11 February 2015 Legislative News Update

Association of the United States Army Logo - Eagle with Shield, Torch, Olive Branch
Wednesday, February 11, 2015

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







A DRAFT PROPOSAL sent from the White House to Congress asks for authorization to use military force against the terror group, ISIL.

The proposal states, “The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) poses a threat to the people and stability of Iraq, Syria, and the broader Middle East, and to U.S. national security. It threatens American personnel and facilities located in the region and is responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, and Kayla Mueller. If left unchecked, ISIL will pose a threat beyond the Middle East, including to the United States homeland.”

It goes on to state that the draft proposal “would not authorize long-term, large-scale ground combat operations like those our Nation conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Rather, the administration seeks to “authorize the use of U.S. forces in situations where ground combat operations are not expected or intended, such as intelligence collection and sharing, missions to enable kinetic strikes, or the provision of operational planning and other forms of advice and assistance to partner forces.”

Some in Congress will say that the language in the proposal which would authorize the use of military force for only three years (unless re-authorized) is too vague while others believe the measure should empower the military to fight Syria’s president as well as ISIL.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the Senate will carefully consider the proposal and will consult with military leaders. Expect a vigorous debate on the authorization request in the coming days.

IN: ASH CARTER. OUT: CHUCK HAGELShortly after the Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously voted to confirm Ash Carter to be the next Secretary of Defense, the full Senate is expected follow suit. The vote is scheduled for today.

Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said that Carter is “one of America’s most respected and experienced defense professionals. “I have known him, and members of the committee have known him, to be an honest, hardworking and committed public servant.”

BACK IN 2011, nationally syndicated columnist William Hamilton wrote a piece on military retirement and the plans to change it.

In his column, Hamilton, who served 20 years on active duty, recalled a conversation he had with his personnel officer shortly after going on active duty about what he could expect from a 20-year career in the military.

The personnel officer told him, “You can expect to live abroad for about 10 years, much of it in disease-ridden, Third World countries you would never ever want to visit on vacation. You will be moved 15 to 20 times. You can expect your household goods to be lost at least once. Off and on, you can expect to be separated from wife and family for about six years. You can expect to be wounded at least once. Or, killed. But that only happens once.”

Not much has changed with respect to military life since Hamilton wrote his column. If anything it has become even more complicated because of the fallout of sequestration, downsizing, and the seemingly constant attacks on military pay and compensation.

AUSA’s leadership is carefully studying the proposals released by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission and the proposals contained in the president’s budget request for 2016.

Keeping in mind that DoD’s review and Congress’ debate on the merits of the proposals is still in the early stages, AUSA’s President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., is struck by the uncertainty caused by the message that is being sent to our military and their families.

The demand for land forces, especially U.S. Army forces, seems to grow every day. At the same time, military servicemember compensation and benefits continues to be squeezed.

The subliminal message that the troops “cost too much” and that they, by their mere presence, are somehow contributing to an Army that is increasingly unready to meet the complex challenges the United States faces, is creating a level of uncertainty.

That uncertainty and concern about the future of retirement benefits and pensions has many wondering whether it is still worth staying in the service for a full career or leaving early (after the military has invested in training and education to the tune of up to $600,000 per soldier over their first 10 years of service).

With no clearly identified bottom for the Army’s endstrength reductions, Soldiers and their families are living under the constant specter of involuntary separations and early retirements. This is extremely discomfiting for a generation of Soldiers who voluntarily signed up to serve their country and to make the military their lifelong career.

The bottom line: Clearly, pay and other compensation and benefits always can be refined. But this should not be the first place to look for savings, it should be the last. If we are not careful, the Soldiers who depart our ranks today – voluntarily or involuntarily – will be the leaders missing when we next need them.

Is the compensation package military personnel receive after they complete their careers rich? You better believe it. It should be. If it is such an easy, undemanding career, then why do only less than 1 percent of the population sign up for it?

We are not setting a welcome tone for America’s military who have done so much for so long.