House passes Defense Authorization Bill; Senate action delayed

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

It is summer in Washington and the perennial problem of authorizing and funding our Army is in full flower.

As I have reported, seemingly endlessly, defense authorization and appropriation legislation is moving forward in both houses of Congress at its usual slow pace.

This year the process is overshadowed by the specter of defense sequestration that would cut enormous amounts of money out of the DoD budget, and seems destined not to be resolved until after the November presidential election.

Nevertheless, the House version of the Defense Authorization Bill has been completed and voted on.

At this writing, the Senate has yet to take similar action, but has gotten its version of the Defense Authorization Bill through the Armed Services Committee.

Both the House and Senate leadership are saying they will finish the defense appropriations process before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

However, Congress will be gone from the beginning of August until after Labor Day, so the number of days available to complete these crucial pieces of legislation grows smaller and smaller.

Once each house has passed its version of the bill, the legislation must go to conference where differences are ironed out.

So there is a long road ahead, but AUSA will be monitoring the process closely and will make our voice heard if the issues our constituents care about are not properly addressed.

While we are monitoring the doings on the Hill, we are also gearing up for the resolutions’ process which takes place during the Association’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in October.

The first event is a meeting between Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., AUSA president, and the Association’s Resolutions Committee chair and subcommittee chairs in September.

At this meeting, Sullivan will outline the priorities and issues he expects the committee to address.

He explains how he sets those priorities, and I will share that process with you.

Sullivan said, "Next month I will meet with the Resolutions Committee chairman and subcommittee chairmen to give them my guidance on the major issues as I see them.

"My criteria for issues are not new, and I have mentioned them before: Those items of policy or budgetary action that will have impact on the prosecution of the war on terror; the readiness of the force; the well-being of our soldiers and their families and the continued momentum of Army Transformation – materiel, equipment, training, and facilities. They define where we stand as an Association.

"The issues relate to: People – soldiers and their families, retirees, veterans and Army civilians – readiness and modernization.

"Some of the major categories are closing the pay gap, keeping medical care fees and deductibles reasonable, funding wounded warrior, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury care and research initiatives as well as funding housing programs and expanding veteran, spousal and family member education and employment opportunities. And, the list goes on.

"The size of the Army, and indeed the defense force as a whole, must be sufficient to accomplish our national security goals, and defense spending must approach five percent of our gross domestic product.

"Acknowledgement of the radically changed role of our reserve component must result in redesigned structures, pay and benefits as well as retirement that reflect the way that segment of our defense establishment is now used.

"Further, money must be available to reset [repair or replace] equipment for the Current Force and for modernization initiatives that will take the Army into the future as well as spin off new technologies and capabilities now for the Current Force to use.

"Operations and maintenance funds to allow completion of active and reserve missions as well as training dollars also must be available.

"All of these issues have enormous impact on our Army, our soldiers and families every day.

"The Resolutions Committee will weave these into the tapestry that becomes the Association’s legislative agenda.

"Then, our members will vote, through their chapters, on the final product thus creating the 2013 AUSA Resolutions which are published and provided to every member of Congress as well as opinion leaders in local communities and within the Army.

"The resolutions process is grassroots activity at its very best, and I am very proud of the volunteers who create it and make it an effective instrument of policy for AUSA."

Well, folks, there you have it directly from the president of the Association.

The Government Affairs Directorate will coordinate the September meeting and will oversee the resolutions process in October.

We will talk about that process in greater detail in a future column.

In the meantime, we thank you for your dedication to our Army, its soldiers and families and for your membership in the Association.