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Call to action: AUSA Member Advocacy Program launched

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Congress has received the president’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget request.

The Army and the rest of the Department of Defense have completed their posture hearings defending the budget before the Armed Services and Defense Appropriations committees.

Now the congressional gears are slowly starting to turn, but they are running four months behind schedule. Given their past record, a continuing resolution is a strong possibility – again.

As I write this column, there are less than 40 legislative days remaining when both the House and Senate are in session before Fiscal Year 2018 begins on Oct. 1.

Because of the shortage of time, some members of the House are proposing that instead of trying to enact 12 individual appropriations bills, they should just wrap them all in an omnibus spending bill before the month-long August recess.

However, without a budget resolution that sets a spending topline, the House is challenged to find agreement on how much should be allotted to each portion of the budget.

If there is not a new Bipartisan Budget Agreement, the Budget Control Act and sequestration will kick back in, limiting total discretionary spending to $1.065 trillion for FY18, which is less than what was allowed for FY17.

The president’s budget request proposes shifting $52 billion from non-defense discretionary spending and adding it to the defense budget, but both parties in Congress have made clear during the posture hearings that this idea is a non-starter.

Last month’s column discussed the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA), and the resulting defense caps that have divorced available resource levels from our national security strategy.

Instead there is an arbitrary defense cap that is unrelated to the actual security situation in the world. It is a mindless budget number constructed by a formula in 2011, and it wasn’t supposed to happen.

Most will agree that the world is more dangerous now than it was in 2011, yet the cap persists.

Just like the weather, everyone in Congress complains about the BCA, but no one does anything about it.

Until now.

At the Association of the U.S. Army, we think the threat to our Army and the risk to our national security posed by sequestration and the defense caps has risen to an intolerable level.

We will be reaching out to you, our volunteer members, over the next few months to help us in the 2017 AUSA Member Advocacy Program.

AUSA’s president and CEO, retired Gen. Carter F. Ham, has had meetings on Capitol Hill and multiple members of Congress have told him that they would be highly interested in hearing from AUSA members who are their constituents in their districts or states.

Thus, AUSA Government Affairs is working with our region presidents to finalize a detailed ground-up advocacy plan.

We have identified every member of Congress with a major Army installation or facility in his or her district, and linked that data to our chapter locations.

Our goal is to help our AUSA members contact this focused list of members of Congress in 38 of the 50 states during their August recess, and ask them to repeal sequestration and the defense caps.

AUSA national headquarters will provide an advocacy kit that will contain: tips on writing and visiting your federal elected officials; some legal guidelines; a list of the members’ web pages and their district office phone numbers; some suggested talking points; a “leave-behind” paper; and some incentives for participating.

We have a solid chance to make a difference for our Army, as the timing is right on Capitol Hill.

We will provide the tools so that you, our volunteer members, can confidently reach out to your members of Congress via letters, phone calls, letters to the editor of your local paper, participation in town hall meetings and face-to-face visits in local district offices.

The draft plan will be rolled out first to the AUSA region presidents, then the state and chapter presidents, in order to fine-tune the best way to implement and execute our campaign.

Although all the details will require the region, state and chapter input to make it work, we wanted to get the word out to you, our members, early enough that you could give it due consideration. (This used to be called a “warning order” when I was in the Army).

This plan will only work if each chapter can gain significant participation on the ground in your local area from individual and corporate members. This is critically important and, if we succeed, your efforts will make a national and global difference for our Army.

We won’t ask often, but we are asking now.

Let your federal elected leaders hear your voice in this organized campaign.

Only Congress can stop the damage that the defense caps are causing our Army, and they will not act unless their constituents urge them to do their constitutionally-mandated job to provide for the national defense.

Please join me in this all-out effort to get our soldiers the resources they need to do what our country asks of them.

See you on the high ground.