AUSA asks Congress to support Guard, Reserve readiness
Over the next few weeks, the House and Senate armed services committees will start drafting their fiscal 2020 defense authorization bills. A letter to committee leadership from the Association of the U.S. Army and other associations outlined joint legislative priorities designed to enhance reserve component operational readiness while continuing to promote the goals of Total Force integration.
The letter was signed by retired Gen. Carter F. Ham, AUSA’s president and CEO, along with leaders from the Adjutants General Association of the U.S., the Air Force Association, the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the U.S., the National Governors Association, the National Guard Association of the U.S., and the Reserve Officers Association.
It focuses on four main objectives: TRICARE Reserve Select expansion, modernization and recapitalization of reserve component equipment and platforms, consistent National Guard and Reserve equipment account funding, and an increase to full-time support.
TRICARE Reserve Select expansion
TRS is a premium-based insurance plan available to qualified members of the reserve component and their families. Current law mandates that federal employees eligible for TRS must use the more expensive healthcare offered by the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan.
The letter notes that “more than 20 percent of our reserve component service members remain uninsured.”
It goes on to state that “by increasing access and guaranteeing medical coverage for all National Guard and Reserve members, you will ensure they meet the medical standards required of a deployable force. Additionally, these changes will provide the Department of Defense with a powerful retention tool and significant employer incentive as we provide operational reserve support.”
The associations urge that Congress consider the expansion of TRICARE Reserve Select to federal employees as well as study the feasibility of eliminating service member premiums.
Reserve component equipment
Like their counterparts in the active Army and Air Force, National Guard and Reserve troops continue to face equipment shortfalls that threaten their readiness, safety and desired lethality.
The associations urge Congress to continue their efforts to provide robust funding to ensure that the Total Force, including reserve component legacy platforms and equipment, is modernized with updated technologies.
If approved by Congress, the fiscal 2020 defense budget request would provide a new wave of tactical vehicles and aircraft to the Guard.
In addition to $1.2 billion for new Black Hawk helicopters, the proposal includes nearly $200 million for 512 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, with plans to provide more than 3,000 JLTVs to the Guard in the next five years.
Another $155 million would go toward converting 23 L-model Black Hawks to the V-model, with additional aircraft planned for future years.
Consistent NGREA funding
The associations expressed their appreciation for National Guard and Reserve equipment account funding provided by the fiscal 2019 DoD appropriations legislation, acknowledging that it would “allow us to continue to address equipment shortfalls and ensure compatibility across all components.”
The legislation provided $1.3 billion in NGREA funding, which included $421 million for the Army National Guard and $421 million for the Air National Guard.
“It is through your continued support of NGREA that fiscal resources are leveraged to outfit the Total Force with equipment and weapons systems that maintain a lethal and deployable force,” the letter states.
The associations urge Congress to continue to provide robust NGREA funding.
Increase to full-time support
In addition to part-time forces, the reserve component relies heavily on FTS to train, administer and maximize readiness.
These critical full-time personnel support mission-critical roles, including:
- Facilitating rapid response during domestic operations by preparing service members and equipment.
- Organizing, administering, training and instructing fellow soldiers and airmen.
- Maintaining reserve facilities, relationships with the local community and day-to-day unit continuity.
The letter states that “along with the active component, the reserve component experienced commensurate decreases in FTS due to end strength drawdowns during the last 10 years. Congress has begun to increase authorized end strength levels—this makes sense to combat a more hostile threat environment and increased operational tempo.“However, reserve component FTS levels should increase commensurate with the end strength changes. This will ensure our reserve force structure remains ready and deployable.”
The associations ask Congress to provide increases to FTS end strength levels.
Julie Rudowski is AUSA’s Government Affairs Assistant Director.