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Sequestration still hovers over

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

As I write this article, it is astonishing that again we face an all-too-familiar situation in the defense legislative arena.

The House has passed its versions of the Defense Authorization Bill, the Defense Appropriations Bill and the VA/Military Construction appropriations bills, while the Senate has passed none of those.

It is unlikely that the Senate will complete its versions by the time the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. If they don’t finish, the Congress would need to pass a continuing resolution to fund defense at current levels.

The continuing resolution (CR) process is fraught with problems as well since the two parties have very different ideas of how long the CR should last, ranging from two months to a full year. That saddles the Department of Defense with more funding uncertainty than ever.

Speaking of uncertainty, we have not even mentioned the specter of sequestration which hovers over all of the legislative issues mentioned above.

The automatic, mindless, across-the-board cuts of sequestration muddy the fiscal waters even more.

AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., has written a letter to all members of Congress urging them to put the nation’s fiscal process back in order so that our Army and its fellow services can maintain readiness and their ability to defend the nation.

He said in part, "We don’t have a year to fix what ails our national defense. We must stop sequestration now. We must cease downsizing now. We must rely on the elected, appointed and uniformed leaders of this nation to structure forces capable of ensuring our security. We have precious little time to show the world how good we are."

In a recent "Message from the President," he addressed both the likelihood of a continuing resolution and the impact of sequestration.

He said, "It looks like there will be no 2015 defense appropriation legislation on September 30 when the current fiscal year ends, and the Department of Defense again will be funded with a continuing resolution for at least three months.

"Continuing resolutions create enormous risk to our national security because of the fiscal uncertainty they bring. Spending is frozen at the previous year’s levels – combat training center rotations are cancelled, maintenance of equipment is delayed, civilian hiring is frozen and new contracts cannot be issued.

"The bottom line is that training and readiness suffer and fiscal uncertainty reigns. In our dangerous world, defense spending uncertainty is a recipe for disaster.

"As I have said many times before, regular order in the defense appropriations process must be restored.

"The Army Chief of Staff must balance end strength, modernization and readiness. He does not want to send poorly trained and underequipped American Soldiers into harm’s way.

So between the ‘rock’ of sequestration and the ‘hard place’ of a continuing resolution lies a defense force in peril.

"Join me in this fight and contact Congress. Urge them to end sequestration permanently.

"Go to http://capwiz.com/ausa/home/ and submit AUSA’s prepared letter to Congress titled ‘End Sequestration Permanently.’"

In the midst of all these twists and turns on the Hill, AUSA’s Annual Meeting is just around the corner.

AUSA’s Government Affairs staff is gearing up for the congressional staff breakfast that we host during the Annual Meeting. Last year it drew over 650 guests – a record high.

This is a way for AUSA to show the Association’s appreciation to the congressional staff for all they do for the nation and the armed forces in the course of their work.

The secretary of the Army speaks to the group, which includes senior Army military and civilian personnel as well as congressional staff. After the breakfast the guests are invited to tour the exhibit halls.

Right now, on Capitol Hill, the halls are quiet and members of Congress are in their home districts taking the pulse of their constituents.

When they return, AUSA will weigh in appropriately prior to the completion of the defense bills and during conference to be sure that members are aware of our stand on key issues.

AUSA’s Government Affairs team is busy preparing to engage on the Hill and to host a congressional staff breakfast during the Annual Meeting.

Thank you for being members of the Association and thank you for helping us help our soldiers.