Assistant Director, Government Affairs
AUSA on the Hill. AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., and the director of government affairs, Bill Loper, recently met with Rep. John Carter, R-Texas. Carter represents the 31st Congressional District which includes Fort Hood.
Sullivan briefed Carter and his staff on the status of the AUSA Fort Hood Chapter Victims Fund which to date has collected more than $350,000 for the families of victims of the recent shooting at Fort Hood.
They also discussed other issues important to AUSA constituents. Sullivan particularly urged Carter to support an increase in the Army active component end strength to 700,000.
He also stressed the need to boost the defense and Army budget in the coming years to match increasing Army requirements.
Carter signaled his support of those and other AUSA issues.
In addition to the Carter meeting, Sullivan met with Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas. 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 budgets and the continued need to increase the size of the Army.
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.
The AUSA vice president for education, Lt. Gen. Theodore Stroup, USA, Ret., and Loper presented Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., with his copy of the AUSA publication "Once a Soldier ... Always a Soldier."
The book devotes two pages to each member of Congress who served in the Army. Rooney is one of six new members of the 111th Congress who was added to the book’s newest edition.
Rooney served on active duty for four years in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps at Fort Hood and taught constitutional and criminal law at the United States Military Academy. He is an advocate for many of the issues that are important to AUSA.
Rooney has been a strong supporter of the advanced appropriation process for the veterans’ medical system. He is deeply concerned about the need for diagnosis and treatment for soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.
He is also supportive of legislation that will end the SBP DIC offset for survivors that will provide assistance dogs for wounded veterans and that will provide concurrent receipt of retirement and disability compensation for all disabled longevity retirees and medical retirees.
Senate passes the Fiscal Year 2010 defense spending bill. The Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2010 defense spending bill, and the president signed it on Dec. 21.
The bill provides:
A 3.4 percent military pay increase;
$29.2 billion for the Defense Health Program to provide quality medical care for service members 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 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; and
$2.29 billion for continued development of the restructured Future Combat Systems Program.
The bill also includes a provision that would delay the scheduled 21.2 percent cut in Medicare physician payments to Feb. 28, 2010. While we are glad the cuts will not take effect on Jan. 1, we wish the Senate would follow the House’s lead and fix this once and for all.