Authorization, appropriations bills pass – Army end strength cut

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Well, we are still basking in the glow of the fact that both the Defense Authorization and the Defense Appropriations bills were passed before the end of 2014.

While logic would say that completing both bills three months late would not be a cause for celebration, given the work of past congresses that on occasion have produced bills more than six months overdue, three months overdue is a signal of accomplishment.

The bills provide over $490 billion for the Defense Department, a $3.3 billion increase over the 2014 budget request.

There is $64 billion for the overseas contingency account that is not counted against the budget as it is "emergency" money.

Together, the bills reduced active component Army end strength from 520,000 to 490,000, Army National Guard end strength to 350,200, a decrease of 4,000, and the Army Reserve to 202,000, a drop of 3,000.

Next year’s bills, unless sequestration is mitigated or ended, will require enormous cuts to personnel and funding.

AUSA will continue to urge Congress to take measures to rid our nation of the specter of sequestration. It is an irresponsible solution to our fiscal woes which the Association and its coalition partners are determined to end.

Also by the time you read this, the first session of the 114th Congress will have begun and the president’s State of the Union address will be about to occur.

The Congress will be preparing to receive the budget request for FY 2016 in early February.

One can only guess if the new Congress will be able to complete the appropriations process by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. If the past few years are any indication, it is not likely that the new congress will do any better than the last few.

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, reduce 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 32 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:

Ending sequestration permanently

Maintaining pay parity between the military and civilian sectors

Full concurrent receipt for all disabled retirees

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

Limiting increases in TRICARE fees/deductibles to COLA increases

Prohibiting TRICARE for Life enrollment fees

Retaining the current retirement system

Maintaining funded Army operational end strength to support the national defense strategy

Maintaining assured access to the reserve somponent

Increasing funding for spare parts, maintenance and training

Full funding for resetting the Current Force

Maintaining defense spending of at least 4 percent of GDP/Army share of at least 28 percent

Providing pay and benefits for Reserve Component personnel and their families that are commensurate with their active duty counterparts

These are just some of the legislative issues that will be part of the AUSA agenda for 2015.

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 website – 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 email as part of the AUSA Bulletin.

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

The Directorate of Government Affairs 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.