A Week In Review

It is the National Guard’s Birthday week, and a lot of things happened!

The Air National Guard held its 32nd Annual Weapons and Tactics Conference (WEPTAC) this week after being pushed back due to the government shutdown in October.  Warfighters from across the country gathered in Tucson, Ariz., to interact, discuss and share their missions, weapons and tactical knowledge with other important players within the National Guard operational loop. After a week of break outs and discussions, the ultimate result becomes the modernization book, which lays out the top issues and requirements needed across weapon systems. This book will be published and shared with Congress in January. 

Despite winter storms closing federal offices in the District of Columbia, NGAUS held its 17th Annual Industry Day. Attendees heard from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Gen. Frank J. Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, and Lt. Gen. William E. Ingram JR., the director of the Army National Guard. See photos on the NGAUS Flickr page

More than 250 people attended the National Guard’s 377th birthday celebration on Capitol Hill. The event, sponsored by the National Guard Educational Foundation, was widely attended by members of Congress, representatives of the National Guard Bureau, including Grass, Ingram and Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III, congressional staff, industry partners and more. See photos on the NGAUS Flickr page

The heads of eight defense associations sent a letter urging leaders of the House and Senate to take up and pass the fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The group wrote, “The NDAA has a uniquely long and bipartisan history owing to your strong commitment to our men and women in uniform… We support this legislation and urge it expeditious passage.”

The House passed a ‘compromise’ $607 billion dollar NDAA with an overwhelming bipartisan majority vote of 350-69 Thursday evening. This marks the final House roll call vote of the year. The NDAA was stalled last month after Senate lawmakers couldn’t come to an agreement on how to proceed on amendments. After returning from Thanksgiving recess, defense lawmakers quickly worked to craft a compromise NDAA that could be passed before Christmas by bypassing the normal process of offering amendments.

Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., the House Armed Services Committee chairman, had this to say after passage: “This legislation continues our effort to rebuild a military that has been tested by a decade at war.  It upholds the unwavering tradition of congressional oversight, while providing support to the warfighter and value to the taxpayer.”

The Senate is expected to take up the measure next week.

The House also passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 Thursday night. Included in the deal is a $64 billion in total sequestration relief. Of that, $44 billion would be applied in 2014 and another $18 billion in 2015 according to the Congressional Budget Office. This additional spending would be offset by raising revenue and cutting costs. Measures to do this include increasing security fees for commercial airline passengers to reducing contributions to civilian and military pensions.

A NGAUS bill analysis will be made available on the website soon of both bills.

Friday - Happy 377th Birthday National Guard!
The Senate voted early Friday morning 79-6 to confirm Deborah James as the next secretary of the Air Force. James was nominated by President Barack Obama in August, but was first held up by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., due to a dispute over A-10s, and then by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R.S.C., over lack of details about the deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya.  James is currently president of the technology and engineering sector at Science Application International Corporation and also served as assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs at the Defense Department.

The House of Representatives circulated a letter this week urging Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to preserve the force structure and end strength of the Army National Guard in the fiscal  2015 budget proposal. As of today, the letter has 137 signatories.

Friday morning, Gen. Mark Welsh, the chief of staff of the Air Force, and Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning held a press event on the “State of the Air Force.” Questions ranged from the impact of the budget deal to F-35 roll out. Despite some sequester relief, should the Senate pass the budget deal, Air Force leadership said that they will continue to balance capability, capacity and modernization moving into the future. Readiness, forces structure and modernization will still be the first accounts used to pay off the sequester bill.

And finally, as the 100th F-35 rolled out today, the Air Force announced that the Thunderbirds will return to the skies!

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