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AUSA makes its voice heard on Capitol Hill

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

I began the January column with the news that neither a defense authorization nor a defense appropriations bill had been signed.

I am happy to report that on the very last day of the 111th Congress, a pared-down defense authorization bill for Fiscal Year 2011was passed by both houses of Congress and in early January was signed by the president.

The good news is that, unlike federal civilians, military personnel will get a pay raise. The bad news is that it is the smallest in many years at 1.4 percent.

It also extends for one year the prohibition on premium and co-pay increases for TRICARE Prime and charge increases for inpatient care in civilian hospitals under TRICARE standard as well as cost sharing increases for drugs provided through the TRICARE retail pharmacy.

However, defense appropriations and military construction/VA appropriations legislation has not been enacted and programs under the two bills’ jurisdiction are being funded mostly at 2010 levels through a continuing resolution that ends on March 4.

Of course, the 2012 budget request will be submitted to the newly installed 112th Congress in February.

So while the Congress is wrestling with how to fund the rest of 2011, it will need also to focus on funding for fiscal year 2012 which begins on Oct. 1.

As I have said so many times before, apparently nine months is just not long enough to birth money, especially when you factor in the President’s Day recess, the Spring recess, the Memorial Day recess, the July Fourth recess, and the August recess which, in essence, reduces the nine months to six months.

Regardless of the speed with which Congress marches, AUSA will be offering testimony, making visits to members of Congress, and joining with the 34 other organizations in The Military Coalition – all to make our voice for the soldier heard in the halls of the Capitol.

We will be working to promote enactment of legislation that will benefit our membership. Even with successes during the last Congress, there are many issues that remain:

  • Resuming progress in closing the pay gap between the military and civilian sectors

  • Full concurrent receipt for all disabled retiree

  • Ending the Survivor Benefit Plan/Dependency and Indemnity Compensation offset for survivors

  • Preventing increases in TRICARE fees/deductibles

  • Increasing funded Army end strength – active component, 570,000; Army National Guard, 371,000; Army Reserve, 215,000

  • Increasing funding for spare parts, maintenance and training

  • Support for reconstituting and resetting the Current Force

  • Rebalancing Army capabilities to strengthen readiness

  • Increasing defense spending to at least 5 percent of GDP – Army share of at least 28 percent

  • Developing the Future Force

  • Providing pay and benefits for reserve component personnel and their families that are commensurate with their active duty counterparts

  • Reducing the age for reserve retirement benefits to age 55

These are just some of the legislative issues that will be part of the AUSA agenda for 2011.

In the next few months, as the legislative session revs up, we will urge you to use the prepared letters in the Legislative Action Center of the AUSA Web site – www.ausa.org – to speak out on issues of importance.

We will keep you informed through AUSA NEWS and ARMY Magazine, as well as through our electronic legislative newsletter which will arrive via e-mail each Friday that Congress is in session.

If you are not yet receiving the newsletter, just send an e-mail to [email protected].

The Government Affairs Directorate hopes that you had a joyous holiday season and are well on the way to a glorious New Year.

AUSA’s holiday gift to you is the promise to continue to be the Voice for the Army providing Support for the Soldier.