Legislative News is AUSA Government Affairs Directorate's
weekly electronic newsletter, and is published
every Monday when Congress is in session.
In this issue:
- FY 2013 NDAA Rejects Administration Proposals
- Issues Facing the 113th Congress
- Sullivan "Most Influential"
SUCCESS! FY 2013 NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION BILL REJECTS ADMINISTRATION PROPOSALS
Last week, the president signed the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law.
First and foremost, AUSA would like to salute Congress for recognizing that service in defense of America is not just another job. A provision in the NDAA said “It is the sense of Congress that—(1) members of the uniformed services and their families endure unique and extraordinary demands and make extraordinary sacrifices over the course of 20 to 30 years of service in protecting freedom for all Americans, as do those who have been medically retired due to the hardships of military service; and (2) access to quality health care services is an earned benefit during retirement in acknowledgment of their contributions of service and sacrifice.”
AUSA and its partners in The Military Coalition scored a huge victory when Congress voted to reject the administration proposals to increase some TRICARE fees and establish new ones. They also rejected DoD proposals to drastically increase pharmacy co-pays.
While the bill does include a modest increase in TRICARE pharmacy co-pays for 2013, caps beginning in 2014 will only allow fees to rise by no more than the annual retiree COLA.
To make up the lost revenue from capping co-pays at lower rates, the NDAA requires TRICARE-for-Life eligible beneficiaries use either military pharmacies or the mail-order system for refills of maintenance medications for at least one year. Look for more information on how this initiative will work as the details become available.
While Congress will allow the establishment of a Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, it rejected the administration’s request that members of the commission would all be appointed by the administration. It also rejected the proposal that any recommendations by the commission would have to be considered by Congress using BRAC-like rules that would have barred any amendments and required an up or down vote.
The NDAA also:
* Authorizes a 1.7% pay increase for the military and extends bonuses and special pay.
* Caps the number of troops that can be separated from the Army and Marine Corps in a single year.
* Requires DOD to develop a comprehensive policy on the prevention of suicide among service members. It also requires the secretary to establish a position within the Office of the Secretary of Defense that would be responsible for overseeing all suicide prevention and resilience programs of DOD and the military services.
* Introduces bipartisan reforms aimed at the way the Defense Department interacts with the private sector, opening more opportunities for small businesses, increasing competition, and spurring innovation. It also requires the Secretary to develop a national security strategy for the industrial base and eliminates obstacles to small business competition for Defense Department initiatives.
* Declines to take up administration requests, such as two rounds of base closure, which could damage vital military infrastructure.
* Sustains America's heavy armored production base by maintaining minimum sustained production of Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, and Hercules recovery vehicles.
* Fully funds the Army Ground Combat Vehicle development program.
* Fully funds requests for 50 AH-64 Apaches, 59 UH-60 Blackhawks, and 44 CH-47 Chinooks
* Resources underfunded critical dual-use equipment requirements for Guard and Reserve forces.
AVOID, FIX OR DELAY
There will be no rest for the 113th Congress which convened on 3 January. In their last-minute fiscal cliff deal, Congress not only failed to resolve the sequestration dilemma, they delayed it until March 1, just in time to take up the continuing resolution that expires on 27 March, the bump against the debt ceiling limit in late February/early March and the release of the President’s budget request for fiscal 2014. The early months of 2013 are going to be rocky!!The inaugural 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense list, published by Defense News, catalogs the most critical defense leaders in government, the military, and industry. AUSA President, Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., is on that list.
Here is a breakdown:
--Sequestration - Automatic spending cuts (sequestration) to defense and domestic programs which were scheduled to take effect on January 2 were delayed to March 1. The fiscal cliff deal reduced the required $109 billion sequestration by $24 billion (to $85 billion, with half still to come from defense), and replaced those two months of cuts with a combination of other spending cuts and revenue increases.
Also, because defense spending in the current continuing resolution is higher than the cap contained in the 2011 law, the Pentagon is also facing a separate $11 billion sequestration. The fiscal cliff deal delayed that until March 27.
--Continuing Resolution (CR) - Way back in September 2012, instead of passing routine appropriations bills, Congress approved a CR that extended government spending through March 27. If the deadline passes and no agreement on spending is reached, Congress can either pass another CR extending the deadline or the government shuts down.
--Debt Ceiling – The debt limit is the total amount of money that the government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations. Obligations include Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest on the national debt, and tax refunds. Failure to increase the debt limit would have catastrophic economic consequences, causing the government to default on its legal obligations. It is anticipated that the government will essentially run out of money by late February/early March.
Members of Congress have already laid down their markers for the upcoming debate. Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio said that any increase in the debt limit would have to be offset by spending reductions. So far, the president had said that he will not negotiate on the debt ceiling. Sound familiar?
--President’s FY 2014 Budget Request – The administration’s budget request is due on Capitol Hill by the first Monday in February, which this year is February 4. However, sources say that it will be delayed until March. It doesn’t really matter because it will land in Congress at the same time as all of the other big ticket items.
One thing we will not have to worry about until the end of the year is the “doc fix.” The measure blocks the scheduled 27 percent reduction in the Medicare reimbursement for physician services through December 31. AUSA wants to thank all of you who took the time to contact your members of Congress on this issue.
SULLIVAN "MOST INFLUENTIAL"
The publication cited Sullivan for using his position to fight for his beloved service and for making the Association into a vibrant advocate for Army programs, soldiers and their families.
Sullivan and AUSA appreciate the recognition. As previously stated, the 113th Congress is not going to be easy. In this current fiscal environment, we may not get much more than we have now, but you can be assured that we will fight tooth and nail to keep what we do have while continuing to press Congress and the Administration to do what is right for our members and the Army.
You can view our Legislative Goals for 2013 by clicking here. In the coming days, we will be sending our goals to the new Congress to ensure they know where we stand. Additionally, our leaders will meet with the new members of Congress who sit on the committees that affect defense policy and spending as well as committees related to veterans.