08 January 2014 Legislative News Update

08 January 2014 Legislative News Update

Legislative News is AUSA Government Affairs Directorate's weekly electronic newsletter, and is published every Monday when Congress is in session.  In this issue:

    • AUSA Needs You!!! 

★★★A last minute budget agreement passed by Congress included a provision that would negatively affect the calculation of the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) for under-age-62 military retirees.  The bill would require a one percent reduction in COLA for military retirees until they reach age 62.   As you can imagine, this ill-advised provision has created a firestorm.  In addition to meetings on Capitol Hill with lawmakers determined to repeal the provision, AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan has also sent letters to all members of Congress outlining his strong opposition to the provision and urging them to repeal it.  Sullivan’s letter said, “Both the Administration and the Congress have stated repeatedly that any changes to the military compensation and benefits package would be grandfathered for the currently-serving force and for current retirees.  The Budget Act provision flies in the face of that pledge and breaks faith with those who have served their nation for 20 years and with those who will retire in the future, who until now had the expectation of a full COLA adjustment each year to match calculated inflation. “As the economy rights itself, this devastating blow to an earned deferred compensation benefit will be an enormous disincentive for retention of battle-tested military personnel.  Those currently serving will look at how today’s retirees are treated and will leave active duty, diminishing leadership in our defense forces and weakening our national security.” It is critical that you add your voice to his.  Please visit our website, www.ausa.org, click on the Contact Congress link, enter your zip code, and send the AUSA-suggested letter titled Repeal the Military Retiree COLA Cut.   DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION BILL CLEARS CONGRESS.  PRESIDENT SIGNS.   The regular order for passage of the defense authorization bill is for each chamber to pass a bill, appoint negotiators to work out the differences and then agree on a final bill that the president will sign.   Once again, regular order failed.  Yes, Congress did manage to hammer out a final agreement and, yes, the president did sign it into law.  But again this year, it was far from the normal process.   The House passed their version of the bill way back in June.  The Senate Armed Services Committee worked together and passed their version at the same time; however, the full Senate could not get its act together and pass a final version.   Accordingly, defense leaders from the House and Senate combined parts of the House bill and the one approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Instead of a formal conference committee process, the compromise bill was passed by each chamber without any consideration of amendments.   As a result, many of AUSA’s top priorities were never brought to the floor for debate.  This means that we will continue to fight for issues such as full concurrent receipt and an end to the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)/Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) offset.   The bottom line is that we did get an authorization bill for fiscal 2014, and, along with our partners in The Military Coalition, were successful in our fight against administration proposals to increase or establish new TRICARE fees.   The bill authorizes $526.8 billion for the Defense Department’s base budget; $80.7 billion for overseas contingency operations — mainly the war in Afghanistan — and $17.6 billion for national security programs within the Energy Department. The bill also: 

  • Provides a 1 percent pay raise for servicemembers 
  • Includes over 30 provisions or reforms to the Uniform Code of Military Justice related to combatting sexual assault in the military 
  • Directs that the operational reserves receive a minimum 180 day notification before the cancellation of a deployment and a minimum 120 day notification before a deployment 
  • Authorizes the commander of U.S. Special Forces Command to provide additional family support services to U.S. Special Operations Forces and their families 
  • Facilitates the development of more functional, lighter, and more protective body armor 
  • Recognizes that the formula for calculating allowable private sector compensation on DOD contracts has become dysfunctional and does little to protect the taxpayer or provide transparency in government contracting. The NDAA rationalizes the cap to $625,000 and does away with the flawed formula.  
  • Prohibits DOD from initiating another round of BRAC 
  • Provides additional funding for Abrams tank upgrades and heavy equipment improved recovery vehicles 
  • Allows military retirees and family members to return to TRICARE Prime if they choose 

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