5 August 2013 Legislative News Update 

8/5/2013 

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




In this issue:

  • Sequestration & DoD
  • AUSA on the Hill

★★★
IS ANYONE LISTENING?

Stop me if you’ve heard this: The world is not getting any safer. How about this: The ongoing budget uncertainty and sequestration is wreaking havoc on the Defense Department at a time when the world is not getting any safer.

The news reports over the weekend were stark. Officials ordered the temporary closure of over two dozen U.S. diplomatic posts and issued a global travel warning to Americans because of a terrorist threat some members of Congress are calling the most serious since Sept. 11.

Against this backdrop are the findings of the Strategic Choices and Management Review, a four-month study conducted to ensure DoD is prepared in the face of unprecedented budget uncertainty. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel provided the grim details in a Pentagon press briefing last week.

Force Structure

The review looked at two strategic approaches to reducing force structure and modernization. The first approach would trade away size for high-end capability. This would further shrink the active Army to between 380,000 to 450,000 troops, reduce the number of carrier strike groups from 11 to 8 or 9, draw down the Marine Corps from 182,000 to between 150,000 and 175,000, and retire older Air Force bombers. This choice would result in a force that would be technologically dominant, but would be much smaller and able to go fewer places and do fewer things, especially if a crisis occurred at the same time in different regions of the world.

The second approach would trade away high-end capability for size. Limited cuts would be made to ground forces, ships, and aircraft but many modernization programs would be cancelled or curtailed while the growth of cyber enhancements would be slowed and special operations forces would be reduced.

Hagel said that, “cuts on this scale would, in effect, be a decade-long modernization holiday. The military could find its equipment and weapons systems – many of which are already near the end of their service lives – less effective against more technologically advanced adversaries. We also have to consider how massive cuts to procurement and research and development funding would impact the viability of America's private-sector industrial base.”

Pay and Benefits

Among the compensation savings options are those that would:

--Change military health care for retirees to increase use of private-sector insurance when available;

--Change how the basic allowance for housing is calculated so that individuals are asked to pay more of their housing costs;

--Reduce the overseas cost of living adjustment;

--Continue to limit military and civilian pay raises. (AUSA’s note: How much smaller could civilian pay raises go? Federal employees have not had a pay raise in three years.);

--Eliminate eligibility for federal civilian pensions for retired service members in government jobs; and,

--End subsidies to the Defense Commissary System.

AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., is shocked that Congress continues to leave sequestration in place. In a letter to House and Senate leadership last week he said that, “The effects of continuing to impose the costs of sequestration on the Department of Defense will cause the Army to fall back into unreadiness. A “hollow Army” with furloughed civilians, tiered levels of unit readiness, Army pilot training backlogged, flying hours cut, crew certification falling, deferred battle loss replacement that will take years to recover from, deferred facilities maintenance, and cancelled schooling and unit Soldier training that lowers professional leader development and unit readiness will be the legacy of the mindlessness of sequestration cuts.”

Sullivan’s level of concern was raised even more when on the same day Secretary Hagel outlined his bleak options, the President told congressional Democrats that the Pentagon should get no more attention than many other areas of the budget with respect to sequestration. Even the Washington Post was alarmed by his message.

An editorial in Sunday’s Post said, “The entire sequester, hitting defense and non-defense, was bad policy when lawmakers passed it, it was bad policy when they let it begin, and it remains bad policy. The president is right to press for the whole thing to end, along with Congress’s indefensibly short-term approach to budgeting. Political tactics may compel him for the moment not to give national security special consideration, given House Republicans’ intransigence.

“But Mr. Obama ultimately can’t act as though the Defense Department’s sequester cuts are equivalent in consequence to every other item in the budget. The country’s defense is a core responsibility of the federal government, and its armed forces are critical to the nation’s ability to exert leadership, maintain alliances, defend human rights and preserve the nation’s safety.”

An AUSA salute to Rep. Buck McKeon, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee who is listening. McKeon has consistently warned of the dire consequences of sequestration on the force. After Secretary Hagel's remarks, McKeon said that, "further cuts will cause catastrophic readiness shortfalls, we will lose our workforce and ability to recruit and retain the all-volunteer force, and our influence around the world will continue to diminish."

This weekend’s news about the potential terrorist threat reinforces the message: The world is not getting any safer and we must not decimate the military force structure because of mindless and irresponsible budget cuts.

Once Congress returns from its August recess, AUSA, along with its partners in The Military Coalition, will mount a full-court press to urge Congress to end sequestration and work together to hammer out spending bills that reflect common sense, not just for the Defense Department, but across the government. In the meantime, please join us and contact your members of Congress to urge them to pass legislation that will end sequestration. Visit the Legislative Agenda page on AUSA’s website www.ausa.org. Click on the “Contact Congress” link and then on the prepared letter “Stop Sequestration Now” to let your representatives and senators know that it is time to act.

AUSA ON THE HILL

Last week, AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., met with Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas.

Because Kansas is home to both Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth, as well as McConnell Air Force Base, the effect sequestration is having on the force is a top concern for Sen. Roberts.

In addition to the current budget situation, Gen. Sullivan outlined AUSA’s legislative goals and his position on issues that impact our members and the troops. Both men pledged to continue to work together in the future.