Director, Government Affairs
Last month, I reported that neither the Defense Authorization Bill nor the Defense Appropriations Bill were completed and that it began to look like another continuing resolution would be necessary to fund the government through November at last year’s levels.
The continuing resolution prediction came true and the government is "running on fiscal fumes" through Dec 3.
As I have said in this column so many times, it is not as if the Congress didn’t know back in January that the deadline was Sept. 30. Of course, election politics played an outsized role in the timing, or lack thereof, for passage of the legislation, but with a nation at war, politics should not trump the necessity of a reliable funding stream.
Given the sea change that the recent election brought to the House of Representatives with more than 60 seats changing from "D to R," what will be accomplished during the lame duck session of Congress, scheduled to begin in mid-November, is a matter of conjecture.
It could be as little as another continuing resolution to kick the can into the 112th Congress in late January, or it could be a last burst of energy that will lead to an omnibus appropriation bill including defense funds and/or passage of a Defense Authorization bill as well.
Please add your voice to ours and urge your members of Congress to complete those critical pieces of legislation. Go to the AUSA Web site, www.ausa.org, click on "Legislative Agenda," then click on "Contact Congress." Type In your zip code beside "Elected Officials" and scroll down to "Pass the FY 2011 Defense Appropriations and Authorization Bills Now!"
Also looming is a 23 pecent cut in Medicare payments to physicians (that affects TRICARE providers as well) unless Congress passes legislation to prevent it. Congress has never mustered the wherewithal to find a permanent solution to this usually annual problem, which lately has become a quarterly problem because of the short duration of recent fixes.
Again, you can help us urge Congress to prevent the cuts by sending an online letter to your members. Go to the AUSA Web site, www.ausa.org, click on "Legislative Agenda," then click on "Contact Congress." Type in your zip code beside "Elected Officials" and scroll down to "Prevent the 23 percent Cut in Medicare/TRICARE Payments."
Well, in order not to let this column be a complete downer, I want to report on our recently concluded Annual Meeting. It was a huge success with more guests and exhibitors than ever before.
On the Sunday before the Annual Meeting, almost 50 congressional staffers ran the Army Ten-Miler.
On Tuesday, the Congressional Staff Breakfast featured both the chief of staff of the Army and the secretary of the Army as speakers. They spoke to a standing room only crowd of over 580 people including 218 Hill staffers (all of whom had seats!).
It was the best attended congressional event in the association’s history and served as a way for AUSA to thank staffers for all they do for the nation and the armed forces in the course of their work.
Later, more than 20 staffers attended the Eisenhower Lunch to hear the Army chief of staff, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., speak and the Marshall Dinner to hear the acceptance speech of former Secretary of the Army Preston "Pete" Geren.
The House and Senate were in recess and most members were back home campaigning to keep their seats, but with their bosses back in the districts, more House and Senate staffers were able to take the opportunity to meet with top Army leadership to discuss critical issues facing the Army, and to meet with key defense industry leaders and view the latest technology in the exhibit halls.
Concurrent with the Annual Meeting, the AUSA Resolutions Committee completed its draft resolutions, and AUSA chapters are voting on them as this column goes to press.
Once the votes are tallied, the resolutions will be posted on the AUSA Web site and then printed in hard copy for distribution. Next year, we will use them as our guide to legislative advocacy.
Please stay with us as we engage with Capitol Hill to authorize and fund programs that will help our Army keep our nation safe and provide a high quality of life for soldiers and their families.