On July 1 at AUSA headquarters we welcomed our new president and CEO, retired Gen. Carter Ham.
He has already been to Capitol Hill to make sure the chairmen and ranking members of key committees hear AUSA’s voice on the issues which are critical to our members and our Army.
As this article goes to print, Congress has recessed and the presidential nominating conventions are underway.
Congress won’t return to Washington, D.C., until early September, after Labor Day.
Unfortunately, before they recessed, they didn’t complete their work on the appropriations bills that will fund the government after Sept. 30. That means they have just a few weeks in September to either get 12 spending bills to the president’s desk, or to pass a continuing resolution.
It is déjà vu all over again.
Failure to pass a continuing resolution would cause a partial government shutdown again, just like in 2013. However, since this is a presidential election year, both parties are motivated to avoid a shutdown.
The questions remain of how long the first continuing resolution will last, and how many will eventually be required.
In last month’s column, I was optimistic in predicting a spending bill would be signed into law before Christmas. Time will tell, and the November elections will play a huge role in the attitude, aptitude and appetite for accomplishment of the lame duck Congress in November and December.
Meanwhile, the staff members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have been doing the background work to reach a compromise conference bill.
AUSA has been engaged on multiple issues to improve the potential outcomes for our Army.
We reject the health care “reforms” that will either move the military treatment facilities under the Defense Health Agency (DHA), or dismantle the service medical commands and consolidate them under the DHA.
Unfortunately, since both the House and the Senate agree that the individual service military health care chain of command is going to be dismantled, the odds are pretty limited of getting them to strike these harmful provisions from the final bill.
We support the House version of the authorization bill regarding military pay raises because it complies with the law at 2.1 percent. (The Senate version supports the President’s request at 1.6 percent).
Adding to a growing pay gap hurts recruiting and retention.
We reject the Senate version’s proposed reductions to the Basic Allowance for Housing, as a whole new bureaucracy would have to be created to administer the complicated system they propose, and another reduction of this benefit would add one more challenge to recruiting and retention.
Congress cannot keep eroding military benefits without jeopardizing the future of the All-Volunteer Force.
AUSA supports the House bill’s effort to stop the drawdown of Army personnel, as long as the additional funding for the additional soldiers is included in the defense appropriations bill.
These are just a few of the issues that will need to be worked out this summer (and fall).
Please check out our weekly Legislative Updates online at www.ausa.org to keep up with the latest developments on Capitol Hill.
See you on the high ground.