Top Legislative Victories of 2012
As we close out another great year at NGAUS and wave goodbye to 2012, we look back on what we set out to accomplish for the National Guard this year and reflect on our victories.
In January, the NGAUS legislative staff developed the Top Priorities, our annual list of issues that would be leading our legislative agenda. Our priorities are guided by input from our members, through the resolutions process, and shaped by staff understanding of the legislative environment.
Our goals were to promote the Guard's expanded role in national security and focus on our unique ability to protect the nation and respond at a fraction of the cost of the Active Component. While we faced some challenges along the way --the Air Force's disproportionate cuts to the Air National Guard and recommendations to cut Guard drill pay and Guard sports sponsorships, to name a few--that didn't slow us down. With the help of our members, each and every one of you that called, emailed, attended Town Hall meetings and engaged your Members of Congress on the issues, we celebrate 2012 as one of our most successful years to date. And for that, we thank you for magnifying our voice because we couldn't do it without you!
And now, without further ado, here's the 2012 Legislative Wrap Up:
- National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force: Creates a commission to study the appropriate makeup of the Air Force, considering that the Department of the Air Force draws upon active-duty forces, the Air Force Reserve, and the Air National Guard, and adds at least some transparency to development of future Air Force budgets. The commission will report its recommendations by February 1st 2014
- Space Available (Space-A) Travel: Creates a comprehensive program for space-available travel on DoD aircraft, to include Guard members, retirees, their dependents and certain widows
- Transition Assistance Advisors: Allows the Chief of the National Guard Bureau to establish a program to provide Transition Assistance Advisors in each State to serve as statewide points of contact to assist eligible members of the Reserve Components in accessing benefits and health care
- National Guard & Reserve Equipment Account (NGREA): Though a full appropriations bill for the remainder of the fiscal year is still in the works, Congress has authorized $350 million for the ARNG and $150 for the ANG to procure critical, dual-use equipment
- PDMRA: Restores the PDMRA leave promised to our members and authorizes payment of benefit for nonparticipation of eligible members in Post-Deployment/Mobilization Respite Absence program due to government error
- Automatic Federal Recognition of Promotion of Certain National Guard Warrant Officers: Automatically extends federal recognition on members of the National Guard who are promoted from the grade of Warrant Officer 1 to Chief Warrant Officer 2
- Military Construction: The defense bills fully fund both the Air and Army National Guard at their requested levels--$613.7 million for the ARNG and $42.3 million for the ANG
- Military Sports Sponsorships: An attempt to stall National Guard sponsorship of motorsports went nowhere this year.The House struck down an amendment to the defense appropriations act that would have taken $72.3 million from the Pentagon's recruiting budget and ended, among other things, the National Guard sponsorship of the Dale Earnhardt Jr. NASCAR car and the IndyCar owned by Panther Racing and driven by J.R. Hildebrand
A Mixed Bag
- Cuts to the Air National Guard: NGAUS thought a victory had been won when both chambers of Congress refused to endorse the Air Force plan found in the President's Budget and included the NGAUS-drafted "freeze" language to halt the retirements. However, in the conference of the NDAA, some of that language was stripped out, and the final version includes some wins and losses for the Air National Guard. On the positive side, it requires the Secretary of the Air Force to retain 32 additional intra-theater airlift aircraft, which could include C-130s or C-27s or a mix of both, and exempts C-5s from retirement. The type and location of the airlift aircraft are left to the discretion of the Air Force. Additionally, it leaves Air National Guard end strength at 105,700 to retain force structure. On the negative side, allows the Air Force to retire some Air Guard F-16 and A-10 fighters, which, in effect, will deny the nation the service of some of the Air Force's most experienced pilots and maintainers. It also enables the Air Force to cascade to the Air Guard some C-130 cargo aircraft that are nearing retirement age
- TRICARE fee increases: Halted across-the-board fee increases for TRICARE, however, TRICARE co-payments for prescription drugs may rise, but will be tied to cost-of-living adjustments in military retiree pay
- C-23 Sherpa: While NGAUS was successful in including language in the House bills and in the Continuing Resolution to keep the 38 C-23 Sherpa in the ARNG inventory, it was not included in the final conference language of the NDAA, and the Army has continued to move the aircraft from Texas and Florida despite Congressional intent in the CR to keep them.
- Abrams M1A2 SEP tank: The Army doesn't want them because they have enough. Congress wants to keep the production line warm. And the Guard could sure use them. NGAUS pushed Congress to allow the newest Abrams to come to the ARNG, and while they included language to procure more, it's unclear if those will actually wind up in the Guard or continue to be given to the Army.