THE HILL

AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., Vice President for Education, Lt. Gen. Guy Swan, USA Ret., and Director of Government Affairs Bill Loper met with members of Congress and key congressional staff members last week to personally convey the AUSA message that triggering sequestration and funding the Army for all of FY 13 with a continuing resolution would be devastating to our Army. 

The group met with House Army Caucus co-chairs Reps John Carter, R-Texas and Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., senior staff members from the Senate Armed Services Committee, and staff from the office of Rep. John Mica. R-Fla.  They reinforced earlier testimony that Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter gave before defense committees in the House and Senate last week:  The Army must have timely, predictable funding streams in order to properly train Soldiers and provide required services for them and their families.

All were receptive to and agreed with the AUSA message, but warned that in the current atmosphere on the Hill, the outcome of the sequestration and continuing resolutions battles remained uncertain.  AUSA will continue to make clear to members through personal visits and correspondence of the enormous downside of allowing sequestration to trigger and of using a year-long continuing resolution to fund the Army.