AUSA + 1st Session, 113th Congress = Some Good News
American Soldiers continue their service to the nation and remain its strength for the future. As the United States fights against extremist movements and readies for contingencies, strategic landpower (Army, Marines, Special Operations Forces) will underpin American national defense strategy for the foreseeable future. The Army must provide globally flexible, responsive, regionally engaged forces to meet combatant commanders’ objectives across the full spectrum of conflict. In addition, it executes Title 10 responsibilities and provides distinct capabilities such as logistics, intelligence and engineering that only it can provide. In the future, Army formations will be smaller but leaner and more capable than ever before.
In the Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 National Defense Authorization Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, Congress provided sufficient personnel for the Army to respond to the demands of the nation’s security even as operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere continue. Congress also averted nearly half of the anticipated sequestration cuts for this fiscal year, relieving the worst of the Army’s short-term readiness shortages. In addition, critical elements of the military compensation package were protected: health care fees did not increase beyond the annual cost of-living adjustment (COLA); the current military retirement program remains in place; and servicemembers’ Basic Allowance for Housing does not require out-of-pocket expenses.
However, Congress did not address several other significant challenges. Servicemembers received a pay raise of only 1 percent—less than the rate of inflation—and working-age military retirees saw their annual COLA reduced by a percentage point, costing them more than $5 billion over the next 10 years (beginning in 2015). These moves break the repeated pledges from Congress and the administration that any changes to the military compensation package would be grandfathered for the current force and for current retirees. Although Congress restored about $22 billion in scheduled sequestration cuts for FY 2014 and extended hope for future bipartisan progress, the Department of Defense still faces a shortfall of more than $30 billion in this fiscal year and the Army still faces $79 billion in readiness and modernization shortfalls over the next five years. Sequestration has also forced development and fielding delays for vital modernization efforts including the Ground Combat Vehicle, network capability sets and aviation—limiting the Army’s modernization efforts primarily to the development of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and the Armored Multipurpose Vehicle.
Congress must take further action to support the Army’s effort to balance endstrength, modernization and readiness—especially in the next five years as the sharp, sudden impact of sequestration cuts creates short-term vulnerabilities. Each member of AUSA is a Torchbearer, carrying the message to our elected representatives and to the American public. Some of the major objectives achieved during the last legislative session are listed within. Sustaining and improving upon these accomplishments will require continued diligent effort.