Legislative Newsletter 21 December 2009 

12/21/2009 

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
  • Senate Paves Way for Passage of 2010 Defense Spending Bill
  • AUSA’S Report Card for the 1st Session, 111th Congress


★★★


AUSA ON THE HILL


AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., met with Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas.  Rep. Edwards, chairman of the Military Construction and Veterans’ Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, and Sullivan discussed various military construction issues.  Sullivan also shared his concerns about the defense and Army budget and the need to increase the size of the Army.  Rep. Edwards is a long-time supporter of increasing the size of the Army and is known as a national champion for America’s veterans, troops, and their families.  He is a former recipient of AUSA’s Outstanding Legislator Award.


SENATE PAVES WAY FOR PASSAGE OF 2010 DEFENSE SPENDING BILL

The Senate approved a cloture motion to end debate on the fiscal 2010 Defense spending bill during a rare vote at 1 a.m., Friday morning! 

The bill provides:

* a 3.4 percent military pay increase

* $29.2 billion for the Defense Health Program to provide quality medical care for servicemembers and their families and funding to address the serious financial challenges facing the Defense Health Program; including fully funding the Department of Defense request of $372 million for military medical research; in addition $120 million is included for Traumatic Brain Injury and Psychological Health Research

* $472.4 million for Family Advocacy programs and full funding for Family Support and Yellow Ribbon Program to provide support to military families, including quality child care, job training for spouses, and expanded counseling and outreach to families experiencing the separation and stress of war

* $154 billion for the Defense Operation and Maintenance Account to increase readiness and training of our troops. The bill rebalances funding from preparing for Cold War-era type conflicts to the highest priority readiness requirements for the hybrid operations that our military will be facing for the foreseeable future

* $526 million for Situational Awareness upgrades to 353 Bradley Fighting Vehicles

* $364 million for Stryker Combat Vehicles

* $3.34 billion to increase and improve the military’s fleet of helicopters, including $326 million for 54 Light Utility Helicopters; $1.26 billion for 79 UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopters; $882 million for 27 CH-47 Chinook Helicopters; and $584.8 million for 24 UH-1Y Huey/AH-1Z Cobra Helicopters

* $498 million for the procurement of Medium Tactical Vehicles, and $613 million for the procurement of Heavy Tactical Vehicles

* $2.29 billion for continued development of the restructured Future Combat Systems Program


AUSA’S REPORT CARD FOR THE 1ST SESSION, 111TH CONGRESS

The 1st Session of the 111th Congress is officially over!  Well not quite.  The Senate leadership is still working on health care reform legislation.  Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has made it clear that he is determined to win passage of his health care bill by Christmas.

AUSA does have much to cheer about as the year draws to a close.  Congress authorized the full amount of the President’s budget request for the Army.  They granted the Defense Secretary the authority to increase the size of the Army by 30,000 during the next two years, which is vital to ensuring that the Army can meet the demands of the nation’s security.  Congress moved to help Soldiers and their families by providing a 3.4 percent pay increase, blocking a proposed increase in TRICARE copayments for retirees and authorizing compensation for those who provide care for catastrophically injured or ill servicemembers, and they extended to spouses the right that servicemembers already enjoy to keep their original state residency when they move to new posts.  These and other provisions in the fiscal 2010 National Defense Authorization Act were supported by AUSA, and their passage is vitally important to our men and women in uniform.

However, some important proposals were not authorized. The long-sought phase out of the disability offset to retired pay for medically retired servicemembers was blocked by the Senate despite support from the White House and the House of Representatives.  Similarly, a plan to repeal the deduction of VA survivor benefits from military Survivor Benefits Plan annuities was dropped for lack of funding offsets.  And a provision that would have authorized retroactive reserve component (RC) retirement age credit for active-duty service since 11 September 2001 (current law credits only service since 28 January 2008) also failed for lack of funding. 

The House passed a bill that would fund increases in reimbursable rates to TRICARE and Medicare providers.  The Senate’s fiscal 2010 defense spending bill included a provision that would delay the scheduled 21.2 percent cut in Medicare physician payments to February 28, 2010.

Here are some of our major objectives for the last legislative session and how we fared:

AUSA spoke out for:  Increasing active Army endstrength to 700,000.

Congress responded by:
  Authorizing active Army endstrength to increase by 30,000 above Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 levels during FY 2011 and FY 2012 if sufficient funding is requested in the budget.  We will continue to press our case for the increased endstrength.

AUSA spoke out for:  Closing the pay gap between Soldiers and the private sector.

Congress responded by:
  Decreasing the current pay gap by approving a January 2010 pay raise of 3.4 percent for military personnel.

AUSA spoke out for:  Not increasing TRICARE fees/deductibles.

Congress responded by:
  Fully funding Defense Heath Programs and preventing increases in copayments for inpatient care in civilian hospitals under TRICARE Standard but only through 30 September 2010.

AUSA spoke out for:  Enacting legislation to authorize access to TRICARE by RC gray-area retirees.

Congress responded by:
  Extending eligibility for TRICARE Standard to RC gray-area retirees who have not yet reached age 60.

AUSA spoke out for:  Achieving affordable, adequate housing for single Soldiers and Soldiers with families.

Congress responded by:
  Authorizing $2.2 billion to support and expand high-
quality housing for all servicemembers and their families.

AUSA spoke out for:  Allowing military spouses to claim a permanent state of residence.

Congress responded by:
  Authorizing military spouses to claim residency in the same state as their sponsor.

AUSA spoke out for:  Funding the Federal Impact Aid Program to preclude children of military families from being disadvantaged in public schooling.

Congress responded by:
  Authorizing funding for Impact Aid of $30 million for schools with 20 percent or more military dependents, $14 million for districts experiencing a change of 250 students or more due to rebasing or base realignment, and $5 million for schools that serve military students with severe disabilities

AUSA spoke out for:  Allowing Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) employees to redeem unused sick leave at retirement.

Congress responded by:
  Phasing in application of unused sick leave toward length of service at retirement under FERS.

AUSA spoke out for:  Funding RC endstrength at 371,000 for Army National Guard and 206,000 for Army Reserve.

Congress responded by:
  Authorizing Army National Guard endstrength at 358,200 and Army Reserve endstrength at 205,000.  Not what we were hoping for, but the fight continues.

AUSA spoke out for:  Funding shortfalls of RC equipment.

Congress responded by:
  Authorizing $6.9 billion to address RC equipment shortfalls.

AUSA spoke out for:  Funding accelerated modernization of RC equipment.

Congress responded by:
  Authorizing $600 million for procurement of critical, high-priority equipment to address RC unfunded equipment shortfalls.

AUSA spoke out for:  Funding Army procurement items deemed essential for continuing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Congress responded by:
  Authorizing $6.7 billion for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles; $4.3 billion to up-armor additional High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs); more than $11 billion to replace equipment lost in combat; and $2.2 billion for equipment and research to defeat improvised explosive devices.

AUSA spoke out for:  Ensuring adequate stocks of munitions to support training and warfighting stockpiles.

Congress responded by: 
Authorizing $2.05 billion for Army ammunition programs.

AUSA spoke out for:  Maintaining the Army’s strategic advantage and advancing modernization in its Current Force.

Congress responded by:
  Authorizing full funding for Army helicopter programs and M1 Abrams tank modernization, M2 Bradley and Patriot Air and Missile Defense system.

AUSA spoke out for:  Developing the Future Force for the transforming Army.

Congress responded by: 
Authorizing $2.45 billion for the communications network and spinout equipment sets from the Future Combat Systems program.