11 December 2014 Legislative News Update

Association of the United States Army Logo - Eagle with Shield, Torch, Olive Branch
Thursday, December 11, 2014

weekly electronic newsletter, and is published 
every Monday when Congress is in session.




In this issue:

  • The End Of The Line For The 113th Congress





The 113TH Congress is within days of wrapping up its 2014 legislative session after passing both the annual defense policy bill and as $1.1 trillion government appropriations that includes funding through the end of September for the Defense Department and Army.

Getting all of this done may require working the weekend, but if things go as planned senators and representatives would go home by early next week. 

There are no big surprises for the Army in the 2015 versions of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2015 and Omnibus Appropriations Act but also no relief from the defense spending caps enacted in 2013 or from the threat of sequestration in 2016 if Congress is unable to reach an agreement with the White House on budget priorities.

Appropriators order steps by the Defense Department to protect the reputations of service members separated as part of the drawdown.  They direct the DD Form 214, a service member’s discharge and separation document, be revised.  “There is concern that the narrative codes could make a permanent, negative mark on the records of dedicated service members who served honorably,” lawmakers say in the report accompanying the funding bill.

Overall, the bill provides $490.2 billion for the Defense Department, a $3.3 billion increase over the 2014 budget. It also provides $64 billion for overseas contingency operations.

As requested, active Army personnel strength is set at 490,000 for fiscal 2015, a drop of 30,000 from 2014.  Army Reserve strength is set at 202,000, a drop of 3,000.  Army National Guard strength for 2015 is 350,200, a 4,000 reduction.  The funding bill includes $41.1 billion to cover Army personnel costs, with only minor changes from the Army’s request.

The final bill includes $31.9 billion in operations and maintenance funding for the active Army, plus $2.5 billion for the Army Reserve and $6.2 billion for the National Guard.

There is $3.9 billion included for Army aviation procurement, mostly for rotary aircraft.  Lawmakers express concern about Army plans to divest of TH-67 and OH-58 helicopters, and are asking for an Army report on what will happen to the airframes and what effect divestment might have on the rotary wing industrial base.

Major initiatives include:

§  Funding for a one percent pay raise for military and civilian personnel;

§  $3.6 million for Health Artifacts and Imaging Management Systems to support ongoing efforts between DoD and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to better manage veterans’ health information and improve care;

§  $3 million for the Healthy Base Initiative, which promotes wellness practices for troops and their families living on base;

§  Adding $190 million to maintain operations at commissaries, pending the commission on compensation report due next year;

§  Provides $88 million for Basic Allowance for Housing in accordance with the authorized one percent reduction in fiscal year 2015;

§  $13 million for an initiative to provide pre-kindergarten through 12th grade Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education activities for military children.

§  An increase of $2.3 billion for readiness shortfalls, including $900 million for facility sustainment, and an additional $202.5 million for depot maintenance.

§  Adding $341 million to modernize up to 12 Apache helicopters and nine Black Hawk helicopters, and includes a bill provision limiting the transfer of Apache helicopters out of the National Guard in 2015 until enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2015;

§  Eliminating the five percent discount for tobacco and tobacco-related products sold at military exchanges;

§  Reducing civilian workforce targets by $662 million due to overestimation; and,

§  Allowing a pay freeze for general and flag officers.

The 114th Congress is will convene on January 6.