18 September 2013 Legislative News Update 

9/18/2013 

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




In this issue:

  • Instructions Issued to Retirement Commission
  • The Number One Thing on Congress' To Do List

★★★
 

INSTRUCTIONS ISSUED TO RETIREMENT COMMISSION

“As in the past, it had been argued, and people believed it, as many do now, that there was no further danger of war.  Pacifism was predominant.  As the national debt had grown, partly as a result of pensions, retrenchment had been the political cry of both parties, and appropriations for defense had been constantly reduced.  The people throughout the country were almost exclusively occupied with their own personal affairs to the neglect of such considerations.  Nobody listened to those who realized the wisdom of maintaining an adequate army and advocated it.” 

GEN John J. Pershing wrote these words about the state of the nation in 1898!  Doesn’t this scenario sound similar to the one we are currently facing? 

In the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress established the Military Retirement and Compensation Modernization Commission, a task force that will examine and finds ways to overhaul the current military pay and benefits structure. 

The commission will examine a myriad of programs that impact currently serving members, retirees, spouses, children and survivors.  It will also review DoD-specific programs such as pay and retirement, MWR, commissaries, exchanges, housing, dependent schools; DoD and VA programs such as health care, disability, survivor, education, dependent support; Department of Education Impact Aid; and support/funding to states, territories, colleges and universities.

With respect to military retirement, Obama said that all current troops should be grandfathered under the current retirement plan if they choose. 

The law directs Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to give the department’s recommendations to the panel no later than Nov. 1, 2013.  The commission is supposed to submit its recommendations to President Obama no later than May 1, 2014.  Obama must then send his final proposals to Congress for consideration.

As the commission starts the review, AUSA and its partners in The Military Coalition will provide our steadfast position on the importance of maintaining the military’s earned benefits.  We will keep our readers informed of developments as they occur. 

THE NUMBER ONE ITEM ON CONGRESS’ TO DO LIST

 ü   Pass legislation to keep the government running past 30 September.

Unbelievably, we are again talking about the possibility of a government shutdown.  It’s bad enough that Congress can’t seem to pass routine spending bills in a timely manner, they can’t even pass stop-gap spending measures without engaging in partisan battles they know the other side will reject!

A continuing resolution offered by House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers’ that would do little more than extend fiscal 2013 funding through Dec. 15, was withdrawn from consideration last week after protests from some in the Republican party.

Those members want to vote to defund implementation of "Obamacare" as part of the stopgap spending bill that has to be enacted by Oct. 1.  Conservatives are said to favor a bill that would pair a full-year continuing resolution for most federal agencies with language blocking implementation of the health care law. 

If this strategy is adopted, this approach would likely lead to a Senate rejection of the spending measure, which would then force the House to either reverse itself or shut the government down. 

We do not have a position on whether or not to defund the health care law.  We do have a position on the havoc the continued fiscal uncertainty is having on the Defense Department.  The department is trying to deal with the UNFAIR hand that it has been dealt with respect to sequestration; it does not need a government shutdown added to it. 

This is the message that AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., will take to the Hill leadership this week.