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 on the Hill
- AUSA President to Capitol Hill: Army's Budget Must Be Increased
AUSA ON THE HILL
AUSA’s Vice President for Education Lt. Gen. Guy Swan, USA, Ret., and Director of Government Affairs Bill Loper represented AUSA at a military association roundtable hosted by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to discuss issues important to the associations.
Among the 24 Democratic members in attendance were the ranking members of several committees including Veterans’ Affairs, Budget, Appropriations subcommittees on Homeland Security and Military Construction/VA as well as several members of the House Armed Services Committee.
Much of the discussion focused on the VA disability claims backlog. As of 13 April, about 852,000 claims were awaiting decision, and 69 percent (about 590,000) of those had been waiting more than 125 days – which is the VA’s official definition of a backlogged claim. Of those claims, 37 percent have been filed by Vietnam-era veterans, 23 percent by Gulf War-era veterans, and 20 percent by post-9/11 war veterans.
If you recall, a couple of weeks ago, Lt. Gen. Swan attended a meeting hosted by the Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla. The claims backlog was also the main topic at that meeting. Could this finally be the issue in which members of Congress can find common ground? We certainly hope so.
AUSA PRESIDENT TO CAPITOL HILL: ARMY'S BUDGET MUST BE INCREASED
AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan sent a letter to key House and Senate lawmakers in response to testimony given to them by the Army’s top leaders.
Army Secretary John McHugh told the House Armed Services Committee that "we're at a dangerous crossroad," explaining that shortfalls in the overseas contingency operation budget, coupled with sequestration, continuing resolutions and lack of a budget, are taking a toll on readiness, efforts at modernization and morale.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno testified that the budget "allows us to plan for and mitigate risk associated with declining defense budgets, but that “it is imperative we gain predictability in our budget process. If we don't, then we'll be unable to effectively manage our resources and it will be impossible to make informed decisions about the future of our Army."
One of the committee members said that he is "deeply troubled" not only by the Army's fiscal difficulties but by its shrinking force. He asked if the end strength continues to fall -- coupled with the effects of continued sequestration -- would the Army be able to respond effectively were two major contingency operations to occur simultaneously, or at least one major contingency and a smaller one.
Odierno replied that, "We'd have significant issues meeting anything more than one contingency -- if we can meet even one contingency.” Odierno also noted that "We're not as ready as we were in 2001”, and that "history has taught us that if we are off balance, the enemy will seek advantage."
This message alarms Gen. Sullivan. In his letter to lawmakers he said, “While I hesitate to use the term, “hollow Army”, what I see in the immediate future is furloughed Army civilians, most undeployed active component units untrained for immediate deployment, Army pilot training backlogged, flying hours cut, crew certification falling, deferred battle loss replacement that will take years to recover, deferred facilities maintenance that will negatively impact the quality of life of Soldiers and their families, and cancelled schooling and individual Soldier and unit training that will lower professional leader development and unit readiness for future operations.”
As a former Army Chief of Staff, Sullivan urged Congress to increase Army funding for FY 14 from the levels proposed in the administration’s budget. "From my perspective, in an exponentially more dangerous world, we are about to fund our Army at a level that will leave it, at best, in stasis or more likely, falling backward into unreadiness,” he said.
AUSA and its leadership will continue to push this message to Capitol Hill in upcoming meetings and engagements.