Yet again I must report that defense authorization and appropriations legislation remains incomplete more than two months after the beginning of the new fiscal year.
The defense appropriations legislation appears likely to be part of an enormous omnibus bill that will bundle nine of the twelve not-yet-passed appropriations bills together.
Reports indicate Congress will attempt to pass that legislation before the Dec. 16 end of the current continuing resolution. Based on past performance – good luck with that!
The National Defense Authorization Act legislation is at last on the floor of the Senate, but with over 200 amendments that will have to be considered by senators.
The House has passed their version of the bill, but after the Senate completes theirs, the two bills will have to go to conference to iron out any differences.
How long that process will take is anybody’s guess.
So the 112th Congress, split between parties, has proven no more adept at passing "must pass" legislation than the previous one that was controlled by one party.
Meanwhile, as AUSA NEWS reported last month, after each Annual Meeting, on-line voting for the next year’s AUSA resolutions begins.
This year’s voting has been completed and 110 chapters out of 122 participated in the process.
This is an amazing advance for grassroots activity because when we began the on-line vote several years ago, 45 chapters participated.
Is it important that AUSA’s chapters overwhelming adopted its 2012 resolutions? Yes, because the resolutions provide the framework for the Association’s legislative agenda for the coming year.
The 2012 resolutions highlight the fact that these are difficult economic times and, with the federal deficit increasing to record heights, this will be an era of constrained defense spending.
The resolutions warn that Congress must not allow an erosion of benefits –particularly in health care and military retirement – which are crucial to the success of the all-volunteer force.
The resolutions also thank Congress for the strides made in pay, compensation, health care, retirement, survivor programs, housing, readiness, procurement and transformation – but note that more remains to be done such as closing the gap between military and civilian pay and providing better compensation and health care packages for the National Guard and Army Reserve.
AUSA will work for a defense budget of at least 4 percent of gross domestic product with an Army share of the defense budget of 28 percent.
AUSA believes that the number of soldiers on active duty in the Army should be 650,000 with the Army National Guard at 360,000 and the Army Reserve at 215,000.
The 2012 Resolutions can be seen online at www.ausa.org by clicking on Legislative Agenda and then on "Resolutions 2012."
The resolutions will guide the Association’s efforts on the Hill during the second session of the 112th Congress.
We will be calling on you to add your voice to ours as we seek to help our great Army and its members and their families.
So, during this holiday season, the Government Affairs Directorate – Matt, Julie and I – wish you and yours a successful and safe New Year.
We ask that you remember those who serve our nation in the armed forces and especially the families of those who lost their lives or were injured, and consider how lucky we are to live in a representative democracy where political power changes peacefully.