Director, Government Affairs
As I write this article in the middle of August, there is some good news. The Congress is farther along in funding national defense than it was last year at this time.
Both House and Senate have completed a defense authorization bill which will go to conference in September. The House has completed its version of the defense appropriations bill, but the Senate has not.
Based on that information, the question remains whether the Congress will actually complete the conferences for the authorization and appropriations bills by the time the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.
If they don’t finish, the Congress would need to pass a continuing resolution to fund defense at current levels. That is not a particularly effective way to deal with defense funding at any time, but it is especially unsettling during time of war.
While that debate and others swirl on Capitol Hill, the AUSA Government Affairs Directorate is preparing for its role in the Annual Meeting.
Yep, it’s that time again, when we prepare to host more than 30,000 of our members and closest friends.
Because AUSA’s legislative goals are driven by our resolutions, Government Affairs is responsible for hosting the committee that creates the resolutions during the Annual Meeting. The recommended resolutions are then voted on by the chapter delegates and become the next year’s AUSA paltform.
The deadline for resolutions submissions by individual members and chapters occurred in July. We review the submissions, sort them by category and formats them. Then they are placed on CDs and sent to the members of the committee for review and study.
Also, in August, we hosted a meeting here at National Headquarters at which the chairman of the resolutions committee and the two subcommittee chairmen met with AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., AUSA president. He offered his guidance concerning the resolutions’ process and his philosophy about the direction of the Association for the coming year.
We also began preparations for the Congressional Staff Breakfast that Government Affairs hosts during the Annual Meeting. Last year it drew over 400 guests – a record high.
This is the way AUSA shows its appreciation to the congressional staff for all they do for the nation and the armed forces in the course of their work.
The secretary of the Army speaks to the group which includes senior Army military and civilian personnel as well as congressional staffers. After the breakfast, the guests are invited to tour the exhibit halls.
Of course, on Capitol Hill in August the halls are quiet and members of Congress are in their home districts taking the pulse of their constituents.
This August, the hue and cry seems to be mostly about civilian health care reform.
Although we have assurances from Capitol Hill that civilian health care reform legislation will not impact military health care, Sullivan sent letters to 23 key players in health care reform on both sides of the aisle and in both houses of Congress reminding them of the unique role and reason for military and VA health care and why it should remain as it is and with no impact from any civilian health care reform.
President Obama told a group of military-oriented reporters at a White House interview last week: "While his universal health care plan is still in flux, [he] is promising that none of the changes will affect TRICARE or VA health services," according to Stars and Stripes.
Regardless of executive and legislative branch statements, AUSA and its partners in The Military Coalition are and will continue to be vigilant and engaged with the Hill to head off any parts of the ultimate legislation that would disadvantage our constituents.
We have prepared a letter for you to send to your members of Congress.
You are the grassroots soldiers in this fight, and you can send your message by clicking on the Contact Congress icon in the upper right corner of our Web page, www.ausa.org.
Enter your zip code and look for the prepared letter that says "Protecting Military/Veteran Health Care During Health Care Reform."
As Sullivan said in one of his recent President’s Corner columns, "Like the troops in war, our scouts are out, we remain vigilant, we are engaged with the lawmakers, we are watching for any disadvantage that might appear in the final bill proposals, and we will surge forward and fight vigorously to prevent any negative military-related provisions from inclusion in the legislation.
"Ultimately, however, we need our best troops – you – to make your voices heard, so contact Congress now!"